Monday, 31 January 2011

Slough Winter Series Rnd 6 - 30 January

With the last two rounds of racing at Slough cancelled due to adverse weather conditions (snow and flooding) it was a relief to finally get some racing in at the excellent Berkshire venue. With Slough championship having effectively ruled out truggies, it was out with the Losi 8ight EU to get some quality buggy action in. I have to say I've always found Slough to be a 'buggy' track, but it is a real shame not to see at least one heat of truggies running.

I arrived at the track at about 8 o'clock and pitched up with the rest of the Clanners. Mark Byrne was running his AE RC8B as was Cameron Taylor. Chris Spencer-Smith was running a Kyosho MP9 (and contemplating a JQ), Jamie Kerr was rolling his usual X-Ray and Tony RC and Dave O'Brien were both in the Losi camp with me. Latest additions to the 'team' were Ben Elliot, also running X-Ray and Jordan with a brand new JQ. Gazebo's pitched and pit tables set up, a few of us ventured out for some last minute practice whilst Nora got the kettle on. The arctic conditions made a hot coffee even more tempting than normal!

The Clanners on the road

The track was frozen solid for practice, and rear end grip was almost non-existent regardless of tyre choice or chassis. I was running a new set of red compound Hot Bodies tyres, Khoas on the back and Blocks on the front. This produced a stunning amount of turn-in, but a very loose car on corner exit. Dialing in a lot of negative expo on the throttle helped, but for a very smooth throttle finger was still required, at least by my normal (truggy oriented) standards. Back in the pits a thicker front anti-roll bar was fitted, the theory being taking off a little of the front end grip should help give a more neutral balance to the car.

After the standard drivers briefing from Adrian Svenson it was straight into round one qualifying. Dave was out first and it soon became apparent that the track had changed some what since practice twenty minutes earlier. The previously frozen surface had thawed out, and was now a quagmire that was in many cases quite literally sucking in cars and stopping them dead. I've never seen a track change so much so quickly!

Mark B's new shell. Paint by me, mud by Slough.

When it became obvious what was going on I rushed back to the pit bench to alter the car ready for my third heat run. Raise the ride height, richen the engine to cope with the mud and dowse the car in GT85. I went out with the rest of the field, and I have to admit went pretty well considering. The car stayed relatively clean compared to many others, and the engine was running as well at the end of the run as at the start... the tune seemed pretty spot on for the conditions. 6 laps in 5 some odd isn't going to set the world on fire, but I was steady and made it to the end of the run with a car in one piece and still just about recognisable!

Given the state of most of the cars by this point I got off quite lightly

Marshalling was a nightmare, I'd drawn point four - the bombhole, which was probably the wettest section of the track. Jumping in to pull out cars was tricky with out slipping over, getting back up and out again was almost impossible. The end result was a good belt in the shins by a flying car as I struggled back to my marshaling point. I don't know how many cars finished in heat four, but I suspect not many. The conditions were getting progressively worse and cars were grinding to a halt all over the place.

Some mud (and Dave's car) after round 2 qualifying. Flames not visible...

I elected not to go out in round 2, having pitted for Dave whose car got so bogged down it actually managed to combust it's clutch(!) before eventually giving up the fight and quitting. Marshalling heat four, round 2 was much simpler as only one car went out, everyone else deciding to sit the round out. Chris Spencer-Smith Kyosho clutch faired little better. The shoes disappeared in a pool of aluminum slag, the spring melted and the clutch pins were so deformed a new flywheel will be needed. It was RC carnage all round.

Dave's clutch, post fire. Now that's commitment!

Back in the pits I was contempating running in round 3. Then, disaster... Some how the car had been left on with the transmitter off. Sat like this for an hour and half or so had put a huge strain on the throttle servo and blown the motor. Two lessons to be learned, one - I should always make sure the cars off before killing the transmitter and two - I should really set my fail safe up better. Ah well, at least that sorted my dilemma of whether to run or not. I'd be qualifying based on only one round. Bottom final for me then! A mad thrash then ensued to clean the car and fit a spare servo kindly supplied by Mark to get me back out for the final. Big thanks to both Mark and Tony RC for pitching in.

Everyone else went out for round three, and it soon became obvious that the track was coming back round and the conditions were improving. It might actually be possible to run the anticipated 15 minute finals.

Tony 'RC' Scott tries out for the QVC channel!

At the end of qualifying Jordan and I were in the bottom 'F' final, Dave in the 'E', Byrners in the 'D', Tony RC in the 'C' and Clanfield star Jamie 'The Boy' Kerr in the 'A' final. Great driving Jamie. Star of the day though has to be Ben, new to off road racing and with a less than stellar engine he'd managed a run into the 'B' final, and was looking really good out on track. With more track time under his belt I think he'll be giving Jamie a hard time pretty soon.

My final had an eventful start, with me getting knocked to the back at the first chicane. After that it was head down and drive through the field. I managed to get into the flow, and after five minutes of so the car was feeling pretty good. I wound up fifth after 15 minutes, missing the bump spot by one place. Given that Jon 'Bump-up King' Dell went all the way from first in my final to a good finish in the A I don't feel quite so bad!

