Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Put simply - Behavior!

I’m going to cover a couple of things that seem to annoy a majority of participants but appear to only be followed by a minority of them – Driving Etiquette and Marshalling.

Both of these appear on many forums, with loads of threads and masses of “finger pointing” on a regular basis, so I’m sure I’m not covering new ground here. But, if you are new to RC racing or just reading this because you’re bored at work then hopefully the pointers below will help – either when attending your first few meetings or in killing some time, respectively.

I will begin by saying that I am no Saint! So, if you have the misfortune to meet me in person or share a track with me racing then I will state upfront, now, that I do not proclaim to have always lived by these 110% without ever faltering. Simply because we are all human and when the competitive red mist descends most of us can make a snap judgment in error that we aren’t proud of when looking back with hindsight:

With that in mind, though, we can all strive to be considerate, aware and fair when on the track so that everyone participating has an enjoyable and even handed time while racing regardless of the level – club, regionals, nationals or worlds (if you’re lucky or dedicated enough to get that good!). So, when I have been in the wrong, I’ve always been gracious to apologise when I’ve realised my mistake:

Driving Etiquette:

When on the rostrum please don’t use bad language or verbally abuse marshals or other drivers as there are still many parents who don’t want their children to persistently hear foul language or abuse when trying to have fun. 
If your car decides to post a DNF then just step back on the rostrum, but please don’t step/jump down from it, especially if it means muscling past the other drivers as it could be very distracting for them.
During qualifiers remember that you are racing the clock rather than the other cars on track, so if someone is lapping faster than you, please move over at a safe point on the track to let them by as it will be quicker for both of you.
“Rubbing is racing” as a great man once said, but rear-ending someone is a road traffic offence! All most all forms of motorsport is technically a non-contact sport, including RC racing, but everyone is realistic that sometimes a little scuffing occurs, just don’t take it too far and deliberately nudge someone off the track as it’s not sporting and most of us pay for our spares/repairs so it could also get costly for both involved. 
If you do wipe out another car due to a poorly judged overtaking move, or a fundamental lack of talent, then please wait until they are marshalled to restore the pre-collision positioning between you both, so you are not benefiting from an unfairly gained advantage if you are on your wheels and they are on their roof.
When you’ve finished your 5 minute run, others may still be on it so you still need to be fully aware if you are trying to get an extra practice lap after the heat is finished. Some clubs will designate pull off areas that you must park up in after the finish, but if not and they are happy to let you get a cool down lap, please try to avoid any accidental tripping up of those still finishing.

Sorry – Wrong type of marshal!

Oops – Closer but still not quite right

That’s better – right one this time


I know this can be hard, especially if the racing is fierce and exciting, but when marshalling don’t watch the race, please stay focused on your area of track. You are there to help the drivers competing, not to get a closer view of the action, so make sure you’re paying attention to the cars racing through the area you’ve been assigned/asked to cover.
Place the cars back on track, please don’t throw or flip them! The idea is to get the cars back racing safely so if you throw them you could damage them (trust me I’ve had this happen) and “flipping” them back on their wheels regularly just rolls the car right over back onto its roof.
Try to be mindful of obscuring other parts of the track when marshaling. If you’ve heroically leapt across a couple of sections of track to superbly marshal a stricken car but can’t get back to your marshal point, you may want to duck down while checking the way is clear to return.
The best phrase to keep in your head when marshalling is to “marshal how you would like to be marshalled” as this way you should hopefully receive good karma and receive good marshalling back in return.

That is pretty much it.

The only other thing really is try to remember that everyone is out to have fun when at a meeting – regardless of how fiercely competitive others can seem – so relax and enjoy the evening, day, weekend (however long the event is) and watch the action packed races as much as you can between your own heats.

At the end of the day we all just want fun, fair racing.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The first club meeting..........

I guess the logical next post should be about the club meetings.

I say club meeting as I’ll assume that no one is planning on their first race meet to be a Regional or National!

