Monday, 17 November 2014

The count down is on

Its not long now till the racing season is over for 2014. For some, that will mean break that extends well into 2015. For others it will last just long enough to pacify the Christmas demands of partners, wives and children and then it will be on again.

Meanwhile, the Toowoomba club has been trying to make up for meetings lost due to weather. There is a lot to chose from here when it comes to which weather causes a meeting to be cancelled. There is something slightly masochistic about racing at night when its 1Deg C. Maybe next year we'll try a few day time meetings when it might be a touch warmer.

This week's meeting was the exact opposite -HOT!!. The forecast was for 37Deg and the outside temp gauge in the car read a balmy 38 as I drove to the track. Numbers were down a little, even compared to normal, but there was 4 cars in each class so a track was set up (slightly simplified to reduce the work load) and racing commenced. All considered  it was a good night with some close racing amongst the TC's and the Mini's being a little more restrained for a change. Lap times for the TC's were in the low 10s range. My F1 was in the TC mix just to make it interesting for everyone.

I made some major changes to the F1 for this meeting and for the future. I converted it back to 190mm and updated it a few areas. Keen readers of this blog (yeah right) might remember I tried running the F109 in 190mm guise before and wasn't keen on it. This time however, it was a completely different beast, but I can't tell you why. Certainly some areas are different (different side spring arrangement, RM-01 steel axle), but  it was only a tenth or so slower than the 17.5 TC's and was easy enough to drive for my consistency to be consistently around 0.4 for the first time in AGES. It wasn't perfect - it was a little unstable on highspeed turn in - but over all it was probably as good as its ever been, especially on the slippery Toowoomba track. As always, repeat-ability will be the gauge of real progress, so here's hoping for the next meeting in 3 weeks.

The only disappointment was the Sweep tyres. I tried the V2 Super Soft rear with the Hard front. The balance was no where near as good as the Ride R1's, with a lot more initial and mid-corner steering followed by a loose exit. It also wanted to swap ends at high speed with any more than slight steering corrections. As I didn't have time to do any testing with different combos (eg Ride fronts/Sweep rears) I am reluctant to make any definitives about which was causing what. However, over all I am not impressed with the Sweep tyres - the inserts are a pain -  they need cutting to size and who has ever glued inserts to the rims first?? I never have with an on-road tyre in my experience.

The fronts are also super tight on the recommended Tamiya rims (I had to use a small screwdriver to force the bead into position) and if the inserts were glued to the rims first I think it would be almost impossible to fit them. Yes they are significantly cheaper and have a better scale appearance than the Ride tyres, but the convenience alone makes the Rides a better option. I have read that Sweep is currently working on pre-mount versions with (possibly) some compound adjustments. If the price stays low they might be worth playing with some more but only time will tell.

I've also been letting a few things churn around in the brain that I might put down on cyber-paper before the end of the year. I should be safe - don't think I'll be bumping into anyone important before the new yearSmiley

Sunday, 9 November 2014

I know what I did last weekend...

... or how to destroy an F1 car in 3 easy steps

1) Drive it on a track which has a weird surface/grip level, gets no prep other than track barriers to mark it out, and the grip varies wildly from one meeting to the next - not much can be done about this. Its the same for everyone but it does make it particularly hard on the RWD cars. In fact at one stage I was something like 6 laps slower than I had been the meeting before. A few radical setup changes got that down to, a possible, 3 laps slower before disaster struck.

2) Drive with a bunch of touring cars - Again no ones fault, just what happens in smaller clubs with fewer numbers. Actually, its partially my fault for doing 26-27 laps the meeting before, only 1-2 slower than the 4WD tourers, so we thought it was better to put the F1 in with them, rather than the smash up derby that is the Mini class.

3) Hit a steel pole at near full throttle - not as simple as it sounds and contact with a tourer a lap or so previous probably helped by knocking out a side spring, making the car a bitch to drive, even more than it already was.

It must be some sort of fate thing. I've hit those poles 2 times since I've been racing here, and both times I've destroyed, or done major damage to a car. The first time was the LCG which split the chassis in half across where the servo mounts and this time it destroyed the pod plates, diff hub etc. Given the F109 is now a good 6 or 7 years old as a platform and well and truly superseded (3Racing just announced an updated FGX), chassis parts have pretty much dried up. Luckily, I did buy 2 of them, and while one was cut up to do the 1/12 thing, luckily I kept the original pod plates as well as making one that was 1/12 specific. I am going to try both just as an experiment.

Fortunately, everything else I need is still available from them Tamiya parts line or I have parts I can use. I've decided to try the 190mm option again, so that takes care of a few parts and I am going to try some of the V2 Sweep tyres as I search for options that better suit the Highfields track. I am also going to try one of the new Exotek one piece diff axles to see if improves anything. It is supposed to be significantly lighter than the Tamiya original which is a 2 piece arrangement.

I've also been continuing work on my FWD project. CAD work as stopped on my original idea as I was looking at the old LCG chassis a few weeks ago and suddenly wondered if it was possible to fit a standard spur to the diff rather than the original diff pulley. To my surprise it does (it needed a Tamiya F1 spur adapter). This got me curious about how much the layout could be changed and pretty soon a direct drive FWD setup was laid out. I am going to mock it up on a piece of 3mm MDF first (not drivable obviously) as everything pretty much fits except for the front shocks. Thats a fairly large issue, but I've gotten to a point I just can't visualise the amount of space available without something physical to hold and look at. I am also trying to fit it all onto a 300x100mm piece of CF that I can get rather more easily than anything else. Fortunately (using that word a bit this post), the motor mount can hang partially in mid air with a separate bumper piece around it to help protect it a little, so all the important bits can fit inside that 300x100 shape.

But first I need so low tack craft glue...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

F109 Side Spring Mod

Its been a while since I've posted anything F1 specific - been spending to much time and angst switching between TC, F1 and 1/12, but I DID do a little mod to my trusty F109 a little while back and thought I'd finally post it.

The kit side springs in the F109 are woefully soft, the 3Racing option springs not much better, and the other side spring mods I've seen make it too easy to loose the springs. I was going through my parts box from my RM-01 and I found a spare set of the side spring retainers from that car (also on the F104 VrII). I'd read somewhere that when people use Team Associated side springs on the RM that the retainer doesn't hold them, but I decided to see for myself anyway. Turns out I must have different springs to everyone else or they are doing something wrong because every set of Associated springs I had clipped on securely. So I decided to see if there was a way to use them.

