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The 2012 New Zealand EP On-road Nationals were held on February 4-5. The host club, Capital Model Racers (CMR), was holding the event at the abandoned Fielding track about 140km away from their actual home. The idea was to raise local awareness about R/C Racing with the intention of getting the club back on its feet again. The permanent on-road track was in excellent condition thanks to some hard work by CMR club members and even featured a new section - an additional stretch of track adding about 20 metres to the overall length.

As per normal NZRCA rules, there would be three rounds of qualifying on Saturday with your best run seeding you for the finals. Then on Sunday we’d move into the finals with three grid-start races counting towards a 1-to-10 points system, with the best two added together for a final points tally. A new control tyre was selected by the CMR club this year – Sweep 40deg OG spec tyre – which proved to be one of the most controversial topics in the pit area all weekend. The control tyre only covered the two fastest touring car classes which were Super Stock and Touring Modified.

After a 4 1/2 hr drive, I arrived at the track on Thursday afternoon only to be greeted by rain. Luckily the skies were clearing and the forecast showed improving conditions later in the afternoon. It was a perfect opportunity to get my pit area set up and batteries on charge while I waited for the track to dry. I’d never raced at the Fielding track before so I also did a quick walk around and paid close attention to some areas of the track, in particular the new section which didn’t quite meet up with the old section properly. Something I’d have to take into account as part of the old section stuck out almost to the racing line.

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The rain finally cleared and at about 2pm the track was open for some practice. First up was my open brushless car with a pre-used set of the control tyre installed. The grip levels and feel of the car were terrible; it felt vague and nervous, almost like the car was sliding over the asphalt rather than gripping it. It was time for some set-up changes. First I installed softer springs to try and get some feel back in the car… 2.8’s in the front and 2.4’s in the rear and this immediately made a noticeable difference on the track. Next up was the rear gear differential which had 1500cst oil in it. I dropped it to 800cst and took the car out for another quicker run. The drop in oil weight improved on-power traction substantially but it wasn’t quite enough so I dropped it down to 600 and re-tested. It was almost prefect so I settled for that rear diff set-up.

One of the most unique aspects of the control tyre was its very narrow operating temperature. It reached optimal temperature (between 50-60) within a lap but once you took it past 60deg the car was all over the place. It was a matter of trying to create a car that was easy to drive consistently rather than a spectacularly fast car. For this reason, I opted to install a front gear diff with 300,000cst oil. The changed was immediately positive; the car was much easier to drive and really helped with turn-in and on-power traction. I changed the front oil from 300k to 200k to test and preferred the lighter oil. Other changes were a 1.1mm sway bar in the rear, shortened wheelbase and 0.75mm narrow hexes front and rear. I felt comfortable with the car and just concentrated on learning the track with a few more runs before the track closed at 6pm.

Friday was wet again, and track time was limited. I worked on my Super Stock car taking across the changes I had made to the open brushless car as well as checking the ESC turbo and boost settings. I also took the open brushless car for a single run in the afternoon to gauge the changing track conditions. Grip had come up a little and my best lap time was a 16.4. I made no changes to either chassis.

Saturday was also affected by rain, so the morning timetable was tightened up. It was a matter of waiting for the track to dry before qualifying could get underway. The weather forecast was showing an end to the frequent showers and the remainder of the event would be fine. Everyone had their fingers and toes crossed that the report was accurate.

Qualifier 1 in SuperStock (13.5) went very well. The car easily TQ’d the round, putting in the only 18-lap run. It was easy to drive fast and had brilliant corner-to-corner acceleration. Open Brushless was up next and although the run felt fast it wasn’t fast enough; I was beaten by Anthony Atack (Aus/Xray) by 0.9sec. I was relatively happy with 2nd place overall and focused on round 2.

Round 2 for SuperStock and the competition was chasing hard. Two more competitors had hit 18-lap runs but were 11 seconds off my new fastest time of 18 laps @ 5.05sec. The T3 was simply very quick and set a new lap record of 16.617sec, the only car into the 16sec lap time bracket.

