Monday, 23 November 2015

The End of Another Year

With the last couple of race meetings for the year coming up and feeling weirdly guilty about not posting anything for months, I thought I'd write a little year wrap-up and share some thoughts.

The year, for the most part has follow the pattern of the last few - fully intending to race a LOT more than I actually end up doing, It certainly wasn't helped by the major health scare with my partner in July (and the ongoing ramifications of that) but you have to play with the hand you are dealt so I am not going to complain to much about that. My Australian Titles dream will have to wait another year but that's as it is.

Probably the biggest single things I did this year was FINALLY get one of my home built projects on the track and racing. The FWD project was something that sat around idling for the better part of 9 months while I dithered and fiddled trying to see if I could make things with the sort of accuracy I wanted to achieve. In the end it went from a few CAD drawings and an initial mock-up of the donor parts to a working car in 9 days. As you can probably imagine they were pretty intense days as I tried to get all the custom parts together to try and do a test run at a club day, but I didn't quite get there. The car was basically finished but in my rush I had mucked up fitting some of the electrics and it was too difficult to correct at the track. So the first actual run came during Friday practice at the QLD Titles. While it turned in an impressive performance (not improved by yours truly behind the sticks) it has some practical issues that need to be addressed in the long term. 

The sway bar mount (while being a simple solution) is a pain if you want to service the shocks; the motor mount can tweak in an impact and is nowhere as easy to access as I first envisaged, but then that's partly because, in my rush to finish, I used a traditional shock and spring combo, rather than what I had planned (its still on the list of changes to make). Also, having a mostly metric screws etc but being forced to use the imperial axles of the donor car was annoying  - luckily some HPI parts turned out to be essentially the same but metric so I have since changed that. I am also in the process of changing the source of some of the suspension parts (namely front hubs and rear uprights). I tried some 3Racing parts but they had to much play in the bearing mounts and this induced a "chatter" into the front end. I've now ordered some composite Tamiya parts to try. I am also trying a few ideas to improve the gearing as I totally over estimated the gearing range I thought I could get away with.

F1 has been a pretty hit and miss affair all year. I bought the new Tamiya TRF102 and I think its a pretty amazing car (again only let down by yours truly trying to drive it). It has a couple of weak points - most notably the t-bars which seem to break at the slightest, unplanned impact, and it has the least adjustable standard front end of all the current crop of F1 cars, but there is no denying its potential. The first time I put it on a track, with kit setup and old tyres, it was a full second a lap quicker than I'd ever managed with the F109. It is much easier to drive generally and I can see why they think the t-bar design works better for rubber tyres on the lower grip tracks. Again, its just a lack of chances to go racing that have held it back and QLD Titles turned into a bit of a personal farce trying to run 2 classes.

As for 1/12 - well the less said the better. I managed to get to 1 meeting with the group at Trackside/Brendale but every other opportunity has been rained out or sabotaged by some part of fate that hates me racing the class I probably enjoy the most of any I've tried in electric cars.

This brings me to my first little aside - why is 1/12 such a hard class to get interest in? I've pondered this a bit over the past year and I've come to one generalisation - most people that run 1/12 are weird! Their fascination with savings 3grams by changing the brand of wiring they use, or espousing the amazing handling change they discovered by removing and extra 0.1mm from their tyre diameters, I think, leaves the majority of RC land shaking their heads and feeling just a tiny bit sorry for them. There are other factors too - the bodies are woefully unrealistic (something the class shares with 1/8 on-road) - so much so when someone had the gall to release an unrecognisable body and named it after the Toyota TS030, even some seasoned 1/12 runners had to question if it had gone to far. In some places, particularly America, it is seen as an indoor class only and when the occasional suggestion or question is presented about running the cars on asphalt they are mostly ignored or at best palmed off with suggestions to "see what the locals are doing". Lastly, there is the reliance on foam tyres - probably the single most polarising factor in RC racing during my time racing.

