The Lap Of The Gods…

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Have you ever been to a track practice on your own and wished you had been able to time your laps? Or have you been to a car park etc to race friends and wished you could time yourselves. Well the new lap monitor timing system from LapMonitor enables you to do this. A small compact counting system, used in conjunction with a smartphone/tablet,  and a transponder with variable numbers allows single racer Lap timing or multi-racers. Interested? Well read on.

Initial Impressions

I first came across LapMonitor on a Facebook post in a group I am a member of. My initial introduction was from a crowd funding page and I am ashamed to say I paid little attention, Then recently I saw it on another Facebook page where a racer was using it. I made some enquiries and soon had one in my sweaty paws to test.

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On opening the package you are presented with a plastic corrugated box and neatly packaged inside is the base unit, which captures laps, two AAA batteries, two mini tripods, extension leads, a transponder, some servo extension cables and some Velcro. I opted for an optional transponder to enable me to race my team-mate and compare times while testing.

In Use – Bind N Race

The LapMonitor attaches to a little holder which then screws onto the tripods. The two tripods included are a small one with flexible legs and a larger one with stiff telescopic legs. You can choose which one enables you to get the monitor mounted in the perfect position. A small battery cover on the back allows the insertion of the two batteries. The unit does auto switch off but you are recommended to remove at least one battery to prevent any drainage.

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Once powered up you need a mobile phone or tablet that runs Android or Apple IOS and the LapMonitor App which can be downloaded from the App or iTunes Store. Once the app is loaded onto your device simply switch on your Lap Monitor and bind it through your Bluetooth settings. Select practice or race, how long for the session duration, minimum lap time, start sound, speech and lap time announcements.

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There are also lots of other settings to choose and alter how the system works. When you click the drivers tab you can enter a drivers name and assign them a transponder number. This number is marked on each individual transponder and you can run up to (at the moment of typing this) 96 on one LapMonitor, although that would be one very busy track. LapMonitor have thought about different types of vehicle and powering the PT externally. Two types of transponder are available one with a normal Futaba type receiver lead which plugs into your receiver to power the PT or one with a connector which attaches to small light pro batteries such as found in small quads etc so the PT can be remotely mounted without connection to anything.

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It would be possible to run a race meeting using the Lap counting system but you would need to manually sort all the information and racers.

How Does It Work?

The transponder works off an infrared beam so does need to be able to see via line of sight It will work through clear lexan so it is easy enough to mount where it can see through the window of your car. You do need to bear in mind that the infrared has a considerable range so don’t pick a corner where it may double count, by that I mean if the car passes the monitor the same way twice it is possible for it to pick up a short Lap. This is easily rectified by increasing the minimum lap time or carefully selecting where you place the Lap counter so it only sees the car once.

The Bluetooth module used to connect to the Smartphone or tablet is high quality and has a range of 80m in open field, Although I recommend in real life, at say a track with variables such as people, buildings, vehicles and other signals being bounced about a safe working range of up to 40 m.

And dont worry if the signal is interrupted for ant reason, automatic reconnection is already there on IOS, and will come on Android soon.

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Once the car is ready with the transponder mounted and the LapMonitor is trackside you simply press start on your app, countdown will be given and when you pass the monitor your time will be recorded.

Clear announcements are made at the start countdown and start tone and each time you pass the monitor it will say your PT name so as an example mine says “Mark 17.12”. If other people are present or you’re using a noisy IC car by adding earphones to the phones headphone socket it will talk in your ear. I found this extremely useful at a 5th scale national on road meeting with qualifying runs over 10 minutes.

I altered my practice times to 10 minutes when I was ready to set off round the track I pressed start and every lap was spoken to me in my ear so I could see whether that lap was faster or slower and more importantly by trying a different line I knew whether it was costing or saving me time.

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The Lap announcements also countdown the time so you know how long you have left in your run. Having not done 10 minute qualifying runs before I found this extremely useful as a training aid as I got used to running for 10 minutes with no external help. Oddly on qualifying day I missed having the Lap announcements in my ear. Also during practice day I set off the PT in my friend’s car and we had a 10 minute race. The system coped perfectly and announced each Lap position and who was where.

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Once you’ve done your testing run you can go back to your pits open the app and the runtime and laps will be displayed with a total laps, total time, last lap time, and the best lap time for each racer.

By clicking any of the times the app will then display all the individual lap times. You can also click the three dots on the top right of the app and then click share event and share the event to numerous other apps such as Google drive, email, WhatsApp and Microsoft One Note. Other apps are being added as the designers find them suitable.

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Conclusion

I have to say the LapMonitor is so simple in design and operation yet so versatile and useful it really is a must for any car park through to pro racer. It is worth every penny and is a superb bit of equipment.

I asked owner and designer Franck Geay who is from France some questions, Franck has been extremely helpful and given me lots of advice and is also still busy working on further features for the apps.

Mark: Hi Franck how did you get the idea of the LapMonitor?

Franck: “I use to drive on a parking place around scooter wheels and hosepipes and on also our on local club track which has no permanent lap timer and no electricity. As I am a racing fan and I wanted a portable lap timer to compete with my friends when training I started to develop the first prototype at the beginning of 2016…”

Mark: how did you set up production of LapMonitor?

