Toy Car Racing.. Or Is It?

Toy Car Racing.. Or Is It?: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Race Wrap-Up 02.27.10

This weekend was really busy yet exciting and fun. We had a lower turnout than normal at the track but still had about 6 in TC and 8 in 12th.

My car wasn't feeling very good at the start of the day. I don't know whether it was me moving it back and forth in the car but it felt nowhere near what it was last weekend. I went ahead and tweaked the chassis, remeasured everything, etc and it ended up feeling better but not great. Perhaps it also was a change in the traction of the track - who knows.

My lack of speed was a constant issue all day which made it difficult to run with the other drivers. By the main, I had to replace my 17.5 with a 13.5 just to keep up in the straights. Yeah, crazy power by the Tekins. The car obviously felt much different compared to the obviously much slower 17.5. The car was not as balanced as it once was as it dove harder into corners and carried more speed. After getting used to the 13.5 and finding out that running negative expo on the steering was bad, I was finally able to figure out the car.

The first main was rough for everyone. I grabbed the two spots ahead me as many went wide into the sweeper but was quickly given some love by another racer :). This forced me back into last where I on;y continued to receive love taps. Thats racing I suppose!

To make up for the crummy main, we decided to run another main. This main was much less traumatic and I was able to put down some tight lines to keep others from passing. I didn't win but it felt great to realize how much I've improved this season. I can't wait to keep practicing and get even better  - I have a long way to go but I'm happy to see improvement :).

As far as setup goes, I wasn't able to test very much because I had to spend a lot of time getting the car and my driving working properly. Although the KO has been a good ESC and I'm sure that they will come out with another software update that will bring it up to the Tekin, the speed and punch difference is so big that I can't ignore it. I don't think it will be a ton faster as far as laptimes go, but I want to get used to the modern speeds instead of testing and getting used to something a lot slower only to get back up to speed whenever KO decides to release the new software.

I did test removing screws from the front of the top deck. It gave the car slightly more steering throughout the corner. I also tested some rear toe. I went down to 2 degrees of negative toe which helped the car turn faster laptimes and gave it great corner speed but also made it difficult to drive. Forward traction and consistency definitely suffered with this change. Perhaps next time I will use the 2 degrees but use something else to give more forward traction - the best of both worlds? I dunno we will see.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things to Test on Saturday

So far, the car keeps getting better and better the more I work on it. My setup hasn't devaited too much from where I had it at the beginning of the season but it's definiely improving, along with my driving, which is the most important part.

Saturday I found how important the balance of the car is through the turn and throughout the track. Making the camber links steeper really helped and the car felt more consistent throughout the corners which helped my driving consistency as well. The shorter wheelbase was faster but the car didn't feel as settled. I think I just need to get used to driving it more.

Saturday is a race day so I'll finally get to see how I stack up. I think I'll do pretty well. Things I want to try out/test are:

  1. Gearing & Motor Temps for 6 minutes 
  2. Play more with rear toe 
  3. Front Sway Bar & Front Track Width Shims 
  4. Front Kick up (I've heard this works well with 6 deg caster and tried it once but disliked it - I'll give it another shot) 
  5. Chassis flex and its effect on laptimes/consistency
  6. LTC-R body

Setup as of 02/20/2010:

Monday, February 22, 2010

ThunderPower TP-610C Review

Thanks to speedy shipping, I was able to finally use my new ThunderPower charger at the track Saturday. What can I say - this thing is awesome! My lipo really came alive. I had noticeably more punch at the start of the run and the battery remained more consistent throughout the run. I ran it from 2-3 minutes all the way to about 15 minutes on a single charge and it continued to perform flawlessly. Navigation is super easy and intuitive and gives plenty of options from adjusting the charge rate all the way to 10 amps to "fast" and "storage" charging. I'm very happy with my purchase, to say the least. 

In time I'll buy a better power supply, as mine only goes to 6 amps. A friend and I shared his 12 amp power supply and it was so nice to be able to run one battery all day and not have to sit waiting for the battery to charge. This really helped me to test as much as I wanted and without waiting on the battery to peak. 

In all, nice job ThunderPower! 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Busy Week Ahead

While I have some free time before the week begins, I thought I would change the tone of the blog and reflect on the week ahead.

As we are all well aware, the economy isn't the greatest at the moment. The economy is always cyclical, with some lows and high lasting longer than others. Hopefully this low after a record high will end soon and we will begin to resume 'normalcy'. These times are especially troublesome for college students, like me. We have little to no real job experience and the job market is extremely competitive as most students are on the same playing field. I have been looking for an internship before I graduate in December but have been unsuccessful for the last year. I have two interviews coming up this week which look promising but I can never get my hopes too high. All I can do is try by best, be professional, and hope the other candidates don't shine as brightly as me.

