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Color0's Micro RC Blog -- A technical brain dump from the mind of yours truly...
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Loose is fast... but only if you're perfect.

Posted 01-30-2010 at 08:27 AM by color0
Updated 03-08-2011 at 09:31 AM by color0
This is going to be more of an anecdotal story rather than hard data analysis with lap times and such, but hopefully I can get my point across just as effectively.

I'm sure that most of you guys will have heard the saying "loose is fast". You'll see this at the top echelons of every motorsport: the tires are pushed to their very limits of traction, sometimes even deliberately breaking traction (WTCC, WRC, etc.) and visibly getting the tail end of the car out. When I first started racing Mini-Z, I was of the theory that you should put the most grip you possibly can on the wheels, and tune the balance using suspension. Following that logic, I had Kyosho 20 slicks on all four corners (this was back before Reflex SSG's and PN 6's really caught on) and that was pretty much the definition of "loose". I had to dial down the steering throw to about 30%, because the car had so much steering it would instantly spin if any more than 50% left or right input was applied.

As it turns out, this could be used to my advantage. I slapped a PN Pan Car body on the car with +3 wheels all around, and lo and behold, the corner speed was amazing. The tail end of the car was still loose, but when I didn't spin, the car was incredibly fast. A lot of the time the car would actually drift into tight corners, which meant that unfortunately I'd be hitting the inside rail quite a bit. But as long as I kept steering input to a minimum (this meant driving a perfect line around sweepers and hairpins alike!) then my car could pass almost anyone else's in the corners. That is, until I spun or hooked a rail again and got passed back. My first race ever brought me back a typical "newbie" result: C Main 3rd place.

Eventually I caught onto the fact that nobody else ever used Kyosho 20 slicks up front -- the tire squirm, wear, and overheating properties just made it a bad overall choice for RCP. I'd heard that the then-new PN RCP slicks made good front tires, so I bought a pair of 8's and replaced my paper-thin Kyosho 20 front slicks with them. At the same time I bought some Reflex SSG's to try out, so my tire setup went from 20's and 20's, to 8's and SSG's. This change drastically reduced the amount of steering, which was a disadvantage in the infield; on the other hand, I never once spun out using those tires since the 8's are harder, and the SSG's softer, than Kyosho 20's. The consistent traction helped me avoid walls, and the harder 8's reduced the amount of scrub from the front tires, so corner speed on the sweepers was not affected. My second ever Mini-Z race, using that tire combo, I won the Sportsman A Main at my local track.

That being said, I wasn't satisfied with the handling. I like my cars to drive aggressively, and this PN 8/SSG combo was the exact antithesis of that. So I went back to testing out different tires, and found out that the newer batch of PN 10 slicks were actually stickier than the 8's. Good stuff, thought I -- for Stock-class motors, PN 10's paired with Kyosho 20's was a very happy medium between the two extremes mentioned previously. I could definitely see where I needed to improve my driving (i.e. I still spun), but I enjoyed driving the car now, it had lots of steering but was consistent enough to do battle with.

The interesting part came when I stuck a Mod motor (PN Anima II) into the car. As expected, the Mod power completely overwhelmed the rear Kyosho's, even with a pan car body for downforce. Once again, the corner speeds were excellent, but I just could not drive this car consistently enough to be competitive. Observe, however, that PN 10's and Kyosho 20's is the exact tire setup that Jacob Feinstein has on his PNWC-winning Mini-Z's. The difference in results is not in the rest of the setup or secret speed tricks. The boy is just an amazingly smooth driver, to be able to keep the rear tires constantly on the limit of traction.

Noawadays, we have enough power even in Stock racing that Kyosho 20's aren't quite enough. So for us mere mortals, not only do we go to PN 6 radials in the rear, we use PN 20's and Kyosho 30's (the new 30d racing radials are great, I'll say that much) so that we can have a decent amount of steering without losing consistency. If we need a more dynamic handling car, instead of going to softer front rubber, we stiffen up the rear suspension. This is how we get our best results... a car with more steering might be faster, but at least for me (and probably for most of y'all out there too!), it's just not as consistent and therefore doesn't get us as far in a race. So, moral of this story? Loose is fast... but only if you're perfect. The rest of us should stay a little more planted to the ground.
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