XRAY T4F – First impressions

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…

The build

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):

Front pulley supplement

The diagram misses out a number of parts. The correct assembly order is as follows:

  1. Layshaft (305522-K)
  2. RH layshaft bearing (940610) (not pictured)
  3. 4x metal shims (962060) (insert the layshaft into the RH mount at this point)
  4. Plastic spacer (309319)
  5. Pulley fence (305570) (make sure the belt is around the layshaft at this point)
  6. Drive pin (980210)
  7. Pulley (305576)
  8. E-clip (965050) (insert the layshaft into the LH mount at this point)
  9. LH layshaft bearing (940610)
  10. Metal shim (962060)
  11. 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.

T4F2019_Forest_Raceway_10.11.2019

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!)

Tamiya FF-04 EVO “Frontie”

One thing you can be confident of in on-road RC racing is that every 6 months a new class will be grabbing everyone’s attention…

The latest example is “Frontie” – front-wheel drive 10th scale touring cars. Not a new class, but one that has had a new lease of life thanks to the introduction of the XRAY T4F and the announcement that the ETS series will run it.

Often these classes don’t last – but I hope this one will. The aim is to bring a bit of fun back to the touring car class, which has gone firmly down the route of premium chassis, high grip and unrealistic bodies over the last few years. Frontie’s are something of an antidote to that – the bodies are much closer to scale, and traction is limited. They aren’t necessarily that cheap though…

The car

Since I am a bit of a Tamiya fan (which can be a painful obsession at times), I’ve decided to start my journey with one of their chassis. An FF-04 EVO Black Edition, to be precise.

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These are a few years old now, and pretty hard to find. I got lucky when a few appeared in stock at one of the larger Hong Kong RC shops. They hadn’t been there a week earlier so I can only assume they found a case of kits in the warehouse!

There is not much to say about this car that hasn’t already been said (Kentech’s excellent blog is always worth looking at), so I’ll try and keep my observations brief:

  • Very straightforward build, as usual with Tamiya
  • Only tweaks I made were to trim the front suspension ball ends to clear the caster blocks at full compression and add an o-ring on the front shocks as a bump stop
  • XV-01 gearbox/bumper combination means the motor is quite high, but also very close to the diff case for a short overhang and limited chassis rub compared to some of the other cars on the market
  • Easy to fit aftermarket gears for a high ratio (below 4.0:1 is no problem), all I did was change the motor mounting screws to a button head to give more clearance for the pinion
  • The plastic 1XD arm mounts from the TB-03D make the car very narrow out of the box (180mm on the front, 184 on the rear)
  • No provision for a shorty battery
  • Weight is about 1325g ready to run, so some way above the class weight limit
  • Weight distribution is pretty even left/right, and 65/35 front/rear

 

The body

I decided to start off with the Bittydesign Civic body. I’d heard a few good reviews of the handing, and it is also one of the easiest Frontie shells to find in the shops.

I made a few mistakes but the inspiration was the JAS Motorsport TCR show car. Simply because it doesn’t involve many colours!

This is my first Bittydesign shell and I have to say I have been impressed so far. It’s a very crisp moulding with plenty of detailing – very close to Tamiya standards in fact. It also comes with some very sticky pre-cut decals and decent window masks.

There are a couple of trim lines on the shell – I tried the lower trim line at first but prefer the more slammed look you get with the upper trim line (and there is just enough tyre clearance).

Be careful though – Bittydesign don’t provide a front grille or window frames on the sticker sheet. I strongly suggest you paint these parts black (as well as the boot lid and wing mounts). I’ve seen a few examples of this shell that look really dodgy because those parts were left body colour.

The first run

The good news is – nothing broke!

I took the car for it’s first shakedown run at Bristol Model Car Club, which is a small-ish and occasionally bumpy carpet track. This week’s layout was very fast, with one chicane and a series of fast corners.

The car overall was very good. This was my first time running the Ride 24025 pre-mounts, and I got my tyre prep wrong at first, but once I had realised my mistake, I had a very smooth and stable car – too stable, if anything. But quite a contrast to a Mini, which is always much closer to the edge.

