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

rcz_tech

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

Rain, Orbs, Punctures, A Master Barista, Parker & UK Based Scale Adventure…

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Words: Peter Gray  Images: Twinset

Back in 2015, when RCCZ hadn’t even been conceived yet, and I was still editing Radio Race Car International, I had an idea. It was either the best I’ve had in a while or one that if it went wrong, would A: Cost me a chunk of money personally. And B: Let down a large group of people and an aspect of the RC hobby that I care very deeply about; namely the Scale, Trail and crawling crowd right here in the UK.

The UK needed to have its own G6 & we would facilitate that

You see I had been following the Global RECON G6 community and its figure head, Brain Parker, since its conception. My idea was to co-host a full-on RECON G6 right here in the UK. We would hold it on the same weekend as out regular UK Scale Nationals, an event that had been steadily growing in popularity and drivers numbers for the last half decade and was previously run under the RRCi banner. The Nationals was a known entity, the G6 something new and from the photographs and video’s I had seen online, more about being part of a global community, having Adventures and something that’s often forgotten in RC events of late…good old family orientated fun.

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The Man…the Legend…the Parker

One thing I was sure of though, was I didn’t just want to parody the events Brian runs, trying to re-create the G6 spirit ourselves. No, even with the great team we have at RCCZ that would be both an insult to him and the hard work he’s put into his Scale Adventure Series, and the 150+ UK drivers we wanted to turn up and attend. We needed to fly the man himself over, experience his way of setting the stages as he calls them, witness his very unique driver’s briefings, and be a part of the RECON G6 global family first hand. In some respects it was a big ask, but I always believe that life should be full of new experiences, and however big the challenge seems, if you tackle it head on, and have a great team around you, anything is possible.

A Little Re-wind

For those not familiar with Brian Parker and the ethos behind the RECON G6 events, I suggest you read some of the back issues of RCCZ, it’s a subject we covered in some depth in the run up to the event itself, including a very in-depth interview with the man himself and reports from at least two G6 events. Suffice to say, his involvement with not just the 1/10th and RC, but also the 1:1 Crawl and Off Road scene, goes pretty deep. His face, that gravelly voice (not to mention the trademark unique footwear and Tactical Kilt) are probably the most recognisable in the scene at the moment. There are people and nicknames that over the years stick in your head as pioneers of the scene. Bender, Gatekeeper, and Parker are just three examples. His transformation after losing a side bet during a comp to become Axialman is a classic example…he’s in this for the fun, friendship and comradery, not just the money. Having chatted with him at length many, many times online, I always felt he was someone I actually knew (even though the reality was that we had never physically met).

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Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? No…it’s Axialman…

To anyone looking from the outside in, Brian has played a pivotal role in the growth of ‘Scale’, and been the life and soul of many events, right from the early Axialfest’s, through to the latest RECON G6 events held across Europe. His direct links with the former have now been severed, but just like the demise of RRCi spurred me on with the birth of RCCZ, Brian has been further energised and has grown the G6 brand globally. Just like the now discontinued Axial “RECON G6 Certified” SCX-10 RTR a few years back, new G6 emblazoned products from brands like ProLine, Boom Racing and PitBull Tyres keep appearing to show that the industry is taking notice of the brand identity he has created, and with RC4WD as a headline sponsor, events like the Hong Kong G6 in November, and regular dates in both the US and Europe, this kilt wearing, coffee fuelled phenomenon doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon!

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Probably the best coffee the team had ever tasted…(and then some!)

So, in late 2015 I rang him and pitched my idea…there was a long pause, I was bracing myself for the worst, and that his schedule wouldn’t allow it, or the UK wasn’t of interest to him, but then I heard a laugh at the other end of the Skype line…and four words: ”Let’s make it happen!”. We chatted for a further hour or so, about everything from BMX bikes to Jeeps and RC, then bounced a few provisional dates around. Eventually we decided upon the middle of June 2016. This would allow Brian to fly into Europe, attend and co-host our event, then fly over to Austria, host 2 more G6 events before flying home a few weeks later.

There would also be some C.R.R.M (Coffee Related Roasting Matters) to attend to in Austria also, and those that know Brian well, will understand that…Work hard, play hard is all I will say on that matter, and having met him now, he does both with gusto. We said our goodbyes, did a virtual knuckle bump via instant messenger, and then the line went dead on Skype…

The Kilt Said Yes…Now What?

