Thursday, 24 January 2013

Counting Laps...

So pretty much anyone who races in the UK can't help but notice that the world of lap counting has just got a whole lot more complex. New products, lack of compatibility and stupid names abound; it's all very confusing and is almost certainly going to cost racers money in either the short or long term. Here are my own views on it... others probably won't agree!

Where we've been

If you've race seriously over over the past few years, your car has had a PT in it. Either a red blob made by AMBRc/MyLaps or a smaller, cheaper and more convenient (just my opinion!) black one made by MRT. MRT has some obvious advantages, beyond being cheaper. They were smaller than the AMB unit at the time, they could be cloned, and they could hold up to ten seperate Id numbers. For race organisers they could be a pain in the arse, as numbers could clash but as long as racers knew how to switch Id's that wasn't too much of a biggie. They were totally compatible with all of the timing gear which was produced by AMB/MyLaps, and were very popular.

Where we're going

A whole world of pain! MyLaps are now introducing new timing software for their decoder, and it won't work with the MRT transponders - although it will work with their old transponders. They're also releasing a new transponder, the so called 'Purcy' that will only work with the new decoder software. This causes a whole bunch of issue.
  • I'm a new racer just starting up, I want a PT and newer must be better so I buy a Purcy. My club hasn't got the latest (RC4) decoder, so my PT doesn't work. I'm very fed up having wasted my money, but the existing club members are happy as all their PT's, including MRT's still work.
  • I'm an experienced racer running MRT PT's so I can have the same Id number in all my cars. My club has stuck with RC3 so I don't have to ditch my perfectly good PT's, but I want to race regionals. I go along to a club that has upgraded, and find my PT won't work their. Anyone using MRT's in the Mid- South region, you will be in this boat I'm afraid as I know at least one of the clubs is upgrading.
  • My club upgrades now, my MRT's are useless, I have to shell out for new PT's. I don't want Purcy as I travel around and need a PT that works with everything. Going to have to get a Harry for that, and they cost more than Purcy. Why's my club upgraded? Well, it has to be done sometime soon, and right now it can be done (relatively) cheaply. For most clubs the timing gear is the single biggest cost, they simply can't wait until they are forced to upgrade at full price.

What does Mr Magoo think?

Any way you look at it, there simply isn't an answer that isn't going to screw a large number of racers. I can certainly see why MyLaps are doing what they're doing - get rid of MRT even for a while and there back to having the market sown up, just as they did in the mid 2000's. That's got to be good for profits!
What it does mean is clubs being put in an impossible position. With limited finances, and knowing that they have to go RC4 at some point, many will be forced to do it as soon as possible to do it as cheaply as possible. In doing so they're going to alienate many members with MRT PT's (me included). As long as the timing market is controlled by a single company this is going to happen. All we can do is hope that MRT find a way of making their bugs RC4 compatible soon, if not any racer travelling to multiple venues is going to have to have a Harry, and if they have MRT's now that's going to cost them money.

Friday, 18 January 2013

A year with Kyosho (part II)

So part one of my retrospective on the FS2 was a quick review of the car. In this post I'm going to look back at a year running the car.

Finishing the package

So, any 1/10th car is going to need a few things to finish it up, and my Kyosho wound up being a bit of a 'fan-boy' special. Motor-wise, I'd been wanting to try an Orion motor for a while, and so ended up fitting a nice new VST 6.5 motor in the car, BRCA legal and all ready for a season of regional and local racing. I know a few people have had issues with the cases on these motors stripping threads, but in the last year mines been as good as gold and not missed a beat. It certainly fast, too!

Speedo wise, I started with the very popular HobbyWing 120A v2.1, which I'd run for a while in my Durango. It's a a great speedo, but really I wanted an Orion R10 160A to go in there to continue the theme started with the motor. When a great deal came up on the R10 and programming box, I just couldn't help myself. PayPal took a battering, and two days latter I was soldering a very nice, grey speedo into the car. The R10 is a really quality piece of kit, with some great design features. Of particular note are the dual sensor ports, ensuring a neat wiring job is as easy as possible, and the fact that the programming box plugs in via the spare sensor port. It's a lovely bit of kit, although I did have some compatibility issues with my radio gear to start with (see below).

In the battery department, it was Orion all the way, with a couple of their 90C saddle packs that I;ve had since they were released. They've been used on a weekly basis, but handled with suitable care are still in great condition and have almost as much punch as when they were new.