The Bitty body survived well despite a few big impacts, most of which were with 4wd cars catching me on corner exit. That’s where the Frontie loses time. But overall, the car is very satisfying to drive.

If you are interested, my setup by the end of the night is here – FF04Evo_Bristol_19_9_19 – although there is a lot more to try.

Roll on the Frontie class at the CWIC!

Iconic Cup 2019

My rehabilitation as an RC racer continues…

Last winter, I decided to take my RC racing a bit more seriously again. I’d had a few years of racing infrequently with ageing equipment and I wasn’t doing well. Which meant I wasn’t enjoying it enough.

Over the winter I ran Mini at the CWIC series, and came third overall after a slow start and a bad final race meeting. But I was much closer to being on the pace.

With summer approaching, I decided to have another go at the Iconic Cup.

This is a great series with an easy going atmosphere and great looking “vintage” cars. But, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I find the car really difficult to deal with!

Fortunately, I made a big step forward recently in stopping the TT-01E from melting spur gears. So at least I could focus on the driving…

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This is not an example of good driving!

Pre-season

Although the chassis itself had some damage from the last time the spur gear melted, I decided not to change it as it all seemed to run smoothly. I did buy a replacement, just in case.

My main concern was body and tyres. There had been some controversy over the winter about “touring car” body shells, and although I considered the HPI Lexus I was using to be “scale”, it seemed that others may not. The HPI shell was wrecked anyway, so I got hold of a couple of Tamiya shells.  The one that looked the fastest to my eyes was the Lexus RC F which I decided to do in box art. With over 120 stickers…

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The other issue was tyres. I had been running on leftovers from many seasons ago (Sorex 32’s from 2014), and I knew I would need some fresh rubber. I took a punt on the current BRCA control tyre, the Sweep 34.

Round 1 – Mendip

Mendip is just down the road from me, but I had only been there once before. It is a fast track, with some unforgiving boards on the sweeper at the end of the straight and the odd bump and surface change that can catch you out.

I started the day on the old Sorex tyres but the car did not have much rear grip, and then in the first round of qualifying I made a mistake with the ride height which left the car undriveable. Switching to the new Sweep tyres for the second round made a huge difference and I was much closer to the leading cars. Unfortunately the fresh tyre grip didn’t last and the car was tricky again for the rest of qualifying. Reducing steering rates helped but the car was grip rolling a lot more than other cars seemed to be.

I scraped into the A final in 9th place. After a good start I spent most of the final in the top half, but a grip roll towards the end cost me fifth place end I ended up finishing in 6th, right on the bumper of the car in front!

Cotswold club

I wasn’t at all happy with the car at Mendip and took it up to a club meeting at Cotswold to try and get some track time and work through some of the (limited) setup options available.

Cotswold is a big track with a really good surface. I was put in a heat with some modern “Frontie” cars running 21.5 and 17.5 motors and was not far off their pace on the straights, which shows that the Team Powers 17T brushed motor has a decent turn of speed.

Naturally, the car was good from the moment I put it on the track! I made a few small tweaks to the spring rates but basically I had a car with decent rear grip all day long, even with maximum steering rates.

I’d noticed at Mendip that a lot of cars were running optional wing sets, no doubt because their original one was lost or broken. I happened to lose mine during the club meeting, and fitted the Tamiya Racing Wing Set. To be honest it felt pretty similar to the small plastic kit wing.

Nevertheless, I felt like I might have made a breakthrough…

Round 3 – Stafford

As much as I would have loved to make the trip to Carlisle, it’s too far for a one-dayer. Hopefully I will return in the future, because it is a superb track. This meant my next outing was at Stafford.

Circumstances meant that I could actually attend the Saturday practice day for once. I put the car on the track with the settings that worked so well at Costwold – and the tail was sliding all over the place again! But at least I had the opportunity to try some things. Mostly I worked my way through the “box ‘o tyres” that I had at my disposal, and although a very old set of VTEC 27s showed some promise, I decided to stick with the BRCA Sweep’s. Once again, the most effective change I made was reducing the steering rates, and by the end of the day I was setting some of the best laptimes in the class.