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Mr G Train’ Meets ‘AceofAxe’

I sat back in my chair and thought about the consequences and enormity of that single Skype conversation. This was the first 6 months of the magazines existence, we were growing, our core readership was loyal, we were keeping our head above water and we had amazing support from the industry. But if no-one turned up, or the weather ruined the event, we could potentially end up with an invoice that could put the mag under. I winced a little at that thought, but smiled as well at the thought of a UK RECON G6.

I rang round the RCCZ team and got their unanimous support. I told them the provisional date and my plans. We decided that we would run the G6 on the Saturday, and also incorporate a night run into the mix. This would mean that competitors would have in theory a 12+ hour day ahead of them, the latter finishing in real terms past 11pm that evening. Speaking again with Brian a few weeks later it seems there would be two long G6 trails. The “Little Britain Stage” with white trail markers placed on the right, and the “Go Large – US Stage” with the white trail markers on the left, for obvious reasons…I was tasked with making the trail markers, but more on that later!

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The weather would play a big part in the event…UK Scale = Mud!

The Nationals on the Sunday would consist of 2 long 100 gate self-scored trail runs, using our usual red and yellow gate markers, and a very technical 10 gate organiser scored (and timed) comp course to decide its winners. We even decided to take along a set of ‘Old Skool’ tennis balls to set out a Comp Crawling Course in memory of our buddy Skippy, who, if you read the mag will realise we lost a few months before the event, but who was a huge part of the early days of the UK comp scene. It was designed as a fun, guest event for those still with a comp rig still in their collection and we also sold smiley face stickers (a skippy trademark) with proceeds going to his favourite charity. This is something we hopefully can grow for our next event, as there seems to be enough interest in the genre (especially with the recent launch of the RC4WD Bully 2 MOA rig). It seems comp crawling may get a mini renaissance very soon, and there are rumours of more rigs by other manufacturers in late 2016 and beyond…

Gate Markers, Trailside Signage, Glow Sticks & Prizes

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I also did my usual ring around of the brands that have always supported our events and got unanimous support from the Scale, Trail and Crawl RC Industry. Our headline sponsor would be RC4WD, and Tom Allen and the RC4WD crew really stepped up in a big way. Not only would they be offering goody bags for every entrant of the G6 and Nationals double header event, they also offered us the biggest prize package we’ve seen to date, with 2 rigs, T-Shirts, Hats, sets of axles, beadlock wheels, trailers, tyres, and more individual accessories than we’ve ever seen before.

The amazing Goody bags supplied by RC4WD #Respect!

Tom also surprised us by secretly making scale sticker sheets just for the RECON G6 UK Edition, perfect for adorning our rigs with and celebrating the fact this was the first ever event of its type on UK soil…Kudos guys, we cannot thank you enough for your ongoing support.

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Tom kept this one quiet…Scale RC4WD & RECON G6 UK Edition stickers for everyone!

Martin at RC Bits also donated an RC4WD rig as a prize for the G6 event and some scale accessories. He also supported us as ever with a huge Trailside retail offer, giving entrants not only the opportunity to lighten their wallets with a selection of the best the industry has to offer, but also essential spares to keep the competitors rigs up and running all weekend in the event of a breakage of electrical failure.

Other RCCZ friendly distributors like AsiaTees sent over G6 endorsed prizes by brands such as Boom Racing, with sets of shocks, beadlock wheels, accessories and sticker packs. CML Distribution sent us some scale specific prizes from ProLine and FastTrax, The Hobby Company a very cool Carrera slot racing set as a junior prize, and HPI a box full of tyres, pit mats and wearables. Add to already substantial prize pool vouchers for invaluable brushed motor strips and tunes by Andy Smith, 3D printed axles stands, barrels, fuel cans and sand ladders from and our very own Scott (AceofAxe) Curlin.