Making an impression, specifically a first impression, is so important in getting a job. I find it interesting that even at big, impressive universities with intelligent people leading it, they don't give the students more training on interview skills, finding the right job etc.. At my university, we have career services to help in this area but I really feel like these life skills should be part of the curriculum. I can't begin to count the number of pointless classes I've had to take that really don't amount to much other than I can say I've jumped through that hoop - can't they substitute one of those classes for something more useful like "How to Find a Job:101"? I think that if we as college students had these skills taught to us in an organized way, we would stand a better chance at scoring the jobs we hope for. Hell, that's why most of us are in college in the first place - to find a job!

In my own case, I feel I have some sense about how to conduct myself in a professional manner but refuse to kiss ass of I see many of my classmates do. Maybe they are the ones getting the jobs and for that reason, I don't know, but I refuse to be fake just for a job. I feel like I'm a prostitute looking for a quick buck from whatever guy in a suit looks like he might have one. It's just not my style. In my mind, if an employer can see through the puffery and realize that I am who I am, nothing more nothing less, I'd be happy to work for them. Otherwise, enjoy wiping the lipstick off of your asses - I know plenty of college students ready to pucker up .

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Practice - 02.20.2010

Yesterday I practiced all day at Nexus Racing and did a lot of testing. The track seems to have lost some traction which could be due to the lack of racers being on it. Last Saturday's race was cancelled due to the freak snow storm Georgia got so the track hasn't seen as much action as usual. Most of the time, I have to be careful of traction roll coming out of the sweeper but the car was planted all day.

I first played around with front roll centers as the car was pushing at corner entrance. I found that making the camber links steeper gave the car more turn in but lost some on power steering at mid and corner exit. When I dropped the front camber link to the outside inner hole, the car gained more front bite and was easier to drive. It really helped make the car feel balanced throughout the corners. A local racer suggested I also raise the rear camber link on the hub by 1mm to make the car roll more. This instantly made the car faster by 0.2 sec while keeping it balanced.

I reduced the rear toe from 3 deg to 1 deg. While it gave more steering throughout the corner, the rear end had no grip. I switched to 2.5 rear toe and this brought the rear end in more while giving more steering. I need to do more testing and see if this improved lap times and/or consistency.

Last, I made the wheelbase shorter which upset the balance of the car but made it faster. I'll probably stick to the shorter wheelbase and practice with it more to build consistency.

I couldn't believe how fast some of the Tekins are running now. Before the v2.03 update, the KO (which I run) and the Tekin were basically the same. Now, I'm getting blown by half way down the straight by the more well tuned Tekin setups. KO - c'mon guys give us more power!

Overall, it was a really fun day. It's such a stress relief to leave town for the day and focus on nothing but the car and hanging out with everyone. Everytime I return from the track, I feel so refreshed but then again it's hard to get back on focus because I'm still excited from the day!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

R/C Tech & The Internet. Friend or Foe?

Among all of the online forums that have been been an active member of, none are as littered with bickering as R/C I don't believe this is R/C Tech's fault nor do they condone the conflict, but for some strange reason, R/C Tech harbors these "forum racers" who rarely race or show up to the track. Instead they TYPE LIKE THIS in order to somehow proliferate their need to overcompensate and get with their buddies about "back in the day" and "when I used to race X class" on and so forth. Naturally, the internet is a wonderful sanctuary for anyone who has the need to say something but would rather tell it to their dogs instead of saying outloud (hence the creation of blogs just like this one haha). What baffles me, however, is that much of the bickering takes places among racers of the same area and state! You would think I would be more excited as a fourm racer to pick a fight with rciskool123 out on the West Coast rather than the guys I would see anyways at the track (if you even intend on getting away from behind the computer screen, that is).

Perhaps it is the competitive nature of the hobby that gets some people so excited that they can't leave it on the track and without a disagreement becoming personal. People are often most interested in what most directly affects them and are more prone to defending those ideas. However, there must be a limit to that defense, especially over the Internet where we only have words to our name and those words can be easily taken out of context. Granted, everyone has an opinion and the right to express that opinion, but just like in spoken conversation, everyone has the obligation to be mature and speak with the respect of your own opinion as well as the opinions of others. The net is a great place to share information and network, but it also comes with its own responsibilities Think before you type - don't let an online disagreement turn into a separation between racers or even worse, violence at the track, as it has happened before.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winning Isn't Always Winning

In order to be successful at anything, you have to be able to have a clear definition of success. For some people, it's making enough money to swim in, for others to win a Grammy, and for some to raise a happy, healthy family. The mentality of success in R/C racing, especially in America, is based mostly on winning trophies. To have that glory moment where, after a weekend's hard work and determination, you have come out on top. Standing proudly on the winner's circle, car in hard, light bulbs flashing at every moment, women surrounding you, a God among men. Well....maybe not exactly like that but we all like to dream, eh? Don't get me wrong, winning and trophies are great but I think it tends to cloud racers' minds when it comes to the sport. We have so many classes of racing that's it easy to jump from class to class until you land upon that one obscure class that has yet to be penetrated by those faster than you and you can, for one shining moment, be victorious. That, until, someone comes along and strips you of your imaginary rank and you are suddenly selling off on R/C Tech while making excuses about "expense" and "work" obligations.  