Round 2 for open brushless was supposed to be a positive one but a rookie mistake in the pits ended up costing me a very quick, and possibly a TQ, run. Instead of putting in a fully*charged battery I accidentally placed the half-used battery from my Super Stock car into my Open Brushless chassis. 14 laps into the run and the ESC hit LiPo cut off, and I was out of the race. Anthony Atack took the round win again, albeit with a slower time than the first qualifier. I was extremely disappointed that I’d made such a silly mistake and with the organizers delaying the 3rd round of qualifying until the morning I was going to have to stew on it for the night.

Sunday morning and for the first time in 3 days we woke to dry conditions. The third round of qualifying was scheduled to get underway at 9am. I’d decided overnight to drop some power out of the open brushless chassis. The track was going to be at its hottest for the entire meeting and I was already struggling with tyres that were right on the limit due to the high temperatures. I moved from the Speed Passion 5.0 to a 5.5 and dropped the boost from 40deg’s down to 25deg’s.

Round 3 for SuperStock and the XRAY T3 continued to dominate the class. Knocking 5 seconds off the quickest time from Saturday and if it hadn’t come down to some lap traffic, would have grabbed the only 19 lap run in qualifying. I was extremely happy to be off the front spot for the 3 finals and was looking forward to running the car on a â€rubbered-in’ track with a fresh set of tyres.

Open Brushless was up next. I got away cleanly in my run and settled into a consistent groove. The car felt really good and was doing very little wrong. The 5.5T motor and the reduction in boost made a huge difference to the drivability of the car and allowed me to get on to the power sooner. Anthony Atack had started ahead of me in the staggered start system and I knew that if I could get in front of him on the track then the run would be quicker and a TQ was always a possibility. We ran together for a fair amount of the race until about lap 15 when I took the lead and from there I never looked back. I set a new fastest lap of 16.265sec and took Top Qualifier by 1.9 seconds. I was absolutely stoked to take TQ in both SuperStock and Open Brushless classes. Finals were up next and I quickly headed off to the scruitneering area to get some new tyres glued up.

1st Andrew Webber, XRAY T3-2012 - 18/ 5m1.848s
2nd Russell Cloughley - 18/ 5m12.219s
3rd Leon Dravitzki - 18/ 5m14.332s
4th Grant Forsyth, XRAY T3-2012 - 18/ 5m15.098s
5th Drew Howitt, XRAY T3-2012 - 17/ 5m12.067s
6th Ainsley Howitt, XRAY T3-2012 - 17/ 5m14.453s
7th Terry Lister, XRAY T3-2012 - 16/ 5m0.325s
8th Peter Bent - 16/ 5m1.918s
9th Brian Luey - 16/ 5m2.805s
10th Edwin Pibal - 16/ 5m3.640s

Andrew Webber, XRAY T3-2012 - 19/ 5m14.473s
Anthony Atack , XRAY T3-2012 - 19/ 5m16.361s
Karl Meyer - 18/ 5m3.384s
Jason Marshall - 17/ 5m1.922s
Sam Cooney - 17/ 5m2.316s
Russell Cloughley - 17/ 5m7.699s
Ainsley Howitt, XRAY T3-2012 - 15/ 0m0.000s

We went straight into finals which left no time for maintenance on either car. A quick check over and everything looked to be in perfect order. A new set of tyres for both the SuperStock and Open Brushless class were bolted on and I was ready.

SuperStock race one couldn’t have gone any better. Unfortunately Russell Cloughley never made it to the grid due to work commitments which left me with a bit of breathing room back to 3rd place. I got away cleanly and pulled away from 2nd place each lap. I took the chequered flag by approximately 11 seconds. Leon Dravitzki came home in 2nd place with fellow Team XRAY driver Grant Forsyth and his T3-2012 took 3rd.