Franck: “the first production batch has been manufactured by crowd funding, we were please to get supported by world class drivers: among them Ryan Lutz, Ryan Maifield ! Once it was working fine, and after we tested it on many scales indoor and outdoor we decided to make it a real product. We launched LapMonitor sales last year in December…”

Mark: are you happy with how it’s become a production version?

Franck: “It was very exciting and it is still, we get a lot of feedback from drivers who love their LapMonitor because it is fast and simple to use and does not require a computer to use it…”

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More info can be found on Lap monitors Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LapMonitor-1063748400339402/

Their webpage. https://lapmonitor.com/store/en/

 

Currently you need to buy direct from LapMonitor, prices are in Euros but while we are still in the EU there is no VAT or import duties. LapMonitor are looking and negotiating to get them distributed within the UK and as soon as that is possible details will be on their website. You can buy the main unit and one transponder then buy extra transponders to add to your main unit at a later date which makes this infinitely expandable.

Specifications

LapMonitor

  • Multi-driver
  • Bluetooth 4.0. Range: up to 80 m
  • Power supply: 2xAAA batteries (not included)

Transponder

  • IR range: 5-10 meters depending on weather conditions
  • Power supply: 3.7-8.4v  (JR receiver or Molex connector)
  • Protected against reverse polarity

Smartphone application

  • Multi-driver
  • Multi-language English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese
  • Training and race mode
  • Live race commentary
  • Spoken lap-times
  • Save, export and share your results

Smartphone requirements

  • Iphone 4S,5/6/7, Ipad 3/4, Ipad mini 2/3/4, ipad Air/Air 2 (with IOS 9 or 10)
  • Android 5.0 or higher with Bluetooth 4.0 or higher

Create…Don’t Imitate

Words: Peter Gray & Dphotographer Danny Huynh

Images: Dphotographer Danny Huynh Archive

Huge shout out to www.RC4WD.com For helping facilitate this article.

Prologue

A few years back I started seeing images and posts online of some of Antipodean RC builder Dphotographer Danny Huynh amazing body shell art and full on build projects. I was simply gob smacked at the intricate detail, the unique approach he put to every aspect, and both the visual as well as mechanical story each one told.

Trying to explain what they convey without actually seeing them is difficult. They have a rare quality in that they are not only visually stunning, meaning you end up scrutinizing each image much longer than most RC posted online, but they are also truly innovate.

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I love this image on three levels…Terminator meets Lowrider meets Supercharger

Danny utilizes many stock components in very unique ways. he also adds detail features not usually associated with the original vehicles, like faux Rotary Engines more akin to use in a flight scenario, Machine Guns, Revolving cab sections and much more. Each build usually has a driver figure and or gunner/co-pilot/sidekick present, and these are often animated via linkages and servos to make then not only come to life, they actually look like they are steering/firing/riding. The figures often have a slightly dark Sci-Fi twist.

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I think Logan may have a slightly heavy right foot…But at least he can drive a manual!

From Terminator androids and Wolverine, to what can only be described as undead Sci-Fi Storm Troopers…(and not the Star Wars kind!), they have a look and presence that seem to elevate each build to an even higher level of cool.

No Two Are The Same…

He’s build 3WD chopper-esc Drift Trikes (yes you read that correctly…3WD, Drift Trike) based on 1/5th Thunder Tiger race bike, rigs based on Axial donors, painted some of the sickest drift car bodyshells I’ve ever seen, and more recently done a series of builds based on RC4WD kits, donor vehicles and parts. And these are something else!

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Near the start of a very cool revolving cab/gun rear engine rig…check out Danny’s FB for the finished thing!

I recently got a chance to interview the man himself. We are friends on Facebook, and comment on each others photographs and projects all the time, but I wanted to know more about him as a person. What inspires the man that himself inspires so many to re-visit the art of truly building. An art that for many has been lost, and to a whole new generation of RC fans, who have grown into the hobby with RTR vehicles, run mostly stock.

I do hope this will be in some way a wake up call and an inspiration to you to go and get yourself a kit, and put some of yourself into its build process. But enough of that, onto the interview…

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Note the suspension…Danny uses every part in new and interesting ways

RCCZ: What led you to this point in your RC builds? We want the Dphotographer Danny Huynh Origin Story…when did they go from Cool to Epic?

DPDH: “I’m a documentary photographer by trade and have always had a passion for cars. Not so much the mechanical side of them, but more passionate about the design aspects of cars. So about 5 years ago, I’ve decided to buy my first RC car!

I always wanted to win one while growing up in the 80’s since my parents couldn’t afford one, but hey… Better late than never!

I’ve never really considered my works as being cool or epic. I just do what I enjoy and am thrilled to see other people appreciate it…”

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Gotta love a blower on a big block engine & the RC4WD units simply deliver!

RCCZ: How would you describe your creations? To me they are functioning works of RC Art…They blow my mind and inspire me in equal measure.

DPDH:“I like to describe them as a form of creative thinking, I like to keep them very similar in style, but also different from each build to set them apart. I’ve never called myself an artist. I just stumbled into the title through the use of Facebook.