If you’ve been down to the club a couple of times for information before finishing your car then you’ll already know a couple of people there, especially the club organiser, so you should know where to put your stuff, where to grab a table and roughly how long the day/evening will be. If you haven’t been before then drop an email to the club’s email address off their website, or put up a post on their forum section if they have one, just so that you can get a couple of names, an idea of the time to arrive etc.

The best thing to do when you get there and are unsure of anything is just ask! I’ve never found anyone to be unhelpful or rude at a club meeting (despite appearances!), especially to new comers, so someone will help you find a seat, a table and a plug socket for you charger. Next thing to do is look for the man/woman sat at a table with a laptop as they will be the person booking everyone in, taking the entry fee and handing out club transponders to those without personal ones.

Something I wouldn’t worry about on your first night, but strongly recommend after you’re used to the format more, is helping build the track before racing begins and clearing it away after it’s finished. Just because the quicker the track is built and put away, the more time there is for racing (just one for the future rather than when first starting out).

Once that’s done you’re ready to go, the only thing left is to attach your club transponder to your car and then check the Heat List, once the organiser has finished all the booking in, to see when you’re out on track. The heats are normally grouped (or seeded) based on the organiser’s knowledge of the regulars so that the quicker racers are together and the slower/newer guys/girls are together also.

Most club meets will follow the following format each time:

·         3 or 4 x rounds of Qualifying Heats – 5 minutes each

·         1 x round of Finals – 5 minutes each (normally)

·         Each Heat and Final is normally made up of between 6-10 cars depending on overall numbers and skill splits.


This will normally be started in a particular order (first round in car number order, each round after that in order of fastest to slowest from the previous heats). The alternative is a mass start, but this is less common, where everyone starts on the sound of the buzzer.

Before the start the computer will give a warning countdown of beeps then if it is car-by-car it will call out the car numbers in order with a break of roughly 2 seconds between each one – that’s your cue to start. If it’s a mass start then after the countdown beeps there will be a pause of 3-5 seconds and a start tone for all to go.

The key thing to remember with qualifying is that it’s a time trial NOT a race!!! There is no gain from cruising up to the back of other cars and crashing in an overtaking attempt or in trying to hold up a faster car behind you. You are essentially trying to do as many laps as you can before the 5 minute buzzer goes, so it is a race against YOURSELF more than a race against the rest.

The target for qualifying in your first few meetings, and to be honest most of them after that, is a clean run. Simply, you’re trying to get around the track without crashing into others, crashing into the wall or track markers and also not ending up on your roof at any time! Sounds easy doesn’t it!!!

Especially in your first runs just drive to give it a shake down to check it’s all working right, and learn how to control the car. The best thing is to aim to stick to the centre line of the track, so avoiding the track markers and walls, along with just “rolling” over jumps and obstacles (this just means cruising over them in neutral or at most constant throttle) so that you limit the chances of breaking anything or ending up on your roof.

Remember, it’s clean runs and a lack of breakages that will help you improve more than stunning 10ft air jumps that end up in the wall! Take it easy and build up the speed as you build your understanding and confidence in the car. If someone quicker is coming up behind you just run a little wider on the next corner and let them pass, they are less likely to crash into you than if they try a racing style dive up the inside with you defending your line. If something doesn’t feel right then ask someone for their advice on how your car looks as it’s driving, they may even take it for a couple of laps between heats to get a feel if you’re ok with that, and they can point you in the right direction for changes or the most common reason for that horrible grinding noise coming from your car (hopefully not this last one!).


These will be created after the last qualifier based on either the best 2 rounds overall rankings or each person’s fastest 5 minute run of the whole lot, depending on the preferred format of the club (the former is normally what I found used).

This is where you are actually racing against the others. Everyone will line up in a staggered grid format on the main straight and after the countdown beeps there will be a pause of 3-5 seconds and a start tone for all to go, go, go!!! – Right into a pile-up at the first corner!!!

Normally the best approach for the first few finals is still treat them like a qualifying round. Just keep to the middle of the track, avoiding the markers and walls, to try and get a clean run. As you get more experienced, and gain more confidence, then start to try a few moves and overtakes in the finals, moving up the order and finishing higher than you started.
The main thing to remember throughout it all is to have FUN. Don’t get too worried about your position, focus on learning car control, going a little further in the 5 minutes each run and enjoying the chaos of the finals. Everyone there is doing this for a hobby, just like you, so as I said before ask if you don’t understand something as there is always someone willing to help. You will get better with time, everyone at the club started at the same level you are now, no one could jump straight into an F1 car and post pole position lap times, so why should you be able to when driving RC cars???

