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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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2012 Racing Summer Summary
The 2012 racing summer is over and the preparation for the winter indoor season is in full swing. It is nice after several weeks of traveling all around Europe to be back at home and finally I have some time to look back at the summer of 2012. How was it? Actually, despite some ups and downs, generally it was very good. It will take for several separate columns to get into details on every race so I will try only very briefly touch on the important details:

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1/10 Off-road European Championship, Austria
My summer tour started the day after the last round of the ETS. After arriving home I packaged my off-road stuff and was soon on the way back to Austria, this time to an off-road track, for the 1/10 off-road Euros. You may wonder why, as there is no Xray 1/10 off-road car. Certainly, you are right but at the same time not so much.

After several months of round the clock work we were ready with the pre-production prototype of the all-new project with code named XB4. At this stage there are not many details to share, but I can say that I was more than happy with the initial handling and performance, and that I was able to confirm that the ideas we had conceptualized were successful. This means that production will get the green light for this project.

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Completely new projects like the XB4 are always the most difficult and demanding, as we need to make all the moulds required for the new components (in this case, 25 all-new moulds were required). To be able to test the prototype we had to prioritize the production, build and complete first the moulds for components that could not be replaced or simulated using machined components. It was a very tight timeline to have the prototype ready for the Euros, but due to a strong effort in production we were able to make it on time. Now the rest of the molds are in progress with some more deadlines fast approaching. I will get in some more details about this project in an upcoming column.

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1/12 World Championship, Holland
Paul Lemieux and Alex Hagberg were the XRAY representatives at the first of the main summer events on schedule. The 1/12 World Championship brings out an extreme level of competition, where every minor detail can make a difference between first and last position. Under even this intense scrutiny, the X12 was doing very good. Alex was keeping pace with the rest of the pack and managed to qualify into the main final, finishing overall in 7th place. Considering the general lack of 1/12 racing in Europe Alex did an excellent good job.

1/10 Electric Touring World Championship, Holland
With so many projects currently underway and such a heavily packed race schedule, we were not able to afford even one extra day away from the office. This forced us to travel to Holland on the same day as the worlds started. The first practice started at 2pm, so therefore we had to start our trip at 2am in order for us to arrive even one hour before the start of the first practice! It was not a restful trip. During the 12 hour drive I had many things still to sort out in my mind. I needed to make sense of our schedule and plan, sort out what prototype and test parts we were able to finish and consider what initial setups and strategies we should employ (among many other things).

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After the World's warm-up, where Paul took the TQ and the overall win, I had, in the back of my mind, very high expectations for the Worlds. I knew that both the team and the car had made huge progress over the last several months and setting the pace at the warm-up was a nice feeling which was probably the source of these high expectations I had while traveling to the Worlds. At the same time, I am very realistic and work with the facts, and therefore I needed to get my feet planted firmly back on the ground. During the warm-up race some of the competitor drivers seemed to be looking around trying to spot the reason for our pace, and despite our efforts to hide the cars, some details (such as the all-new super short shocks, as well as some other small details) had been noticed even with the bodies on the cars. After the warm-up race it was reported that some of the teams spent several more weeks at the Worlds track trying to match our pace.

When I received this information, I realized that we had likely made an incorrect strategy in showing our full performance at the warm-up race, as we set the pace for our competitors and gave them a target to shoot for. I would consider this, perhaps, another lesson learned. At races where it does not matter, do not show your full pace to the rest of the field, but possibly hold some of your secrets back, only to be revealed at the show where it all matters. This was mainly disappointing for Martin who came up with this idea and had been working on it since December. Martin had invested a lot of time trying different configurations of shocks, shock towers and springs until we come to the final version which we tested successfully at the warm-up. Our competitors were able to seize upon our idea and save themselves several months of development. As I walked thru the pits at the Worlds I confirmed my suspicions, the competition had made use of what they had learned from us and had obviously worked hard as they came to the worlds with some of the same new parts we had tested so successfully at the warm-up. There was nothing we could do, but hand the team some last minute improvement parts and get ready for the race.