Buts that’s not all folks…Ivan Carisma from Carisma RC also sent a huge box of Scale accessories, injection moulded on sprues with everything from generators, to tool boxes, oil barrels, fire extinguishers, pots ‘n’ pans to bicycles in perfect 1/10th scale, all ready to cut off, glue together, paint and then be added to roof racks or scale garages. The generosity these companies show the scene each year is nothing short of amazing. The whole team would like to thank everyone involved with this event for their commitment and generosity. Having great prizes and a fun raffle ensures that the winners get something they can be proud of. Everyone else still has a chance to win something of real value, and get some cool hop up’s and scale accessories.

A Golden Ticket

Axial Logo For Branding

Axial Racing were the headline sponsor of the Nationals on the Sunday and simply offered the winner a Golden Ticket…At first we were a little confused by this, until Andrew Rawlinson enlightened us that it would entitle the winner to get one of the very first SCX10-2 rigs in the UK, and that he had even brought along the only built sample of a SCX-10 in the UK to whet the appetites of perspective future owners. (We, admittedly by this time had also been secretly sent our review sample by Axial direct…as seen in this issue, but had not had time to physically build it yet…but when you see the results you will understand why!)

So, we had the dates and the venue booked, Parker’s flights and accommodation arranged, the prizes and goody bags agreed, now it was time to get down to the nitty gritty and make all the things that take this type of event to the next level. I first designed some trophies for the Nationals based on Axial Logos with RR10 wheels and tyres as their bases. I went to see Phil Lawrence, who not only writes for RCCZ, but also owns www.makeitbuildit.co.uk and commissioned him to 3D print the trophies and then set each onto its wheel/tyre base with a Carbon Fibre rod.

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The UK Scale Nationals trophies, thanks to www.makeitbuildit.co.uk

The end results are simply stunning, and Phil did an amazing job, I cannot thank him enough for his efforts. Next I rang the guys at Hoverspeed RC. Now my contact with them up until now has been with my other hat on, as editor of a couple of Drone magazines. They actually make the most amazing air gates and corner flags and have been instrumental in pushing the FPV racing scene both here in the UK, and globally. I designed some start and finish gates for the RECON G6, incorporating the headline sponsor, RC4WDs logo, our very own RCCZ logo and of course an official “RECON G6 Certified” stand for good measure. A couple of emails later and the design was finalised, and when they arrived by courier a day or so later, I was gobsmacked. Tim had done a simply amazing job. They were free standing, with a pipework frame and legs, made from neatly laser cut vinyl and expertly printed front and back. We now had two start and two finish gates as a little bit of additional theatre to add to the event. I was starting to get really excited about this upcoming event…

Trail Markers R Us…(OK, R Me!)

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RC4WD sent the signs in, I glued on the poles!

The job that I was actually dreading the most was making any additional trail markers Brian may need for the RECON G6. What seems like years ago now, Speedy Steve had made us over 200 pairs of red and yellow gate markers using welding rod cut to length, with plastic tops and all individually numbered. They had served us very well, had lasted three years of comps so far, and were still going strong. Brian needed at least 150 if not 200 more gates to set out his two trails and the night run for day one. I was tasked with this job and wanted to ensure they looked totally different to the UK Nationals markers.

I went on EBay and ordered 300 green garden sticks, and 16 packs of large red and white plastic bunting. Each pack contained 12 plastic flags, and each individual flag could be cut into 4 smaller ones. The garden sticks could cut into two to make in theory 600 trail markets if required. I spent every evening until about midnight for the next two weeks making 200 pairs of red and white flag markers. It was as expected mind numbing…but vital work!

After showing Tom at RC4WD what I was up to, he again surprised me by sending us about 60 printed plastic trail signs that just needed to be glued onto sticks, to again add a little more theatre and detail to the whole event. It’s these little touches that make all the difference, and as ever Kudos to him for the idea…it’s something we will definitely be doing more of in future events.

Setup Day Arrived…

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Torrential rain didn’t stop the setup day…

With the pace of life these days the event was soon upon us and myself and Scott loaded up his van and my Jeep with the prizes, banners, Trail Markers etc and headed to Bracken Rocks. We had arranged to rendezvous with Brian nearby and lead him in as the Sat Nav co-ordinates and site turnoff is notorious for getting first times lost…

An hour or so of driving later, and a black and yellow Citroën hire car appeared at our chosen meet up spot. In the car was Parker himself fighting jet-lag but beaming from ear to ear, and Joey W, fellow G6er, female 1:1 4×4 adventurer, Master Barista (I kid you not!) and roaster of some of the finest coffee anywhere on the planet. She would play a pivotal role in keeping the whole crew alert, awake and alive over the next few days. Scott I I gave each other a knowing glance…this was going to be one fun weekend!

