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Color0's Micro RC Blog -- A technical brain dump from the mind of yours truly...
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RCP West Coast Mini-Z Challenge 2011

Posted 03-27-2011 at 09:56 PM by color0
It's been a week already, but just last weekend I had the wonderful experience of attending RCX in Pomona, CA and participating in not just one, but two giant Mini-Z races with a very high level of competition! I shared a lot and learned a lot, and so for these two weeks I'd like to share with everyone what I did for the races, what I picked up, and of course how I did as well.

So where to begin? Here's the layout we ran over the weekend -- a giant, brand new RCP track laid out at the end of the RCX main hall, to be run clockwise (cars go up and rightward along the center straight):



(Credit to Mr. Philip Ng for the picture)

I signed up for 2WD Stock on both Saturday and Sunday, and ran only those classes, so that's where my perspective is going to be from. My experience at RCX 2011 started well before that however, in fact the Tuesday before the show. Tuesday, March 15, procrastinating on my final exams I went to Kenon, committing myself to find out how to best prep tires for racing, as well as find the compounds that worked the best on the Kenon track. I tried out PN 15's, 8's, 6's, Kyosho tires too, and various diameters and wheel offsets in an attempt to find the optimal balance between turn-in steering and avoid traction roll, which is a big problem at Kenon since the grip is so high and the track so bumpy. I ended up with my GT500 GT-R body, slightly narrower offsets of +1.5N/+2.1W and slightly smaller-diameter tires (PN X-Pattern 15 fronts and PN 8 slick rears) as well, and thanks to that lowered my lap times by a good two tenths the same layout with the same motor, going from 8.888 to 8.672. But this setup only came alive when the front tires were trued down to slicks -- at Kenon, whenever I left the X-Pattern on the front tires they would overheat, traction roll, and do all sorts of unsightly things. Little did I know this would become important later on.

Thursday I went again, testing bodies other than my favorite GT-R. Knowing that the RCX track would be brand-new RCP, it would be time to start finding a setup that works on the new, low-traction surface. Getting a tip from fellow Greyscale Racing member Landon T. (hrddrvr), I tried out an F430 at 96mm. I couldn't get it to NOT traction roll! Even running the exact same offsets as the GT-R, the F430 is just inherently so much higher than my slammed GT-R that it rolls like a pig if I yank the wheel just a little bit. Now as I've told people every time they ask about my setups, I hate babying my car just to keep it from traction rolling. If I drive it too hard, I want it to scrub and slow down, not traction roll -- the former will cost me two tenths, the latter possibly two seconds. So I was highly skeptical that the F430 would do me any good and I swapped bodies to my aero-modded 911 GT1. This was a little better, but if I yanked the wheel hard I could still traction roll, plus the 911 was a little too planted to turn in quickly (but daaaaaang did it power out of turns). On Friday, anticipating a Friday night race, I put the GT-R back on and the day went off without a hitch. My 80t motor finally broke in and put down some ridiculous amounts of power (for an 80-turn), lowering my fast lap from 8.672 to 8.471 and really taking no prisoners on the back straight. Consistency was great as well, my relatively wide offsets of +1.5N/+2.1W kept my car very stable and the GT-R just kept steering and steering, super smooth.

Saturday -- RCX Saturday -- came along and all of a sudden I found myself without traction! My GT-R is extremely optimized for high-grip tracks like Kenon, providing good balance and quick turn-in only when the traction is up and reducing grip is the agenda. In contrast, the RCP track at RCX was truly brand new, the RCP dust hadn't even been worked out of the tiles yet! Even with PN 6 radial rears I was struggling for grip. To make matters worse, where the shorter cars could pivot around the turns, the long-wheelbase GT-R had to round them off, and given the slow speeds these hairpins were being taken at I was losing a tenth or more per hairpin! Something had to be done about that so I put the traction roll king back on my car, the F430 with a 96mm wheelbase. Immediately I got some rear traction back, it wasn't great but it was better than zero. Slapped a Reflex wing on the back and traction got a little better still. Due to hurry, I actually kept the +1.5N fronts with the same tires (PN X15, trued down) under the F430, and only replaced the rear wheels +1.6W and the same PN 6 radials.