I suppose it is a form of art to a certain extent, specifically the painting and photography side of it…”

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Yes, that’s airbrushed/painted onto the side panels…amazing!

RCCZ: You seem to see the World in a very different way to most. What’s your favorite film/book? In my head I can see a whole Graphic Novel littered with your builds…what’s inside your head?

DPDH: “Not much goes inside my head to tell you the truth. I don’t read books or graphic novels, I’m more of a music person and must have something on all day, every day while I tinker.

Some of my favorite movies Kill Bill, Blade Runner, movies with alien/s etc., but I don’t see any of those being an influence in my work.

I feel that my biggest inspiration comes from WW2 vehicles. Particularly, the aircrafts during that period which I believe to be the best design in aviation history! “

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This tracked Beast II build wouldn’t look out of place in a Ridley Scott film on a distant planet…full of Aliens!

RCCZ: What was your first ever true RC vehicle? (and did you modify the hell outta it?)

DPDH: “As I mentioned previously, I bought my first RC car about 5 years ago. It was the re-release of the Tamiya Avante and brought back my childhood memories from the 80’s. Back then, it was Tamiya’s design with their Avante and Egress that really got my attention. Even the box art itself was truly a work of art.

Shortly after, I discovered RC drifting and bought a Tamiya VDS drift chassis. That allowed me to be really creative and paint the drift shells in different ways. I think this is where it all really started with teaching myself how to paint drift shells and eventually lead to modifications on the VDS. It was the first of my animated drivers, the Kick Ass action figure!

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Whatever that ‘Bomb’ is on the back (Hydrogen, Confetti, N0z?) it adds a twist to this build that’s simply epic!

RCCZ: If you could build anything, based on any kit, from any manufacturer ever made, no budget restrictions…no scale concerns, what would it be?

DPDH: “I’ll have to go with what I’m building with right now. I have built quite a few different RCs, but nothing compares to RC4WD’s products. Not only do their scale trucks really suit my style of building, but RC4WD provides a great deal of details in all their products. Mainly, their scale chassis’ really brings my designs to life…”

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Ready to take on almost anything…the tail gunner and detail is on another level…Another stunning build

RCCZ: What are the top 3 things you can offer as advice for people inspired to get their own build projects started?

1. Create and don’t imitate

2. It doesn’t have to be realistic, just as long as it works and looks “unreal”.

3. Have fun!

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The skull on thee front grille just adds that finishing touch…

RCCZ: Any insights into your latest projects? Anything we really need to know about you, and the future of PDH?

DPDH: “I try to build a new project every month. it usually takes a month or two for all the detailing and creation to work as one. Currently, I’m working on a RC4WD Gelande 2 with their classic Toyota Land Cruiser Body. It’s a tow truck based on the Zero Warbird with a radial engine. hehe…”

PS: “You might also be seeing another Trike soon, since I’ve been wanting to challenge myself with another 3 wheeler…”

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Nothing would stand in this rigs way…and if it did it would be crushed (mentally & physically!)

RCCZ: Have you ever thought of producing a book about the entire body of your work? I could see it sitting on coffee tables all over the World…especially mine!

DPDH:“I never considered producing a book, but yes, that would be cool. I pride myself as a photographer as that is after all how this all started… you know, painting drift shells and photographing them. I have to snap a photo everyday otherwise I go mad…hehe!”

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Undead Storm Trooper anyone? Pretty isn’t he! and on a very minimal ride…

RCCZ: Last question…Where do you want to see the RC Industry and this vibrant Scale Scene go in the future? Is it still as exciting and diverse as when you first got hooked? Or do you think it needs more people with your drive and vision to push the boundaries a little, and inspire a new generation into getting involved and building using traditional model making techniques?

DPDH: “That all depends on what one loves about this hobby. I know that this industry is constantly growing and has been awesome with releasing new kits and creations quite regular to keep us happy.

The great thing about this hobby is that there are various aspects as to what we each love about it. For me, it’s creating, painting and photographing it. And yes, it “IS” as exciting as the day I discovered it! For others, it can be the racing side or competitive side to it, or both. Whichever it is, we need to keep practicing what we love about this hobby. Practice makes perfect, or at least pretty darn close!”

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One for the VW fans…now this would be one Camper Van I would love to take to Dubfest!

Epilogue

A huge shout out to Danny for taking the time to answer my questions. We look forward to seeing more of his builds in the future. Huge thanks’ also to RC4WD for helping facilitate this, and for more on Danny and his builds check out his Facebook page HERE 

I do hope that for those not familiar with his work it will inspire you to. Its set a benchmark in terms of being so different and taking us away from always striving to create photorealistic builds. Adding in a little weird and using a little leftfield thinking creates something fresh and exciting, and long may that be so!

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"No Mr Bradbury…I Expect You To Drive!"

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Behind The Scenes @ The Gadget Show

Words & Images: Peter Gray

Earlier this year I was involved with another RC related challenge on the Channel 5 TV Program; The Gadget Show. We had been bouncing RC Car ideas back and forth for a while, but then in a single phone conversation and a follow up e-mail, the shows researcher explained what the challenge they had decided upon would entail…In short: RC Cars v A Bond Stunt Driver, my smile grew exponentially!