First thing was to remove the kit spring collars from the rear pod. They are of no use from now on so either chuck them in the bin or the spares box. Next I had to remove the grub screws that hold the pivot pins for the top/battery deck and remove the arms and pins. With the pins removed the grub screw hole goes all the way through so a long grub screw is required. I had some 25mm ones in my spares. This allowed me to screw it all the way through and then screw the retainer onto the end. Just be careful you don't over tighten the plastic retainer. Clip the spring onto the retainer and the easy bit is done. 

The next job is to shorten the 2 pins that the "battery arm" and thus the top deck mounts on. The Dremel came out for this job. Thinking back on it, its probably not necessary to cut them at all but it looks neater if you do.

With the long screws going all the way through where the original grub screw was, there is no way to hold this pin so the only solution is to glue it. There is plenty of plastic for everything to grip to, so some Loctite Superglue did the  job. So far its held fine despite being battered around in the combined Mini/21.5 TC class I have to run in to get some F1 track time. Put everything back together making sure that nothing binds and its pretty much done.

The long grub screws now serve as tweak screws so I adjusted them as required. On the track everything is working together fine and no lost springs as of yet.

Its hard to say if this mod has helped the car other than for convenience because I've also changed to using longer links. As it stands the car is hooking up nicely with Shimizu F3 fronts and R1 rears on the grip challenged home track. Usually I've been using TRG Superion rears that offer more grip, so something is working right.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Done and Dusted

Well QLD Titles is over for another year and part of me is glad it is. It was a great event on a really challenging but fun track. It was good to catch up with a few people and good to be on a totally new track, but given how little I get to race these days, all tracks are unfamiliar to some degree.

I did intend to be more detailed with a race report etc. I took pics of most of the results sheets and kept notes on my car changes, but as I drove home on Monday I started to realise that it was just going to become a "coulda, shoulda, woulda" type thing and that didn't interest me much and I didn't think it would interest anyone else either.

Practice went reasonably well given the 4+ hour drive before hand and a bit of laziness on my behalf with car setup before I got there. I also wasn't sure the old, but unused, set of Sorex's I'd dug up as practice tyres were part of the issues or not. On the setup board back at the cabin that evening and I'd been trying to run with no rear toe and that obviously wasn't a good idea. I also wasn't happy with the diff action but I discovered I'd forgotten to bring all of my oils with me so I left it alone.

Saturday qualifying and I was mildly excited at the prospects of what was to come and a quick morning practice showed a proper setup was making a positive difference. However the first actual qualifying run lasted exactly one lap before a massive change in car handling surfaced. Back at the table and it was clear the front belt had flipped off the tension-er and because the belt is so loose without it, instant 2WD. Now I had flirted with running a 2WD car for the whole event but that's a bit different to suddenly switching from one to the other mid lap. I adjusted the belt tension-er a little tighter and waited for round 2.

That lasted just 3 laps with the exact same result and problem. As I inspected the car back in the pits again, I noticed that the custom tension-er was flexing as the motor spun. This had NEVER happened running 17.5 and I was struck by how difficult it must be for manufacturers to develop cars to cover all classes. At this point I honestly thought the weekend was over as I wasn't sure how to fix the problem with out access to all my bits and pieces at home, but I was instantly pissed at the idea of sitting and watching for 2 days. It was obvious I needed to come up with some sort of brace but with only what I could find in my toolboxes. An old plastic servo mount from and MO3 and a hand drilled hole added to it let me mount it between the motor mount and the carbon tension-er mount. The result worked well and I didn't have any more issues with the belt for the rest of the weekend.

Qualifiers 3-5 - Not much to say other than if I could've combined my fastest laps with my best consistancy I "shoulda" been in the 20 lap bracket pretty easily. Not bad considering everything but I didn't so I wasn't. Handling was a mix of good low speed steering but with high speed under-steer and just a touch of rear instability in the transition from high speed to low speed corners. A few changes to droop and rear springs helped but I think the diff action needed addressing sooner than I eventually did. The single biggest change that had a positive effect was moving the body forward 5mm. This helped the high speed under-steer very obviously.

An offer of a Reedy Sonic 13.5T had me changing motors and fitting a fan on Saturday night. Another debate with the diff ensued but I didn't do anything about it then, Sunday morning and a wet track held things up for about 3 hours. Practice once the track dried out and I finally succumbed to my doubts and decided to refill the diff. However some locally sourced oil that was supposed to be 3000Wt definitely wasn't  and totally screwed the handling. Because I'd forgotten my own 3000Wt oil I was forced to used 2000Wt which ALSO changed the car handling.

Finals - Probably the less said the better. 2 DNF's and a DNS rounded the finals out. The car was fast but I felt the lighter diff oil made the car balance change as the tyres cycled during the run. The change in motor from the $40 Turnigy Trackstar to a $100+ Reedy also didn't deliver any obvious improvement in the time I had with it. 

On a personal level though, I have reached a bit of crossroads. As I've detailed in my writings before I've debated how long I can sustain my interest in 4WD touring cars. Sunday afternoon and before the 3rd final it became very easy to decide not to run. There was nothing to be gained, either personally or results wise, and any excitement from Saturday was long gone. Maybe if the 2WD car had worked better in Friday practice or if I'd decided to run F1 as well/instead, I'd feel a little different. All I know is that from now and for the imaginable future I will not be running 4WD touring cars again. I will turn my attention back to F1/LM and 1/12 where possible and I might also continue work on my FWD project. I have also decide that, again if possible, to go to the Australian On-Road Titles in 2015, just to say I've been. How I will achieve that I have no idea yet.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

QLD Titles Prep - Pt3

Just 3 days now till I leave for Friday practice. Pretty much everything important has been done. A new body is painted up and ready to be fitted on Friday night. I am still intending to try both chassis on Friday practice and decide which one to use before Saturday The Mi1.5 is pretty much as good as it's going to be and I think it will do reasonably well if I drive it half decent. The last time I ran a decent sized event with it was Bayside interclub last year and I've improved it in a couple key of areas since then. The drive line is more efficient than the original layout and a modern motor will make a big difference on its own but its also a big unknown for me. I've driven faster motors and faster cars but rarely have I raced them at this level of competition.