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“Im Lovin the UK!” Parker was on top form all weekend!

Arriving on site, the team had got to work like a well-oiled machine. We all had our job roles and all knew how important set up day was to the success of the event. The Trail Control was already open, generator running, lights on and the on-site facilities unlocked and ready for action. Brian and Joey extracted themselves from the hire car and we said our official hello’s and introduced them to the team. As ever the RCCZ team of myself, Andy Moore, Scott Curlin, John Wasley and Speedy Steve was swelled by Ian Walters, and his Partner Claire and Speedy’s wife Sam. This was our core team, we had not just one but two epic events to stage, so we simply got on with it…

Torrential Rain & Muddy Trails Espresso

G6 Certified Logo For Branding

About an hour into dressing the site with banners, boundary marking the main areas and Brian and Joey starting to get their trail markers laid, it rained. And I’m not just talking drizzle or a light shower here. It was in all my years of hosting the Nationals the heaviest downpour I’ve ever seen, my heart sank and it didn’t relent. We have video of rivers of water flowing through and down the lower half of the site, by trail control and disappearing into the field earmarked for camping below. Martin appeared with his RCBitz pop up shop and fought the weather to set out his stall, torrents of rain and wind buffeting his efforts.

We by now were mostly all soaked, Parker and Joey had on some cool looking camo poncho’s and despite their baptism by fire (or cold airborne UK water) their spirits were high. They just kept disappearing into the woods and laying more and more trail markers. Returning muddier and wetter each time, but always smiling. Joey then got out all her coffee making paraphernalia and we called a time out. She proceeded to instruct us all in the fine art of making good coffee. From weighing and grinding the beans properly, to using a filter and water at the right temperature and brewing it properly. I even shot a video of the process that’s well worth a watch on my YouTube channel. Fortified and buzzing with some of the best fresh coffee I’ve ever tasted, we all got back into setup mode.

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Two of the many epic banners supplied by Nick at www.uav.graphics

By 6PM we had everything ready to rock and roll the following morning. The site was starting to fill with campers, all totally undeterred by the continuing wet weather, but the field was getting pretty water logged and some without 4x4s struggled to get to their pitch. Add to this reports that roads were flooded on the approach to the site, I was still feeling rather nervous at this point, I just wanted the rain to stop and the sky’s to clear…

The Team BBQ Live + A Night Time Adventure For Parker & Joey

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This little Suzuki is nearly two decades old and still going strong!

We called it a day on site and went to Johns for our now legendary Team BBQ. Parker and Joey Joined us as our honoured guests and in his trademark style Parker televised most of the evenings events live to the World using the Live feature of facebook. The video’s he shot are both funny and capture perfectly the closeness and spirit that the RCCZ have. We aren’t just colleagues. We are truly friends, and over the years have been through a lot between us, both as individuals and together. We are all very different, but share a love of anything Off Road, both RC and 1:1. We did a guided tour around John’s man cave, his motorbikes, Quad bike and his & his wife’s very modified Suzuki Jeeps.

The latter got lots of very positive reaction especially from the US based friends of Parker and the G6 family and can still be watched on Facebook, as can all the other Live uploads we made during that whole weekend. But it didn’t end there. We took the Samurai and the Jimny out to a local 4×4 trail and took Parker and Joey on a 1:1 4×4 adventure to show just how capable and robust these plucky little 4x4s really are! (note to self, as I’m well over 6ft tall and when sitting in the back of a Suzuki, I should wear a seatbelt)…Yes, I didn’t put one on. Yes, I hit my head on the roll bar, yes I broke my glasses in the process, yes I laughed all the way round and home again, no I probably didn’t learn a lesson from the experience!

Much later, back at The House Of Wasley, at well past midnight, and After much BBQ, Speedy’s Chilli Jam and (for those not driving) copious quantities of real ale supplied by Ian we all said our goodbye’s, vowing to be on site by 7.30-8am for an 9am start for booking in…or so we thought.