Dave drove really well in his final, his smooth electric style certainly shows. Sadly his engine was miss-behaving badly and meant he couldn't really show what he could do. I have to admit I missed the D and C finals, but I know Byrners started a bump up run, bumping from the D to C, and then C to B. By the B final I was back to help Dave pit him, and a missed communication resulted in a cut after his stop, probably due to alack of fuel on the way in. It was irrelevant as he lost drive shortly after, his clutch bell shedding it's teeth. Ben had been staring, leading the B, but again a missed call resulted in him running out of fuel on the way into the pits, and the lost time put him out of contention. Better luck next time mate...

Just the A final now, and Jamie Kerr was our last chance of a staring turn. He elected to change tyres before going out, bolting on a set of M2 Calibers. They didn't seem to work, I would suggest the compound was to hard for the cold wet conditions. He was driving well, but didn't seem to be able to get into his usual flow, and was making to many mistakes, eventually finishing outside the top 10. A great days racing and a good final, but he was kicking himself for making that last minute change... lesson learned for next time, as his manger, Mark B was quick to point out!

All in all a great days racing, only let down by breakages and the track conditions. All being well we'll be back on the 20th February for another crack. Here's hoping it's as much fun.

Click here for full results (courtesy of RemoteWorld)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Clanfield Winter Series - Round 4

And finally the crappy British winter relents and we get some nitro action! Having missed the rescheduled round 3 the previous weekend this was my first nitro race of 2011, and also my first in nearly two months. In the mean time the RC8T had been through a complete overhaul, and I had also decided to try some tweaks to the setup to see if I could get the truck more suited to UK style tracks. I've always liked the RC8T as a car, but found it can be a bit 'twitchy' at speed.

I rolled into the Clanfield car park at about 8:15 to quite a shock. Clanfield's been suffering falling numbers for a while now, for a number of reasons. Now with a new club committee in place there was promise of changes and improvements, and based on the number of drivers present yesterday I have to say things are moving in the right direction. I really hope that the club can maintain this momentum as the track's naturally contoured layout is right up there with the best in the country. It also takes an incredible amount of work to maintain as it's an all dirt layout, which is always going to suffer given the harsh weather that comes with the winter. The surface yesterday was certainly starting to suffer, and in truth could do with a good roll, but was certainly good enough to race on, and after all this is off-road! I'm sure the committee will be sorting a roller soon, and the track will be right back up there where it belongs.

Several big name drivers were in attendance, including Jon Hazzlewood with his Nemo Racing/Agama outfit. They rolled up in style with the Nemo support bus, and were joined by recent Bren Ralls, now running Agama after his recent departure from the XRay team. Tommy Chung was running his regular Kyosho, and Marc 'Jaf' Jakka was running the 1/8th Durango buggy.

Rob 'Hollywood' Rasey graced us with his presence to assist Grant Fribbins running JQ Products THE Car. An a shock move local hot-shoe Jon Wolfe had also jumped ship, again from XRay to Agama, so Jamie Kerr had to endure much ribbing through the day as we speculated on his future car choice.

The Associated Truggy HQ for the day (plus an Xray interloper)

After setting up the gazebo, and making space for fellow Associated runners Mark 'Byrners' Byrne and Paul 'Berky' Berkinshaw plus X-Ray buggy racer James 'Young-un' Kerr it was out for some practice. Byrners was going well as always, and my set-up seemed OK as well, but I was catching way too many ruts which was tipping the truck. The red compound Hot Bodies tyres were working well however, so they'd be staying on for the day. Back on the pit table some extra negative camber was dialed into the rear to try and alleviate the tendency to flip, and out we went to qualify (or clean the track for the buggy boys if you prefer...).

John Wolfe's new Agama buggy

The round went well, if not stunningly and I ended with a third. OK, but not an 8 lapper. The tipping was better, but the rear end was hopping all over the shop through some of the choppier sections. I was also trying to re-adjust to driving nitro on a large track after weeks of 10th racing. Chatting to Byrners the decision was made to stand up the rear shocks, inside hole on the arm, outer on the tower. That should give a more linear feel, and hopefully calm the hopping.

One of the benefits to the increased turn out was that more heats of qualifying could be run (one truggy, four buggy), so the usual mad thrash was avoided. Set-up changes could be made easily, and there was plenty of time to socialise, wonder around and take photos.

Round two qualifying was considerably better than round one, with me ending second to Byrners and James Tatlow in third. The only downside was that for some reason the BBK software shortened the round to three minutes. The truggy was now feeling pretty good in the tough conditions, and my driving was calming down.

Rob 'Hollywood' Rasey was present to support Fribbers with THE Car 

A little more rear camber was dialled in for round three, and in the round the truck felt awesome. Third again was a fair reward, although I was gutted to be .98 of a second short of scoring 8 laps. Oh well, there's always next time I guess. One thing that was becoming obvious was that the track was evolving massively between rounds, both drying and smoothing out in some sections whilst simultaneously blowing out in others. Line choice was getting critical.

I left the truggy alone for round four, and got another third place, but was 13 seconds slower than round three. The truggy just felt less consistent and planted, plus the driver just made too many mistakes. Oh well, I'd line up third in the final, with Byrners TQ'ing followed by JT. Adam Bailey would be behind, with a hole where Simon Hunter's Kyosho should have been behind that, and Berky coming off the sixth spot.