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Build.........

Hi all reading this. First an apology as I’ve not updated this for a couple of months, mainly due to time away during Christmas and a few other things that have cropped up since my last post which have eaten into my time.
I’ve been wanting to get the next post out, focusing on when I built my kit. Those of you who’ve bought an RTR (Ready-To-Run) car may not think this applies to you, but some of the key pointers will help you out too when it comes to maintenance and, more than likely, repairs!

When building your kit or about to do some significant maintenance on your car, the first thing to do is make sure you have read the manual. I know it sounds like a wimpish for a proper man to say, but you won’t feel like a proper man when your car breaks down on its first run because you’ve mixed up the screws, or diff, or suspension arms, or shock seals etc. etc.
Basically there are quite a few things that can be inserted wrong or built the wrong way which will not only shorten your run time, or ruin performance, more importantly to those on a budget it could cost some $$$ to fix.

So a few handy tips when building your kit:

  • Read the manual all the way through.
  • Read the manual all the way through again!
  • Have the manual open to the section you need as you need it (particularly important during maintenance and repairs).
  • Make sure you have all the correct tools for the job (no Irish screwdrivers etc.).
  • Have a tidy work space with plenty of area around to place things (using a small coffee table or your lap on the sofa is definitely not recommended!).
  • Try as best you can to only take the parts you actually need for that section of the build out of the packets and boxes (so that you don’t lose random screws or bolts by accident).
  • Try to give yourself a few hours uninterrupted time to build the kit. Nothing is more annoying or potentially messes up a build than having to pack it all up mid-build because your partner needs the kitchen table back when you’re half way through building your diff.
  • Double check your work (Once you’ve finished a section, double check it against the manual to make sure it is right before moving to the next section).

I know this may sound obvious to some, or overly pedantic to others, but if you build the kit wrong to start with then you will have parts break, the car may be a nightmare to drive, and/or it may ruin your “killer run” when you find yourself in the zone during a final.
Another thing that may be handy is to check out a good forum (like oOple) or the manufacturer’s website for build tips. As hard as they try sometimes there are errors in the manual, or a part molding issue, that isn’t always obvious so they upload videos or walkthroughs for the workaround.

Finally something that is often forgotten:
Give the car a couple of “shakedown” runs once completed. Either around your driveway or at the club on a race evening. Either way, take the first couple of runs easy, even turn down your throttle end point to make sure, so that the diff can bed in and the moving parts go through a few actions. This way you can double check the screws and fit of parts afterwards for any loosening or excessive play (movement). Also if anything does break you will be doing a slower speed and will normally see/feel it before it goes, so, it may not do as much damage as at full race pace. Build up the speed with each run, checking out the car after each run and by the end of the meeting you should have the car running at race pace and have picked up any issues early.

This is also where the advantage of running a popular car for your club lays. If anything does go wrong there will be plenty of help from people, who may have gone through it before you with that specific car, so it should be easily and simply repaired to get you ready for the next heat.
Hopefully these few tips will help when it comes to putting together, or carrying out maintenance, your first car. And these tips carry over for all forms of RC racing, not just the buggies I run. Once I had my car together I was itching to get down to my first club night to hit the track, although as I found out I hit quite a lot of it in my first few nights of club meetings!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Electrics and other stuff…………….

So I had my chassis, after looking around, and now I needed the stuff to make it go, go go!!! This can at first seem pretty daunting, especially if you’re not up to speed with the latest technology or don’t possess an Electrical Engineering Degree, but it is in fact easier than finding the right car.

The same helpful pointers for choosing the right car can be used, with a couple of slight differences:

1st – When starting out, try to budget your electrics to match the cost of your chassis, if going all new.

