Huge shout out to www.RC4WD.com For helping facilitate this article.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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…”
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…”
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! “
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!“
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…”
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!
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…”
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!”
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!”
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!
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+
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…
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.
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.
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
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.
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!)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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-shiftedabout a third of the wayup the runand 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?”
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’…
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
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
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.
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…
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.
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.
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
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’
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
I was first introduced to RC drifting back in 2008 and have been hooked ever since, I simply cannot stress just how much fun it is whatever your skill level or age. RC drifting is a great part of the radio controlled hobby with a great community of people involved. It continues to grow each year with people taking it up and embracing the culture that comes with it. RC drifting has a massive worldwide following and has bought people together from all walks of life.
RC drifting is a scaled down version of one of the fastest growing motorsports on the planet, for those not familiar with its full-size counterpart the aim is to negotiate a specially designed track using pin-point throttle control to keep the car sideways for as much of the track as possible. Where most motorsports are based on fastest laps drifting is very much based on style, someone once told me it’s like skateboarding with a car. Drifting has come a long way over the last 5 or 6 years, with manufacturers designing drift-specific chassis’ and pushing the technical boundaries of RC to the limits.
Chassis now boast some amazing feats of engineering normally reserved for the high-end real-world cars. The higher price chassis’ are draped in carbon fibre and lightweight aluminium. If you have spotted RC drifting online or read about it and fancy having a bash, getting started can be as simple as throwing some drift tyres on an old touring car and popping to your local car park to have some fun. If you don’t have an old touring car knocking around then you have some choices to make and hopefully this little drift 101 will help you make those choices.
A Few Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Drift
If you are totally new to the hobby you can get drifting on a small budget and your local model shop will no doubt stock the latest offerings from HPI who produce some great ready-to-run (RTR) options to get you started for under £200. There is also the trusty Tamiya and their touring cars models, this has been the way to go for many beginners for years.
However, there is now a huge amount of choice when you are starting out, so let’s try and cut through some of the waffle.
AWD (All Wheel Drive) or RWD (Rear Wheel Drive?)
When I started drifting this question didn’t exist but it sure does now, with the development of RC drift chassis’ over the last few years you now have a choice between AWD (All wheel drive) & RWD (Rear wheel drive).
AWD offers two options to choose from, the traditional 50/50 style offers equal drive to the front and rear wheels and is very forgiving for beginners. The popular choice for the more advanced driver is CS (Counter Steer), by altering the gearing you can overdrive the rear wheels or underdrive the front, this will essentially mean your rear wheels will rotate at a higher rate than the front making the chassis a little more tail happy and allowing for better car control through subtle throttle control.
RWD is exactly that, a rear wheel drive chassis, in most cases a gyro is used to help prevent the chassis spinning out and it also makes the handling more realistic, although the goal of any driver would be to master the settings of the chassis to prevent relying on the gyro. There are some very good entry level rear wheel drive chassis’ available although it is not for the feint hearted.
Belt Drive or Shaft Drive?
Almost all chassis’ will be belt of shaft driven. Basically, a belt driven chassis will be smoother and a little more forgiving while a shaft driven chassis will give you a more instant response and be more aggressive. So the choice comes down to you and how you like to drive, belt drive can be a little easier for beginners but you can tame some of the aggression out of the shaft driven models.
What To Buy…
Right then, you’ve made your choice between RWD and AWD, you have thought about belts and prop shafts, now it is time to count those pennies and work yourself out a budget. Thankfully, due to the increasing popularity of drifting the entry level price range has come down a lot, while you still have the staple offerings from the major brands other brands are bringing new affordable models to the table all the time.
Some great budget options are now available in both rear wheel drive and all-wheel drive options. You can pick up a rolling chassis with endless potential for just over £100, granted you will have to add electrics, radio gear and a bodyshell which will see your spend creep over the cost of a RTR but you will have a chassis’ that can grow with you as you progress.
Spending a little extra on your first model is worth considering, all too often people end up needing a new chassis in a very short space of time, so it is worth looking at what upgrades are available for your first RC drifter before taking the plunge.
If you are one of those lucky people who doesn’t have a budget to worry about then man are you going to have some fun, if there is one thing the RC drift world offers it is bling! And while most parts offer some extra function or performance some are just purely to make your chassis pretty, but hey we all love some shiny bits on our chassis don’t we?
There really is no ceiling when it comes to what you can spend on your drifter, higher end models start from £400 to £500 for a rolling chassis, couple this with a few choice upgrades, some high-end electrics and top of the range radio gear and you will notice a couple of grand missing from your bank account. Of course most people will work their way up to this level but there is always that one person who has all the gear and no idea, their pit bag is usually the envy of everybody.
However don’t be put off by the crazy prices of the high-end stuff, you can still have just as much fun with the entry-level stuff, if you take to drifting (and most people do) you will soon find yourself thinking two grand is a worthwhile spend. If you are still struggling with what to buy the internet is your best friend, there are thousands of drift groups and social media groups with people who are always happy to talk about drifting. If you prefer to see the stuff in the flesh, some model shops now carry a good range of drift related products and of course, you can always pop along to a track and see them in action for yourself.
Where Can You Drift?
Once you have made your decisions on chassis set-up it’s all about where you can drift. The truth is you can get sideways anywhere with a smooth enough surface, local car parks are almost always the stomping ground of budding drifters, they provide nice, open spaces for you to get used to going sideways. A word of warning here, watch out for concrete pillars, they don’t mix well with RC cars.