The LCG-R is still on the bench - I'd forgotten just how light this thing was even as a 4WD and now, with a front diff etc missing and using short packs, its nearly into F1 territory. I am glad I bought a regular weight body this time as I would have no hope of finding enough chassis to put lead on. As it is I need to put at around 160 grams on it. I am also still trying to come up with some sort of sway bar arrangement. I tried one idea last night and that failed miserably. I've now come up something based on some ideas I saw after a late-night search through pictures of sway bar mountings. Time for a major modification is starting to run a bit slim however.

On a personal note I've made a few decisions on my future direction but that's for a different day...

Thursday, 18 September 2014

QLD Titles Prep - Pt 2

With just over a week to go, I am focusing more of my free time on getting things ready. So far all the spare parts boxes have been stock take-d, tyres are glued and ready to be packed and the Mi1.5 has had new bearings fitted as well as a general clean and inspection of drive shafts, suspension pins, pulleys etc.

The long winded battle with the Mi5 center pulley adaption continues with the discovery that the 13.5T puts more pressure on the current arrangement which forces something to spin that wasn't supposed to, which kept changing the spur/pinion mesh. I stripped it all down, AGAIN, and the only option I could come up with was to stop one set of bearing from being able to turn but still be removable, so I now have 2 perfectly good and near new 8x5 flanged bearing that have been filled with superglue. When everything is put together now its impossible for anything to spin other than the parts I want to spin so HOPEFULLY it will work.

IF I go for the 4WD option that is. I am busily trying to come up with a way of mounting sway bars to the 2WD LCG just in case they make a significant difference. I fitted up the same body I have been using on the Mi1.5 (and is my choice for the titles as well) and the wheel cutouts match surprisingly well and I always knew I was going to need to make new post holes. At least this way I can practice with both chassis before I make holes in the new body but I can take it with me painted and pre-marked.

I also have to say that the closer the event gets, the more disappointed I am that I am not running F1 but the logistics of getting a car together now, with just 2 days before entries close, just aren't worth stressing over. Maybe it is a reflection of  the level of my disappointment, but I find the whole "blinky" thing, while supposedly creating a "level playing field" on the one hand, also creates a bit of a crutch that organisers can fall back on when they can't be bothered, on the other. How can a 7 or 8 year old ESC, regardless of its quality then, be better than what is currently available given the advances in both FET and processor technology? It's size and weight alone would hardly be an advantage. As long as I can prove I am not using Dynamic Timing (ie boost), which would be almost impossible to hide from observers anyway, I really can't see why the pedantism over a demo class.

Anyway, no point getting too bent out of shape over it now...

“The saddest people I've ever met in life are the ones who don't care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there's nothing to make it last.” ― Nicholas Sparks

Saturday, 13 September 2014

QLD Titles Prep - Pt 1

The Queensland Electric  On-Road Titles are less that 2 weeks away and I am starting to get my stuff together. 

Accommodation is booked - I am sharing with a few people coming from the Gin Gin club. I am still a member there so will be great to catch up with a few of them. I also had to hire a car which seems to be a more and more irritating experience every time I have to do it, but with the Chev still a no go for long distance, and my partner needing her car that weekend, it was the only option. For a few days I did seriously consider pulling out altogether, but a bit of fiddling with my schedule and deciding a few things regarding the budget, I am still in.

RC wise I am still debating the 2WD vs 4WD options so I am prepping both cars for Friday practice. I just can't help it, I like being different. The biggest thing is that I STILL haven't managed a lap with the Trackstar 13.5T so I still have no idea on how it will feel, gearing or performance. I've switched back to the Tekin RS but I'll have the HW Extreme Stock available as well (again another reason why I decided against F1). I am sticking with my current fave LTC-R body but I may have to  mark it for both cars - just in case. The worst job facing me is gluing tyres. I did get a REALLY good deal on a package for tyres, but just means I have to do some more work.

to be continued...

Monday, 8 September 2014

To 2WD or not to 2WD?

With the entry list for QLD Titles growing and the quality of the drivers entering quite high, the chances of myself achieving a significant result is getting pretty slim. I would be hard pressed to call myself A main material at the moment anyway so the main point of attending is more about personal satisfaction. This also forms part of the reasoning as to why I've decided not to go to the extra expense of entering F1.

On a whim before the last local meeting (which was cancelled again because of the weather) I threw together a slightly different car. I still have my Tigermoth LCG laying around as well as a decent assortment of parts. I had broken the chassis which had made me switch to the Mi1.5 project but on the Friday before racing I suddenly had an idea on repairing it and putting it back together - maybe as a bit of a different car for the Holden v Ford series I am hoping to attend at Logan after QLD Titles. Then, for some reason, possibly my well documented non-love affair with 4WD TC, I decided to convert it to 2WD...

... and fit the 13T HW setup from my M03, and the shocks and springs.

Now I know what most will think, but I have to say that, for most of my differing careers and interests, I've not been one to follow the easiest path. I enjoy the challenge of seeing how far I can achieve using less obvious or less accepted means. What's more the current ORRCA rules allow 2WD touring cars with the obvious requirements that will rule out pan car style chassis. 

There are obvious disadvantages to a 2WD car and 13.5T might just be enough power to make them untenable, but with modern electronics and radios there might just be enough adjust-ability to minimise them. There are some advantages as well, it is just a case of deciding if one outweighs the other enough to make a firm decision. Thats where I am now.

Despite racing being cancelled I did manage about 20 minutes of track time with it. Now keep in mind I did NO setup to the car at all. Everything was as it was the last time I raced it in 4WD form except the shocks and springs which were taken directly off my M03 with no changes or modifications. Motor gearing was a best guess based on the knowledge that M chassis cars are massively under-geared and even the ride height was a estimation without a battery actually in the car. The track was also very dusty and cold and it was nearly dark.

Frankly, it was awesome. Massively quick in a straight line and, for the limited track layout set down and no car setup, it was surprisingly well balanced. There was only one other TC doing any runs with a 17.5T and as could be expected mine was easily faster down the short "main" straight but once I got my head into the swing of driving it, was pretty much as quick through the corners. Out of the very slow corners the 2WD disadvantage does show but, given the track conditions, I don't think it will be anywhere near as bad on a higher grip surface. Overall it probably needs more high speed steering and a bit less low speed steering, It was also evident that the shocks need some tuning - considering what they came off that's hardly surprising.