The start of the final descended into chaos, with neither starter or pit men being able to hear the PA. As a result Lee 'Tortoise' Warren was late starting me, and I was dead last through the first corner. I'd recovered to third by the end of lap one, but didn't have the pace to worry the leaders. I ran a 10 minute strategy to the first stop to check the Alpha S852 was still up for the job (it was), but splashed and dashed three minutes from the end as I had a safe margin from Adam, and at the end of the season point make prizes! Lee did a cracking job and was well on the ball, despite his lack of recent practice(!).

Positions stayed set through the race, with Byrners leaning JT across the line by about 1.5 seconds, me in third two laps down an Adam behind me by a further two laps. Berky went out at mid-race, a high speed meeting between his front offside corner and a solid post proving terminal. Third was about what I expected given the competition, but I'm disappointed not to have run the top two a closer race.

Truggy podium (l-r James Tatlow, Matk Byrne and me)

As I haven't yet mastered driving and photography at the same time, I lent my camera to Lei, Lionel's better half for the truggy final, you can see here photos in the gallery below. She's promised to dress more appropriately next time so she can explore the track more fully.

I didn't get the chance to watch much of the buggy action, as I was distracted my caching up with a few people I hadn't seen for a while, but what I was looked like some class action. In the end Losi driver Rich Barton took the win from Tommy Chung with Jon Wolfe mastering his new ride for third place.

A final buggies (l-r Tommy Chung, Rich Barton and Jon Wolfe)

All in all a cracking days racing, it's great to see Clanfield getting back to where it used to be. Here's hoping it can be maintained. A big thanks to the committee, Chris for running race control, Nora for the endless supply of coffee and everyone who made the day what it was.


Link to full results (courtesy of Clanfield RC Club).

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Building a ball diff

Racing 8th scale for last few years (and with a break from RC for a few years before that) it was a shock to the system when I had to build a ball diff for the Ansmann. I figure the last one of those I built was about 2001 in an HPI touring car. Before that I'd built them into everything from 2wd and 4wd off-roaders, 'wider' touring cars (remember them?) and my favorite Pro10 pan cars. I'll say straight off the bat that I don't consider myself any kind of expert at this, and I may well not be doing this the best way, but here's part one of my diff building guide. If you want to put me right on any of this, feel free to comment below... I'll be happy to hear from you!

Diff ring prep
If you're using top of the line diff rings, like those from BFast for instance, you may be able to skip this step. The rings in the picture below are stock Ansmann, and could do with a little bit of prep work before use.

The left ring is being preped, the right ring is raw from the box

I like to make sure that the working surface of the ring is as flat and smooth as possible, but not polished. I figure the flat surface ensure an even pressure across all of the balls, working them evenly and avoiding tight spots. To my mind this gives the balls an easier time which should improve lifespan and time between rebuilds, and should also help to get a nice smooth diff action. I don't polish the rings however, as a little bit of texture gives the balls something to grip as the diff spins.

I take each ring in turn, mount it to an out-drive and then gently work it over wet and dry paper fastened down to a nice flat sheet. I work the piece in sweeping cycles, rotating it as I go to get an even finish, and work from 600 through to 1500 grit. What I'm looking for is a near mirror finish, hopefully the picture above shows this.

Once I'm done I use a good degreaser to clean off the rings and out-drives. Wynn's Clutch and Break cleaner is pretty good as it come in a spray can and so as well as clearing any grease it also blows off any debris from the sanding process.

Basic Assembly
Now the rings are ready to build into the diff, and everything is cleaned up I'll start the assembly. First up a bearing is fitted to each out-drive, and then the rings are fitted. I'll now give the rings a very light coat of diff lube on both sides by smearing it around the ring using my finger.

Taking one of the out-drives and standing it on end I can place a ring (preped side up) on it, and then the main gear, ready to receive the diff balls. In this instance I'm using the kit steel balls as this is a spare unit and they were all I had to hand. For choice I would use carbide balls from someone like Rudebits or RCLazy as they well help build a harder-wearing, smoother longer lasting diff. Just make sure you fit the right number and size!

To lube the balls I place a small amount of diff lube in the palm of my hand followed by the balls. I then very gently roll the balls around in the lube using a finger, being careful not to let the balls clatter into each other.

Putting a light coat of diff-lube onto the main balls

Once lubed, the balls are ready to load into the diff. This is the fun part if you have big, thick fingers like me as getting the balls into the holes can be a pain. I use a pair of plastic tweezers and quite a lot of foul language, and in the end I seem to get the job done. Back in the day of Pro10 racing we used to decrease drag in the diff by fitting every other ball, but that seems out of fashion now from what I can tell, and to be fair we did end up rebuilding diffs a lot back then, so now I'll completely fill the diff.

The diff gear with bearing and fully loaded with diff balls

The Thrust Bearing assembly
Thrust bearings come in two main types these days, caged and uncaged. The Ansmann item shown below is of the caged type, where the diff balls are contained in a cage and sandwiched between two races. The alternative design is very similar, but the balls are separate and not contained in a cage. I find the latter considerably harder to build, but they do seem to last longer in my experience.

Diff screw and nut, thrust bearing parts and grease. Note the caged bearing and races.

To assemble the bearing is pretty easy, I slip one race onto the diff screw, ensuring the concave track around the race is facing up. I then load the race with a good dollop of Team Losi Hi-Pressure Grease and drop the caged bearing on. Another layer of grease is added, and finally the top race, track facing down. Finally I'll wipe off any excess grease, although I do leave plenty on there in this case as the Ansmann diff seems to like it.