Sunday morning came and I definitely felt the benefits. Even though the car was still on the edge in terms of grip, I was able to put together a string of top-3 qualifying runs, and lined up 3rd on the grid. I had a good start and was running 2nd, but frustratingly I made a mistake and tapped the leader towards the end of the first lap. He managed to continue in the lead, but I slipped back to the midfield. Because the whole of the A final grid was very closely matched, I finished 6th again.

Despite my blunder in the final, I was much happier with the car overall.

Round 4 – WLRC

Another one-dayer for me, and after an early start I managed to get on track with enough time for two practice runs. The car felt good, and I could run quite a lot of steering lock to get around the twisty West London infield. But then I cooked the motor. Fortunately, I had a spare V1 from the CWIC series. Dropping down a pinion for safety, I had another run, and once again was setting some of the fastest times in the class on the Sweep 34s. Things were looking good.

Round 1 was 3rd in round, and Round 2 was 6th after an error on the kerb of the last corner put me into the wall. But as the temperature increased, the car was getting worse, and again I had to resort to reducing the steering rates. For Round 3 I tried some radical changes, rebuilding the shocks to a completely different damping and length. It was worse. Round 4 I went even more radical, with a open front diff instead of my usual tight setting. Worse again. Fortunately my banker runs at the start of the day meant I retained 7th on the grid, and I returned to the original setup.

The final turned out to be one of those increasingly rare occasions where I manage to pick my way through the first lap carnage, and I found myself in third with a decent margin. Then the leaders got a bit too involved in door-handling each other and I was second! Unfortunately I just didn’t have the raw pace to stay there, and narrowly held on to 4th at the buzzer, with 5th place right on my bumper.

An enjoyable end to a challenging day.

Round 5 – Broxtowe

This is a really fun track with big elevation changes and unforgiving grass runoffs. It was also the site of my best Iconic result in the past. Going into this round, I was third in the championship (due to consistency rather than pace), but I knew I would need a really strong result to be in with a chance of staying there.

It took most of the practice run to get my eye back in on the track, but it wasn’t enough as I started my first qualifying run with a mistake, and then watched the car roll to a standstill after 4 minutes. I feared the worst, but fortunately I was just a loose pinion gear.

After that, I just couldn’t get a clean run together in qualifying. All completely down to me, but when you have so many fast cars around, every error is costly. There were 12 cars capable of top 10 times – and I was the worst of them, lining up 2nd in the B final.

My plan for the final was to keep it as neat as possible, and hope for a mistake from the driver on pole. Fortunately for me, it came on the third lap, and I was then able to drive my first clean race of the day to take the win, and my first trophy of the series!

Post-season

This is the setup I settled on during the course of the series:

Chassis

  • Tamiya TT-01E

Hop-ups

  • Tamiya alloy motor mount
  • Tamiya adjustable steering links
  • Tamiya aluminium propellor shaft
  • Tamiya TRF shocks
  • Tamiya aluminium wheel hexes

Electrics

  • Team Powers Cup Racer V1 motor
  • Hobbywing 1060 ESC
  • Futaba 2.4GHz radio
  • Futaba low profile servo
  • IP600 LiPo

Gear ratio

  • 25/55 – 27/55 depending on track

Tyres

  • Sweep 34 BRCA

Setup

  • Springs: Tamiya White (F) / Tamiya Blue (R)
  • Oil: 600 (F) / 500 (R)
  • Pistons: 2 hole
  • Limiter: 1x o-ring
  • Diff lubricant: Putty (F) / AW Grease (R)
  • Front toe out: 1 degree
  • Ride height: 6-7mm

I’m pretty sure I have done everything I can with the TT-01E’s setup (and made some changes many times over!). Rear end grip is a challenge, in part because the TT-01 does not have rear toe-in as standard (and the toe-in uprights are not allowed), and in part because the Sweep 34s are probably a little bit hard for this class.

