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I've posted a few Back to the Track series in the past, each time documenting my return to the wonderful world of indoor club racing, each time starting full of enthusiasm and delight and, as often as not, ending a few months later in apathy and boredom when I hit my plateau and get bored of getting nowhere, declare that I don't really enjoy racing and pack it all in for another year or two. Will this time be any different? Who knows! But this has been something I've wanted to do for a little while, so here's a nice and typically long opening post to get us all started. TL;DR: I went back racing. Continue to the next post if you don't care about my epic ramblings on the state of my life I haven't been a regular racer since I retired my M03 a few years back. We raced to Clubman rules, with a Saturn 20 control motor, Sweep control tyres, and bearings and oil shocks and springs being the only allowed hop-ups. By that time everybody was using the M05, and no matter how hard I raced I could never quite get on the back of the top racers. It might have been my skill, it might have been my setup, it might have been the deficit of the M03 against the M05; more likely it was all of them, in various measure. Either way, I got bored of having to pick up 3rd place whenever somebody else didn't show. I got frustrated that my hopes for a podium finish in the championship hinged not on my success but everybody else's failure. I shouldn't really race for the trophy but there's got to be a goal, otherwise it wouldn't be racing, it would be bashing, and I felt (rightly or wrongly) that my laptimes were as good as they were ever going to get. So, why am I going back again? Well, various reason. 1. My 2018 Revival Failure. I went to the 2018 Iconic Revival full of enthusiasm and confidence. I had a great car (a vintage Top Force with vintage hop-ups) which had done me well the previous year, I'd raced well at the opening round of the Iconic Cup that spring (unfortunately I couldn't make any other rounds, as that turned out to be the highlight of my RC year), the weather had been fantastic and we were all looking forward to a dry weekend. The reality was different. I'd failed to properly prepare the Top Force and it punished me for it in every race - loose screws, seized suspension, the lot. I let the red mist descend when I couldn't get it to drive straight, and ruined most of my heats with bad driving. The weather turned the day before the event, treating us to three days of downpour, and the pit shop didn't have any wet tyres in stock. I, as an infrequent off-road racer, didn't have any wet tyres either. To top it all off, I was taken ill and spent half the weekend in the toilet tent. My wife came down with the same virus but owing to a medical condition, she was taken into hospital on the Sunday morning, having to leave our 18-month old daughter in the care of friends. As a good father I should have aborted my race weekend and made the 4 hour drive home, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it) my camper was at the very back of the camping field and blocked in by at least 5 other tents and caravans, so there was no way I was getting off site until the end of the day. Plus, given heavy winds, a lot of gazebos had been damaged so I'd offered my awning to some other racers - leaving early would have left them and their kit out in the rain again. Despite all that, I managed to get 2nd place by the first corner of the C final and was all set to hold the position - until the timing system failed and the race was aborted. I started badly in the re-start, was plum last after the first lap, and two laps in the car became impossible to drive. In a proper example of racetrack bad manners, I stormed off the rostrum after a huge head-on crash with a wooden post, to discover the Top Force had lost a kingpin from the front hub. No wonder I couldn't drive it. Why is this relevant? Well, the Revival is usually the highlight of my year. Bad weather and ill health can't be helped, but I could have done a lot better if I'd prepared and practised. I underestimated how much prep the Top Force needed and overestimated my ability as a driver. Taking a hiatus from racing had not just affected my laptimes, it had affected my judgement, and my enjoyment of a rare weekend away. I left the venue determined to do better next year. 2. My 2019 Iconic Success I only managed two races in 2019: the first round of the Iconic Cup at Mendip RC Raceway in April, and the Iconic Revival at Bingham Model Raceway in July. First change I made from 2018 was downgrading my ability rating from 5/10 to 3/10. Less expectation on myself and less embarrassment if I had a bad day. I never expected success at Mendip because my TL01-LA didn't have the speed tuned gear set, and was up against much newer chassis in the Super Stock class (the LA isn't eligible for the Stock class). Mendip is fast, so the speed tuned gear set is pretty essential. Even with the biggest pinion, I was being slaughtered on the back straight - it didn't matter how much corner speed I could carry (and as a 3/10 driver with limited tyre and spring options and an older chassis, I was never going to run rings around the class leaders) I couldn't get close to the FTD. But that didn't matter. I focused on small setting changes and improving my technique. I found a setting that kept oversteer to a minimum out of the tight hairpin and, as temps came up, learnt to drive around the grip-roll that started to occur there. Despite having a(nother) upset stomach all day (who would believe it..?) I had a really enjoyable time, improved every race and went home feeling happy. I wouldn't race again until the Revival in July, where I campaigned a new-built Novafox and my fully-restored Top Force. It was almost a disaster - my older MRT transponders don't work with BMR's new timing system - but tireless Revival organiser John Weston loaned me his spare, saving my weekend. The new pit shop (local heroes and new friends Racecraft RC) had a great supply of wet weather tyres, so even the anticipated downpours couldn't spoil my challenge. The Fox was epic. Properly prepared with a rebuilt Super Stock BZ, it had just the right amount of speed for the wet weather. Like at the