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Several RC magazines around the world have asked us to write a monthly column. With the kind permission we will re-publish the column at our web site too so all of the XRAY fans can read the latest news and behind the scenes information. Enjoy.

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European Championship warm-up – 1/8 Off-road, Germany

For the last few months we have spent a lot of time at the on-road tracks as the majority of our races were in the on-road category. Now it was again the brief period of time when we had to switch our mind “mode” to the off-road again. The 2011 version of the 808 has been on the market for a while now, and I am happy with the great comments and positive feedback from the team and customers. The car did not need any major changes to get to this point, but what we did do was focus and improve upon areas which customers reported as needing some improvement.

The only real reliability issue in the previous version of the 808 was differential bearing failures. As such, for 2011 the central drive shaft design change has helped to solve the diff case bearing failures and now the 808 is again up to XRAY’s high standards of unbeatable reliability. Besides, compared to this important change the other changes are small but all of them combined make a huge improvement in the car. We’re talking here about improved weight balance (thanks also to adjustment of the rotary moment) and then of course there was a small change in the geometry of suspension parts and also improved efficiency and reliability of the shocks. These small changes have lifted the 808 onto the pedestal (and podium) where it belongs.

But like with all other products, I will always feel that something can be improved upon and made better. I am currently happy right now, but I prepare myself for the next battle with this car as I have many ideas in mind and a clear vision of where I want to focus the next development.

For current off-road customers, it is a totally basic feature that the car has to drive perfectly without any technical failures, nothing should break, and there should not be any problems with the car. Every driver wants to have a fast car with good balance and especially an easy-to-drive nature, because only if you can easily keep the car on the track you can concentrate on racing instead of fighting the car itself. As a senior racer, I can feel and appreciate when the car is easy to drive and fast as well. Being originally an on-road driver, I can feel and appreciate good weight balance.

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This year the Euros are close to Nurnberg (Germany) which is something like 8 hours of driving from Trencin, so we decided to do as much testing at the track as possible and test some new parts. At the R&D office, we prepared (with Martin) a standard out-of-the box kit and also a set of all-new parts that we recently developed. These new parts are produced in limited quantity for the team.

Arriving to the Euros track I was surprised by the placement and layout of the track. The track was typically European with fewer but very tricky jumps. The orientation of the track – an uphill orientation and a muddy with stone surface – makes it a different style of track. The uphill orientation has an advantage that in case of rain the water will not stay on the surface. Being the main sponsor of the Euros, XRAY had service tents available at the track to provide technical support and service... and the track was lined with XRAY banners.

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During practice I started with a set-up which what I already had previous experience and knowledge –a basic car. From the beginning the car was easy to drive so I could concentrate on learning the track which seemed to be easy when you drove not too fast... but once I hit full throttle the car started to wheel. The track surface had plenty of traction so what we usually fought in our set-up to gain more traction, now we had to do the opposite. We used the new 5° king-pin steering blocks which helped to stabilize the car while the steering was not influenced. The next change was to the downstops and suspension geometry. To accommodate the high grip and style of track we set very low downstops to lower the car as much as possible, which also gave great improvements.

After the basics were set we changed some new stuff such as new rear uprights with new roll center positions and later on we tested and compared the difference of short and long arms. For this particular type of track the longer arms were definitely better as they provide higher stability, and with the front steering block the steering stayed the same. All the set-up changes were discussed within the team and everyone gave their input so the teamwork between myself, Martin, Teemu Leino, Jiri Mara, Carlos Duraes, Robin Friskopf and others has worked very well.

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During practice, Teemu and Carlos were doing very well and their performance continued into the qualifiers. Both Teemu and Carlos qualified into the 1/8 final and Mara and Friskopf into the ⅛ final. In the lower finals Teemu worked his way up to the main final and Mara from the ⅛ final showed a very nice performance making his way into the main final as well. After a long time we had finally not one but two cars in the main final, and considering the very high competition level this was very satisfactory to me. Especially for young Mara it was one of his best personal results when he made his way to the main final and he was at the same level as other professional and top European drivers.

Unfortunately a problem with a glow plug at the start of the main final prevented him from fight til the end. Despite our not capturing podium in the main final. I am still satisfied with the huge progress we have made recently. I am very patient and know that the results will come later but at the same time I am very realistic as it will be extremely tough task to go up against some of the larger teams who have very solid financial support. But we will see, everything is always up in the air (so to speak) for the future. A hugely successful moment has still come out of this Euros warm-up after Martin Hansen won the Junior category with the 808.

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After the warm-up race we stayed for another two days for private testing. The list was long and as such we wrenched from morning till night with all the time in between being spent on the track. Some of the new parts seemed at first to be an improvement but of course long term testing will be required to confirm this... and other parts were found immediately to have negative impacts and as such were scrapped. It is still too early to say which (if any) of these new parts will be incorporated into the next version of the 808, but like with all other XRAY cars the ongoing development is our prinicipal dedication.

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European Championship warm-up – 1/10 Electric touring cars, Treiskirchen / Austria

Only a week after the off-road Euros warm-up we were back on the road to another Euros warm-up, although this time we were going back to an on-road track. For the last few years the development of our T1/T2/T3 is mainly handled by Martin. As usual we had several new parts ready for testing. With the previous experience and plenty of data recorded at our factory tracks, we were ready to test at a different track and under different conditions. The EC track has been (again) a new experience as this covered track had a concrete surface (instead of asphalt) and the layout was very narrow with a lot of chicanes.

