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...

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