There is more to the "problem" I think. The class borders on the ludicrous to what people say and do with car prep and especially tyre prep. I recently read a forum post where I one 1/12'er espoused the benefits to his car's performance of a tyre prep routine that took 45 minutes! I've not visited many clubs or even events where there is THAT much time between rounds. Another post I stumbled upon had a 1/12 racer claiming that he could feel 1/1000ths difference in the length of his steering arms. Now lets look at that - this person is claiming that he can feel the difference of less than half the thickness of a standard piece of paper and that it makes a noticeable difference to the performance of his car on the track. Now I know 1/12 because of their size etc you need to make smaller adjustments etc but really?

Overall 1/12, I believe, is seen as a complicated, expensive, finicky and generally difficult class and most clubs and the people who organise events etc simply don't want the bother and I can't say I blame them. I think the biggest "nail in to coffin" came at the most recent worlds held in America - originally supposed to be held outdoors at the same track as the 1/10, but so many (mostly American from what I read) racers kicked up a stink about it that they rushed to find an alternate venue, which they then complained about so much that the majority had left before the end of practice, leaving the usual cast of European and Asian racers to fight it out. From the blogs and forums that I read only 1 American made it into the top 20 or so. At the same time, at a time when people constantly make comments about lack of numbers and generating interest, there is a whole group of racers etc that, if people could just change their thinking a tiny bit (and I am meaning clubs here as well as 1/12'ers) could bring a nice influx of people.

Anyway - time to move on from that. What does 2016 have in store? Well more racing hopefully - now that the FWD is a going concern I want to see how far I can develop that before someone decides to ban them again. I think in the lower spec classes like 21.5 it could be quite competitive and with a bit of work and some luck even 13.5 might be a possibility, though I think I'd have to work on the electronics side of things to make that a genuine possibility. I've run faster motors in FWD before and once you get over the initial traction issues the car pace is very similar, its how you go about getting the lap time that's a bit different.

I'd also like to say I will run more F1 but at the moment I am not convinced of that. My resources seem more and more stretched every year and as I get older I take longer to get into the rhythm of racing etc, especially with the whole once a month thing I am in now. I've never been very good at running multiple classes one the same day so it will make sense to pick the class I can more regularly run.

... and there is always that 1/12 sitting on my desk glaring at me...

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Sometimes RC racing just isn't that important

Regular visitors ( I know, you never miss it right?) will have noticed its been 3 months since I posted anything here. To be honest there has been a lot happening and this has just fallen by the wayside. It's more for my own personal presence that I write this thing anyway. The main factors that have kept me away have been (from least important to most) - 

1) Its been too cold to go and race.
2) I've gotten bored racing 5+ year old cars.
3) My partner was diagnosed with cancer.

As you can imagine the last one was a bit of a biggie, and while I am not going into details here, it was a quite intense and life confronting period of time. Thankfully, the initial outcome has been relatively good, but there still might be other less good times ahead, but we just have to make the best of what we have.

OK, back to lighter things.

My slow moving (almost glacial) FWD tourer project is still progressing slowly. I've spent some time learning more about CAD and milling and I believe I am a few steps closer to achieving the end goal - a drivable car. I've found a more reliable source of various thickness CF sheet to make a chassis out of and I should be at the stage where I can get the motor mount done (finally!!) and continue mock-up. The goal is now to have the car ready and race-able before the end of September so, given its mid-August, I need to get a hurry on.

The other big news (for me at least) is that I finally bought a new F1! After a couple of years of umming and erring over the releases of other brands, it was Tamiya's TRF102 that finally drew the credit card out of its sleeve in my wallet. I've only built the basic chassis so far but I've been impressed. The rear suspension is far smoother and free-er than any link car I've built or felt recently and reports from other users have postulated on the amount of rear grip the car has out of the box. Given that rear grip is always at a premium with F1's and RWD pan cars, this could be a good choice for my heavy-throttle-finger driving style.

I'll be writing up a build post once I have it ready to race. Until then...

