Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Now it can be told! The TCS Nats Story Part 3

Friday we returned to the track in the morning for day 2 of practice. To some extent I was worried since track time was going to become more scare as the track got more crowded, and they would be going to controlled practice at some point as well.

I settled on sticking with the 1800 mAh micro car pack that had shown a huge lap time advantage at my home track. At home, on the higher bite surface, the 95g pack saving close to 100g over a normal sized 3200 lipo pack, made the car much faster in a straight line. Not only that, it was also much more nimble and quicker reacting. That was actually a minus at this point. I should have went with the heavier pack, hopefully getting some stability back. Anytime there is good bite, the small pack is a great advantage. Even when the traction is only average, you can still add lead exactly where you want it, and be on par with normal sized packs in terms of overall weight.

Tires where also a tough part of the equation. I went with what I at least knew worked ok at home, which was kit front tires and the optional soft rear, with "low bounce", memory foam type inserts. I didn't like the stock insert only because there was no air gap at all. For sedan tires, some air gap is usually a positive, since the tires can be easy to overheat if they don't have any gap at all. I did try a couple other setups as well, but the old reliable seemed to be the best of what I had. I was also using my tire warmer routine. The other thing was newer tires I built up using the low bounce inserts didn't seem to be as good as my old worn out set. At the same time, what I could gather from the other racers was that newer tires with stock inserts was the way to go. No tire prep other than cleaning. I tried this as well, but I don't know if I was cleaning the same way they were.

Racing around during practice, I could see may car was ok, and on certain runs, good. My car seemed to be better around noon time. I could tell there were 3 or 4 cars that were faster than mine for sure. At the same time, there were some fast cars that had a front end hop. Mine had this hop as well. I was fairly sure it was from running the stiff black springs with fairly light grease on the front kingpins. At the same time, it seemed like you might have to live with it to get the car around. I left practice feeling a bit confused.

Saturday came, and I was probably less than confident. I had run into JB Catricala on Friday. He was with the Tamiya Canada crew. I knew JB from big carpet races in the Midwest. He was asking about what I was trying for setup, as the Canadian F1 guys were trying to get their bearings. Saturday, I was in the Canadian pits, and Tom from Tamiya Canada offered some of his advice on what they found worked for them. Tom was super cool about offering up what they knew, which was a much different tire setup than what I had, as well as some different chassis settings.

The problem was there really wasn't time to practice much with this new stuff. I wound up trying the tire deal in my first qualifier. This new info I hoped would get my car where it needed to be. At the same time, I had a feeling that it just might not be right for me. After a while, you get a feel for what works for you in terms of setup, but I had been trying a lot of stuff that didn't do a ton for me. So I decided to gamble, and I went with it. The car wound up being ok, but not really what I was looking for. I did not have all the details of the setup ready for the first qualifier, so I got the rest squared away for the second race. Unfortunately, the results were similar. I crapped out on my bet. I'm not really sure the way I had the car setup originally was any better, but I was at least familiar with how it drove. I also would have been able to make some improvement to what I had between rounds. It was totally my decision to change my car, though probably a bad one.

Todd Marshall, of "Challenge F1" fame, was pitting right across the way from me. Being more of a carpet guy himself, we commiserated over our plights during the course of the weekend. He wound up trying rear tires with no insert at all, and also scuffing the tire on a tire truer. I watched his car, and it looked pretty good. For the last qualifier, I figured it couldn't hurt to try what he had, so I made up some tires like his. I ran those tires in the last qualifier of the day, and again, it was not any better than what I had before. In the end, I wound up 11th overall with one qualifier left on Sunday.

At that time, I was mad at myself, but I only had myself to blame. My friend Chris Goetz (known as Seaball on rctech), had told me one time that you just have to live with your car at some point during a big event, that you stop changing it and just drive it. I broke this rule pretty badly. I didn't have confidence in my abilities to get the car right, and I wound up flailing. If I had just run what I had, I felt I could have at least been in the main on Saturday. This is probably the biggest lesson for racing at the Tamiya facility or any other big race. At some point you have to have confidence in your knowledge and just make a decision to drive the car.

Saturday night, I decided to rebuild the car based on what I thought it should be. I knew if I had a good run Sunday morning, I could at least put it in the show. Over the course of a couple hours, I got the car into the shape I wanted it, and put the one set of tires I knew worked reliably on it. Sunday morning would show if I had any chance to salvage the weekend.

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