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Race report by Alex Hagberg & Paul Lemieux
The 2012 snowbirds were held at the World Gate resort in Orlando Florida. The format of this race is special do to the racing of both On-road and oval. The racing goes on for almost 24hrs a day with a track change between on road and oval every day. Having this combination of two huge races rolled in to one makes the snowbirds the biggest race in the world with double the great racing and story lines. This year the attendance and competition was large do in part to the international attendance; several EU countries were represented along with Japan and obviously North America.

In Mod Tc it was Alex Hagberg showing good early pace, Alex was just coming from the ETS race where he showed good speed so he was rightfully on everyone’s radar. Not to anyones surprise also showing speed at the beginning was Naoto Matsukura and Kevin Hebert.

In Mod 12th scale it was Hebert and Matsukura again, with Mike Blackstock and Markus Mobers looking to be the early front runners as well.

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I decided to join the largest r/c event in the world, the Snowbird Nationals for the first time at its 2012 edition. The race was entered by all the US drivers and top drivers from all across the world. The on-road category had more than 350 entries split on 9 classes. Team XRAY was represented by its RC America factory drivers, Paul Lemieux, Eric Anderson and Drew Ellis. From the European team it was I and Francesco Martini from Italy who had joined the event.

I arrived in the US a few days prior to the race to test at a high traction track which used the same layout as would be used at the actual race. This track was located in the city of Nashville, Tennessee, which is also the local track of RC America driver Eric Anderson. The tests were all very promising and I was happy with both of my cars. The track had very high bite and used the same layout as would be used the actual Snowbirds. After three days of intense testing we took off to Orlando, Florida for the Snowbird Nationals.

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I competed in two classes, 1/10 Touring Car Modified and 1/12 Modified. In the 1/12 class I was struggling a bit with car set-up in early qualifying but eventually got it together for the last round where I was on a TQ pace but eventually fell off to 3rd overall which still was a decent result in this strong field of world class drivers. I changed my set-up a lot to cope with the high traction conditions and the technical parts of the track which required a lot of steering. I changed to stiffer front and side springs, made the upper arm longer in the front end, and changed to a harder shore foam tire. For Q4 and also In the final the car was handling really well and I had a good enough car to win the race. I was also very impressed by the performance of Paul Lemieux as he would go on to take TQ by 5 seconds in front of Keven Hebert and myself just behind Keven.

In the final I would have a good start, following Paul, Naoto and Keven as they fought for the lead. The very close race eventually came to an end for me as Keven and Naoto came together, and I would accidentally crash into them as a result, which broke the bodyshell and front bodypost of my car. At this point, I had the pace to finish 2nd or 3rd overall. It was a disappointing result considering that the car worked so well in the final. Paul had an early challenge from a hard charging Naoto, but eventually pulled away as Naoto kept making mistakes. Paul held the lead until the end and all I can say is congratulations on a world class drive!

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In the touring car class, I had a very good car already in practice and was the pace setter at this point. I did not have to change much on my set-up. But as myself and Francesco and the other team mates worked very closely together, we tried to figure out some changes, mainly from practicing hard in the early morning open practice rounds.
The main changes that I made to my basic set-up were to lower the rear upper roll center, and raise the front upper roll center. I also put the diffs in the high position, and put on softer springs both front and rear. I held the provisional TQ until the last round of qualifying where the Yokomo team driver Naoto Matsukura put in a perfect round to take the TQ just 0.6 seconds in front of my previous TQ time. The one-final format would allow for some exciting racing and hopefully good battles for the overall win. As the tone went off, Naoto pushed very hard and tried to pull away. On the third lap however, he would make a mistake in the sweeper following the straightaway which sent his car off the track. I now held the lead which I gradually increased throughout the race. I pulled away from Keven and Paul which were fighting for the 2nd place behind me. The car was so fast yet easy to drive, I could cruise to victory with 3.5 seconds down to the 2nd place finisher. It felt great to cross the finish line as the winner of the Snowbird Nationals!