As RC drifting has got more popular in the UK permanent tracks have popped up in model shops and complete stand-alone tracks. Drifting on track is a totally different animal to being out in a car park but is much more enjoyable and rewarding in my opinion. Drifting on track is the best place to work on your technique and improve your drifting.
One of the most stunning tracks in the UK is N.R.D (Northern Race & Drift) in Wakefield, the level of detail there is incredible, just looking around can take a couple of hours of your time. As a club it is the benchmark for all drift venues, its family friendly and home to some very talented drifters who are always happy to give advice and guidance where it is needed.
If you are not lucky to have a permanent track nearby, a quick search on Facebook should point you in the direction of your local team or group. Some of these teams/groups are even hosting their own events, on a monthly basis in most cases. These little events are popping up in town halls and community centres all over the country.
From groups of friends in car parks to indoor tracks you will definitely find somewhere to get your slide on, wherever you are from.
Getting sideways is pretty simple, keeping it there and controlling it is another story, it is all about chassis set-up and throttle control.
Find yourself a nice open space, a wide figure of eight is always a good place to start as this will help you get to grips with your throttle control and learning to transition the car from one direction to the other while staying sideways. Once you have mastered the wide figure of eight reduce speed and go for a tighter eight. If you are lucky enough to have a track on your doorstep don’t be afraid to go and hit the track straight away, just be respectful of the fact some folk at the track will have a lot of money invested in their chassis and a little etiquette goes a long way.
Another thing that will greatly benefit you as you learn to drift is understanding your chassis, sit down and learn the basics of car set-up from suspension geometry to camber, castor and toe. Understanding these will allow you to tailor your chassis’ handling to suit your style. A simple search of the internet or social media will give you a wealth of reading material on all of these subjects. Set-up guides are also readily available for most models and are always a good starting point, giving you a solid base to build on.
If all this sounds scary, don’t worry, the great thing about drifting is the community it has created. Help is always on hand, sharing tips and advice is not a crime, noobs are most definitely always welcome. People are always happy to share their experience with you and will happily sit and explain the various aspects of chassis set-up with you. Getting people up to a good standard seems to be the goal of most drifters as it ramps up the fun factor when everyone is driving at an equal standard, I am sure this attitude is the same wherever you go in the drift world.
Now You’ve Mastered The Slide… Let’s Talk Bodyshells…
Once you are confident enough that you are not going to smash into everything, you might want to consider making a killer bodyshell. With drifting being about style it should come as no surprise that people put just as much effort into the look of their bodyshells as they do the functionality of their chassis. Some people are even making a pretty penny custom painting bodyshells for people who don’t have the skills or time to create these works of art.
Seeing what people come up with is one of the coolest things about drifting, you will see beautifully shiny shells and beaten up rust buckets with broken windows and parts missing and you will be equally impressed by both. The level of detail people go to is insane, from simple touches like adding a light kit to scratch building interiors and body kits.
Bodyshells are your chance to get your personality across, and like anything RC you don’t have to spend much to get started. You can pick up a shell for just over £20, throw in a couple of tins of polycarbonate paint and for about £30 you can put your own stamp on your car. Trust me, it won’t stop at just the shell, soon you’ll be looking at accessories like intercoolers, engine bays, over fender kits and beautifully made wing mounts to make your shell look as realistic as possible.
The possibilities are endless, with almost every type of car ever made from Japanese drift icons to classic American muscle cars available in a 1/10 scale, there is something to suit everyone’s taste.
Taking Drifting To The Next Level
RC drifting now offers drivers the opportunity to showcase their skills to a wider audience through national and international competitions. If you find yourself wanting to pit your skills against other drivers from around the UK the national championship offers competitions in both RWD and CS classes and is backed by some big sponsorships from some of drifting’s top brands.
You could always take things that step further and pit your talent against the best drifters in the world over in Holland at the world championships. The world championships are held annually and attract the best drivers from across Europe as well as drivers from Japan and the USA. This year’s world championship which has just come to a conclusion was also streamed live on YouTube and attracted a lot of attention on the internet. These championships are a perfect example of just how much RC drifting is growing on a worldwide scale, the fact that it is now popular enough that teams of people will travel all over the world to slide is a testament to the people involved with the hobby from the top right down to the newcomers.
You don’t need to be a drift legend to enter these competitions and although they are taken very seriously by the guys and girls competing in them, they are a great place to go and have fun and make new friends who share the same interests as you.
Summing Things Up…
RC drifting, much like the scale/rock crawler scene, is a shot in the arm for the RC industry, bringing in new faces and reinvigorating those who have been involved for years. It has brought a host of new manufacturers to the industry and opened up RC to a larger audience.
It is a great way to spend your time, you are never too young or old to get your slide on. It doesn’t matter if it’s a group of friends skidding around the local multi-story car park or a band of brothers travelling across Europe to drift against the best in the world, the feeling you will get from both is the same, and that feeling is fun. Let’s face it that is what RC is all about, whatever aspect of the hobby you spend your time doing.
So get down to your local track see what it’s all about, get on the internet and absorb all the sideways goodness you can find there, but most of all, don’t be afraid to ask questions or get involved, you will meet some truly awesome people and make some great friends. Now go and have fun…sideways!