Non-caged thrust bearings are similar, but trickier to work with as there is no cage to hold the balls, you end up relying on the grease to hold them in the race whilst building the diff. The thrust balls are also tiny!

Bringing it all together
Now it's time to finish up building the diff. Fit the top out-drive and ring to the lower half/gear assembly put together earlier, and the drop in the spring and dif nut. If the case of the Ansmann the diff the nut is held in a plastic piece that compresses the diff spring, and has a pair of wings that lock into the out-drive to prevent it spinning during adjustment of the diff.

Fit the diff screw in from the opposite side ensuring the thrust washer is in place, and the tighten the diff screw into the nut. You want to aim for the diff to be just tight enough that the gear will not turn if the out-drives are held stationary. I check this by fitting hex wrenches into each of the out-drive slots and holding them in one hand and trying to turn the gear. If it turns easily, tighten it a bit at a time until it no longer turns. If it won't turn when you first try, back the screw out a bit at a time until it does, and then tighten it just a little to stop any movement. Now gently check the diff action by hand an make sure it all feels good and that the diff is working as it should.

The diff screw and a diff ring fitted to an out-drive ready to attach to the other half


In a future post I'll cover how a break in and make final adjustments to my diff, and also look at the role and adjustment of the slipper clutch.

If you want to comment on anything in this post, please use the comment link below.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Some TORCH video footage

(Apologies for the lack of quality, I only had my stills camera on me and it's video isn't the best)

So, after we'de done with the serious stuff on Sunday Tony RC and Cameron decided that it was time to play. Cammer's is contemplating a 4wd, and so decided it was time for some testing. Tony, well we're not sure what he was doing... he's normally a little better than this. Check the videos and see if you can decide.





Sunday, 16 January 2011

Another fun morning @ TORCH

With the continuing poor weather this week I made a decision mid-week to strip the truggy right back and start preping it for the new season, after all, the planned Clanfield race wasn't going to happen... Tony and I figured we'd do the morning at TORCH as the Astroturf surface is almost always fine. So at about 2:30 on Saturday the call comes in, Clanfield is on as the track has dried up. Oh well, we're committed now so TORCH it is.

The numbers were well down on normal, with the nitro posse largely of at Clanfield and a number of the other regulars of at the Petite RC, being held at Ardent up that there Norf somewhere. Still, six 2wd drivers were out, including Cammers with the Schumacher, and seven 4wd made the show including Tony with his Durango, Dave O'Brien with his various cars and Mark 'Byrners' Byrne making a rare showing with his AE B44.

Mark's day-glo orange Bulldogged up AE B44

With the low numbers we ran three rounds of qualifying over two heats, and then three-leg finals. Round one went well for me, coming off the one spot I led the first couple of laps before droping back due to unforced errors. This produced a ding-dong battle with Cameron, and I eventually ended up third in the round.

Round two was a disaster, the car being jittery and seemingly in some form of trouble. Nothing was obvious, and I suspected the LiPO wasn't as charged as it should be. Putting in a fresh pack I went out for round three, and whilst not as fast as round one was able to grab another third placed finish. That was good for fourth over all, but I was still gutted about round two, and still not 100% on what was wrong with the car.

Tony tries to convince Mark he needs a Durango

Mark B auditions for The Shopping Channel!

Legs one and two of the finals are best forgotten. The problems from qualifying re-appear and I wind up with a pair of DNF's. I'm gutted, the car felt awesome when running well, and I think my driving is improving week on week, I know I'm better than this.

Round three, new batteries and everything's back to normal. I get a flyer from fourth on the grid, and Cameron stuffs it at the first corner, I'm up to second and running. But no, Cameron flies through the corner and piles into me, we're both at the back. Half a lap of poor driving from me and I've got a real challenge on my hands to get anything of a result. Still, I regroup, settle down and just go for it. At the end buzzer I'm up to second behind Cameron, aided by at least one DNF in the rest of the field. Still, I'm happier.

Who says Byrners don't jump?

Tony's Durango earns it's wings (where's Byrners going?)

We end up the day watching Tony RC blasting his Durango around to get some practice, whilst Cameron is running one of Dave's Losi chassis to see what he makes of 4wd. I think Dave senses a sale in the offing! Cameron's setting some good times in a car he doesn't know, with easy 38s laps, dipping into the 37s eventually. Give him some time and he'll be up there (assuming he parts with the cash!). Eventually Tony and Cammers decided to have an impromptu race, unsurprisingly resulting in the carnage I managed to catch on video (watch this space!).

Another excellent time at TORCH, big thanks to Julian Mallard and everyone else involved in making it happen in Steve and Mike's absence.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Ansmann XPro Setup for TORCH

As promised here's a copy of my set up for the XPro as I ran it at TORCH last week. This seemed like a pretty quick set up in the conditions, and was very consistent. Click on the picture for the full sized view!