The first qualifier rolls around and -- oh gawd I'm slow! I had thought that the switch from GT-R to F430 was a big difference, but it wasn't enough to catch up to the front runners of the pack quite yet. Compared to them, I was still missing a lot of steering! The 96mm wheelbase was much better than 98mm for rotating around the hairpins, but it still wasn't good enough and I had to let many cars by me. I don't recall what my qualifying times were from Saturday but I can tell you they weren't good.

Somewhere between the second and third qualifiers I finally had enough of a break time to try out 94mm again. I don't know why it took my so long to switch back, maybe because I was so used to running 98mm at Kenon? In any case, I took another half hour to get that PN Reconfigurable Motor Pod reconfigured to 94mm wheelbase, and went out to hit the third qualifier. Thank goodness I had bought the motor plate adapter for the 94mm setting, because the 3rd and 4th qualifiers went much better! The 94mm wheelbase puts more weight on the rear wheels, so 1) there's more drive coming out of the corner, and 2) there's more swing going in, and compounded with the tall-ish F430 I was finally getting the rotation I needed to keep up with the other top drivers on the track. I still would've liked more, and on top of that would've liked more power (dang it, got a slow handout motor...) but I believe I managed to qualify in 5th place in the A, and that was good enough considering I had revamped my entire setup in one morning lol.

In the break time between the last qualifier and the main I didn't change my tires, but I made two suspension changes: 1) I lowered my front ride height 0.2mm, taking the roll center along with it, and 2) swapped T-plates from PN G10 #3, which I use at bumpy Kenon, to PN G10 #5, just a notch stiffer for a little more rotation. I did a couple laps just to be sure -- yes, the changes helped -- and then pitted the car and peaked my batteries in preparation for the main. While I was waiting I mounted new PN 6 radials in the rear too, just to make sure I had enough traction in the rear as these really are two-run tires.

Now for the 2WD Stock A Main. The F430 with fresh tires would be stable to a fault, so I expected to use that to my advantage in the first couple laps. Sure enough, when the buzzer rang for the start of the main, my car accelerated! Coming through the first tight hairpin though our midpack guys had a huge pileup, and in the midst of the chaos I was the only one to have a body get knocked loose. Unfortunately this put me exactly a lap down from everyone else, so I did my thing from 8th place and started chasing people down. Took me about two minutes driving the balls off the car to finally catch up! First guy I caught up to was Alex M. and his yellow SC430: despite his SC planting the rear end better than my F430, I managed to tuck in under him in one of the corners and passed him after a short battle. A few laps later I came across Gianno with his characteristic green-black SC430 battling Alex N. and his 360GTC (I think? I don't remember the exact car since I think it may have been a new body); due to some luck they ended up putting each other into the rails and I went right in between to capture 5th place. Then I starting chasing down Chris C. and his bright yellow F430. Now Chris's car is plenty fast, and he wanted to shut the door on me too -- it took us until the tight chicane-hairpin section near the driver's stand for me to finally make a move and take the inside, which gave me a better line going up the bridge and hence giving me 4th place.

At this point there was a LOT of track between me and 3rd place David C. and I happened to have a whole lot of empty track in front of me, so I went into hotlap mode and tried to crank out the fastest laptimes possible in order to get closer to him. As I learned, I have NOT had enough practice to get away with doing something like this, and every time I got close to his neon green SC430 I'd make a bobble and lose time again. Just rinse and repeat this for two minutes until the end of the race: get close, bobble, get close, bobble, at one point I had actually gotten my lap back from him and was chasing him on the same lap! But finally, as far as my luck goes I got scooped up by Alex M.'s yellow SC430 and just sat on top of his car for a couple seconds. I had a good laugh out of it, yes, but my run here was done. I accepted my fourth place fate and finished the race to seal the deal.

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And the moral of this story thus far:

1) Tires tires tires! Because of the track conditions on Saturday and my K30/PN6 tire combination, I was very planted but pushing as well, and just could not match the other cars in terms of sheer cornering ability. I was already very fortunate that I could drive well enough to get the results I did out of the car!

2) Don't hesitate to revamp the setup. I inched along from 98mm to 96 to 94 because I wasn't sure that the traction would be that low... but now I know, the track on Saturday was pretty much the slickest there is and I should've gone straight to 94 for max traction. It's the easiest, most effective adjustment, use it. Learn from my fail!

3) Don't drive like an idiot, like I did.

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More next time: Sunday!
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