This is a hobby for goodness sakes and it's about having fun! I'm tired of the class floppers who do nothing but make excuses inbetween classes. I say, pick a class you can enjoy and afford and have fun! Nothing is more pathetic than not having the gall to improve just because someone else happens to have a better knack at it than you once thought you did. This is especially true in American R/C racing. No wonder we have so few racers in so many classes! Granted, new classes are formed for various reasons but I think racing would be stronger, on a whole, if people would just stop this nonsense and commit to a class - whether they take a beating or give a beating on the track. 

With that said, my definition of success in R/C is not winning the Worlds more than Masami or be sponsored by Associated, Xray, Losi, and Hot Bodies all at the same time to improve myself as a racer. My biggest competitor is always myself and once I beat him, I'll have success. If I can improve some aspect of my driving or setup or techniques each time I practice or race I'll have another win under my belt and be that much closer to being "fast". Until then, enjoy the race and not so much the finish line. 


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ThunderPower Power

Last night I decided to upgrade my battery charger to the ThunderPower TP-610 For the past few weekends, the car has been slowing half way into the run. I thought it was due to a bad battery but later found out it was really the charger I was using. Apparently when LiPo compatible chargers first came out, they did not charge at a constant rate up to 8.4 volts and would instead drop off around 7.8. I didn't realize it at the time but this makes a huge difference in the performance of the lipo. I'm excited to finally have the right power from my SMC lipo. My setup will likely need to change slightly as the car will drive into corners much harder from the increased battery power.

The growing horsepower in electric racing has really changed the way all electric classes are run and how the cars drive. Brushless/lipo was a great way in terms of low maintenance and consistent running but the new ESCs have really began to optimize brushless motors in terms of timing and tuning. No longer are we concerned about brush X or cutting comms every other run but having the latest firmware on the newest ESCs. It's a wonderful advancement, don't get me wrong, but I hope this does not start a trend of "buy this equipment and be as fast as the veteran racers". I think that no matter how deep someone's pockets are, R/C will always be based on the driver's skills, both on the track and in the pits. In my case, most of my equipment is used and my car is going on four years old but I'm most concerned with improving myself rather than spending $500 on a new kit or $300 on a new speedo. It makes it all the better when I can walk away from T3's and the like with a fiberglass car.

Another big issue facing all racers and promoters alike is this new found speed - what do we do with it? Cars are simply becoming too fast and it's killing the hobby. Granted, starting in R/C can seem like a huge learning/spending curve but unless the industry, including local tracks which are the soul of the hobby, agree, we can't expect a newcomer to remain involved when all classes are terrible for beginners. The definitions of "stock" and "mod" must be addressed soon as we can't rely on simply converting brushless motors into their brushed equivalents. The game has changed forever.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Year of the Tiger - Introduction to my New Blog

This is my first blog of sorts and I decided it would be a good place to store my R/C racing adventures as well as some other part of my daily life. I was inspired to create this blog after reading Alexander Hagberg's blog, a talented young European driver for Team Xray.

I have been racing on and off since 2003. My first 'real' R/C was an Associated TC3 which was a great platform to learn from but began to show its age when brushed motors and NiMH batteries were at their peak. I now drive an Xray T2R regularly at my local track, Nexus Racing This carpet season has been my most focused season, in all of the time I have spent racing, as I am working hard and practicing as much as I can to improve my skills and knowledge.

To begin, the carpet season has been quite a learning curve as it is my first experience with rubber tires on carpet. In the past I had dabbled in some foam carpet with the Tc3 but never taking it seriously. The T2R is quite a good platform for the traction-limited conditions as the fibreglass chassis flexes and thus creates more traction than its carbon fibre counterpart. Most run the Sorex 28's . They seem to provide more traction compared to the Jaco Blue's used at most U.S. major races although I have yet to test them. I have only used two sets of the Sorexes this season and they seem to hold up fairly well. I have noticed that it is critical to be sure they remain properly glued(especially the fronts) to avoid traction rolling and numb steering.

The base setup I have gathered from the local Xray drivers has never been too far from the mark but the car is still somewhat slow compared to the others. Talking a pro driver, it's important for the car to rotate in order to build corner speed. I will try to "free" up the car as much as possible in practice this weekend and report the result.

Another aspect of setup I learned during last practice was how an abundance of traction can slow a car down. Makes sense as what we are really imposing is friction and too much will slow the machine down. On the other than, took little the the car wastes time sliding around. With that said, I raised the front outer camber link from 1mm to 2mm and found the car to have less steering, less twichiness, and more of a "direct" feel from the steering. Interestingly, my lap times went down easily by 0.1 sec per lap which was amazing. I will experiment with this as well to try to figure out the relationship between steering and laptimes/corner speed.

Here's a picture of my regular track located just outside of Atlanta, Ga. I've been racing with many of the regulars there for a long time and they are some of the best people I know. I'm the guy closest to the camera on the driver's stand. I got to race the Xray XII car in that pic - such a great 12th scale!

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