This should get you a pretty good set-up of Speedo (the control unit), Motor and Lipo Battery too. There is no need to get the highest end racing gear, but at the same time you don’t want to get super budget equipment that you will need to replace within 6 months once you’ve got the hang of driving the car and everyone else is whizzing past you, leaving you frustrated and a little more out of pocket.


You can also apply the same amount again, as your limit, for getting a transmitter (the thing that you hold to control the car), a receiver, charger and tools etc. that you’ll need to get it built and running. Again there is no need to go crazy on price as most of the stuff is really good at the lower middle range of the market and it should last you for a few years with no problems, plus there are now some good combo deals out there for Speedos & Motors which are great when starting out.

2nd – DO use forums for information about what to get, but like choosing a car, don’t put up a general post asking what is best (for the same reasons as not doing this for what car to choose).

Instead use it to see what equipment has a lot of threads or posts stating what ones are having trouble, or are breaking, or are having un-diagnosable issues. Much like modern new cars (I used to be a car salesman) there aren’t really any awful ones anymore, just some that have niggles or glitches. Most of the time they will ultimately be repaired or resolved in later batches, but you don’t want to be caught with one of the early/problematic ones.

Ultimately, though, most of the mid-range Speedo/Motor/Battery combinations are ok and if used correctly will not be any bother for you.

This is all of course if you are not buying an RTR (Ready to Run) package and wanting to build your car from scratch. This way you will get the car, tyres, speedo, motor, transmitter and receiver all in one. I built mine all from the chassis up, installed the electrics, wired it all in and glued the tyres to the rims, but this isn’t the only or best way. RTRs are a great place to start if you have no prior experience in putting RC Cars (or models, real cars, IKEA furniture etc.) together. You will have a car that you can, in most cases, charge and run right out of the box as most will give you a battery and charger too and there are more and more competitive RTR deals available now from the top end racing manufacturers to cater for new starters and racers of all types. Just because you didn’t build your car from scratch doesn’t make you any less of an enthusiast or racer, it just means you either didn’t have the interest or experience to. They are all adjustable and able to be modified as you progress with hop-ups and options, so most of them are not limited in later use either.

Finally this is what I went for in terms of electronics and additional equipment:

DualSky 550TF-MJ Speedo
Speed Passion MMv3 8.5T Motor
Voltz 30C Stick Lipo
Spektrum Transmitter/Receiver Combo DX3C
Savox Servo SC1258
Core RC Charger
Schumacher Tools (with an RPM Camber tool though)
A little side note about my speedo choice.
I did originally go for the Speed Passion Reventon R (so keeping my motor and speedo the same manufacturer) but there were some issues with delivery from the shop I ordered it from. It was getting onto 3 weeks after ordering when I decided to try the Dualsky unit (which was my 2nd choice) instead as this would be delivered within a few days and I was eager to get on the track with the car. Also I had seen on oOple that a lot of people who had got the early delivery of Speed Passion Reventon R speedos had had trouble galore and needed to return them so I managed to dodge a bullet luckily as it turned out. The Dualsky unit has been bullet proof and never had an issue with it (other than user error) so have been very glad of the change and even switched my motor to Dualsky when I had some spare cash.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

What's Everyone Running???

The choice of what to run within the buggy world really starts off whether you want to go with 4wd or 2wd, so first up I needed to look into this. The starting point I took, and I guess the best for most people, is to see what the local clubs to you are running. Simply because the bigger the number of people running that class, the more help and assistance you can get. Also, with a larger group of people running your class the wider the spread of abilities and the more people close to your level there will be. As someone just starting out, I don't think anyone will realistically be expecting to be at the front, but it is no fun running around the track with the few people racing you constantly lapping you, it is demoralising. So in my mind, more people, more practice, more banter, more fun!