So now do I take the 2WD LCG or the 4WD Mi1.5? 

Neither are front running cars against current chassis' with gun drivers and there ARE going to be some gun drivers in 13.5T class. I am considering taking both with me and making a decision after running both in Friday practice, before scrutineering, but that poses a logistical nightmare for preparing bodies, electronics etc. The 2WD is at least worth a little "shock" value if I do manage anything more than an average result. 

Considering my last major event (SA State Titles) I didn't make it through Saturday, my last large QLD event (Bayside interclub 2013) I managed 20th and my last visit to a big club meeting (Logan) I didn't manage one full lap in practice, I am really not expecting anything but to try and have some fun, but which car will deliver on that more?

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The post you make when you have nothing to post

I've been down with flu for the last 3 or 4 weeks so not a lot has been happening. I managed a little bit of racing before I was taken ill but not sure that actually helped.

I've got too many projects on the go - my Mi1.5, RM-01 front suspension mod, and now an FF touring car project. Despite a few backwards steps with the backyard mill, I am still busy in the CAD program designing bits and pieces. I actually find it a lot of fun even if it never comes to anything

A few updates - 

Mi1.5 -
After the dismal failure of the last center shaft mount I decided to design a one piece motor mount/center shaft mount. I borrowed a Mi5 gear diff and spool so I could use them as a reference. Its pretty obvious that the Mi5 has the motor further OUT from the center line than the Mi1. This makes it a little difficult to get everything to line up as easily as I would like and requires s lot of material to be removed from the motor mount to allow for the belt pulley. Given the troubles with milling things, and the closeness of the QLD Titles, I've decided on a different design for the time being - using the original center shaft mounts, some 8x5 bearings, the lightweight carbon gearbox shafts from an M03 and a 40mm suspension shaft. Pics to follow...

RM-01 -

This one is just me being unmotivated (hard to be motivated when nowhere to race). The design is done and I have the ball mounts to make it work - I just have to make it.

This has come about because of my long established lack of real interest with 4WD Touring cars. I used to love my original Tamiya FF-01 and I didn't mind the FF-02 which handled like a big M-chassis, which it essentially was. The FF-03 seems to have a lot of fans, as does the Serpent FWD. There is also a new 3Racing FWD. I decided to keep expanding my experience with the CAD and design my own. Its loosely based on the famous Yokomo YR-F2 in so far as that was the primary motivation, but as I've done more reading (I didn't know there were so many big name FWD off-road buggies at one stage) I am starting to go in my own direction. I am hoping to keep the motor as close to the diff as possible to keep weight close to the wheels and I am also attempting to keep everything as central as possible. Diff is based on the Schumacher Mi5 gear diff and so is the rest of the gearbox bits. It will be belt driven. I am pretty much settled on the front suspension but the rear is still to be settled on. Will probably resolve itself as I get closer to drawing it. I am only in the very early stages of drawing.

There is a local club meeting this week so looking forward to that. I was really hoping to get a decent run with 13.5T before the QLD Titles but I guess that will happen on the Friday practice.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

When is a belt not a belt?

When its the wrong length!

The Mi1.5 project has been going along quite nicely. I've had a couple of meetings with it with the new center pulley mount and Mi5 pulley and spur. I've made a few small changes like swapping the mount from the left side to the right side (closer to the motor). The main reason is to make changing the spur easier. A little stuff up on my part meant that, previously, I had to remove the whole mount to change a spur but now I just need to removed 3 screws. Fortunately, I haven't had to make anything new at this stage but I will have to clean it up and make something that looks a little more "professional".

Ignore all the spacers and stripped spur - it is a prototype after all

The most frustrating part at the moment has been finding a suitable front belt. Those of you that have read my ramblings before will remember the initial trials with finding a suitable belt, well now that I have some track testing under my belt, it has become obvious that the front belt is far too tight and needs to change. After much re-visiting websites of both RC manufacturers and general timing belt manufacturers I decided to buy a 507mm belt, originally an optional XRay belt but also used on some HPI models. The original choice was 501mm.

Now given how tight the 501mm belt was, I was thinking that 507mm would be close to perfect. After all, its only 6mm longer. How wrong I was. Extremely floppy is the first description that comes to mind. Several hours of consternation, more web searching I determined that I had to make the 507mm belt work. I had the original Mission belt tension-er sitting in a box of stuff and, as I was looking through another box of "junk", I found a piece of carbon fiber that just happened to have a slot cut into it that would be a perfect mount for it. A bit of dremel work, a couple of holes drilled and the tension-er was mounted and seems to work exactly as needed, taking out the extra belt slack.

 The drive line has much less drag now and feels smoother. Track time will confirm if I have everything right and that should be happening this weekend.

Monday, 23 June 2014

What day is it again??

Its been a reasonably busy couple of weeks but busy for mostly dull reasons. mostly centered around being chauffeur to my academic partner who doesn't like driving long distances but has had to go to Brisbane a couple of times recently for work purposes. I won't bore you with the amount of paperwork a university requires of someone to do such a simple thing but believe its far more than you'd expect.

The upside has been that I've managed to get quite a bit of track time in a couple of different places, if only to practice. Firstly, Toowoomba has been running some extra meetings to make up for some washed/weathered out ones, so we've been racing every 2 weeks instead of just once a month. Secondly, I got to spend half a day on the carpet at XRay Raceway (Trackside/Brendale) with the RM and thirdly I managed to get to a Midweek at Logan with the F1. While I enjoy/enjoyed each one thoroughly at the time it has started my thinking down a path I am not convinced isn't reality.

Car speed is always a relative thing and we probably all think, at one time or another, that we should be going faster than we are. Recently, especially with my TC, my single lap pace as been within a 1/10, or a couple of tenths of our local gun import, Ed C, but I am finishing races 2 and 3 laps behind him. Why is this? Simple answer - my consistency sucks. 

Now I am possibly going to break out the violin here as far as some are concerned, but as much as I enjoy RC racing, I've never found driving an RC car a particularly "natural" thing to do. I was already in my 20's before I started racing and I jumped straight into on-road. Initially, I made a mistake of switching from one class to another too quickly without really giving myself time to learn it properly but, at the time, I was trying to find a class that I was good at, rather than trying to get good at a class. Eventually the progression of RC towards 4WD TC as its nexus, and the loss of other classes kinda "forced" me into TC...