Steering duties are handled by a metal geared Savox servo, hooked up initially to my Spectrum radio kit - and unfortunately that's were things came unstuck. The first regional of the year, at Stotfold, saw the car suffering from brown-outs when hitting full throttle out of the corners. Troubleshooting at the event didn't show any problems, so a quick web search when I got home was order of the day. I soon managed to confirm that Savox/Spectrum/Orion don't play well together; Savox servo's a pretty juicy, the Spectrum Rx has a very sensitive fail-safe and put's a big drain on the ESC's BEC. The BEC on the R10 is obviously not quite strong enough in all conditions to cope with this, and so momentarily drops the Rx into fail safe. My solution? Trade up from my Spectrum equipped Sanwa M11 to an M11x. Job done!

All set for it's first outing at TORCH

So, what's it like to drive?

Well, very well actually, straight out of the box! It's a very neutral chassis, quick and accurate but very forgiving. I found it made me faster straight away as it suits my style of driving far more than the massively aggressive DEX410, I think the ball diffs have a lot to do with this. That said, the car is certainly quick enough out of the hole, and shows a good amount of pace at the top end.

Steering is good, but not outstanding. I must say it suits me not to have too much steering  especially as the grip comes up in the summer, but I know some find it a weak area of the car. A number of after market steering links are now available, I'll take a look at my choice in a future update.

Performance from the shock package is very good, the shocks don't leak and have a very consistent and smooth action. They're excellent at soaking up the larger ripples, and landing after the big jumps, but in stock form are may be just a little bit lazy and slow to react over higher frequency ripples. This has been a common complaint from drivers, and whilst it was not much of a handicap to a driver of my limited talent, I have made some changes in this are that I'll discuss in the next post.

The car has plenty of adjustments that can be made to set up, and responds as expected to any changes made. Whilst not an overly set up sensitive car it is equally nice to be able to feel the effects of changes as they are made. I started with the kit set up for my first few races, which was certainly a good place to begin, but later moved over to a base set up provided by team driver Tony Evdoka. This was certainly a worth while move, and I could feel the benefits of his experience straight away. Tony has an excellent website that you can find here, and is always posting set ups and advice for Kyosho drivers.

Durability and Quality

Durability is very good, not much breaks and when it does it usually due to user error! The most common breakages seem to be shock towers and bulkheads, usually as a result of heavy landings or impacts, and rear lower wishbones, especially if running the newer NCG arms. There's not a huge amount of meat on them, and whilst it does take a good whack to snap them, they are probably weaker than some other brands. Temperature also seems to make quite a difference, with substantially more breakages in colder weather; I suspect the high composite content of the reinforced plastic parts means they can get brittle as the temperature drops. All that said, I don't feel I've broken more parts on this car than any other I've owned, and certainly haven't felt the need to carry a huge number of spares with me.

As for Kyosho quality, well after a year of heavy use the drive shaft pins still look new, all of the gears in the drive train are original and look like new, and I'm just starting to think about changing the balls in the differentials. The only real 'consumable' has been bearings, the stock items are certainly high quality and very free spinning but I'm not convinced by the very light seals that are fitted. I've replaced them all with Answer RC bearings with metal/teflon seals instead which seem much more durable - for me the trade of for a little more friction is well worth it.

So, after a year of running I can safely say that this is probably my favourite RC car. It does eveything I need, and I feel it certainly flatters my limited abilities. My results have picked up considerably since moving to it, and I don;t feel that can be a coincidence! In the next article I'll give you a full 'under the skin' look at my car.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A year with Kyosho

Part 1 - The kit review

The past season has seen me running with Kyosho as my 4wd car, specifically the ZX-5 FS2 SP Lazer. Seems the big K like their code names! This is the top of the range 4wd racer from Kyosho, and represents all they know about the class. It's also my first K car, given how legendary they are in the hobby it's been interesting to see how it worked out.

The Car

The basis of the FS2 is a composite plastic molded chassis, giving a solid base on which to build the two gearboxes Combined with the composite plastic split top deck this builds into a nice, rigid assembly that still provides enough flex to generate grip. A carbon top deck is an option, which I tried but didn't really get on with; I found it made the car too stiff for my liking.

Composite molded tub chassis  with a gearbox at each end
Bolted to each end of the car is a fully enclosed ball-diff. In the FS2 these come supplied with very high quality ceramic balls, and build very simply into probably the finest differentials I've ever come across. The quality is evident with the smoothness of the diff action, and the ease with which they are adjusted to their sweet spot.