So when I went to Dynamix and spoke to Paul, and the others, I found out that most people ran 2wd there so that was where most of the action was. But that was not all! Paul gave me some great bits of extra advice when it comes to choosing what to run which I have to say I'm now really glad I followed:
  1. 2wd is cheaper on spares etc as it has less mechanical parts that can break. This also means there is less to learn initially when it comes to building and maintaining your pride and joy.
  2. The driving style of a 2wd is trickier to master, but is a more traditional style of driving. You can drive a 4wd like a 2wd, but, not the other way round. If you learn to drive a 2wd well, then the 4wd will be a doddle to pick up if you want to go into it, but driving a 4wd first may lead you to learn driving habits not helpful if you try to go to 2wd.
With the information, and the extra pieces of advice form Paul, I decided that 2wd would be best for me to go with to start! On to which one now, as there are a few to choose from.............
There are in fact, many, many, many to choose from, with even more coming to the market since I bought my first buggy a year ago:
Associated B4.2, Losi 22, Schumacher SV2, Team Durango DEX210, Kyosho RB6, Yokomo BMAX2, Tamiya TRF201, LRP Twister, Maverick Strada, HoBao H2, Team C TM2 and there will soon be many more in the XRay XB2, Serpent SRX2, In-Tech...........

So it can seem very confusing what one to choose as each has its advantages, each has its downsides, each has its champions and each has it haters. With this in mind, I did what was probably the worst thing to do - I placed a post on oOple asking the forum world what they thought was best!
This opened up a discussion with everyone waiding in to give comments on why their current car is the greatest one they have ever driven, and hobby shop owners chipping in to say why their latest deal kit is the best for newbies! But, a couple of sane people gave me some real advice on what to base my choice on, which I will pass on to anyone reading this, below, as I think it is the best way to go:
  1. See what people are running at your local club of choice - more cars equals more spares for if you break something you didn't expect to and more advice on maintenance and set-up.
  2. If you can con/sweet-talk someone into letting you try theirs then you can get a feel - if you try two or three and one feels particularly comfortable (you will feel it when it happens, this isn't based on talent/experience) then that will probably be first choice.
  3. Set yourself a budget and check what you get in each kit from different online dealers or local hobby shops as your prefered car may be £350 but your second choice only £200 (if going new) and fits your budget better.
  4. If going second hand then you may have more flexibility, but it all depends on what is available at the time and how quick you want to get up and running, but look for deals that have spares included, these will massively help to keep initial and future costs down.
  5. Check out online and ask at the clubs about durability and parts/spares availability. If a particular manufacturer can only get parts sent from China once every three months then it may be tricky to always have what you need, so will need a bigger store of parts at all times which will cost more money.
  6. Even if you have little long term experience, don't ignore your gut feeling about a car. This is your hobby, your joy, your release from work etc. Much like your road car, house or gadgets there may be an emotional pull to one in particular because there is a "certain something" about it, either its looks, its name, the country it's made in. Whatever it is, if you can, follow it.
This was my chosen buggy:-

Team Durango DEX210 (my actual car after painting)

Now, I didn't follow all of these rules myself (number 2 is the one I missed, which is why I have since changed from my initial buggy, but more on that later), but I was buying new and followed the rest of them. This meant I had a very good piece of kit, within a good price, with a good support network at my local track, and all I needed from a very, very good first car. The rules above also apply for all the other kit you will need, if not buying a Ready-to-Run kit, so you should end up with everything you need to start.

This is where my attentions moved to next, the equipment you need to actually run the car.................

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Where to go?????

From my last post, you can probably tell that I had pretty much decided on Off-Road rather than On-Road, but there was 1 final factor that could change everything....... Where were my local clubs????
If my local tracks were all On-Road, then this would ultimately be the deciding factor as a significant reason for trying RC Racing again was wanting a regular hobby nearby to where I lived.
I started off looking at the BRCA (British Radio Car Association) website
They have a list of all the affiliated clubs that can be searched by area so I looked for the North East of England to see who ran what and where.

There were a couple of On-Road clubs, the main 3 being Teeside (which is a fair trek from me t o be doing each week), Barley Mow which is only across the river Tyne, but this is only indoor mainly for 1/12th scale and finally Tyne Met College which is also indoor in a college sports hall. Luckily there were also a couple of Off-Road clubs, Dynamix in Gateshead and NEAM-Seaham (linked to the right). I had a look on Google to see if there were others and I came across oOple which is a forum website where pretty much ALL of the UK RC scene appear to go. On the forum I found the details for the 2 Off-Road clubs and decided to ping an email to the closest one at Gateshead - Dynamix.
Dynamix is run by a guy called Paul who was really helpful. He replied really quickly to my email and said that the best thing was to pop down and take a look one Sunday when they are running. So, 2 weeks later I jumped on the Metro (because I didn't have a car yet) to see what it was all about. Typical for me though, it was a Regional Event meeting that week, so no-one was there!