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Francesco Martini was a force to be reckoned with in the Expert and Stock touring car classes. In Stock (blinky mode 17.5T), Francesco qualified 2nd overall, just behind the race winner Mike Haynes, also with an XRAY T3’2012 chassis. In the more competitive boosted 17.5T expert class, he qualified 7th. Francesco was eventually taken out very badly in all his mains and was not able to fight for a top position. His cars all worked really well. In the Stock main it was Eric Anderson who also came close to a podium position, finishing 4th overall. David Bowser and Michael Skeen also made the A in the Stock class for XRAY.

Mike Haynes, who competed in five different on-road classes, was a strong contender for the win also in the boosted 17.5T expert class where he qualified and finished 2nd overall. Young and promising driver from Canada, Andrew Hardman, had a good run in the final which put him 3rd overall.

It felt great to take my first international big win. I had such a great car his time that I would never forgive myself if I did not make full use of it. The first Snowbirds experience was indeed a great one.

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Mod 12th scale:

At the Tone it was Lemieux who got off clean with Kevin Hebert in close persuit, a few laps in Hebert made a mistake which allowed Matsukura to jump in to the two spot. Matsukura slowly chipped away on a 1 sec gap between him and Lemieux, at about the 3 min mark Lemieux had his hands full with Naoto but was able to up his pace and pull a small lead again. A mistake from Matsukura which collected Hebert gave Lemieux a 3 second Cushion now with Hebert now back in to the two spot. From their Lemieux drove a smooth race and cruised to victory with Hebert coming up just one second behind in the end with Mike Blackstock in third.

This was just a small fraction of all the racing which happened over the course of the week, congratulations to all the winners and finalists from the Birds!

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Modified Touring Car Top 10
1. Alexander Hagberg – XRAY T3’2012
2. Keven Hebert
3. Paul Lemieux – XRAY T3’2012
4. Marc Fischer
5. Mike Haynes – XRAY T3’2012
6. Hayato Matsuzaki
7. Martin Crisp
8. Mike Blackstock
9.Andrew Hardman – XRAY T3’2012
10. Naoto Matsukura

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1:12 GTP Modified Top 10
1. Paul Lemieux – XRAY X12
2. Keven Hebert
3. Mike Blackstock
4. Paul Ciccarello
5. Andrew Knapp
6. Vesa Yli
7. Markus Mobers
8. Naoto Matsukura
9. Alexander Hagberg – XRAY X12
10. Marc Fischer

Stock Touring Car Top 10
1. Mike Haynes – XRAY T3’2012
2. Brad Johnson
3. Dave Johnson – XRAY T3’2012
4. Eric Anderson – XRAY T3’2012

5. Bill Sydor
6. Francesco Martini – XRAY T3’2012
7. Jeff Cuffs
8. Dave Bowser – XRAY T3’2012
9. Michael Skeen – XRAY T3’2012

10. Walter Henderson

Expert Touring Car Top 10
1. Keven Hebert
2. Mike Haynes – XRAY T3’2012
3. Andrew Hardman – XRAY T3’2012

4. Martin Crisp
5. Craig Xavier – XRAY T3’2012
6. Francesco Martini – XRAY T3’2012

7. Hayato Matsuzaki
8. Jeff Cuffs
9. Robbie Dodge – XRAY T3’2012
10. Larry Fairtrace

12th scale GTP 17.5
1. Robinson, Peter
2. Haynes, Mike
3. Johnson, Dave
4. Dodge, Robbie XRAY X12
5. Piersol, Jim
6. Xavier, Craig XRAY X12
7. Boice, Stephen
8. Calandra, Frank
9. Catricala, JB
10. Brown, Jeff

In the end Xray is very happy to get their first big Mod wins with the T32012 and the X12 at the same event. Also the Newest addition to team Xray Young Andrew Hardman was able to make his first major modified A final in the Mod TC class and also a podium in the expert Tc class, congratulations and thanks to Andrew and his family for all of their great efforts.

We would also like to say thanks to Mike Boylan and the whole Snowbirds crew for putting on such a event for everybody to enjoy.

Set-up sheets
Alex Hagberg

Paul Lemieux

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