I’ve been running “Frontie” for a couple of months now, and really enjoying it. Numbers are increasing, so it seems others are enjoying it too.
The Tamiya FF-04 EVO I bought has been going well – zero complaints about the handling out of the box, and I’ve only made a couple of changes to get it where I want it on the local carpet tracks. This seems to be the case with all the Frontie cars I’ve seen – they just drive very well.
But I’ve had a niggling doubt in my mind about the car’s ultimate pace. Several people on t’internet have mentioned losing time to other cars, and it is pretty obvious to me that the FF-04 is overweight with a high centre of gravity – problems you can’t realistically resolve.
So after getting beaten by a very well-driven XRAY at the CWIC series, a change was only a few clicks away…
This is my first XRAY. People do seem to rave about the build quality so I was half-expecting to be blown away…
Quality is good, no doubt about it, but in terms of component design it feels a step behind Tamiya, just in little details like the shock piston sprues being on the side of the pistons rather than the bottom, meaning you need to do a lot more finishing on the parts.
However what they have got right is the tolerances, the weight, and the (apparent) durability. Everything fits together really well, the car is extremely light, and the parts are substantial. XRAY have gone down the route of chunkier parts made from a lightweight composite, and it seems to work.
There are however a couple of mistakes in the manual – one of which is really significant and they should have done a better job of fixing.
The layshaft problem
When the car was released, quite a few people had an issue with the belt falling off the front pulley. The reason was pretty simple – XRAY hadn’t done that step of the manual properly, and (maybe) hadn’t included all the needed parts in the kit either.
My kit came with all the required parts – but no addendum for the manual. Fortunately the shop I bought it from (MB Models) were able to email me the updated diagram (although it still isn’t very clear):
The diagram misses out a number of parts. The correct assembly order is as follows:
- Layshaft (305522-K)
- RH layshaft bearing (940610) (not pictured)
- 4x metal shims (962060) (insert the layshaft into the RH mount at this point)
- Plastic spacer (309319)
- Pulley fence (305570) (make sure the belt is around the layshaft at this point)
- Drive pin (980210)
- Pulley (305576)
- E-clip (965050) (insert the layshaft into the LH mount at this point)
- LH layshaft bearing (940610)
- Metal shim (962060)
- E-clip (965050)
This is one of those jobs that needs at least three hands!
There are a couple of other confusing points in the manual, the most important of which is the diff position – it absolutely needs to be low (as per the text) rather than high (as per the diagrams), because otherwise the belt will skip. Personally speaking, I find the diagrams too small (despite the manual being A4 sized). Oh, and I also think their setup tips are utter nonsense!
To finish the car off, I fitted an new Surpass V5R motor (because I was down on power at the CWIC), a Hobbywing XR10 Stock Spec ESC (which is remarkably small and performs really well), a full-height IP shorty LiPO, and another 55 grams of lead to get the car up to 1200.
The first run
What really matters is how the car runs. First race was at the Forest Raceway one-day meeting.
This is an awesome permanent venue on the northern edge of the Forest of Dean. The track is quite small (about 15m x 10m), but the facility overall is great with plenty of pit space. There were four Fronties entered, and the challenging, twisty layout would keep times very close.
Practice was my first ever run with the car, and it felt pretty good. Until I crashed it head on into the barriers. This knocked the motor back, took a chip out of the underside of the chassis and bumper, and ground a fair amount of material off the spur gear…
Fortunately, there was no other damage, and after a change of spur gear the car was good to carry on.
Grip was pretty low in the first round of qualifying, and I made a few mistakes which resulted in second place out of the two runners. In round two, we had a full field of 4. Grip was a lot better and I finished in second again. In Round 3, I managed to TQ (by chasing a car across the line to win on the stagger), and I managed to take advantage of being the first off the line in round 4 to take a second TQ and secure pole for the finals. The whole field were within by a lap of each other with fastest laps within tenths. Really good fun, but a lot of focus needed to avoid crashing during the 5 minutes.
Fortunately I managed to get clean runs through the first corner in both finals, and just about kept the mistakes to a minimum to take two wins (and a little plaque!). Despite the changing grip level throughout the day, I kept the T4F setup the same. It just worked.
I’ve got a few more things I’d like to try (spring rates and toe settings to start with), but overall I’m very pleased. I don’t think the FF-04 would be this fast.
(PS I damaged another spur at my second race meeting after another head on crash – I’d recommend keeping spares!)