If I race in the Iconic Cup again next year, I’ll probably invest in a wider range of tyres to try and get more mechanical grip. The Lexus body (which lost the front splitter and one of the wing endplates by the end of the season) will have to be retired, because there will be some new body rules as well.

So, not quite a perfect season (7th overall in the end), but plenty of good moments on and off the track.

Now it’s time to pack the TT-01E away and focus on my plans for the indoor season…

High Concept…

So in my ongoing efforts to rediscover a bit of pace in my RC racing, I’ve updated my Mini…

img_20181104_1404458291

Behold the Tamiya M-07 Concept!

The car has been available for over a year and lots and lots has been written about it already so I’ll keep it brief:

  • As soon as you start building it you can tell it’s a true race chassis – a massive step up from the M-05 in design and materials
  • It’s a lot easier to set up because of the flat chassis bottom
  • Only issue in the build was a bit of friction between the hubs and the wishbones
  • The only hop ups I’ve added are 5mm alloy wheel hexes and some standard length TRF dampers
  • On track, the standard driveshafts bind up at full lock so I will try the DCJs
  • I’ve seen comments about the body posts being in a different position but it’s not the case with this shell which came straight from my M-05

Pit pic taken at Forest Raceway – a permanent carpet track west of Gloucester. It’s a fairly small track, but has a very smooth surface, plenty of indoor pitting and a friendly atmosphere. Had a really productive shakedown session, and despite hitting the boards far too often, nothing broke!

Quick tip for TT-01 owners…

Drivetrain feeling rough on your TT-01/TT-01E?

Try loosening the upper screws on the gearbox covers. A quarter-turn at a time.

It’s a bit of a hack to loosen the bevel gear mesh, but it seems to work!

Got a hunch it may be related to the black gears that come up a bit larger than the old white gears.

 

Tamiya #42313 Large Shim Set for Gear Differentials

But first, a little background…

Effectively, I haven’t been racing for the past 3 years. Personal circumstances and choices meant I could’t attend club races regularly, and because I wasn’t racing regularly, I felt less inclined to attend the bigger events.

Last year, I tried to race in the Iconic Cup, and for whatever reason I had lots of problems, and didn’t achieve what I felt I should have done.

This winter, I tried again with the CWIC XRS (run by the Chippenham club). Again, lots of problems with the car, combined with being well off the pace.

I would be intrigued to know what is the root cause of the problems – lack of practice, my increasing age, outdated equipment, or simply a lack of motivation. Sadly, I don’t know the answer.

What I do know (and this is what leads me on the the real topic of this post), is that if you under-perform, you end up in races that you shouldn’t be in, where driving etiquette appears optional. And you get battered.

IMG_1956

I am still running my Tamiya/Samix TRF418 with the 419 rear diff. It is a car I have struggled with on many occasions. As the winter progressed, I managed to get a degree of consistency out of it on the new-to-me Hudy tyres and ETS carpet. Unfortunately, consistency doesn’t count for much when you get punted repeatedly by lapped traffic.

The rear diff broke – breaking an input gear and coning the shims.

While searching for some replacement parts, I spotted these:

IMG_1941

The set includes 2x 0.3mm shims to go behind the input gears, 2x finer 0.1mm shims for the same location, and 4x 0.1mm shims to go behind the spider gears. As these shims are the same size as the gears themselves, loading should be much more even, reducing the tendency for the shims to cone. Also, the large size should make it harder for oil to find it’s way through the seals, reducing leaks. We’ll see if this works out in practice.

In terms of re-assembling the diff, I always shim the input gear so that it rotates smoothly with minimal backlash. Just one 0.3mm shim was enough for this on both sides. I will reappraise the shimming next time I have the diff apart.

I also put a 0.1mm shim behind each of the spider gears, and assembled the diff dry to make sure everything worked smoothly, again with minimal backlash. It did, so I filled the diff with oil (#2000 for now) and put it back in the car.