Cup, I didn't expect to get on the podium - but I went out to enjoy my racing and improve every heat, and that's just what I did. Top day. The Top Force was almost a failure - a brand new Alturn high-speed race servo (a model I've been using for a long time) turned out to be slower than a slow thing on national slow day. I've now had a couple of really slow Alturns - I won't be buying any more. Adie from Racecraft had a spare race servo lying around which wast just perfect. Disaster averted, the Top Force was an absolute dream. I didn't go out to win - I went out to improve, and that's what I did. I qualified 3rd in the C final, with a qualifying time that was miles away from either 2nd or 4th, and I figured if I stayed out of trouble I'd take home the 3rd place trophy. I got tangled in an incident in the first corner and was last, but I kept my cool, reeled in my competitors, made neat, careful passes and - thanks to the mechanical breakdowns of my closes rivals - finished in 2nd. For the first time in ages, I genuinely felt like I'd earned my trophy. Why is this relevant? Because I really enjoyed racing. For the first time in an age, it wasn't just about getting drunk with mates, talking nonsense about toy cars, eating fried food and camping out in the rain. It was about racing, as well. I really got my money's worth that weekend. So I figured - if I'm seeing results from my racing just by being patient and taking time to learn, how much more would I see if I did that every week? Is it time to go back to the club? And how much better will I race at the Revival next year if I get in some regular practice? 3. My 2019 Rut OK, so the whiny and self-absorbed bit now - outside of RC, I've really struggled to find a happy place this year. With a 2.5 year old in the house it's hard to be anything but Dad. Being Dad is OK (it's not every day I can even bring myself to say that), sometimes it's the best thing in the world (I really mean that) but it's so hard to being anything else. Once the bedtime story is read and the toys are tidied up there's precious little evening left. Add to that the exhaustion of disrupted sleep and interrupted downtime, and once my duties are over, all I can do is flop into the sofa. The things that my life used to be about have fallen away. It's hard to write good music in a brain that's cluttered with nursery rhymes and kid's TV theme tunes. It's hard to write good fiction when you're used to tempering every thought for toddler ears. So I figured I could either sit on the sofa, feeling miserable and yearning for that one weekend every month when I can pack up the camper with toy cars and head off for a couple of days of freedom, or I can use the time I've got to go out and have fun. So really, that's it. WWMCC races on Monday nights, and Monday is my night off. I get Fridays off, too. I'm allowed to go do whatever I want on those nights (provided it's legal and compatible with continued marriage). So instead of locking myself in my studio and feeling sorry for myself, I decided I'd get out and actually do something. So... Let's go racing!
So over the last weekend racing I noticed my car developing more and more play all over, so I've decided to give it a good rebuild and cleaning. Of course, I'll take you guys along. What this car has done since the last time I spent some time with it on my desk: - about 100 batteries of practice - 4 qualifiers - 3 mains - setting a lap record for 17.5t touring on my home track - wore out 2 sets of tires - wore out a body shell The list of complains: - The rear diff leaked like a sieve. It stopped last weekend, probably because it is now empty - Play in the steering system - Wobble in the spur gear - stripped screw in the layshaft after it disassembled itself spontaneously last race - the locating peg on one of the rear body posts broke off, so every time I do something with the body shell I have to realign it - .... it's disgusting So yeah, a good cleaning was due. The willing victim, spread out on my desk, ready to go. Seems pretty clean from the outside, right? I'll leave the electronics in. The ESC is barely a few races old, and the receiver is perfectly placed where it is. I quickly took off the shocks, and removed all the easily disassembled sections like the front bumper and the upper deck. Race on carpet they said, your car will remain spotless they said.... The ball nuts are all rather damaged too. I'll get a new set to place these. If you're gonna do it, do it right! Also, the diff blades on the universal ends are worn out, I've got a set around somewhere, so that's one thing less I need to buy. On the left one of the C-hubs I took off the car. On the right a new C-hub. Aluminum things don't break, they bend.... Right steering knuckle assembly. It seemed fine, but the bearings are gritty and the C-hub is bent as well. The motor mount. The escaping layshaft did quite a bit of damage to the surface, but it's still straight and therefor, it goes back in after a deep cleaning. Other layshaft upright. You can see where the pulley nicked it on the way out. The pulley in question. 20 minutes of wrenching later the shock towers, diffs, front and rear hubs and stabilizer rods are gone. The bare chassis, pre-cleaning. I love carbon fiber, and how it changes appearance depending on the angle you look at it. The previous owner of this car was a bit of a klutz. The top deck was originall shoved in there, tweaking the bottom plate. Apparently he spilt some super glue on the rear part as well. It's on a fairly invisible spot (below the rear lower arm, near the droop screw) so I'll leave it be. My TRF's a working girl, not a shelf queen. Stay tuned for more teardowning. We've still got the diffs to do, shocks to rebuild (my least favorite part), clean the whole thing, get the replacement parts, and then screw the whole thing back together. The shopping list thus far: - 51253 TA05 (I think) B-parts for the rear body posts - New C-hubs. Plastic Tamiya ones are out, though maybe the TA07 ones are stronger, so a good set of Yeah Racing hubs, or Square if I can find them somewhere - 53640 Ball Connector nuts - 19804777 CS 2.6mm x 8mm screws to secure the layshaft. One is bent, and the other one I stripped accidentally. - 53601 5mm adjusters. I'm replacing all of them, just to be sure.