The Open Brushless was 4 races later and I’d triple-checked there was a fully-charged battery in the car. The hooter sounded for the start and I’d managed to get another clean get away, closely followed by Anthony and Karl in 3rd. On the second lap, Anthony made a mistake clipping one of the track markers causing his car to roll, he tried to continue but something was wrong and on lap 9, he retired from the race. Karl took over from 2nd with Sam Cooney moving up from 5th on the grid to run 3rd. At the sound of the buzzer, I took the win 10 seconds ahead of Karl, Sam held on for 3rd, closely followed by Team XRAY driver Ainsley Howitt, just 4 seconds back.

A full grid was present for the second final of SuperStock. Russell Cloughley chased hard from the start of the race but lacked overall pace to put any pressure on. He was then joined by Leon Dravitzki and went into defensive mode. This allowed me to extend the gap clearing out to an 8sec win. Leon got the better of Russell taking 2nd. Grant Forysth finished 4th but some 6 seconds back from Leon and Russell. The second win mean that based on points I had won the 2012 SuperStock National Championships for the second year in a row. I was extremely happy and delighted with how well the car handled over the weekend. It barely saw any maintenance the entire weekend but never missed a beat.

I now moved my focus back to the Open Brushless car. We were now into the hottest part of the day and I’d made the decision to try and reduce initial tyre temps by slowing down my warm-up pattern. This was unfortunately a mistake because by the second corner of the race the rear of the car slid out, causing me to run wide and I was left with no option but to let Anthony through to the lead. There was some contact towards the back of the grid, and Jason Marshall had taken over 3rd spot moving Karl back to 4th. Lap 2 and Karl had moved back up to 3rd relegating Jason back to 4th. I had made some mistakes trying to close the gap that Anthony had made on the first lap. I’d catch back up to Anthony but simply couldn’t find a way past. His lines were extremely accurate and I was now missing the extra power of the 5.0 and boost I’d taken out of the car. There was simply no way to pass under power. I pushed and pushed but Anthony took the chequered flag, with me just 0.6sec behind. Karl finished 3rd just 5 seconds off the lead. A disappointing result for me but still a good result for Team XRAY with a 1-2 finish.

The 3rd race of the open brushless class was the decider. Both Anthony and myself had a 1st and 2nd each and Karl with two 3rd. This meant it was impossible for Karl to finish higher than 3rd position. The track was probably in the best condition it had been all weekend and my tyres, now on their third run, were probably at their best too. The hooter sounded and I made a rocket start, pulling a 3-4m gap on Anthony. I took it easy into the second corner, nervous about what the car was going to do but it turned in perfectly and held a nice tight line. From there it was 1-way traffic. I’d found a very good rhythm and was slowly extending the gap over 2nd place. The car was almost perfect, just suffering from a small amount of understeer around the high-speed S section. As the race time completed I crossed the line for the win and claimed the 2012 Open Brushless National Champs for a second year in a row, something that has never been done before and a real indication to how well the XRAY performed over the weekend. Anthony finished 2nd, 4 seconds back and Karl finished 3rd, 2 seconds back.

Final Results for SuperStock:

1. Andrew Webber, XRAY T3'12

2. Leon Dravitzki
3. Russell Cloughley
4. Grant Forsyth, XRAY T3'12
5. Drew Howitt, XRAY T3'12

6. Brian Luey
7. Edwin Pibal
8. Terry Lister, XRAY T3'12
9. Peter Bent
10. Ainsley Howitt, XRAY T3'12

Final Results for Open Brushless:

1. Andrew Webber, XRAY T3'12
2. Anthony Atack , XRAY T3'12

3. Karl Meyer
4. Ainsley Howitt, XRAY T3'12
5. Jason Marshall
6. Sam Cooney
7. Russell Cloughley

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Team XRAY and Zoom Resources for their support. A big thanks to Graham Barthow, Grant Forsyth and my family also for their support over the weekend too. Couldn’t have done it without you guys!

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Andrew's set-up sheets

Open Brushless A Final Race 3 video