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By now, everyone knows how the race went. In the end, the weather played the most important role and the performance of the cars was not quite as important as the correct tire strategy. With just two sets of new tires for qualifiers when the best 3 out of 6 qualifiers were to be used, it was evident that tire strategy would be crucial. To make a long story short, our tire strategy failed. No one will ever know what would have happened if the weather had cooperated and remained clear. Paul and Alex had a decent early runs where they used only their first set of tires. Most of the crowd seemed to use both of their sets during the first 4 qualifiers. Alex and Paul had held onto the second set of tires, which they wanted to use for 5th and 6th round of qualifiers, giving them an advantage as the bulk of the competition would be on their 3rd or 4th run with their tires. Unfortunately, after the 4th round, the rain came and this opportunity was lost. It was a risky strategy which could work if the weather was friendly but in the end failed.

Meen Vejrak showed some nice performance as well, especially with this being his first time at this track and without any prior practice. Meen showed very good performance up until the last qualifying round was still in the main final. This was an incredible result considering that almost everyone else in the top had hundreds or perhaps even thousands of laps at this track. Unfortunately, the weather hurt Meen as well. In the last qualifying round the track was drying out, however, during Meen’s run it started to rain, making it impossible to match the lap times of the previous groups. Regretfully, the organizers did not cancel this qualifying round (even though the conditions had varied greatly during the round) and Meen was out of the main final.

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When it was all said and done, we had lost our chance to fight to the title or podium. I know that the entire team was fairly disappointed with the bad luck we suffered and the final results considering the huge amount of time, work and efforts everyone put into the preparation over the last 2 years. It was, however, very nice to see Paul Lemieux's performance and nicely flowing car speed around the track to move up from his 10th place starting position to win the B-Final, giving a glimpse of what may have been if the weather had only cooperated.

This World Championship felt somewhat different from all the previous ones. To begin with, the competition level in this class has increased significantly over the last two years and the tension was very obvious during the entire event. Also, there seemed to be more protests filed during this event than at any other race I had experienced. The competition between teams seemed sharper, with many questionable activities going on, making it appear that team games played important role in order to succeed.

For sure this World Championship was a good new lesson for the future and in the end it also helped to motivate the team. I received many thanks from our team drivers for the very good team atmosphere, cooperation and work within the Xray team without any pressure or dirty team games. Despite leaving these Worlds fairly disappointed with the result I was confident at the same time as I knew that the new car has worked well and we have made a big progress in the terms of performance and handling.

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1/8 On-road European Championship, Portugal
From the World championship in Holland I drove back home to get ready for the off-road Euros. Martin did not travel back home with me as he went from the track directly to the Amsterdam airport to fly directly to Portugal for the 1/8 on-road Euros. Since I was not at this event personally, I can only share what I was told. The track was situated in Vila Real, which is small city approx. 100km from Porto. The track is very large with a fast, easy layout. It was clear right from the beginning that strong engines would be required to be on pace. The track surface was very coarse, which meant that the traction would be high, but also would be tire wear.

The RX8 was working very well right from the first practice and our drivers were right on pace with the other drivers. Rick Vrieljnick from the Netherlands and the Salemi brothers were super fast right from the start of practice. After the qualifiers we had Mirko Salemi qualified directly into the semifinal with Massimo Fantini, Rick V and Walter Salemi in the quarter finals. Martin was struggling with his engine, putting him into the 1/16th final. Even with his engine issues, Martin was able to bump up two times to reach the 1/4 final in large part due to his clean and consistent driving and lack of mistakes.

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Additionally, since he was lacking power, he suffered less tire wear and did not have to change the tires in his finals, unlike many of his competitors. Martin was also able to conserve fuel during his run allowing him to stay on the track longer and eliminating one fuel stop. Martin was on pace to bump up to the semifinal round, but he broke rear belt after a small stone came into his pulley. Martin was disappointed with how his day ended, but I think it was very good result as he does not drive this class very often, actually the last time that Martin drove this class was last year’s Euros in Luxembourg. Martin was able to quickly adapt to this class and indicated that with the exact same set up that he used in Luxembourg he could drive almost the same lap times as others when his engine was making power.
After the earlier finals, we were left in the semifinals with two good hopes, however, this weekend luck was not on our side. First on the track was Rick V who had easily bumped up from 1/4th final. After the start of the race, Rick was on the same pace as leaders until his engine stopped making horsepower during his run, killing his top speed. With this sudden lack of power on the super-long straight he had no chance of bumping up, as the other racers would pull away by 3m or more on each lap. Rick did not want to give up and he tried to fight as much as possible, pushing his engine to its limits until he suffered a broken con-rod 5 minutes before the end of the final.