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Club Meeting - 02/05/15

The weather was a bit iffy in the morning after a couple of days of heavy rain, but as the day progressed everything dried out and racing was on. It almost wasn't as a lot of people were very "late" to front - 4pm is supposed to be setup time and most didn't arrive much before 5pm. With winter getting closer and the track in a very exposed and cold location, I hope people might consider starting a bit earlier, but we'll see. The track was also surprisingly dirty in a few places due to dried puddles depositing lots of little stones etc.

I decided to leave the F1 on the bench this week and do something a little different. I had put back together the faithful M03 but at the last minute I decided to buy the extra bits to make it an FF02. This tourer sized version of the M03 chassis is a bit unloved and some of the TL01 parts required to make one up are getting a bit rare but, for me, its a bit of a toe in the water to see if I want to go the FWD tourer path. I've said since QLD Titles last year that I am done with 4WD tourers but the reality is that, given how (understandably given the current RC market etc) tourer-centric most clubs are,  if you don't have something that fits into a 190mm tourer shell then you really don't have many options to race.

With track laid out and everything in place I took the car out and was immediately struck by just how much steering it had and how much pace it could maintain through the corners. We only run 21.5 now as our main class so even as a FWD it isn't going to be overwhelmed by horsepower. Gearing is a bit limited - despite fitting a 3Racing speed gear set - so straight line speed is a little down and certainly would be massively underwhelming on a long straight like at Logan, but on our dual tennis court straight it didn't lose too much.

The reality was that in the heat of racing the FF02 was pretty unstable in the rear. I had been aware this was a possibility given the layout (high CoG etc) and reading other people's experiences with them. It took me a couple of races to find a reasonable solution. When I had built it I didn't really have an idea of what sort of setup to start with so it was sort of a mix of proven M03 ideas and a couple of assumptions. I had given the front more up travel than I would with an M03, mostly because of the larger tyres. That was a mistake and when I took that away it became much better. The rear seemed to hang on much better (still don't really understand why) and if it did start to slide a bit of throttle and the FWD pulled it back into line. It also seemed the Ride 32 tyres liked the conditions better than Sorex 32's.

In the final I held onto 2nd place (about 1 lap down) for most of the race against a couple of regulars and their XRays until the borrowed battery (I only had one stick packed that still worked) dumped with about a minute to go and I made a mistake trying not lose any speed, pulling the body clips out on a track barrier.

I've already made one, and have planned a few more, modifications for the next time I race - 
1) Modified the battery area to allow regular sized LiPo's to fit rather than be stuck with stick packs - basically lots of filing. This will also raise the weight but it was miles under the 1380g limit anyway before the lead supplies came out.
2) Swap some plastic parts for alloy - mostly in the front - M05 knuckles replace the old style M03 which required a special long and sometimes, fragile, ball stud. M05 knuckles have a different steering arm position. Will also replace the C hub and a few other bits. In the rear will switch to M05 uprights and try to get rid of some of the slop in the rear arm mounts.
3) Swap the old SP 1.1 ESC for my Tekin RS.
4) Hope its not too cold by the start of June (it probably will be).

Or I just may buy a 3Racing Sakura FF2014... or but a CRC F1... or take up spelunking... or...

Sunday, 26 April 2015

2015 Interclub Round 1

Its been a while since I posted anything here but with some actual racing to go to I decided to blather on a bit. An alignment of the stars meant that there was a meeting at Trackside (1/12) on Friday night and the interclub round (F1) at Logan on Saturday. The other half said go and stop complaining about the lack of local racing. So with accommodation  booked and a bunch of of old cars to race I packed the Renault (the Chev currently a smoking POS) and headed down the range.

Friday night was good but nothing special as far as results are concerned. It was the first time in almost 12 months that I had put the RM-01 on a proper track and it showed. Setup was all over the place and getting to Brisbane a couple of hours later than I planned meant I had little practice time to really do anything with. I stripped some servo gears early on and that required a servo change and as I could only tape it to the chassis I think this introduced a "vagueness" I couldn't really get on top of in the time I had. I didn't bother with trying traction sauce until after racing was finished and I will say straight out I didn't see the point - it certainly didn't transform the car in anyway that would justify the extra cost and mess. In fact, the set up change that brought about the biggest change in car behaviour was lowering the front ride height.