Jason Bradbury, a man who’s no stranger to RC in any form, or pushing the technology right to it’s very limits (something he’s done on more occasions than I can list here!). His credentials as both a very ‘hands-on’ Tech Reviewer and well known TV Tech Presenter are written in the annuals of Tech history. He even chose a Tamiya RC car as one of his favourite bits of tech in a recent top 100 gadgets TV countdown…so his love of the genre goes way back to those late 70s and 80s releases. We also must not forget that Jason has also achieved two Guinness World Records using RC tech. One for distance jumped by an RC car (using a HPI Vorza 1/8th E-Buggy), and another (I actually helped facilitate) a huge RC Loop-the-loop using a brushless 1/5th scale motorbike! So he can drive, knows the kinda crazy stuff we like to provide the program, and he has no fear…no fear at all!

Jason would be driving three different RC cars, each with a very unique attribute or speciality. His challenge would be to go up against professional Stunt & Rally Driver Mark Higgins, doing what he does best, driving a V12 Vantage S Aston Martin very hard, fast and very sideways. Marks CV is impressive. He’s worked on Bond films like Spectre, has (and currently ‘is’) driving cars in the Fast & The Furious franchise, and is about to attempt to set a new Isle Of Man TT course record for a car in a specially ProDrive prepared, Subaru WRX Sti. He’s also three-time British Rally champion and as such set the current record for a lap of the 37.75-mile course in 2014, with a time of 19 minutes and 15 seconds, and with a staggering average speed of 117.510 mph…so he can drive too, oh my can he drive!

The 3 tests chosen for each vehicle would be:-

· A Drag Race Challenge, side by side, point to point between the chosen RC Car & the Aston Martin. The main start line to the end of the main straight being the two points

· A Drift Challenge where the RC Car must mimic the 1:1 on a 1/10th version of track, using throttle finesse and maintaining a long, sweeping and controlled drift

· A Timed Auto Test Challenge where the RC Car will compete on the same circuit to test its agility, road holding and stunt driving capabilities against the clock.

To this end we enlisted the help of 3 very different brands, and 3 very different vehicles. Each was specifically chosen to offer an attribute that would aid it to compete in each challenge and thought through well in advance of this days filming.

Point To Point @100 mph+

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Mr Wilcox Esq looking rather happy with the X-01

For the Drag Challenge I called in one of the latest generation of Traxxas X-01 (kindly supplied by Logic RC). This 1/7th scale RC Supercar is something I know well, as I reviewed one a couple of years back and had tons of fun with it. I also know a few people with them (Like RRCZ’s very own Mark Jordan). It’s a bit of a one trick pony, but what a trick! It’s capable of 0-100 in under 5 seconds and has a top speed of around 103mph. On those two performance figures alone, I knew we were in a with a shot at winning this. The latest incarnation has the TQi transmitter and Traxxas link app as standard, offering real time adjustment of basic setup parameters like trims and steering rate, right through to more complex drive effects and feedback from its telemetry sensors of Speed, RPM, Temperature, and Voltage. It also has something called a ‘Cush Drive’ built into the driveline that helps it absorb some of the immense forces encountered when you take a RC vehicle of its size and weight and take it from a standstill to over 100mph in just a few seconds. Developed specifically for the XO-1, the Cush Drive absorbs drivetrain shocks with a custom-shaped elastomer damper housed between the spur gear and the drive hub. Under extreme load (such as hard, high-traction acceleration), the elastomer flexes to dissipate shock without interrupting power flow. The result is instant acceleration with no wasted power. Its actually a very clever variation on a slipper clutch and (Hopefully) will ensure that the spur gears don’t get damaged at the point the vehicle is launched at speed. As well as the vehicle, Logic RC also supplied us Stuart Wilcox, technician extraordinaire, RC Racer and Traxxas brand ambassador here in the UK. Stuart would school Jason in the fine art of getting the X-01 between two points and fast and straight as possible (and avoiding any high speed mishaps along the way!)

Getting Sideways & J-Turn City…

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The Yokomo of Matt Tunks

The second vehicle I called in for this challenge was a 1/10th Yokomo Drift Car (and the help of our resident Drift Guru; Matthew Tunks). Matthew is sponsored by the company and regularly competes and judges National and even International RC Drift comps. He brought over a selection of his latest 2 and 4WD drifters, but decided that the shaft driven DPR would be the most suitable for this challenge. It’s not the newest model in the range and has now been replaced by the YD-4. But would hopefully (with some tuition from Matthew), be an easier option for Jason to quickly ‘get’ and attempt to master in the short time they would have to get acquainted with each other.

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The WR8 Ken Block replica…fast as (funk!)