... and I've never really been comfortable since.

Sure I've had a few minor success with them, a few podium positions at larger meetings and even a club championship in one class one year and up till relatively recently, expecting to be in the A main in stock classes wasn't being too big headed. Overall though, I've never really felt comfortable with them. It hasn't been helped by some bad choices (buying an early TC3, selling my HPI Pro4) and I freely admit that the more adjustable they've become the less comfortable I feel with trying to set them up.

Which is probably why in recent years, every time a class that isn't TC based has made a popularity surge I have jumped on board - Mini, 1/18, 1/12, F1. Ultimately though I don't think this has done my driving any good at all. All these classes need a different driving style to achieve the maximum lap speed from them and I simply don't get enough time driving any one of them to get my brain fine tuned into whats needed to race them well. I can drive them fine (and usually fast) for a few laps but putting it altogether for a 6 or 8 minute race just isn't happening.

I think this is what is killing my consistency because I am making mistakes I just shouldn't make and it stems from the unnaturalness I've always felt combined with trying to switch between the driving styles needed for each different class. Add to this the fact I am now 42 with eyesight and back issues and its probably safe to say my best driving days are already behind me

So whats the answer? To that I am a bit stumped - I simply don't like TC enough to make it my focus again, but circumstances being what they are I don't see a practical alternative if I want to get back to a competitive level remotely close to what it once was.

Ok - a few other things -

1) Development on the Mi1.5 is continuing with some new, slightly longer belts on the way. I've realised there is just far too much tension on the front belt and its causing so much drag its actually pulling the diff pulley onto an angle against the friction pads and plates. Hopefully going 2 teeth longer will stop that. I am also starting to design a new motor mount, and a new pulley mount as the original design doesn't let me change spurs without pulling the whole thing off - bit of a f%&k up there. I've also notice a couple of interesting spare available for the Mi5 that may make a couple of other ideas I've had possible.

2) There is a bit of discussion going on about the SEQ Interclub. Personally I love going to them when I can and will go as often as possible, but after much thinking and self-censoring the only other thing I will say is that I think it needs to adopt a completely different race format rather than the standard qualifying/finals format that is used for pretty much every event these days. Perhaps something like a round robin style of thing (Reedy Invitational?)

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The "Crisis" In Our Sport...

or - Why I appear to disagree with almost everyone in RC land

There is a thread on RCTech at the moment with the same title as this post - minus the quotes. Its been started by a well respected and demonstrated intelligent thinker in RC in Australia (someone I'd like to meet in real but ultimately I think would end up being at odds with). Its been started with a view to trying to come up with ideas to counter the aging of our hobby/sport and the general lack of numbers that seems to be more and more the norm in many places. So far there has been some interesting discourse and on the whole its probably not a bad discussion to be having. However, I have a few issues with it.

1) We've had this discussion innumerable times before. Glibly I'd estimate about once ever 2 years or so to my awareness. I will admit that at the moment it seems to be more of a concern to RC overall, whereas, in the past, its been more about a particular sector - Off-Road, Nitro, On-Road etc.

2) The supposed causes are exactly the same as they have always been and will probably always be - cost, time, inconvenience, noise, attitude, unsupportive hobby-shops. There is nothing new being mentioned in the current thread that I have not heard mentioned in the past. So, what does that tell you?

3) Ultimately, will anything change because RC is currently too niche and self-centered to have enough people create a movement in a single direction that will instigate REAL change?

I want use my own experiences with a different niche product/activity to expand a little on how I feel about these points. Now, bear with me as it may not seem to connect at first. The particular activity I am speaking of is Car Audio.

I became involved in car audio just before it exploded in car accessories stores around the country. A small (by American standards where it really started) group of enthusiasts had been beavering away for some time, attending car shows and self promoting their products until a more general public became aware of it. What followed was a roll-a-coaster of brand debuts, car shows and competitions that kept a large number of people gainfully employed for some time. Pretty much everyone who had any interest in cars had some aftermarket audio gear in their car, from simply getting the option 6 stack Alpine CD changer put into their Ford Fairmont through to $50,000 custom competition fit-outs in show cars.

Then the bubble burst.

Big brands started realising there was no long-term profit in such a niche market. They began to force shops to do what was called volume selling, which was something the smaller car audio shops just couldn't do. There was no way a custom car audio shop could sell $75,000 worth of product a month to maintain an account, while at the same time taking, up to, 2 or 3 MONTHS to finish one custom fit. Car Audio became the domain of the volume sellers, the Supercheap's and Autobarns. Certainly some of the niche custom shops, that flourished during the boom times, have survived but they are not the industry powerhouses they once were. Also the OEM's clued in and new cars came from the factory with better and better audio systems with big brand names like Bose or JBL involved. It became less and less necessary to have an audio system changed or upgraded. The car audio industry that I fell in love with just after school and spent so much time involved with now is nothing like what it used to be. Every now and then I see faint glimmers of it in individual stores etc but it fades again pretty quickly.

Now I am sure you are almost throwing things at your computer screen wondering what the F#*k this has to do with RC and I'll get there I promise.

It is my belief that RC car racing has reached the same point or perhaps even gone a little past it. The main bubble has well and truly burst and we've manage to survive on a few of the smaller bubbles that were created, but, they too continue to burst. We can either continue the ride down the bubbles into oblivion or we find a way to create a new bubble. Not for a moment do I think this will be easy but unless we can approach this issue with a completely different mind set, the bursting will continue. As the thread on RCTech is demonstrating perfectly, the standard list of causes for the problems facing RC car racing is being dutifully presented and, just as dutifully, debated.

Its for this very reason that it will become, inevitably, pointless. The RC industry is an incredibly small niche market and activity. While I was studying business and management I did, approximately, 6 months research on the RC industry and I was amazed at just how small it is. We are talking an estimated 1% of 1% of the worldwide purchasing market. It is also very slow to recognise potential issues and work to preempt them. As an example, way back at the beginning of brushless motors and ESC's there were a few quiet but earnest voices warning of the potential contained in the technology. Several years later we reached a crescendo of disquiet over timing adjustable speedies and dynamic timing that has never fully settled despite its eventual banning from most mainstream classes.

Ok... lets try to mold this into some form of coherent point. Yes, many of the issues raised such as costs, time etc are important but the fact of the matter is they have ALWAYS been there. People have always thought RC was expensive (rightly or wrongly), there are always people who don't have the time to commit to a whole days racing etc.