I've always been of the opinion that traction compounds and treatments should be banned and nothing has change my mind in this area. IMO it simply adds a level of "voodoo" to car set up and tyre choice that the sport just doesn't need.

I was up early Saturday and arrived at Logan at 9:30am to find the track buzzing with people practicing etc. I'll admit I was a little surprised given the entry form said practice didn't start until 9:30, but it was what it was and I set up and got myself organised.  A couple of quick practices had me focusing on gearing to maximise Logan's new longer straight and dealing with general under-steer. I was told that the track grip would be consistent as the day changed from day to night so I wasn't worried to much about that aspect.

Qualifier 1
Not bad but not great. With Corey Broadstock running an XRay F1, the goal posts have moved a bit and he really is in a class of his own. Even so I was 3 seconds per lap slower and I was having to wait so long for the car to turn into the apex I could've stopped for a drink.

Qualifier 2
Ride tyres are noted to induce under-steer in a lot of situations. I had some Sweep tyres in my parts bag so I decided to try them. The car was more consistent but even slower. They were Extra Hard compound so not a surprise.

Qualifier 3
I perused through some setup guides and decided to make some camber changes and it was at this point I realised I'd dropped the ball quite badly. When I measured the camber I found 4 degrees on one side and 0.5 degrees on the other. When I had fitted the Exotek arms, I had forgotten to adjust them correctly thinking I would do it at the next club day, which didn't happen due to the weather. I set them both to 2.5 degrees, also made sure the ride heights were set correctly and refitted the Ride fronts. The result was a car that was a full 2 laps faster than the previous 2 qualifiers, but still 1-2 laps off the race pace.

A 15 minute final and a long wait as the event cycled through other class finals and a 20 minute gas final. Just a quick aside - it was great to see a field of gas runners and they do add a certain ambiance to an event, but the 20 minute final was, for me and I stress that bit,  a bit boring with the noise of the cars drowning out the race announcements so there was no idea of who was leading etc.

As for the F1 race - I did briefly consider changing the gearing again but I felt I had the diff settings perfect and changing the spur gear upsets this so I left alone. I didn't change anything else either and so the race started and I immediately found that my car was almost impossible to see under the lights. I did the best I could but by the 10 minute mark the lack of blinking and sweating hands from the concentration level led to a few mistakes and possibly cost me another lap overall. 6th was the result. Surprisingly I had the slowest fastest lap but 4th best consistency.

There wasn't much to take away from the weekend. The racing at Trackside/XRay raceway was good and they guys there were friendly. Racing indoors is always a challenge.

Saturday I had a look at an Exotek F1R2 chassis and they are just as nice in the flesh as pictures, and the combination of t-bar and side links seems to becoming a trend given the limited information about the upcoming Tamiya TRF102. The XRay dominated pace wise, but that could be as much the quality of the driver as an any chassis advantage. I do think the rules at the moment provide a very even racing class. For example I was using a 6 or 7 year old chassis design with the car itself heading for 5 years old, a SP motor of similar vintage (no timing etc) and with only minor upgrades to a F104 front and with a couple of repeat visits and maybe an upgrade to a slightly better motor I don't see any reason why it couldn't be in the mix, results wise. Could it win? Unlikely but I doubt I have the consistency in my driving any more to win regardless of what I had for equipment.

Now its a couple of week wait for club racing and I am hoping to get to Logan again before the truely cold weather sets in. I've decided, after last year, that racing at night in winter is just stupid and so I will sit this winter out. 

So till next time....

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Bloggers Guilt

After posting my last post I had posters guilt that this is all a bit negative - Really bugs me I come across like that, because I don't think I am like that generally. I certainly don't try to be but this blog writing stuff seems to bring it out of me. Feel free to ignore any of what you read below as the ravings of a nutter if that works.

I also came across a new price for the XRay F1 - not $400 but still over $300+freight