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Our second hope for a top 10 result was Mirko Salemi, a young super talented Italian driver. Mirko was very fast all week and he had a good chance to make the final. These chances were drastically reduced on the first lap, however, when he attempted to rush towards the front too quickly, getting tangled up with the driver ahead of him in the first corner. Both cars went off of the track and lost a lot of time. Mirko pushed as much as possible and was starting to close the gap to move into a bump up position until he went for tire change. A mistake re-entering the race cost Mirko almost half a lap when he attempted to get onto the power too quickly after the tire change. With his tires still slick with tire additive his car broke traction forcing it to loop out of control. Mirko pushed hard right up until the end to make up for this lost time and in the end he missed the final by one position.

Even though bad luck kept us out of the A final at this event I still had to think positively, as we had two cars in semifinals and all Xray drivers were happy with the performance of their cars. Further, there were more Xray drivers in the starting field compared to last year’s Euros, which means that people like the RX8 and they are pleased with the performance of the car as, according to feedback, the car is easier to drive, yet just as fast as the competitor offerings.

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1/8 Off-road European Championship, Austria
The journey continued the second week of August, as I was back in Austria once again to join the off-road team. The XB9 had been performing very well in test sessions and there was not much work required to set the car up for this track. The more important task would be to set-up the engine properly for this track and determine the correct tires for the changing track conditions. Reno Savoya and Martin Bayer were keeping pace with the rest of the race leaders for the entire week. As the qualifiers progressed Reno kept improving, winning some of his qualifying rounds and was in the chase for TQ in the last qualifier, where he was leading until losing 6 seconds as he got tangled up by another racer, costing him the TQ spot. Local Xray driver Martin Wollanka showed some excellent performance, placing in the top 10 in some qualifying rounds, however traffic in finals cost him valuable time and could not make it to the main final.

In the end it was Reno and Martin who represented XRAY in the main final and it was once again satisfying to have again a car in the main final. After the start Reno got caught in traffic and dropped back in the field. During the final he worked his way back to the front, however, missed the podium finishing in 4th place.

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The racing level in the off-road market has continued to improve over the past year and I am satisfied that both our car and our team are at the highest level. With at least 40 off-road car manufacturers in the world we could see many of the companies dropping out from the high level racing. Here at the Euros we saw only 15 manufacturers represented, with XRAY cars being the 4th most popular choice. Last year there were still 20 different manufacturers participating at the Euros, so this drop is significant. This year, from these 15 manufacturers, only 7 made it to the main final, while XRAY was able to place 2 cars in the main final. Having 7 different brands and teams in the main final shows just how competitive the off-road racing scene has become and that for many it is a huge achievement just to get into the main final.

After the final runs my whirlwind schedule continued, as I had to immediately package my gear and drive directly thru the night to Italy for the last Euros on schedule.

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1/10 Nitro Touring European Championship, Italy
After all the previous races loaded with a lot of adrenaline, stress and non-stop racing I was already a bit tired but still was very excited for the last Euros on the schedule. The NT1 has been, in the terms of victories, our most successful car and I was very confident that if we did not suffer any unfortunate bad luck we should be in a strong position for a podium finish at the Euros.

The temperatures at the track were incredible high, reaching over 40°C, and with the allowed tire additives and high traction the set-up challenge would be to stabilize the cars to avoid traction roll. Even more difficult would be tuning your engine to survive the hot temperatures, as the engines easily got up to 160°C!

The XRAY team was super strong, the NT1 had more than 50% share of the entries with 57 cars out of 103 drivers, most of them being private drivers.

From the early practice rounds, the Xray team set the pace, but the surprise of the event for sure were the young Italian drivers who were very fast. The race format was set to use your single best qualifying time, and looking at the schedule it was obvious that it would be the second round on Thursday evening when temperatures would be slightly cooler.

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I really do not know what happened, but as smoothly as things went for us in practice, the opposite held true in the second (the most important one) qualifier. Martin had been struggling with power for the last couple of runs, so had given his engine to Massimo Fantini for some modifications. When Martin tried the engine before start of his qualifier, he felt that the extreme increase in power may have been due to his engine being too lean, so then had his mechanic richen thethe engine. As he prepared for the start of the race, he knew that me had made a tactical error and had left himself once again short on power. This mistake cost Martin upwards of 3 seconds on his 7 minute run, leaving him qualified 16th (or 1st position in 1/4th final B)

Alex struggled with traction roll as the traction in the evening was super high and it was very easy to flip if driver pushed even slightly too aggressively into the corners. Dirk was struggling a little with his set up as the car would push on power but he was still able to qualify in the top 10. Biago Spataro had a great start and was on a TQ run, but as he tried to pass a slower driver they got tangled up and Biago’s car broke. On the other hand, drivers who were not very known outside of Italy showed the great performance of NT1! It was David Lopini who was the fastest with NT1. This very talented young Italian driver was only 2 sec. off TQ time and qualified in 4th position. Other lesser known, however highly skilled Italian Xray drivers who qualified right to the semifinals were Alessio Forte, Luca Redaelli, Dino Giacalone, and Claudio Culoma. Together with well known Dirk, Giuseppe D`angelo, and Manuel Huber, we had 8 drivers out of a possible 14 who qualified directly into the semifinals.