(Click for full view)

Monday, 10 January 2011

TORCH Clubby Race Day

AKA The Great British Winter strikes again...
(Please note, I only have a few photos from this round, I will add them when I've got them off my camera, so do check back)

Sunday 9th January should have seen us all make the trek up to Slough for a round of their winter series, however with the recent wet weather it always looked unlikely. When Adrian emailed to let us know it was off it wasn't a massive surprise. The photos he posted were, the lakes on the track were only surpassed by those in the car park, I think even Jaff's Landy would have struggled! Having planned ahead Tony 'RC' and I had decided another day at TORCH was a suitable alternative so Saturday was spent in the workshop tweaking the Mighty Ansmann and getting the LiPO's charged and ready. One pleasant surprise was that my previously damed pack that I'd disassembled and had resoldered (big thank Dave H, you da man!) charged perfectly and balanced at exactly 4.20V per cell. Looks like I may have saved it, with a little help.

In terms of car set up, I'd not done much since the last race. I rebuilt the shocks with slightly thicker front and thinner rear oil and fitted softer springs on the rear. Ride height was lowered, the front toe set to 0 degrees and camber checked. The main change was to pull the pin on my speedo, as whilst checking the settings during the week I had noticed I had the throttle limit set to only allow 40% of full power. School boy error, should have double checked that earlier.

Having agreed to collect Tony at 8:00 I stuck my head out the door at 7:40 to find the thickest frost I think I've ever seen. No idea what happened there, but the whole world had gone diamond white... hum, early qualies are going to be interesting then! After clearing the car and collecting Tony and his gear we rolled up trackside and set up for the day. Cameron 'Cammers' Taylor rolled in shortly afterwards and set his stall up next to us, at which point a side wager started on which car he'd end the day running having started the last couple of meetings with the Schumacher Cougar, and each time falling back to the X6 Squared when the Cougar gave trouble! Shortly after Dave O'Brien pulled up to pit with us followed swiftly by Jamie Kerr, out with his Durango for the first time. Having received an express delivery from Kifopaint the day before Jamie was rocking full on pro gear, including a branded hoody and matching body shell. Clear having all the gear, did he have any idea? Time and results would tell.

The track layout was unchanged from the previous round, but the track was frosted hard. Clearly grip was going to be at a premium, and with my limited selection of tyres I was on the back foot from the off. General advice seemed to be pink Ballistic Buggy spikes, of which I own precisely no sets. Ah well, out on the trusty Schumacher yellow mini-spikes then, staggers on the front as always. Into round one qualifying, and I can;t believe this is the same car as the week before. It's all over the shop... not quite undrivable but not far off! The results was 7 laps in 5:52, I bit slower than the week before and not the result I hoped for. In truth I must have gone faster than I thought as I was figuring on only 6 laps, but I wasn't happy. The car was a handful and I was over driving it trying to make up for it. The main problem was inconsistent grip, with the back end snapping away at really odd times.

Four wheel drive qualifying went badly for Tony RC, his Durango snapping yet another servo saver arm. Dave ran well to a solid seven lapper, but the boy Kerr was a revelation running a solid 8 lapper to finish just over a second behind Steve B in the fight for TQ of the round. A good showing for the first run of a car, could he keep it up through the next three rounds?

Due to marshaling for Tony whilst he worked on his damaged 'Rango I didn't change much for round 2 qualifying and it showed. I dialled in a degree of front toe out in the hope it would stabalise the car, which it did, but nowhere near enough. The official line is five laps, now I don't want to argue with the computer, and I did make a lot of mistakes, but I'm pretty sure I crossed the line more then five times. Oh well, that round was going to be a dropper, and it was time to get to work on the car for the next one.

In 4wd Dave was again solid with 8 laps, Tony did yet another servo saver and Jamie was again second in the round, all be it slightly further behind Steve B who seems to just keep getting smoother and faster.

For rounds 3 and 4 of qualifying I took a real punt. Realising that my problems seemed to revolve around the rear tyres I decided to try a set of new yellow mini-pins with firm inserts. I figured that the mini spikes were fitted with too soft an insert and were rolling over mid corner causing the snap instability. The use of spikes in the now soaking conditions (the frost having thawed) seemed to raise a few eyebrows, but hey I'm new to this malarkey so I don't know any better. And besides, I don't exactly have too many sets of tyres.

Within half a lap I knew I'd made the right call. The car was so much more consistent, especially in the high speed sweeping center section of the track. Things got even better when I passed Cammers, and then realised he was struggling to keep up. Result! Things looked up even further when the results were posted and I realised I hit my first 8 lapper, which had been my goal going into the day. That result put me forth in the round, not bad for a cheap little Ansmann with an electric-racing noobie on the controls, even if I do say so myself.

Round four was much of the same, with a few other drivers following me onto spikes. This round saw me sixth with another 8 lapper, about a second behind Cammers but pushing him all the way. We had a cracking ding-dong battle for several laps, great clean fun and exactly the kind of RC action I enjoy (yes, I know we were qualifying, but we just couldn't help it!). In the end Cammers finished fifth and I was sixth in qualifying which I was pretty pleased with all things considered.

In 4wd Dave had continued his consistent runs, having found his cup. Tony had finally come good and after borrowing a servo saver from Jamie final got in two half decent qualifiers. Jamie had a bad run in round 3, pulling out with a mechanical, but was back in round four to finish second to Steve again, leaving Steve to TQ, Jamie second, Dave fourth and Tony back in eighth.