The track layout was very unforgiving for even the slightest mistakes and at the beginning while everyone learned the track we had a lot of crashes. The track had sugar-water applied but it was still relatively slick although traction was improving after each run. It was an interesting experience that as track conditions changed every hour, so did the set-ups change. The differences between different runs were even few tenths of a second per lap so leaders were changing all the time. Like with all other electric touring car races on asphalt, the weather had a significant influence on track traction and despite this track being covered it still had no walls and the temperature outside and the humidity (rain) outside had a huge influence on traction and of course this meant serious work on the set-up as even the smallest set-up changes had huge influences on handling. Of course I do not mention the words “tire treatment” and “heating” which are even more important than car set-up; you can have the best set-up and best performing car, but if you do not have the right tire treatment or heating tricks you have no chance during competition.

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Together with Martin, Alex Hagberg, Teemu Leino, David Edbahr, Franceso Martini and Zdenko Kunak we worked on set-up which we fine-tuned each run. After qualifiers it was Alex, Teemu and Martin who qualified into the main final. The difficulty of the track took its toll in the main finals. Being such a narrow track when the leader made no mistake it was very difficult to pass him, and there was no shortage of crashes so a lot of action was going on. Alex had a clean run which was rewarded by a podium finish in 3rd place, and Martin worked his way up from 10th (last) starting position to finish in 4th place. With the continuous set-up improvements from the entire team, for the finals we had an easy-to-drive and fast car. Hopefully we will continue to have this good luck and performance at the Euros as well.

After the prize ceremony we stayed at the track for extra testing and I still had several set-up ideas in mind to check while the traction was still very high. We decided to stay for another two days to test but to our surprise the next day the traction was extremely low and everyone was very slow. So all the testing we could make was only to test and compare amongst ourselves as we could not compare the results to anything we experienced before when traction was so good.

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Finally I had a chance to test the idea of active rear toe-in and I spent both two days testing this idea during several dozen runs. The result was not as positive as I expected, but at the same time it was very interesting and (in some moments) positive that I believe I will continue to test this idea and see the effect at other tracks. What was very positive was that the car had much more steering but unfortunately the side effect was that the car was more difficult to handle while the overall lap times did not improve.
Coming back to factory I analyzed the experience and details of this idea again and made some significant changes to the design and put the parts into prototype production to be ready for the next testing. All the feedback we experienced at the warm-up was incorporated by Martin into some minor changes for the new parts. It is only three days after we have returned back and these new parts are already running in prototype production. We plan to go back to the track this weekend where the Austrian championship will take place and it will be great opportunity to test again. Each small change has a significant influence on the car and it drives me crazy to find them all out, but this is a never-ending process but it sure does keep me highly motivated to continue the on-going development and work. Now we are just about to pack our stuff and get back to the EC warm-up track to test again.

See you around the tracks. Enjoy the ride and ‘til next time.

Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
XRAY Chief Designer

Column #1 - Behind the Scene Stories
Column #2 - Worlds Flashback
Column #3 - T2'007 Debut
Column #4 - Designing the T2'007
Column #5 - Worldcup Review and NT1 Testing
Column #6 - Developing and Designing the NT1
Column #7 - Developing and Designing the NT1 - Part 2
Column #8 - Back to the Races
Column #9 - XT8 Truggy Development
Column #10 - Touring Car Development
Column #11 - Bling-bling Mentality
Column #12 - Hot Summer Washout
Column #13 - New Electric Touring Car
Column #14 - Off-road Development
Column #15 - My micro love
Column #16 - Back in the Dirt
Column #17 - Worlds Preparations
Column #18 - 808 Tests & Stress
Column #19 - Excited for the Worlds?
Column #20 - Statistics, Expenses Sheets, Production Analysis, Calculations…
Column #21 + Column #22 - Euros + Euros + Worlds
Column #23 - The Busiest Season Ever
Column #24 - In Between the Worlds
Column #25 + Column #26 - Well Developed or Overdeveloped?
Column #27 - Back to The Future
Column #28 - 2009 Kick-off
Column #29 - Crazy what?
Column #30 - Last indoor race of the season
Column #31 - Getting into summer season
Column #32 - Heading for the Euros
Column #33 - Testing - Always last minute, always new ideas
Column #34 - European Champion - title celebration
Column #35 - Time to move on
Column #36 - National Heroes
Column #37 - 2010 ready
Column #38 - Decade of Triumph
Column #39 - 2010 Racing Calendar
Column #40 - DHI, ETS & Nürnberg Show
Column #41 - World Championship Practice
Column #42 - EC indoor, EC 1/12, Silverstate, LRP Masters, Neo
Column #43 - Nationals All Around
Column #44 - Warm Warm-ups, Challenging Challenges
Column #45 - Electric Touring Worlds 2010
Column #46 - Team XRAY - World Champion!!!
Column #47 - Summer Vacation, 30x USA Champion Title
Column #48 - T3 Saga Continues
Column #49 - RX8 – What? How? When?
Column #50 - The Making of the RX8 – Part II
Column #51 - Shake It, Baby, Shake It...
Column #52 - Racing Season ‘11 Full Running