OK, not strictly true, as there was a guy running around testing his new car (which is how I knew it a Regionals weekend) but he was helpful enough to answer some questions and tell me to come back next week if I wanted to talk to Paul. The following week I headed down and Paul was kind enough to explain the basics, the types of cars, the progress in Off-Road over the last few years and how often his club run etc. The other racers there were really helpful too, letting me look over their cars, the equipment they use and what they prefer to run. Also, I got to see the cars in action, running round the track, over jumps (not always successfully) and watching them race. There were a few different types of car (I will get into those later) so I got to see a good mix of cars and came away with loads more information than I came with the most important thing - Confirmation that I wanted to run Off-Road Buggies!!! as there was a good local track nearby and the cars looked cool. This is something I have begun to find is common with newbies looking at the sport, the buggies just look cool as they jump over stuff, at high speed, on tracks that look much more challenging than a flat strip of tarmac.
The next choice was whether I was to run 2wd or 4wd and then, what buggy as I was to learn there are a few on the market.............

Monday, 29 July 2013

Electric or Nitro, On-Road or Off-Road???

Now that I knew I wanted to get back into RC cars, and this time start racing them, I had to find out what type of racing I wanted to do:
Electric or Nitro?
Off-Road or On-Road?
1/8th or 1/10th or 1/12th scale?
2wd or 4wd?

There are plenty of types and variations of racing in RC and it did look a little too much to work through to start with. Each has its good points, and bad points, but it all depends on what you are looking to get out of it and what gets your inner child’s heart racing by looking cool!

I remembered there being a couple of magazines around when I was making RC cars as a kid, so popped down to WH Smiths to see what was still around. Luckily there were a couple, Radio Control Car Racer and Radio Race Car International, so I picked up a copy of each over a couple of months to read through. I found info on new equipment and racing reports, with Radio Control Car Racer particularly good for equipment information as they include what most of the top guys are running in their race reports. They also both included all types of RC Racing in the magazines, so I could get a view of what was going on in the ones I wanted to look at doing, and I could see how much had changed with RC cars since I had last built and run one. As it turned out, a lot had changed!

The first question, electric or nitro, was easy to answer. Neither my landlord or girlfriend would let me store petrol, or any other flammable liquid, in the block of flats I live in so it was electric for the power system. Also, I thought it would be easy to use plug-and-play electric motors and control units, rather than nitro engines which require running in, carburettors which require fine tuning and the noise makes it difficult to work on the car in the flat.

The second question was a little more tricky to answer. The first couple of cars I had were off-road buggies, but the last few were on-road touring car replicas, so I wasn’t too sure which way I would go. Initially I looked at on-road touring cars, looking at the entry level kits available, their cost, parts levels with hobby shops and reviews in the magazines and online. I also looked at what went into setting the cars up and the equipment needed to run and maintain the car. This is where it started to come apart for on-road for me. I looked at 1/10th touring and 1/12th “stock” cars mainly but kept finding myself put off a little by the complexity.

The 1/12th Stock car style RCs are simple to use, they looked quite nice as they are based on real cars externally and it was a growing scene so there appeared to be plenty of help. This appeared great, but then I realised that eventually I would want to make the next step up which would be into touring cars or pan cars. Both of these require very precise and exact setting-up. There is tyre balancing, tyre shaving, different tyre additives to choose and how to apply them, degrees of change of 0.1mms in setting-up, and many areas that are black-arts. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this if you are interested in all, but it was daunting to me in its possibilities and not the level I wanted to go into initially. It simply looked to me that to be competitive in Touring Cars I was going to have to spend serious money and spend forever trawling through websites to find out set-up information. There was also another issue to contend with, where was my local track?