Lastly for the times Auto Test Challenge I enlisted the help of a real Hoonigan. HPI’s Brushless WR8 Hoonigan to be exact with a replica Ken Block Ford Fiesta HFHV shell. Now this is another vehicle that we know back to front here at RRCZ. As a team we’ve reviewed both the Brushless and Nitro incarnations. Its based on the Bullet bloodline of vehicles, but has undergone a tweak here and there to lower arms and suspension. Instead of being a 1/10th Monster or Stadium Truck, its actually a 1/8th Global Rallycross car. Now if you haven’t heard of Ken Block, or seen any of his Gymkhana videos you must have been living as a hermit on a remote island somewhere…Here’s the latest (but its well worth watching them all historically right back from Gymkhana One!) :

Number 46 aside…the HPI car pretty much mimics the real thing, just without the excess tyre smoke. Its 4000kv motor on 3s LiPo power pushes out a very healthy 44,400 rpm and on stock gearing that’s around 60mph. But its not out and out acceleration we are after, the handling must be spot on, with an almost 50/50 weight balance and fast, responsive steering. Luckily HPI have all that in hand and have even added sway (anti-roll) bars front and rear and 11-spoke bright blue Speedline wheels shod with tyres that allow for grip and acceleration (especially on tarmac), but still allow the driver to feed in the power to break traction for performing do-nuts, power slides and even J-Turns.

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You gotta love the Block livery…it makes you want to drive it like you stole it (or were given it to rag around without consequence!)

The car tends to offer the classic lift of oversteer characteristics of most 4WD’s, but still allows you to hit a tight turn fast and tap the brakes, unsettle the handling and then feed in the power again to ‘Hoonigan’ it round. This is definitely the right vehicle to attempt a Time Attack against a real car…add to this the fact that the person bringing the car from HPI was none other than long time RRCi and RCCZ collaborator Frank McKinney, it made our trio of vehicles and technical help truly complete.

Rocking Up @ Rockingham Motor Speedway

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About to go and drift in the Aston together…and believe you me that’s a real experience

 

So on a very cold but sunny day in Spring we all met up at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire. The track was dry and the huge dedicated motor sports venue has everything from fast a banked oval circuit running around its perimeter to International Super Sportscar Circuit, National Circuit and even an infield Handling Circuit. On the banked circuit, the oval comprises four very distinct corners. The oval lap record is held by Tony Kanaan in a Champ Car, lapping in 24.719s, with a staggering average speed of 215.397mph! Obviously we wouldn’t be getting up yo anywhere near that, but the start line and first straight leading into turn one would be perfect for the drag race between the Aston martin and the X-01.

Away from the Oval, a section of the handling circuit on the infield was to be used for the 1:1 drift challenge. For the Yokomo RC Drift car, a perfect 1/10th version of the same challenge was also laid out by the Gadget production team and Matt. It was to be run on a totally smooth piece of outdoor concrete adjacent to the infield paddock and workshop areas. So smooth and shiny it was, that it looked almost tailor made for this challenge.

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The perfect surface to learn to drift an RC car on…or so we thought!

Then the ‘Talent’ arrived on set. Jason Bradbury was his usual bouncy self, and raring to get stuck in with the cars selected, after 1st he was fuelled by fresh caffeine, and 2nd he had been instructed by each company about their particular vehicles idiosyncrasies and had a good play with each. Having worked with Jason for many years now, we just get on, both with each other and with the shoot in hand. Same age, same mentality and same outlook on life…we are serious when we need to be and have fun when we don’t (guess what aspect always wins!)

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The production team of Chris and Ben mic up and Go Pro the car itself!

Mark Higgins appeared just as the first of two Vantage Aston Martin’s were delivered onto the set. He immediately fired it up and got himself acquainted with it on the main straight, and then on the infield. Considering it was a V12, but automatic (the manual V8 car would be delivered later in the day) he got it performing some very cool stunts. Huge tyre smoking power drifts around the apexes of the infield corners, a couple of very fast J-turns on the main straight and a serious of mock time trial manoeuvres around random stationary objects, other cars and traffic cones.

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Mark Higgins shows us why he’s driven cars like this V12 Vantage in films like Spectre…Its the tyres I felt sorry for (NOT!)

A Drag Race…For Pink Slips (Not!)

So we set up for challenge number one, the Drag Race. Stuart Wilcox had the X-01 charged and ready to go, its two 3S, 5000 mAh LiPo cells offering the vehicle 22.2v of power and the Castle Creations 1650kv motor 36,630 rpm. When used in conjunction with the High Speed Gearing and high downforce splitter, its a potent combination!

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Chris getting a smooth Dolly Shot of the X-01 for the cars on screen tech intro

For the first few runs the X-01 was left in its locked mode. This means that its top speed is initially limited to just 55mph via the Traxxas Link App. This would allow Jason to get a feel for the cars handling and how it accelerates from a standing start. After a few blasts up and down the main straight, Stuart used the app and his IPhone to Unlock the car and enable the Castle Creations Mamba Extreme ESC to give full power on demand, and that amazing 103mph top speed.

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Jason’s first go with the X-01…Stuart offering advice about feeding in the power

As it was so cold, getting heat into the tyres was vital as the compound is quite hard at low ambient temps. A few mock burn outs later and they felt sticky and warm, but keeping them that way was proving difficult. Stuart did a few runs to check the car was trimmed correctly and even he had to back off the power at times when the car suddenly started to drift to the left or right, losing traction even at 70mph+. Then the transmitter was passed up to Jason who was perched on the gantry high above the start and finish line, offering him a full view of the track, but sideways on. Possibly not the easiest of positions for a drag race (I always prefer to stand behind the car, so I can see it it veers off in any way and correct it). He had a few test runs and initially had the same issues as Stuart. The tyres just wouldn’t stay warm enough in the close to freezing temperatures. Jason would punch the throttle, the car would speed off, accelerating to 60mph in about 3 seconds and then 100mph in under 6. If it veered off course, he immediately would back off halting that run. When it went wrong we had a few tense moments, but he kept it off the barriers and in one piece.