Finals were run over a single leg, and in my 2wd A final Cammeron and I had a blast running round together. I could push Cammers hard, but just couldn't quite get the jump on him for fifth. I lost some time on the penultimate lap giving the leaders room to get past which upset my rhythm, although I guess it did the same to Cammers and we crossed the line fifth and six, with me just under a second behind. The final was probably the most fun I've had in RC for some time, being able to push to 100% for a full five minutes against Cameron was a blast. What was more amazing was Cameron running a whole day with the Schumacher, I think the X6 Squared was feeling a little neglected sat on his bench all day.

JK employs an unusal start line tactic in the 4wd A final!

In the 4wd B Tony lead from flag to lights taking a dominant win. In the A final Steve B again dominated, taking the win by around half a lap from Jamie, with Dave coming in fourth. Top marks to young Jamie Kerr, he drove a fantastic race and it's hard to credit that this was his first time out with the 'Rango. Give is some time for him to get it fully sorted to his liking and I think Steve could be facing some stiff competition.

The field for the 4wd A prepare for the off (TQ man Steve Brown out of shot)
Click here for a full set of results, courtesy of TORCH.

So a great days racing drew to a close, and Dave, Tony, Cammers and I decided it was time for a bit of car swapping. We spent an enjoyable hour or so playing with each of the 4wd contenders to see what we thought. Me, I still prefer 2wd... but I would like to try the Ansmann Pro4 just to see how that goes.

A big thanks to Steve, Mike and all involved in organising another great, relaxed days racing at TORCH, any disappointment at another weekend without a nitro fix was rapidly erased once racing kicked of. If you haven't been to TORCH yet, I strongly suggest you do, ASAP!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

So what is in a LiPO pack then?

Last night I did some thing I've been waiting to since I got back into racing electric cars, I managed to connect a LiPO pack to my speedo with the polarity reversed. The plugs were connected for a spit second, to be honest the loud crack and bright spark was enough to ensure that! I guess 4600mAh 40C batteries really can deliver a quite a current.

It's a totally dumb thing to do, and happened whilst I was doing some work on the car and was in a rush, all the typical excuses! What I was left with was a speedo that fortunately seems to have escaped harm, but a battery that wouldn't charge as the charger just showed a connection break. With nothing to loose I decided to see if the pack was salvageable.

Warning - delving into LiPO packs can be extremely hazardous and isn't something to be done lighly. If you choose to do this, you do so at your own risk!

Step 1: A dead hard case LiPO pack

First things first, how to get at the guts of the battery? From the picture you can probably seen a thing split around the circumference off the hard case. I used a cut-off wheel in a Dremel to very carefully cut the case in front of the sockets, figuring that I wouldn't cut into the cells that way. With a small cut in the case I inserted a flat blade screw driver and twisted to pop the case in half.

Step 2: The case is now split allowing access to the cells

OK, at this point the bottom is of the pack, but the cells (the silver foil packets in the picture above) are stuck to the top of the case. Judicious use of a smooth plastic tool allowed me to safely lever them out, it turns out that they are stuck to the top of the pack with double-sided foam tape of the very sticky variety.

Step 3: A 2s 1p set of bare cells. Handle with care!

With the cells out I gave them a cursor inspection. Everything looked good, now splits or puffing, but trying to charge them resulted in the same 'connection break' warning. On a whim I flipped the cells over and plugged in from the bottom. Success! Charging started quite happily. Hum, that's got to mean somethings wrong with the pole connector sockets, so lets take a look there...

Step 4: You can just see the connection break (click to enlarge)

Now the problem is obvious. There should be a bridge of solder running from the positive connection across the board and to the cells. Looks like the short caused so much heat in that split second that the bridge blew, rather like a fuse. With luck it's saved the cells, and almost certainly it blowing so fast is what saved my speedo so I'm not going to moan too much.

The fix is pretty simple, I'll re-solder it tomorrow and see what happens when I charge the cells. With luck I'll have got away with it, but needless to say I'll be watching closely as a charge to ensure nothing goes haywire. I'm also going to put more definite markings on all my packs from now on to try and avoid doing this kind of thing in future.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Ansmann XPro review

Having run the Ansmann XPro 2 wheel drive 1:10th electric buggy for a couple of races now I thought it was time to do a more detailed review of the car. The car shown in the pictures is my racer, and I'll admit up front that it's not exactly as the XPro comes out of the box, mine has a few optional parts fitted, but I'll point them out in more detail as we go over the car.

The completed XPro from Ansmann

I bought the Ansmann knowing next to nothing about it. I checked a few of the usual places, and saw it was getting some good press on Oople and so figured it was worth a punt. I was even more convinced when I saw the price JE Spares were doing it for on EBay! So good old PayPal swung into action and three days latter the car (in kit for of course) was sat waiting for me when I got back from the office.

The Build
The XPro is fundamentally the same car as the cheaper Ansmann Mad Rat, however the plastics in the XPro are much less flexible due to a higher carbon content and the XPro has a full set of bearings and turn buckles, which the Rat does not.

The build its self is pretty straight forward, 2wd drive cars are not the most technical racers available and all follow largely the same principles. The instructions are pretty good for an experienced builder, but may be lacking for a beginner. They certainly aren't up to the standards of the big players like Losi or Associated and are especially week in detailed ares like building the ball diff and building and bleeding the shocks.

The XPro's design is typical of rear-motor 2wd chassis

One of the major weaknesses of the XPro are the screws used to hold it together. Hex-head screws are used through out and even with high quality drivers the toughness of the high-carbon parts like the main chassis make them very easy to strip. My advice would be to either pre-tap the holes with a tap or high quality screw, or to replace the screws with higher quality items. I went with tapping the holes and had minimal issues, but again this is something that could cause a beginner considerable trouble.

