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Body Comparo: SC430 vs. F430GT

Posted 07-18-2011 at 09:20 PM by color0
Updated 07-24-2011 at 05:13 AM by color0
And continuing on from last week, a body comparison that has been done several times before and that I will add one more to: the Lexus SC430 GT500 vs. the Ferrari F430GT. These are by far the most popular 94mm racing bodies out today, you will usually find at least one of each at any given Mini-Z track in the world. Why are they so good? That's exactly what I'm going to look into this week.

First let's start off with the F430GT.



The F430 is the model of efficiency. It looks like a ladyshave -- with no extraneous plastic, no sharp edges, everything is smooth smooth smooth. This means that 1) it slips through the air very easily and 2) it will almost never catch on the rail! The F430's ability to handle wall collisions is astounding, unless you hit it head on you are sure to escape with little more than some lost pace. It's not too wide and not too narrow, coming in with offsets of +1N front and +1W rear, and also fairly light, weighing around 33g lightly modified.

Note, however, that the F430GT is no lower than its street counterpart. This is a relatively tall racing body, and it produces a lot of body roll. This roll gives the F430GT a lot of grip, but at the expense of being prone to traction rolling if you're not prepared for it. The tall CG also makes this body sluggish in quick transitions, so the F430 is a good body for pivoting around hairpins, but not so much for frequent chicane/rhythm sections.

The F430 is a cab-forward design, and at that, one with a fairly long front overhang. This puts a lot of weight up on the front wheels, which generates a lot of steering. Strangely enough, however, in my experience it does not rotate around the front end like the Mosler we reviewed last week. Rather, the F430 will turn in hard but stay very planted on its rear wheels. If you give it too much speed and it stays planted... traction roll! An annoying, but for this body at least a predictable, behavior.



Out of the box this body is ready to race -- there's no need to shave front splitters (there isn't one), the rear spoiler is functional, you may want to carve out the window glass to make it lighter and lower the CG but otherwise this body is good to go! Even though the rear end is tall, there doesn't seem to be much of a parachute effect that you might experience on other bodies, and as a result, cutting out the rear bumper of the F430 doesn't seem to help a whole lot other than lightening the rear end and making it easier to flick the car into a corner. The Ferrari F430GT is popular because it's effortless performance, you just slap the body on the car and get instant steering and traction. As the grip levels come up, you might even get traction roll too, but that's where our F430's favorite rival comes in.

Enter the Lexus SC430 GT500:



You can tell right away: the SC430 is lower, wider, and has a squatter stance. Although Kyosho sold it with stock offsets of 0N front and 0W rear, in reality this body can comfortably fit +1.5N front and +2W rear. These specs make the SC430 corner extremely flat, like the GT-R GT500 we reviewed last week. Just like the GT-R, the SC430 does not generate a whole lot of grip; but on the flip side, you can drive it extremely hard, and its low CG and low weight (30g or less in whitebody form!) make it exceptionally nimble in quick transitions, exactly where the F430 is weakest.

That said, the SC430 is also the weakest where the F430 is the strongest -- wall handling. The SC is notoriously bad at recovering from wall impacts, often wedging itself under RCP rails thanks to the side skirt design, and the front splitter needs to be aggressively shaved off in order to avoid digging itself under at the slightest brush. But don't shave off too much! Like the GT-R GT500, the front bumper's strength comes from the front splitter. Remove it entirely and the front bumper is very susceptible to race damage. Once these modifications are done it becomes acceptable off the walls, and can press its other advantages.

The SC430 is a short-front, long(ish)-tail body, so low-speed handling is much milder than the long-front, short-tail F430. The rear bumper is already cut high for you, so the parachute effect is minimized, and a gigantic plastic spoiler provides the weight and a little downforce to plant the SC's rear end into the track. The flip side to the heavy rear is that at high speeds, the car will oversteer, and although it's resistant to traction rolling, you still need to watch your steering input lest the car get a little loose. Being a cab-neutral design, the SC430 behaves much like the GT-R in terms of rotation: you can change where the car rotates simply by changing your setup and biasing it towards under- or oversteer. Very convenient, versatile body, which is why it has gained a very loyal following among Mini-Z racers.



One quick note about this body, there is very little space under the small canopy to fit a tri-shock system. The Reflex tri-shock is said to fit with a few minor modifications, but the PN tri-shock takes some serious reconfiguring and shaving of the body to get it to fit.

So as I asked last week, which one do you choose? The F430 is a very point-and-shoot body, great for rotating around single corners but not for multiple quick transitions. The SC430 is the opposite, unbeatable in quick transitions but will be outpaced by the F430 in slow single corners. I'd say plan accordingly with the track layout: if it's a rhythmic layout, the SC430 will tend to be faster, and if it has a lot of tight corners, the F430 will tend to be faster. The driving feel you prefer will also play a part here: I honestly cannot make the F430 behave the way I like it to -- it seems to have a way of driving that it likes, and cannot be pushed out of that comfort zone. It works for some people (Chad Nelson can do incredible things with an F430), but not for me. The SC430 is more versatile setup-wise, I can bend it to my will to a greater extent. It will never generate the same amount of steering and traction as the F430, but I can make it try and it will listen. And of course, if the entire track is high-grip, high-speed, I would suggest putting these two very good bodies back in the pit box -- 98mm is the way to go once the road opens up and gets sticky.
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