When it went right it was a sight to behold. The X-01 may be over three years old now as a design, but it’s a vehicle that simply hasn’t been toppled by any other in the RC industry. Traxxas set out to design and build the worlds fastest commercially available RC car and they did just that. Seeing it, in its latest white livery streaking down the track was amazing. Having reviewed one myself I know that ‘Buzz’ and hit of adrenalin you get when you first get a 100+ run, and it would be no different for Jason.

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Stuart Wilcox in the pit lane making sure the car was trimmed and ready to go…Note the tyre marks from Mr Higgins!

Drivers Ready? Cars Ready? Go…

We had an official on hand from Rockingham to start the Drag Race standing between the two cars with a chequered flag, and as they lined up side by side for the first of 3 runs, the sheer size difference made it seem a very David and Goliath battle. Run one and two would be to practice, and then run three the actual challenge recorded for the TV show.

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The gantry overlooking the start line and side on to the track offered Jason a full view of the entire straight

Run One: The flag dropped and Mark floored the accelerator of the Aston, even being a Automatic, he had the option of putting it into a sports mode, and as Q says in Spectre “It’ll do 0-62 in 3.2 seconds…”. He had also switched off traction control and launch aids, wanting to be in as much control over the delivery of power from the V12 to the tyres as possible. That was pretty evident by both the speed of the launch and the amount of tyre smoke he produced too! From the RC side Jason gave the X-01 a good squeeze of the throttle and both cars sped away from the start line like rockets. It was neck and neck until about half way up the straight and then Jason saw the Traxxas starting to drift towards the Aston and backed off. Having done previous RC challenges where the RC vehicle ended up being run over by the full sized one, he learnt from that and wanted it to survive the challenge.

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Side-by-side…both drivers nervously awaiting their chance to pin the throttle

Run Two: This time it was Mark who actually backed off, correction, the Aston did! It seemed that on its full throttle launch from the start line, the Aston sounded like it miss-shifted about a third of the way up the run and went from a tyre spinning rocket ship, to a Sunday afternoon plodder…Jason and the X-01 sped away and passed the finish markers (Cones) at what looked like nearly maximum speed. I could see the grin from Jason right from my vantage point on the other side of the track!

“Best Of Three?”

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It was time to see who had the fastest car…and nerves of steel

This was what Jason jokingly shouted to mark as the cars lined up again for the final run. This was it, the real deal. The flag dropped, the cars both launch perfectly and sped away into the distance. For the first 3rd of the run it was completely neck and neck. If you were a betting man (or Woman) it would be a hard thing to put odds on. But then spurred on by the fact the tyres were starting to consistently give grip, Jason pinned the throttle and the X-01 gradually moved ahead of the Aston, passing the finish line a good 1:1 car length ahead. We all shouted and screamed, RC had won its first victory over the real thing. Jason was jumping up and down on the gantry and Mark showed his feelings by spinning the Aston round and power sliding it back up the straight and performing a handbrake turn top finish back perfectly on the start line again. We then moved onto the Drift challenge…

But First Mark Took Me 2 laps Of The Circuit – ‘Sideways’…

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What gets me is that he’s so calm while driving like this…lighting up the rubber at every opportunity

The infield circuit location wasn’t too far away but carrying a heavy camera case and lenses I had my hands full. Then Mark shouted over for me to jump in the Aston with him. I needed no encouragement. He then took me for two laps of the handling circuit, clutching my camera case between my feet and most of it completely sideways, smoke billowing out from the rear tyres. Now remember this is an Automatic and occasionally the electronics tried to cut back in and offer traction control and bring the Vantage S back onto the straight a narrow. It actually did it mid drift once, and you went from being pushed into the corner of the seat and pulling a few G, to it snapping back to normality and cleanly taking the apex pointed perfectly in the right direction. I know which I preferred and I would show you the video I shot on my phone but I may have uttered a few expletives in my excitement! Mark truly is a master of his art and to him driving like this, in full control is simply another day in the office.

Aston Challenge Two: Mark Takes Jason Drifting

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Mark made the Drift Challenge look easy…as long as the traction control didn’t cut in mid-corner!

Cones were laid out between two parts of the track, and two apex’s were earmarked for Mark to drift the Aston around. With Jason in the passenger seat he did just that, executed three runs, all perfectly sideways, transitioning between both drifts and offering just enough throttle to control the drift, while still smoking those poor tyres…It was effortless, and with only one minor hiccup (again when the traction control cut in mid-corner). Marks runs were a master-class in car control and his abilities as a driver. The benchmark was set, and the benchmark was very high.