Basically - there have always been people who don't race RC because of (insert reason of the week here) and there always will be because there is NOTHING that can be done about that for the majority. We might manage to entice a few by introducing a new spec beginners class or by shortening race days to keep people from getting bored, but past experience has already shown that those spec classes rarely last and almost anything else you might think to counter the other potential problems always brings with it a risk of driving existing participants away. This stems back to the inherent self-centered nature of RC that flows right through back to the manufacturers.

Unless we are willing to look past the obvious, and entertain the potential of ideas that may not seem as obvious, nothing will change.

For a view on something less obvious - Why appearance matters...

Why appearance matters

The RC car forums are filled with threads debating the whole "Scale Appearance" issue. The views range from 'car must only resemble real race cars' to 'don't care what it looks like as long as it wins'.

Now, fundamentally, I don't have any particular issue with either end of the spectrum, but I do think that the appearance of our current crop of racing bodies is not helping involve new people in the sport. In an era where TV is more important than ever as well as more and more racing classes available to watch on live streams, I don't believe we can continue to ignore this in favour of a "performance is everything" attitude. Our current international rule set still contains references to super touring and touring cars even though none of the currently raced RC car bodies bare any resemblance to any modern touring car racing formula. The current bodies being foisted onto us by body manufactures rarely even refer to real cars and IF they do, they are seriously bastardizsed versions. The new Protoform Mazda 6 GX is a perfect example of this in my view.

This version of the Mazda 6, built to compete in the Daytona Prototype series' Grand Tourer Experimental class was, IMO, one of the sexiest 4 door saloon racing cars to hit the track in a decade, yet the version delivered by Protoform simply fails to deliver and why? - because it has been reshaped and re-styled to deliver a particular type of performance rather than look good.
Compare for yourself -

Ok, there are just enough original styling, mostly in unimportant aspects like headlights and wheel arch moldings to get away with calling it a Mazda 6, but it is also different enough for those with a less performance biased eye to go "that isn't the car I've seen racing on TV".

Now I don't want to go on about scale appearance because I don't think that helps anyone but I think RC does need relevant appearance (see what I did there). This is, potentially, more important for on-road, because it really doesn't matter to much what you do to an off-road body, the rest of the rules ensure its still mostly looks like an off-road car. To my mind this counters those that argue one of the most popular off-road cars in the late 80's and early 90's was the Tamiya Manta Ray. Yes it was a futuristic body with styling cues based on the form of sea creature its named after but it STILL looks like an off-road car and it doesn't try to call itself a Toyota Tundra or Hilux, which is what we do to on-road bodies. 1/12 and 1/8 Nitro on-road take this to ludicrous levels.

Just to punctuate this a little - Protoform is rumored to be producing a special body just for the 200mm nitro worlds. Teaser photos show a nondescript body with little moldings and lumps all over it to, supposedly, increase down force. I shouldn't be too naive about it because the current crop of 200mm nitro bodies look like someone chamfered the front into a wedge shape so they could serve a 2nd purpose as a door stop.

Ok... lets try to mold this into some form of coherent point. How do you market to people, who's main exposure to motorsport comes from the TV or internet, a form of racing that supposes to be a scale representation of real racing when none of the cars LOOK like recognisable cars? 

For example, why doesn't someone re-market VTA as Touring Car Masters which is currently experiencing a decent amount of popularity here in Australia (the bodies are almost identical)?

I am not arguing for strict scale appearance but I do believe in making the bodies more representative of what people see BEFORE they come racing.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Latest Mi1.5 modification

I've been working hard in my spare time on my backyard milling setup to learn how to make the parts I've been drawing in CAD. I'd love to be able to just load it into a CNC mill and watch the fun but that's not likely to happen for a while. 

Its taken a bit of time to set up everything to be accurate enough and learn what can and can't be done. Its been rather annoying to learn that the X-Y vice I ended up having to buy isn't anywhere near square and I am having to make up ways of overcoming this. Despite this I've managed to get it to 0.03mm accurate which I can't complain about too much, all things considered.

First bit made was the long planned mount to fit a Mi5 spur/belt pulley to my Mi1.5.  It was a pretty simple design with a piece of 6mm aluminium with a 5mm steel shaft made up from an old M03 Mini gearbox shaft. It took a bit longer to get the shaft right as I had a few issues drilling a hole in the center of it and then I broke the thread tap trying to cut the thread for the mounting screws. However it all came together - 

First impressions are that the fiberglass (sorry - S1) chassis may flex a bit too much with the original mounts removed. I may have to make a 2nd version with a supporting leg running out to the side to help reduce flex. Also, I may need to move the mounting point for the shaft forward slightly to ease some tension off the front belt to free up the drive line a bit more. 

Unfortunately club racing was cancelled so my intent to get it on the track and running are on hold. I might bite the bullet and buy a 13.5 and take it down to Logan in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 28 April 2014

The weekend that wasn't

Its all quiet here at the moment. There has been no racing to go to as such and there have been lots of things that have been keeping me busy away from RC. I am still getting the hang of making things on my improvised mill so there has been no useable output from there. I am still working on some CAD to do with front suspension that will fit on the RM01. On screen its looking quite good but the practicalities of actually producing things are making me reconsider how soon I could have it made. I am hoping to get 2 or 3 days of solid work in towards the end of the week so will see what comes out.

Other than that - ordered some tyres for the tourer and will be putting that on the track this weekend. Might fire up the F1 as well and cut a few laps.

Thats it... couldn't be more boring :P

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Pretty pictures

To post something a bit more focused, here are a couple of pics of the CAD work I have been doing on the pod for my 1/12. 

How far I could go was dictated by wanting to use the suspension hardware from the donor F109. The ride height is adjustment was inspired by the CRC design but taken in a slightly different direction to make it easier to make, considering I am making it all myself. I have also redesigned it to take advantage of easily available metal stocks, again to cut down on the amount of machining. Does make me wish I had access to a CAM mill though.

Ride height has been lowered so I can use procut foam tyres (Jaco etc) with a bit of adjust-ability. Its actually less than what would normally be available by using the original offset inserts but it should work for testing. Once I have the parts in my hands I may be able trim bits here and there to get more adjustment.

