Monday, July 14, 2008

Racing: Norcal Hobbies Off-Road Race Report

Here is a recap of my first rc race at Norcal Hobbies this past Saturday. it was an awesome day, a great event, and i know i'll be going back for another race again as soon as i can! i hadn't raced for over 15 years, so i was really nervous and i didnt know what to expect, read on for the details...

== around 6:30am ==
after some late night tuning (and taping ;)) i'm ready for action! a little nervous...
i taped the slash body to try and stand apart from the other slash's on the course. it proved helpful. (FYI: they had some clear slash bodies in stock).

== the track ==
i arrived a little early, but the pits were already open and a few spots already claimed. i found a table and set up my space. i couldnt wait to see the track after hearing so much about it, it didnt disappoint!


the track is amazing! when they said "slash friendly", i expected something tamer than last time. this definitely was not tame!

this new layout is larger than the previous design and offers more of what makes racing fun: super fast speed and crazy air time. the straight has been moved to the back and provides plenty of space for some really high speeds. while the right side of the track is more about speed and technical ability around turns, the left side of the track is a jungle of car breaking features which provided a ton of entertainment (as well as broken a-arms).

after the straight and a few tight turns, there is a deceiving step-jump that requires some delicate finessing of the throttle to just hop over. anything more, and you were flat on your back, anything less and you were stuck on the step

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this proved to be a great pile-up area but as the day went on drivers seemed to master it... except for the slash class. the slash's had so much trouble clearing it without ending up belly-up, that in the mains, they made a detour for the slash race. not everyone agreed with the change, but at least there wasnt a pile up every lap ;)

the step-jump is followed by a small table top, then after a turn, a giant step-down that is also deceptive: in the first 4wd qualifier, three cars went to the pits with broken front arms. again, this requires some gentle throttle and coasting over to hit the back side of the step-down. if you over-shot it, you are likely to land nose first as you try and turn while landing - hence the broken front arms.


the highlight of the track is right in front of the drivers stand: a giant set of double-jumps followed by a big table top. it was advised that drivers double the jump and then tackle the table if they wanted to get by it without breaking ;) for the slash class, there wasnt enough power to do anything other than the double-single.



of course, in the mod classes drivers were back-siding the table top on the opposite end! the air time in the 4wd mod races was especially insane! you could reach out and touch the cars from the drivers stand!



the reaction from the crowd was awesome every time one of these bullets flew over all 3 of the jumps. turn marshals were advised to stay out of the area and there were some really close calls with cars inches away from heads. helmets should be required for marshaling that part of the track! ;)

overall, the track was super fun and really interesting to run - at times the speeds were intense, at others, the jumps and other features kept you on your toes.

== the races ==
the racing was really fun. a lot of great drivers were there. racing was well-organized and aside form a quick run that had to be made to radioshack to fix the lap-timing computer (we got a little extra practice time before the mains) everything went off without a hitch. john hicks did the announcing for most of the day with other drivers filling in while he jumped into a race.

i managed to shoot some videos with my camera (pretty crappy quality) of the 4wd qualifier and mains. these proved to be some of the most exciting races of the day with amazing speeds and unreal air off the front triple. lots of broken cars as well ;)

some of the the 4WD qualifiers:

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i raced the rookie class with the B44 and also raced in the slash class. i was hesitant to try and tackle two classes on my first race day, but i really wanted to try out my birthday present (the slash) and also wanted to put all that b44 practice to the test ;)

once the track was open for practice i went out with the slash. although i hadn't driven it yet, i started with a setup posted by badboy on the slash thread. the truck felt OK, but i definitely was not use to it. further more there seemed to be some issue with the throttle where i could not get consistent acceleration and if i gunned it sometimes the truck would just stutter and stop. i managed to adapt to this and got to know the track. after about half a lipo pack, i moved the pack to the b44 and went back out...

much better! the b44 felt really good. i used the same setup i had on the previous track and it seemed nearly perfect. i felt confident pushing it into turns and it stuck like it was on rails! after practice i headed back into the pits to figure out the issues i was having with the slash. i didnt have much luck. then, out of the blue, i heard my name being called - rookie qualifying was starting and i was late!

i ran to the track, reamed out a hole for the transponder and slapped the b44 together, checked in, then ran up to the stands. ugh, i was already flustered ;) the race went pretty well. i think after some nervous mistakes i manged to hold onto second.

to make the day even more exciting, the slash qualifying was RIGHT AFTER rookie, so more running, reaming, and being late! the slash didnt do so well with the throttle issue plaguing me i had very inconsistent laps and finally crashed and popped the right front shock cap putting me in last place. after marshaling the next race i went back to the pits to work on the slash. i got some help from the guy next to me in the pits (kevin) who had been running integy shocks, so he had his old spare slash shocks. i rebuilt the shock and replaced the cap. then spent about 30 minutes trying to solve the throttle issue, basically making it worse and then i hear "mitch, rookie heat two is starting". crap! late again.


i hadnt really touched the b44 from the last race, i just slapped it together again, threw in the transponder and headed to the track. i was getting more comfortable and was able to keep second place with some jumps into first. i even got some nice words from john hicks (commentating) on the smoothness of a couple if my laps and handling the jumps. that made me feel pretty good ;) ended up in second again due to nervous mistakes but overall, i felt good.

the second qualifying round for slash was up and again, i didnt do so well. the throttle issue was worse and i ended up popping the right front shock cap again! i didnt finish this one.

back in the pits i spent some more time with the slash. the throttle issues ended up being a result of the novak smart stop. removing it fixed all throttle issues. since the 8 minute race wasnt likely to blow the lipo pack, i felt OK running with out it. i rebuilt the shock, made some tweaks and was ready to go again.

for the mains, i wasnt late! ;) for rookie, i battled for first place with another 4wd driver (brian baladad) and it proved to be a pretty exhilarating race! we traded the lead spot several times and then a crash set me back and i finished second. i felt really happy with the race, the b44 handled amazingly well over the jumps and all that's left is me learning to drive faster! ;)

slash mains were not directly after rookie so i had a couple of races to rest, then hit the track. it was doing so much better, but now my steering was way off! not sure what happened but i had to steer to keep the truck straight down the back straight. ugh! i managed to deal with it and actually held onto forth place, which made me really happy considering all the problems i had with the slash that day. of course, on the last jump, the right front shock popped again! i am getting aluminum shock caps for sure!


So there it is, 2nd place in Rookie, 4th place in Slash. an awesome finish to an amazingly fun day! there were lots of racers there who were totally helpful, lots of camaraderie, and finally putting faces to some of the names you read on the boards. some racers who do on-road at marin recognized the baprcc shirt and asked about us, so we know we are getting out there ;)

here are all of the pics from the day

i cant wait until the next race, who's with me? ;)

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