“Tyre Down, I Repeat Tyre Down…”

Then at around 2am I got a message…”We got a flat on the way home, had to leave car by the side of the road. Are both walking to the hotel, let’s talk in the morning about collecting Brian. I will go and sort car…Joey”

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Was it a rock? Was it a Werewolf? I guess we will never know!

It seemed the funky French car with its low profile tyres had experienced either a blow out or possibly an annoying impromptu puncture half way back to Parker and Joey’s hotel. He had evidently shrugged his shoulders, put on his head torch, picked up as much as he could carry physically, and he and Joey had walked for 1.5 hours along country roads to their rather remote Derbyshire hotel. Imagine that sight if you came driving the other way at 2am…pouring down with rain, kilt blowing in the wind, head torch on full beam. It had been an eventful few hours.

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Couldn’t resist changing the plate in Photoshop…

Talk about a welcome to the UK. First the rain, (which still hadn’t stopped) and now this. I was assured by Joey there was nothing we could do to help until daybreak, so I unsuccessfully tried to get back into a deep sleep…

The Cold Light of Twinset

After dispatching Andy Moore to drive the 45 minutes to the hotel and go and collect Parker for around 9am, the rest of us made our way to the site. I was pleasantly surprised the amount of additional campers that had braved the weather, floods and closed roads and having posted on the official Facebook page about starting an hour late due to Parker not arriving until at least 9.30-9.45…we set about getting the first ever RECON G6 up and running…well after a hearty breakfast from the on-site caterers anyway!

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Wallace and Grommet re-united for another adventure (The Secret of the Kilt!)

I had made up a G6 score card and Ian had duplicated them into double sided A5 format. Brain arrived and immediately got to work being Brian. He has a way of just working a crowd. Everyone gets some personal attention, everyone regardless of age, or gender gets treated the same. He makes you feel part of something special and that’s the real key to what he does. Booking in started with each competitor and their rig being categorised and given a title…From “Drivin Divas” to “Veterans”, Not only did each entrant get to experience the full day and night trail, they also got a RC4WD Goody bag that included the exclusive RECON G6 UK Edition stickers. A queue formed and just kept filling up again. They just kept arriving, wave after wave of them. The turnout was astonishing all things considered.

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By 10am over 150 drivers had booked in…and more arrived by the minute

By now the rain gods had decided to give us a break. The sky whilst not being blue was at least clearing if a little cloudy. Between 9am and 10am we had over 150 entrants book in and with the on-site caterers doing a roaring trade in breakfasts and drinks, things were starting to look very promising.

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This rig won concourse…and a neat prize donated by The Hobby Company…

At 10.15 we called everyone together and had a drivers briefing. Brian inducted everyone into the global RECON G6 family and with all the rigs placed on the road loading up to the trail control it was an impressive site. The two “stages” as he calls them were described to the drivers. Brian explained that the “Little Britain Stage” to the right as you entered the woods had white trail markers to the right, and the “Go Big USA Stage” that started to the left had them on the left.

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The ‘Little’ Britain stage had some ‘Big’ water features…thanks to 14 hours of rain

He also explained that he had hidden “Adventure Items” in and around the trails. From stamps and hole punches you could mark your score sheet with, to obscure objects like rubber frogs, even lost plastic toy puppies (allegedly that had escaped from the Derbyshire pound). If found any of these Adventure Items must be stowed aboard your rig and then brought back to trail control and showed when handing in the score sheets.

They not only ended up as a memento of the event and their time at the UK G6, but would also entitle the finder additional free raffle tickets for the grand prize draw on Sunday afternoon. One such ticket actually got one of the main prizes during this, so its proves the point about the importance of this additional aspect to the event, You didn’t just drive the stages, you explored them, and took time to actually soak in the surroundings.

“Trail Etiquette” Is also the Key

The other thing that Brian stresses to all competitors was “Trail Etiquette”. This isn’t a Scale Competition, it’s a Scale Adventure. Drivers are expected to work together to ensure everyone who goes through the start gate on either the UK or US side makes it round the whole stage and gets home safe and sound. It’s the same in 1:1 4×4 circles and is a great message for the whole community.