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The finals day was one of the hottest days of the race, with temperatures reaching 42 degrees in the pits. The first on the track, from whom we had big pre-race expectations, was Alex Hagberg in the 1/16 final. Alex had a great start and was pulling away from the rest of the field right from the start. Luck was not on his side however, as 3 minutes before the end, he broke both of his spur gears (which is possible only if something had gotten in between the gears to lock them both). We had also Mario Spiniello in this final who was able to bump up. Martin was in the 1/4th final and had a similar start as Alex.

Martin, unfortunately also suffered from similar bad luck, as he had pulled away from the field and was holding a safe distance from the pursuing cars when he hit a car coming out of the pits while Martin’s car was at full power heading down the straightaway. This happened in the 9th minutes and even though he did not break the car, it was completely tweaked, tracking erratically and steering inconsistently. As Martin said after the run, it was one of his longest 12 minutes of his life, as he had to maintain 100% concentration on every corner as the car was so unpredictable. Even though the others started to catch him, he was able to finish 2nd and bump up to the semifinals.

The semifinals went very well for us when Giuseppe D`Angelo won semifinal B in front of Martin and Dino Giacalone. From semifinal A, Dirk, Manuel Huber, Mario Spiniello and Rico Krober bumped up into the main final.

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We knew even before the start that the main 45 minutes final would be about the right tire strategy and luck. It is very hard to describe how the final went for our drivers as I was Martin’s mechanic and I had to follow his car. From what I was able to observe, Martin decided too large of a tire diameter (as he was scared that he would run out of tires, after having pushed the limits during the semifinals). Due to the big tires his car was suffering from a lot of traction roll and therefore he had to drive slowly and carefully. After 8 minutes of racing, when he was in 6th place, Martin traction rolled and landed on his roof at the beginning of the straight where he was then hit by another car. Martin’s rear body post was broken, and the repair would cost him a couple laps, but the car would have been impossible to drive without the repair.

Martin drove hard after the repair, but it was impossible to make up such a big loss in time and he finished 7th. Dirk had a similar issue as his car traction rolled in the early minutes of the race and had to limp to the pits for tire change to repair a broken tire. This time loss for Dirk was also too big to overcome. At this time Rico Krober moved into the lead in front of Manuel Huber. Rico was forced to the pits for a couple of laps to repair a servo problem. From that point on, Manuel took over the lead and with perfect driving, no mistakes and an ideal fuel strategy, he held on to win in front of Mario Spiniello who was also driving incredibly well the entire day (he started in 1/16th final and finished in 2nd position overall! Amazing job!) 5 minutes before the end it looked like Xray would sweep the podium finish positions when Dino Giacalone was in third place, however an unfortunate bump in the sweeper damaged Dino’s car and he was unable to finish. I felt sorry for Dino, as he drove a great race and he really deserved the podium finish, but that is racing.

Leaving Italy with the trophy of European Champion was a satisfying reward for all of the hard work and efforts made by our entire race time. They earned this trophy and it was well deserved. Without the great efforts and work of everyone including R&D, production and the entire racing team in all the categories, we would not have been able to achieve the strong results we did all summer, let alone a European Championship! So, a big thank you goes to everyone on the team and the Xray drivers and supporters at all of the events! I am very happy that we have such a great and friendly racing family. Thank you all.


See you around the tracks!
Enjoy the ride and ‘til next time,
Dipl. Eng. Juraj Hudy
XRAY Chief Designer

Archive:
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
Column #53 - From On-road to Off-road
Column #54 - Testing and Once Again… Testing
Column #55 - Half of the EC Championships – Done!
Column #56 - Summer is Gone…Euros are Done
Column #57 - Never-ending Development
Column #58 - From XB8 to XB9
Column #60 - 2012 Season Running
Column #61 - Crazy Months
Column #62 - ETS Champion