I have to say that I don’t buy in to any of the diff-building “voodoo” that you may read about elsewhere. Tamiya’s parts are fundamentally good quality. I don’t sand down the gears, I don’t weigh the oil, I don’t use special slime on the seals. I just lube the seals with the normal silicone oil, make sure there is no flash on the gears, and fill the diff until the fluid sits just above the cross shafts.

Plan is to get this on the track again this week and see if it runs properly again. Will be glad to put this winter’s racing behind me!

 

Reflections on the Iconic Cup

Sometimes life challenges you at work.

Sometimes life challenges you in your relationships.

And sometimes, life challenges you in your hobbies…

 

IMG_1779
As the car came off the track at West London

I’ll start with the positives from the 2017 Iconic Cup. I was racing with a great bunch of clubmates; it was great to see so many “scale” RC cars going around the track; and we were blessed with some unseasonably good weather.

But I had SO many problems!

Many years ago, I was (trying) to race a Kyosho Lazer ZX-5 in the North East regional series. I was well out of practice off-road, and the Lazer was not an easy car for the conditions. After getting thoroughly soaked at Batley, I gave up. It wasn’t fun.

I was moments away from giving up on the Iconic Cup on several occasions.

The biggest problem I had was with the drivetrain of my TT-01E. Many years ago I had a normal TT-01 and it caused me no problems whatsoever. This car was different.

It ran perfectly indoors with the 58T spur gear, but when I put the 55T spur gear on for outdoors, the problems began.

First race of the series was at Stafford – a track I have never been to. My first run was good enough for about 6th overall, but the car was slowing towards the end of the run. I spent the rest of the day trying to find some pace again, and realised that I had not located the pin into the 55T spur gear properly which had caused it to melt onto the spacer that is supposed to stop it from sliding off the pin. I repaired it as best I could, but didn’t solve my problems as I had cooked the Sport Tuned motor at the same time. Fortunately a racing buddy had a spare Sport Tuned, and I fitted that to have a bit of power for the final (having slipped down to 11th in the order). It was a fun race with a couple of late challenges making the win from pole feel all the sweeter.

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Torque Tuned is the only motor I have left

Second round was at my “local” track of Cotswold. This is a power track for any class. Naturally, I melted the replacement spur gear and blew another Sport Tuned but chose not to replace it as I was already getting a bit fed up. I ended up last in the A.

For round 3 at Broxtowe, I rebuild the car with a new chassis, a new propellor shaft and input axles, a new spur cover and, naturally, a new spur gear. I tested the car indoors and it passed with flying colours. I even went to the track for Saturday practice as it is a long way from home and I decided to stay overnight.

I melted the spur gear in the first run.

I was about to go home, when another racer offered me his spare car. The generosity of his offer made me reconsider. Instead of taking him up on his offer, I kept running my own, damaged, car. After all, if it had melted and still runs, it isn’t going to get any worse. I had fitted a new motor for the meeting and surprisingly it had more or less survived, and I kept running for the rest of the meeting, ending up with my best result of the season with 6th. It’s a great track for the low-powered cars of the Iconic Cup.

With pretty low morale I turned up at West London with no intention of doing anything to the car. Before the day was out, my third Sport Tuned of the season had died, so I fitted the Torque Tuned that had come with the kit. A chat with a local suggested that the difference between the two motors was not so great, and he was right – I managed to finish 9th.

IMG_1783
The melted spur spacer (2nd time around)

That was the main frustration. I have an idea for a part that my Dad could turn on his lathe that should cure the spur gear issue for good. Of course, that would be outside of the rules as they are written.

I also struggled with tyres and the body – my ancient Sorex 32s just weren’t hooking up consistently; and the Diebels Alt 190E shell (which received many compliments) simply doesn’t handle. I ended up running my tatty HPI Lexus GS (which I bought as a practice shell for my kids).

I haven’t ruled out running the series again next year, but I will have to think carefully about whether I can keep the costs (and the frustrations) to a minimum next time around.