During the build I fitted a number of option parts, partly for looks, partly for performance and mostly 'cause I'm a bit of a tart. Most of the parts were ordered in from from Hong Kong via the web, the car being sold under the Team C banner in the Orient. Delivery was extremely fast, and prices were extremely low. I added carbon front and rear shock towers simply because I like the look of carbon, and a carbon T Plate at the rear end as I have heard the kit item can be a week point (apparently addressed in newer kit's through a running change to the molding of the plastic part). I also fitted a CNC motor plate as it was sturdier and would shed heat faster, and replaced the stock plastic idler gear with a metal part - again for durability as the car would be running a poky brushless set up.

The optional carbon fiber T Piece was added during the build, CNC pin mounts were a later addition

The only other area of concern on the car is the ball diff. I have to admit I've built and run a few of these back in the day when I ran touring cars and PRO10 and have always found them a pain. On the whole I can build them and tune them fine, but they do always seem an Achilles heal for any car using them. I'd heard reports that this was especially true of the XPro, and that most people upgraded to a BFast setup. I decided to try the Ansmann diff and see what I could do. I polished the diff rings using wet an dry through to Simichrome metal polish, and then thoroughly degreesed them. The thrust washer was packed with Losi High Pressure black grease, and then the diff balls and rings given a light coat of the Ansmann supplied diff lube. The whole lot was then assembled and tightened down. I then went through a gradual break-in of the diff using a speed adjustable electric drill, tightening the diff down a little at a time as it loosened. Two races and a fair bit of practice later it still seems pretty smooth, so fingers crossed I've cracked it.

Ansmann shocks are excellent, just wish they weren't quite so green!

The shocks are worth a mention, ally bodies with bladders and breather holes they build into very nice smooth units with minimal fuss. Kyosho pistons can be used as tuning parts if required, and I believe Losi springs will fit nicely. I just wish they weren't green, ho-hum...

Laying down the colour
The body shell is, at least to my eyes, very attractive. Very smooth and slippery it responds well to a nice coat of paint and fit's very snugly to the chassis sides. I shot a simple colour scheme on mine as I needed it in a hurry, but I think it looks OK. The only two drawbacks to the body are that there is a lack of room for the speedo, as the side pods are very low, and the front body clip is a pain to get to as it's under the shock tower. I solved the later problem with copious use of velcro tape to hold the body on. The lack of space is still an issue, in future I may try one of the other shells that fits, maybe the 2wd Tamiya TRF shell or possibly a Proline Bulldog.

Finishing kit
I the spirit of racing on the cheap I spared every expense to complete the car. Wheels are provided, using a hex style fitment, but no tyres are in the box. I ordered up some stagger ribs and yellow min-spikes as they seemed popular. Having run 8th for the last few years I'm no expert in 10th tyre design, but these seem to work and compared to 8th tyres the price is a rather pleasant surprise.

Batteries are budget LiPOs from Hong Kong, they seem to do an adequate job. The 6.5 turn brushless motor, speedo and programming card were £60, again from Hong Kong, and the steering servo is a budget hybrid geared Futaba item. Every thing fitted, just about and with some fine soldering from Mr Tony 'RC' Scott she was ready to hit the track.

Racing
I've completed two races with the XPro so far, and it's been fun to say the least. Breakages have been limited to a rear inner hinge-pin holder and a servo arm, both as a result of full-bore encounters with very unforgiving pipe. I've subsequently fitted they very nice CNC machines rear arm holders, and also the front arm holder with extra brass weight. These updates should help with durability, and the extra weight up front has also helped get the nose more planted for high speed cornering.

Having had a quick play with chassis settings during a recent meeting at TORCH I can say that the car responds well to changes, and is pretty sensitive. This bodes well for the future an I hope to get out testing as soon as possible. The shocks are so far stock, but with AE black springs fitted, and I feel this is one area that I can develop to get a more consistent and controllable drive.

Conclusion

Ready to race

Ansmann XPro, TQ Racing SX10, Team C or Kawada. Call it what you will this budget racer can really fly, and to me makes the perfect entry to the world of competitive 2wd racing in the UK. If you can get past the Ansmann branding (and their reputation), a cracking car awaits. Combine the low cost kit with a few equally cheep hop-up, and one of the ever growing range of budget speedo/motor combos and you have a great little club racer that just might show up some of the big name chassis with the right driver on the Tx!

I still have the Team C mid motor version to build up ready for the summer, that version of the car should be hitting shelves in the UK any day now and will be the subject of an update review as soon as I've had a chance to get it built and tested.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

TORCH Grand Re-opening

New years day 2011 and the Clanfield faithful are hovering near PC's and mobile phones waiting for one piece of information; 'Are we racing tomorrow?'. With the dreadful weather of late it was always looking dodgy, and eventually the news went round that the race was canned, the clay sections of the track were holding too much water, and the committee didn't want to risk the track surface. Bugger, another week and no racing. I hate winter.

Then Tony 'RC' Scott texts... did I know that TORCH was opening it newly rebuilt track? Truth told I'd not been keeping up with things on Oople so I'd missed that. Yay, racings back on, out to the workshop and LiPo's on charge. Boys, we're going 'leccy racing again!