RC Car Challenge Two: Jason Takes The Yokomo Drifting

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Its was harder that Jason anticipated, and really shows the skill required to ‘properly’ drift a RC car

With some expert guidance from Matt Tunks, Jason got started on the Drift Challenge. Just like the Aston, first initiating and then maintaining a drift is all about breaking traction, throttle control or Finesse, Counter Steering and knowing that point at which to balance all these factors. With Matt demonstrating it looked effortless and if this was a challenge between Mark and Matt it would be one that would be hard to separate the two. But it wasn’t. This was between mark and Jason, and what Jason soon found out was that real RC drifting is much harder than top drivers like Matt make it seem.

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Jason tried time after time to get the right finesse on the throttle and lines…but to no avail

The initial learning curve can feel quite steep, and I have to admit, even after years of practice, it always takes me a few laps to get that ‘feel’ again and to be able to seamlessly thread a car through a series of apex’s in one fluid movement. Jason is a self confessed RC nut. He gives everything 110% and this was no exception, but try as he might he just couldn’t match Marks drift prowess. At the end of this Drift Challenge it was firmly: RC 1 – Aston 1.

With everything still to play for, it was a nice way to go into the final Challenge after a break for lunch: The RC v Aston Auto Test.

Come In Number 43, Your Time is Up…

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No that’s not a Russian leader with Jason, that’s a very cold American…the one and only Frank M

After a healthy lunch in the track-side restaurant, and a coffee re-charge it was time for Mark to drive the manual Aston Martin Vantage V8 and Jason the HPI WR8 Ken Block replica. A large car park adjacent to the pit workshops had been allocated as the venue and a variety of challenges awaited both drivers. Cones were used to mark out a start line, multiple islands to drift around, sections to weave in and out of, then drive into and then reverse back out of, J-turn 180 degrees and then sprint for the finish line.

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Note the Go-Pro’s attached to Marks Aston…I’m sure one fell off during filming and gave its life for the cause

What you must remember here is that the WR8 is (on the correct gearing) capable of a top speed of over 65mph with the 3S pack Frank McKinney had fitted. But this wasn’t about top speed. It was about acceleration, manoeuvrability and handling. Without waxing too lyrical its was also about man and vehicle in harmony, using each cars abilities to negotiate the course in as fast a time as possible. This was a very hard one to call as the course was designed to accommodate the Aston and yet the WR8 would have to cover exactly the same distance, and negotiate all the same 1:1 obstacles. Both drivers were allowed a couple of practice runs, they both watched each other safely from a vantage point on the roof of the buildings adjacent to the challenge.

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OK, so admittedly its an older version of the Block livery, but it’s still Uber cool

It took both drivers a couple of attempts to get around the course cleanly, one J Turn that mark attempted didn’t swing the full 180 degrees and meant a time sapping correction before the sprint to the line. Jason took out one of the cones at speed and popped of a steering linkage and sheared off a body mount, but that was quickly repaired. Time wise you couldn’t call it between the two, and it would all come down to how composed they were during the challenge itself.

An Aston Attacks The Course

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“Eyes right…” oh and wheels counter steering into the drift!

Mark went first and after being counted down by Jason, accelerated away from the line and made short work of the entire course. The Aston drifted perfectly, pirouetting around each Cone Island, it weaved perfectly around each chicane section, combining out and out tyre smoking power, with deft use of the handbrake and cars own weight and momentum. He then drove the car expertly into the cone parking bay that had been setup at the far end of the course, stopped fore just a Millisecond and then reversed the car at speed, wheels spinning and then performed a picture perfect J turn before sprinted to, and then over the line, stopping the Aston perfectly between both white lines and asking for his time from Jason. 36.30 seconds. That was fast, very fast…

‘Mr Bradbury’ Is Possessed By ‘Mr Block’

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“Concentrate Jason, just not too hard…” words of encouragement from Mark or an attempt to unsettle Mr B?

Jason was very fired up for this and after warming up the tyres with a few impromptu donuts he then put the WR8 on the start line and waited for the signal to go. Mark was perched this time on the roof next to him, Jason’s view was again side-on to the whole area in question and with a “Three, Two, One!” from Mark, he was off!

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The faces say it all…close was an understatement. The cars perfectly matched

The WR8 sped away as if possessed by Ken Block himself. It rocketed around both the cone islands (this thing corners like its on rails) and the tighter more technical parts of the course. Seeing a vehicle so small being driven at well over 50mph most of the time, even 60mph+ on the longer sections brought a smile just as big as Jason was showing to most of those faces (including mine) looking on. The last third of the course involved driving into that Cone Parking Bay and then after stopping, going full speed in reverse and J Turning the RC car before sprinting at over 60mph over the line.

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Little n large…it’s all about perspective!

The pre-J-Turn would be Jason’s downfall. Even after performing two flawlessly in practice, as he pulled into the parking area, he got the angle wrong and hesitated. The WR8 needed to be corrected for its angle and then the J-Turn could happen. He then simply punched it and aimed for the line. Even with the pause and correction, Jason still managed a very fast transition, but that single aspect lost him valuable seconds and wasn’t the smooth, flowing all-in-one movement the Aston Martin had managed…The WR8 shot over the line and Jason stopped perfectly between the white lines. All eyes turned to Mark as he first showed Jason the time…then the cameraman. ”Nooooooo” came the shout from Jason, and Mark’s smile said it all…The Bond Stunt Driver had won!