Motor has been moved slightly forward and slightly to the left to allow for the bearing holders. I am hoping this doesn't affect handling to much.  There is still a bit of work to do with lightening the motor mount but can't rush these things...

Given that this is based on a F109 F1 pod I could always use it for a basis for an F1 chassis, but I need to find a reliable source of CF sheet before I could consider that.

Friday, 4 April 2014

There has been lots of talk lately regarding over subscribed racing calenders, racing formats and all manner of items related to the running of major race meetings. Since I signed up for this blog I thought I might spend a bit of time writing my own thoughts on some of these matters.

I'll do a summary upfront because I do get a bit rambly at times. Breaking it down into key points-

1) Clubs that want to organise larger events need to start doing more than just supply a date and offer some dodgy trophies.
2) Event results should be cumulative across all the legs (A, B etc). Just because you qualify well or not shouldn't dictate your maximum or minimum finishing position.
3) Qualifying should be a totally different format than the Finals racing.

I've found it increasingly difficult to justify the time and expense required to attend, even relatively local "larger" meetings. There has been no drop in my desire to race at these meetings. If anything the desire has grown, especially now I live in a town with very limited opportunities to race, but every attempt seems to net less and less results. Like many average racers I have a fairly strict budget  but as club days grow shorter and more intense and larger race meetings grow longer; and with more and more events to chose from, for someone like myself, it becomes increasingly difficult to choose which event to attend. It becomes a delicate balance between expenditures and possible results.

Don't kid yourself for a moment - results matter. People try to espouse otherwise but no one wants to spend hours traveling in a car or plane, spend a small fortune on accommodation, parts and entry fees to be the one that comes last.

Now if I was a good comedian or writer I'd have a good segue to link this all together but I'm not so I'll just keep plowing on with a few gripes.

Gripe 1 - Its not enough anymore for a club to simply advertise an event and expect people to turn up.
Far too many clubs are advertising an event and offering some dubiously valued trophies and expecting people to flock to it. This may have been a good strategy 15 or 20 years ago when there were far fewer clubs with the facility to run such events, but in 2014 almost every moderately sized club has timing gear and some form of drivers stand and pit area.

This strategy is also completely out of step with how many other non-profit events organise themselves. This is an important distinction here - for the VAST majority of RC'ers, actual RC racing is a bottomless money pit with no chance of ever recouping even a tiny percentage. This seems to be totally ignored by the majority of clubs when they organise an event. While it's impossible for clubs to do anything about travel costs or personal outlays for spares etc I've yet to see a club seriously try to do anything about arranging accommodation. Sure they might provide a couple of links to nearby motels on the entry form but I've never seen one yet try and organise group or bulk discounts. I don't even see anyone organise billeting amongst their members. Or, IF they do offer this they offer it to the big star names that are attending who, frankly, are the people that need it least. It just becomes a personal ego boost to the person that offers it.

Before you start howling me down this sort of thing is VERY common for a lot of other organised events. My partner attends at least 2 conferences a year to do with groups connected with her work. Both are non-profit and get no funding from anywhere except their members, yet both take the time and effort to arranged moderately priced accommodation, either at the conference venue or at nearby motels. Some even arrange transfers and transport for people traveling from interstate or overseas. Smaller music festivals do the same sort of thing (forget things like the Big Day Out - these are corporate events making squillions of $$ and everyone gets paid). Every year there are dozens of smaller music festivals around the country and the organisers of these again take the time to arrange very moderately priced or free accommodation as many of the acts rarely get paid to perform. Any money they make is from selling CD's of their music or making contacts for paid performances elsewhere.

Now I am sure there are some who are screaming at their monitors that organsing an RC event is difficult and takes lots of work and there is no possible way they could do that. It IS a lot of work, and I know this as I have helped organise events for some of the clubs I've been a member of, BUT it its peanuts compared to a music festival with half a dozen venues spread across an entire town with over a hundred different artists and music genres and their associated needs all being run simultaneously. My partner has been part of small teams organising several of these festivals. The closest RC comparison I could give would be an RC event with on-road, off-road, indoor, crawling and drift all happening at the same time with cross entering allowed between all events so you have to arrange a schedule that allows anyone from any event to race in any other event without clashing.

Gripe 2 - Why are we using a racing format that hasn't changed in over a decade and why is it so rubbish in the first place.
The current racing format used in electric on-racing hasn't changed for some time, and this is despite not just advances in motor and battery technology, but also in timing software which can allow a larger proportion of an event to run autonomously and to a much tighter schedule. Yet most larger events drag on for at least 3 days with a set number of qualifiers and finals and a reward system in both which doesn't reward anyone but the top 10 people.

Firstly I have to ask a question - why are only the top 10 qualifiers permitted to win an event outright? Possibly because our racing format was created in an era when everything was hand timed and counted and no one could keep track of every single result over a long weekend of racing. In the 21st century however, we have computers and printers and databases and super accurate timing gear where everyone can be timed to the thousandths of seconds. The probable reasons for why the racing format we use was created just no longer apply. Why should my qualifying position automatically dictate my maximum finishing position? It certainly wouldn't in 1:1 racing.

I will use a personal experience with a little extrapolation to underline what I mean. At a recent event I only managed to qualify 12th. I won't bore you with excuses as to why this was the case but in the first final I manged to win the First B final leg. When I compared the race time and laps with the A main result I noted that my B result would've been good enough to finish about 7th in the A. Let us ignore the reality and imagine that this was the only final race for each of the A,B etc and those were the finishing results for the meeting - the best I could expect to finish for the event was 11th, yet my actual on track performance was good enough for 7th when compared to all the runners in those finals.

So why should I only finish 11th and others finish ahead of me despite not actually delivering that result on the track? The current system actually creates a situation where someone could qualify for the A main, not race any of the A finals and STILL be rewarded with 10th place trophy. IMO that's just utter BS. It already creates situations where a driver can win 2 rounds and then sit out the 3rd, assured of their 1st place regardless of what the result in the 3rd round is.

There has been talk about changing the race formats to incorporate longer finals, using fewer qualifiers or removing aspects such as being able to drop a worst round. In my opinion those are completely irrelevant while continuing to use a system that only rewards the top 10 qualifiers. We still need a separate qualifying and racing format but qualifying should be about going fast and the racing should be about consistency. There still needs to be a reward for TQ'ing and there will always be an advantage to qualifying well because if you DO qualify well you'll be racing with a group of people who are probably very similar speed to you and it will help your overall result, but just the same why can't someone who doesn't have the best qualifying be resigned to preset position when their RACING performance is equal to or better than others?