One of the best things about TORCH is that it's only twenty minutes from me, and I can pick Tony up on the way through. So at 8:30 we roll up track side to find the place busy, with a large number of the Clanfield Massive in attendance. I've got the Might Ansmann and will be rolling 2wd with Cammers (X62 or Cougar), whilst Tony RC and Grant Fribbins are both rocking the Durango 4wd. They are joined by Lionel Croucher (the original Crazy L) with his Tamiya Durga, plus Jon Wolfe and Dave O'Brien with... cars of some sort (can't remember what). Jimbo Tattlow is the surprise visitor of the day with his AE B4.1 RTR, complete with RTR transmitter! Rob 'Holywood' Raisey was also in town, but had swapped his AE B44 for a Tamiya TRF, a masterpiece of carbon-fibre and blue anodizing.

Now for the new track. It mahoosive! Much smoother than the old surface and with a technical but flowing layout that rewards the ability to be smooth and carry speed. There's also a table top in place, with the promise of some more air time to come later in the year. Definitely a hit!

The new TORCH track.

After a bit of practice I'm out for round one of qualifying. We're running four rounds with two to count, and as long as I beat Jimbo I'll be happy. The round is OK, still learning the car and track so 7 laps in 5.30ish is not too shabby, good for 6th of 14 in the round. Tyres were all wrong though, yellow mini-pins all round gave way to much turn in and made the car stupidly darty and edgy. A change would be required for round 2.

Out for round two and I'd swapped to stagger ribs on the front end. I also elected to go with a last minute change to yellow mini-spikes on the back and that proved my undoing. I must have fluffed fitting one of the wheel nuts as half way around the first lap, just as I was thinking the car was the nuts... I got over taken by one of my own wheels. Arse, school boy error and worse, a no score round. Top marks to Jon Wolfe for finding all the bits, including the wheel nut.

The mighty Ansmann XPro - Stagger ribs and yellow mini-pins were order of the day

Round three, no changes to the car but the astro's drying up now so the grips up. Car feel awesome and is flying (well, for me anyway). Then I get a bit carried away heading onto the back straight and tag the pipe right in front of Hollywood. I can hear the snap from the rostrum on the far side of the track. Somethings very broken, and I have no steering. Back in the pits an its pretty obvious the servo horns bust, and I don't have a spare. At least my el cheapo Futaba servo's still in one piece, and Fribbers comes to the rescue with a spare horn, I owe you mush. A quick bodge later, and I'm back in the game ready for round four. It's all down to this one. If I screw it up RTR Tatlow will do me... the pressure is on big time.

So, round four and I need a good time, but I have to finish. The cars feeling really good now, and I get a safe 7 lapper in 5.12. I'm happy, but a couple of grip rolls have cost me time and I need to sort that for the final. Better still me two 6 place's mean I've done Jimbo by one place, qualifying 7th overall with him 8th. I'll be tail-end Charlie in the A final with him heading up the B.

With so much going on I didn't have time to follwo how other were doing to any detail, but on the whole people seemed to be running well, I the Dave was having some new-to-him car issues and Cammers had swtched from Schumacher to XFactory after experiencing diff issues with the newly rebuilt Cougar. Rob R was obviously flying with the Tamiya, and it looked like TQ and the win would be betwean him and the equally hard charging Steve Brown with his Durango.

Fribbers fettles his Fandango (Durango) during qualifying

Lunch is a chance to catch up with a number of other Clanfield regulars who have turned up to see what all the fuss is about. Have a feeling a few more nitro-heads may be trying the electrics fairly soon! Car changes were limited to raising the front end by a millimeter and adding a little negative rear camber to try and fix the grip rolling. Other than that, I figured it felt good enough as it was and I didn't want to risk screwing it up trying to be clever.

Lionel's Durga prepares for launch, 4wd B final leg 1

Finals ran over the standard threes, all of which followed the same pattern. I run round at the back, just about able to hang on to the end of the pack but not quick enough to get onto terms with them. I'm more than happy with the performance, it proves I need more time with the car (it's only the second outing in my 2wd career), and that the suspension on the Ansmann could do with some tuning to handle the ripples a little better. It's also a little nose down off the jumps which I'll have to look at sometime soon. What is gratifying is that my lunchtime tweaks have worked, and can certainly be felt in how the car goes. It's always a good sign when you can feel the changes you're making to a chassis.

After the mad rush of racing I manage to kick back an watch the last leg of the 4wd A final which is a belter. Holywood is running out front but Steve B is pushing him really hard with the Durango. The racing is fast and close but extremely clean, it fascinating to watch. Steve can get his nose in, but just can't make the move stick for lap after lap. Coming on to the back straight on the last lap Rob has a couple of car lengths, but Steve reels him in through the twisties. Again, he just can't make the killer move. Then at the last corner Rob goes in just a little too hot and flips the car so Steve nips through for the win. An amazing final that had the crowd on the edge of their seats and a great display of driving.

Time to pack up an head home after a brilliant days racing at a great track. Once the work is 100% complete TORCH will really have something to be proud of. I have to tip my hat to a great club, and offer my thanks to all the members who helped with the rebuild. The amount of work involved, and the weather it had to be competed in make the time it took scarcely believable. Top job to all involved, I'm looking forward to many more great days racing there this year.

Results to follow once posted by the club.