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Helping others, having fun and showing good ‘Trail Etiquette’ were key themes to the event

There were sections on both stages that had rigs stuck hard and fast. “Scale Quicksand” is how Brian described one section on the US stage. A winding section of gates that seemed near impossible to negotiate without using a winch or without the aid of a winch buddy. This is where trail etiquette really came into play. We witnessed one European driver from Daniels group spend nearly an hour in one section pulling rig after rig out of the mud and making sure they all got past that natural obstacle onto firmer and less perilous ground.

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Let’s just say good waterproofing was a key requisite to completing the event

Other instances where were a driver had suffered a driveshaft failure half way round the huge stages. A complete stranger appears, stays with the driver and offers a spare he or she was carrying on their rig.

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John Wasley is always well prepared…

New friendships are formed during the event and the comradery between the “Competitors” (if you want to call them that) goes through the roof.

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Acre after acre of Derbyshire woodland was filled with G6er’s, real and extended families

This isn’t just about winning or losing as many RC comps are. This is about being part of something much deeper, a member of a real community, and that’s the biggest life lesson anyone attending a G6 event will learn.

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Parker described some areas as “Scale Quicksand”…and he wasn’t wrong!

Whole blood related families went out through our RCCZ Start gates…bigger extended G6 families came back through the finish ones.

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Guess who’s rigs these are! And who loves the mud more!

Another twist in the G6 way of doing things is the way Brian has set the stages. Often gates would just stop. You would see drivers looking around for the next, often for a matter of minutes. At first out British sense of black and white where rules and course setting are concerned threw up a few minor protests.

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This rig just represents all that’s good in the UK scene

We all expect to go through gate 13 and then visually see gate 14 somewhere nearby. This wasn’t always the case on Brains stages…He pulled me and a group of drivers to one side and explained something:-

“Life is about going on a journey. We all make decisions as to the path to take. We sometimes make wrong turns, have to do a U turn or even double back and start again. But we learn from that and eventually we get from point A, to Point B and feel like we have achieved something. It’s your own journey, your own path, and your own choice…If you can’t see the next step, go explore a bit. You never know what you will find just over that next crest…”

You see Brian isn’t just someone who stages events and just like me and the magazine tries to make a living from doing something he loves. He’s truly and inspirational leader and that’s little speech made complete sense. You could see the expression on people’s faces change. They got it, and went off, driving their rigs before them to explore…then a shout went up. “Got it, next gate is over there, hidden between those two bushes…”.

Winches & Winch buddies were a must have…the latter saving many rigs from doom!

It actually lead though to space you almost had to physically crawl after your rig to negotiate. That’s what elevates this type of event from a mundane drive to being pure class. The other thing to note is that Brian is constantly going up and down the stages, he‘s there to encourage the drivers, spurring them on to get past difficult features and gates, have some fun with them and keep the G6 ethos going throughput the event. If you could bottle whatever Brian has, it would be a rare commodity. But luckily you can’t and that the G6 magic and unique nature of this event.

Fog, Orbs & Glo Sticks…

At night fell, the majority of drivers readied themselves for the night stage and I got out my secret weapon. 200 8” Glow Sticks and 60 reflective gate markers. By using these, some additional lighting that Brain had brought with him, and sections of the Go Big US Stage, we created a night stage to be very proud of.

The combination of spooky stories about “Orbs” in the drivers briefing, the man-made “Fog” generated by the Vapers amongst the group and a pitch black woodland setting worked a treat.

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Many drivers braved the fog, rain and darkness to take part in the Night Stage

Parker lead the group out to the start of the stage. Then went up and down the trail making sure everyone was having fun. He counted em out…and counted em back in again.

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That’s about as bright as it got…LED’s led the way

Meanwhile back at trail control, Joey kept us awake and alert with regular hits of black coffee, and stories of past G6 adventures and their hopes for the events going forward.

We left the site at past midnight, everyone having had a blast. Everyone getting back safely, all having thoroughly enjoyed every second of the run.  No punctures were had that drive home…and Parker and Joey sent a message to confirm they had got back safe and sound. I actually slept that night, despite the caffeine overload.

WE had done good. The first ever RECON G6 was a huge success, and we still had a day of Scale comps and 200 gates if trail runs ahead of us!

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#Getready for Part 2, very soon…

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