Just 2 Seconds Slower!

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It just wasn’t to be…2 seconds slower on the run and just half a second on a re-run…but man was it fun!

It was a very close fought thing. The RC car had passed the line in 38.43 seconds, and we were all convinced that without the pre-J-Turn mistake it would have been neck and neck. To prove this point, Mark let Jason try the course again. 36.50 seconds later he crossed the line. Close, but not close enough. Jason’s a good sport and said his first time must stand, and that’s the run that the program aired on TV. The day ended there. We all said our goodbyes, the crew packed up everything, Mark sped away in a very cool looking BMW M3, Jason disappeared in a Taxi to get his train back to London and Stuart Wilcox, Matt Tunks and Frank McKinney lines all the vehicles up for a final parting show for the mag before themselves packing away and departing Rockingham Raceway…it’s a wrap!

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The amazing tunnel that goes under the track…yes we may have ragged the WR8 down it!

A huge thanks for as ever to The Gadget Show having faith in both myself and the RC industry to help them make some very interesting and hopefully inspiring television. RC Tech, and presenter challenges have been a part of the program for many, many years and they always get a very positive response from the shows millions of viewers. I hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes insight into the making of an episode and roll on the next one!

For more about The Gadget Show & View Whole Episode click: HERE

For more about the Traxxas X-01 click: HERE

For more about Yokomo Drift cars click: HERE

For more about the HPI WR8 Ken Block click: HERE

Sorry For The Delay, Normal (ish) Service Has Resumed…

Words & Images: Peter Gray

It’s been a long few months since Issue 4. It seems like a distant memory, but we got there in the end and issue 5’s content is now well on the way in a new 100% online format. It’s been a very odd few weeks, with lots of professional highs. And in parity, a few personal lows too. Let me explain…

First of all an apology. We lost nearly 8 weeks of the production schedule leading up to the collation of issue 5. I developed a swollen optical nerve that’s meant very little or no computer time was allowed until the swelling subsided. And as ever in life, it was my ‘good eye’ affected so double the problems for me. I couldn’t drive, use FPV goggles or headsets, watch TV or Films and taking manual pics with a DSLR resulted in some rather interesting if blurred results.

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Thankfully, after listening to about a million audio books and doing every little job I’ve ever put off doing in the house, garden and on my aging Jeep, I have finally been given the go ahead to start using computers again. With new glasses and regular breaks, things are ‘almost’ back to normal. It’s going to take a little longer to collate and edit each issue from now on, and to that end we will be drip feeding in content for a while to accommodate this. The good news is that you can now easily read the articles on any type of device without having to download a PDF first!

The support I’ve received from friends, the RCCZ and Hive Mind RC teams is nothing short of amazing. Other than giving me a right royal roasting (par for the course) their phone calls, emails, messages and visits kept me sane. They all pulled together to make my burden as editor a little less of a strain. I won’t mention individuals, but certain team members made me laugh when I needed it most. For that I’m truly thankful. #Huge #Respect

Now For The Good Stuff…

Our recent RECON G6 UK and Scale Nationals event was a huge success. There’s a report of each inbound. In fact by the time you read this, the RECON G6 one will be up and ready to read, with additional articles being put together offering a competitors viewpoint from on of the drivers who travelled over from Europe to compete. We have another Scale comp planned for late October and Brian Parker has confirmed the UK G6 will now be an annual event and given us full ‘G6 Certified’ Status. But there’s more… Keeping on the ‘Scale Vibe’ We will have a full review and Trail Test of Axial’s new SCX10 2 Jeep Cherokee Builders Kit.

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And for hard bodied scale fans the RC4WD’s Long Wheelbase Trail Finder 2 with the epic Chevy Blazer hard body & Alloy V8 engine. It’s the ultimate Lexan v Styrene build off and just cemented our love for both genres of rig.

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We sent a SWB version of the Trail Finder 2 chassis kit to our Austrian contributor Daniel Siegl and he transforms it into the rig he ran at the RECON G6 UK Edition. We get his thoughts on the build, how it performs on the trail and why these small wheel, leaf spring rigs are so much fun to drive.

For Tamiya fans we have a new entry level 2WD buggy. The perfect gateway model into RC and kit building. Our newest recruit takes this right of passage and emerges the other side having learnt vital skills and inspired for more.

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On the RTR front we have a fun brushless 1/8th 4WD buggy from Maverick, the Desert Wolf. A very cool Pikes Peak inspired Carisma RC 1/24th Brushless 4WD, the GT24R. A 1/18th Monster truck from Helion. We also explore the world of RC Drifting further with a close up look at the Midlands drift scene and report from a recent event.

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We really do hope that you enjoy the way RCCZ is evolving. It’s been a little more demanding than usual to collate the content, but everyone involved is very proud of what we have managed to achieve. Remember to keep checking out our website and Facebook for more announcements…as we haven’t finished the transformation yet (lets say it’s ‘In Progress’).

Keep an eye on our dedicated Facebook page HERE for more on the ever evolving world of RCCar.Zone

All my best regards

Peter Gray

Twitter: @rrci_madpete

Instagram: RCCZ_madpete

Editor