We all know that someone winning an event while running in a B or C final isn't likely but I don't believe it should be pre-ordained just because you didn't qualify as well as someone else. To use a real world example - At Symmons Plains for the recent V8SC round, Craig Lowndes had his qualifying result disallowed for an infringement. This meant he was put to the back of the grid. It was a 25 car field so using our current RC system he would've been relegated to the C final. In the real race he worked his way up to 5th place which gave him a 5th overall for the race. Under our current RC system however, and depending on how the numbers were grouped for the B and C finals his position would've reverted to 20th or maybe 18th, regardless of the fact his actual "race time" was good enough to be placed 5th.

So to draw this all together, regardless of what finals format is used it should be cumulative across the whole field and not just elevate the top 10. 

The other major issue I have with current racing format is - Why do I have to be there for a whole 3 days to race ONE class? If I forgo practice on Friday I could bring it down to 2 days but a lot of events are using Friday for scruitneering and tyre impounds. I know there are certain arguments for this and I can understand that, but events like the SEQ Interclub demonstrate that a class can be run entirely on one day using a slightly shorter format. I'm also led to believe that off-road doesn't operate in this fashion and that a class scrutineers, qualifies and finals in one day.

Unfortunately, I tried to outline how I would organise a meeting and it turned this into a rather more weighty bit of reading than it already is and could drag me into discussions about control tyres etc etc. To keep it short I think larger meetings need to be made shorter with a focus on getting a class finished in one day. Qualifying should be made a different format from the finals racing, possibly focusing on shorter actual qualifying runs to achieve extra bench time for setup changes. Finals should be cumulative with a persons actual track performance generating their overall finishing position, rather than being mandated by their qualifying position.

Gripe 3 - Bench time is just as important as track time.
I've encountered this one more at club meets but it can be applied to larger meets as well. It seems to have been forgotten by some club's race directors that people need spanner time on their cars as well as race time.  Not everyone can get there for a couple of hours (or a couple of days when talking big meets) worth of practice before racing begins.

Setup changes and repairs take time but quite often this is ignored in favour of trying to run the meeting as fast as possible. My experience at my home club has been that once the track is setup (its not a permanent track), the lights cost X amount for Y amount of time so they try to push the meeting though to finish before Y amount of time is up. This gives time to pull the track down before the lights go off. The result of this is if you have a major setup change to make or have to do a major repair, it becomes much less stressful to miss a round rather than try and rush to finish. This problem is both improved and exacerbated by it being a small club with, usually, only 2 classes running on a race night. 

Another club I've visited to race F1 has only 2 qualifiers before a long 15 minute final. This is great for locals or regular visitors but, as an very occasional visitor, I found it extremely difficult to get a read on setup direction as well as reacquainting myself with the track layout with so few runs.

Now, I may have it wrong here, but I go racing to relax and have a bit of fun. I don't go to get stressed and rushed trying to make the start of races. At the same time I want some return for my investment and this comes in the form of racing time ON THE TRACK and the social atmosphere of club racing.

I believe the current race day format can be improved on. I've never understood why we use such a regimented system as it is. In 1:1 racing, qualifying is NEVER the same format as the racing so why do we do it in RC? Certainly with the modern timing systems it should be easier to setup and run different formats. We already run staggered start qualifying so why not take that a step further? Do we really need a 6 minute qualifying as well as 6 minute races (for touring classes... 1/12 are 8mins). It could easily be halved to 3 or 4 minutes and have extra rounds. Track time is the same but there would be more time to make those little tweaks and set up changes. Combine that with a single longer final or even stay with multiple shorter finals. There could be a better balance between bench time for those that need it and track time for those that want it.

This can just as easily be applied to larger meets as well.

I'll think I'll leave it there for now. Its already long enough and I have other things I should be doing...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Its about time!

Its been quite a while since I've written anything here. The reason? I've not been doing anything! Sad but true. My last race meeting was at the start of December and there has been nothing until the weekend just gone (26/01/2014).

This was all supposed to change with the first round of the SEQ 1/12 Tour. Unfortunately, the weather played its trump card - intermittent showers - simply the worst weather to try and predict or get anything done. It had been going so well. It stayed fine for the 2.5+hour drive and right through nominations and drivers briefing. However 3 laps into the first round the computer decided to throw its hands up in despair and while they were fixing it the rain started. For the next hour or so it rained, stopped and then rained again until the organisers had no choice but to call off the meeting...

... and it never rained again while I was there!

I did get some practice time which was useful (still tyre testing) and then as the weather held, the organisers decided to get some general racing happening so the day wasn't a complete waste. There were 2 heats and a final but I decided to save my gear and also get home a bit earlier so only raced in one heat. The rain had washed the molasses away (the host club uses it as traction additive) so the grip was a bit lower than I had previously experienced there. Even so, I was faster than last visit and if not for a silly mistake would've probably manged 23 laps (at one stage I was on for 24 but that didn't last long). As it was I did 22 laps with a fastest lap in the high 19 second range (19.806). This is still some 3-4 laps and about 1.5secs/lap off the fast guys.

As usual with me, consistency is the real failing. Take away my slowest lap and my average comes back to 20.442 from 21.817 and my consistency goes from 2.42 to 1.91.  This is still dreadful but with a fastest lap of 19.8 a consistency of 0.5 or 0.6 would get to 24 laps.

So the simple conclusion from the weekend is I just need to drive better and I don't really need to worry much about fancy setups or hop up parts. Chatting to a couple of people over the day, I've started thinking I might actually have too much steering and that using such a low dual rate (around 30%) I am actually making the car slower/harder to drive. I also need to rethink my driving style. I did notice that when I focused less on corner entry speed and more on carrying mid-corner speed, lap times improved and the car felt nicer to drive.

So next week is a local club meeting. I might take the car along just to get a bit more stick time and maybe try a few setup changes, but given there is no locals running 1/12 there probably isn't much point to that. Next 1/12 meeting for me will be at the 2nd round of the 1/12 tour at Logan on the 22nd Feb. After that there will be a little break for family commitments and then some plans to got to Tamworth for the QLD vs NSW where the F1 might get a trundle as well.

Until next time...