The motor bolts to a traditional, machined and anodized motor mount that brings the motor right to the front of the car, meaning a very short front prop shaft. Sitting betwean the two prop shafts is the spur and slipper arrangement. All very conventional, although the slipper does come with two different pad materials to allow for different front and rear slip rates. If this isn't desired the insertion of a pint locks the front and rear slipper assemblies together, so they slip at the same rate. On high bite, smooth UK tracks this is my standard setting.

The motor is arranged to put the pinion right at the front of the chassis

Steering is handled by a very touring car like dual-crank assembly. Stock out of the box very little adjustment of this is possible, however a number of after-market companies are now producing options to strengthen the assembly and allow for more adjustment.

Shock duties are handled by a big-bore version of the Kyosho velvet shocks. They build with the quality you'd expect from Kyosho, and are a joy to deal with, the design being especially easy to bleed. This means consistent shock action, and much easier rebuilds. The big-bore shocks have been a major bone of contention with this kit in the UK, whilst their benefit is easy to see on 'American' style dirt tracks that are rougher and have bigger jumps, it's harder to see on our typical UK astro tracks. Many UK drivers have now gone back to the standard bore shocks.

Kyosho Velvet Coated BB shocks are standard at all four corners
Finally the whole thing is topped off with an exquisite (or though a bit Marmite!) 'Shoot' style shell. This offers plenty of space and with a suitable paint job from Paint by Magoo I think looks rather spiffing. There's also plenty of space to cut out vents when the weather warms up, so plenty of air is directed at the speedo and motor. Given the cooking setups found in 4wd these days that's a major consideration.

'Shoot' shell, PbM colour!

The Build

Effortless. Simple as that. Whilst expensive, the second you start building the K car you realize why you parted with you hard earned - everything falls together and feels utterly solid once in place. The build took me a couple of relaxed evenings, followed by a while sorting out the electronics. Take your time with the ball diff, and use the correct greases (as supplied) and you'll have an insainly smooth, long lasting pair of diffs. In terms of shimming the crown gear and pinion, I went with the instruction manual setup and it's been good for the whole year.

Whilst not as tight as a modern 2wd car, or my old DEX410 there's still not a huge amount of room for the electrics, choose your speedo with care. Servo choice can be either low or standard profile. I ran standard for a while and then put the low profile Savox in recently.

If I were to have one criticism of the build it has to be the below par instruction manual, and absence of any set up advice. Having built any number of cars over the years this didn't really phase me, but it could leave the novice high and dry. 


Simply the highest quality kit I've ever assembled, and a complete pleasure in every way. I liked this car from the second I opened the box; the question is, how did it drive, and how has it stood up to a year of Magoo abuse?

Answers next time!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

And we're back!

Wow, is it really a whole 18 months since I last blogged anything on here? I think that probably goes well beyond slacking...

Anyone would think I'd left the RC world and disappeared of to become a hermit or something. In reality nothing could be further from the truth, and actually I've been racing more than ever. So, before I start putting up all sorts of new and interesting stuff, a quick recap on the last 18 months.

I quit racing nitro

No, really I did. It's now well over a year since my last nitro race (claiming third overall in the Clanfield Summer 2011 Truggy Championship!), and honestly I haven't missed anywhere near as much as I expected. That's not to say I won't race some nitro this year, I still have all the kit after all, but it's lost a lot of it's appeal for me. It's expensive compared to electric, much harder on cars and parts, and it's further to get to a track I want to race at... I'm not going to dwell on what I mean by that.
Last nitro race, and third in the championship...

I raced at Area51

It was awesome. And awsomely cold. And the guards were a bit scary.

I got really hooked on electric

Big time. Plug and play. Cheap tyres, and only needing two treads and compounds. A local track, with good guys and a great committee. Being invited to be a part of running the show (in my own, small way). How could it be wrong? For those that haven't tried electric offroad, I recommend doing so as soon as possible. LiPO batteries, brushless motors and modern chassis make this the fun class of the moment. I've had such a blast running electric over the past year, meeting new folks and racing in new places, and hey, if the weathers crap you can even find places to race indoors. Bonus.

I did the regionals

Well, for 4wd. I got my F4 grade, woo-hoo. Well, it was a big deal for me, anyway! And going on the road with the TORCH Massive was a blast every time.

The weather sucked all year

Ya probably noticed.... 2013 has just got to be better.

So that's the last 18 months. Some good, some bad, but all done with plenty of banter and giggles. And so the blog is back, and it's going to get bigger and better. Plans are being made, ideas formulated. But don't worry, the old possie will be back, things still won't be taken entirely seriously, and the piss will most definitely still be taken.

The weather being rubbish. Saw way too much of this in 2012!

Buckle up, 2013 starts here....