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Choosing the right buggy for racing?

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Hello all,

I am currently investigating a handful of new cars for off-road buggy racing that are TRF or could be upgraded to TRF. So far I am looking at the Sand Viper, Dark Impact or Zahhak. Now the sand viper and dark impact are not the TRF versions N.I.B, I would be purchasing the hope-ups seperately. The Zahhak appears to be still available in the N.I.B version as the TRF 201. Price varies from my Ebay research as follows. Sand Viper with seperately purchased TRF upgrades = $520.00. Dark Impact with seperately purchased TRF upgrades = $600.00 and the Zahhak bought as the TRF201 (comes with all upgrades) = $470.00. My pricing includes the radio (futaba), motor (superstock BZ) and ESC (Tamiya 104), bearings and a 15T steel pinion.

Now I am still in love with my vintage cars and have upgraded them to the max (hornet and super hornet), however I am looking for a challenge that will be fun to build (moving into the next level of complexity), maintain and provide much more speed and if anything goes wrong I can still get parts. I do not want to upgrade my classic cars as they can be unforging if something breaks (parts hard to find and break easy if to much power). I have been leaning towards the Viper, however if the TRF201 is a better performer than I will head in that direction. Dark Impact was a consideration as it would be my first 4wd.

Please let me know if the electrics specs are correct for interdimentional travel (greater speed). I don't really want to go brushless as the price can be let down. Let the debate begin. I love the comments and insight from members. Passion and honesty is a bonus from tamiya lovers. Regards Jeffro

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Avoid the Sand Viper and Dark Impact. You will spend a ton of money on hopups and have to fix several issues with each platform. In the end neither buggy will be competitive with the Associated, Durango, Kyosho, Losi, etc. buggies you'll be racing against.

Find a friend in the USA and get the TRF201 for $183 USD at tamiyausa.com. Or, get the DB01R for $199 USD at speedtechrc.com. The list of standard features for either is very good:

- Carbon reinforced plastics

- Better motor mounts and heatsinks

- Standard 48 pitch gearing for pinions and spurs

- Slipper clutches

- Balls diffs

- CVD shafts

- Threaded aluminum dampers and better springs

- Turnbuckles instead of threaded rods

- Machine screws used throughout instead of self-tapping screws and screw pins

In defense of the Dark Impact, it is a better vehicle than the Sand Viper. But neither is in the same league as a TRF201 or DB01R. The ABS plastics, self-tapping screws, screw pins, e-clips, lack of slipper (Sand Viper), and money needed for hopups are real negatives if you're trying to race these vehicles. Save the Sand Viper and Dark impact for bashing sessions.

You should be able to piece something together for about $450-$500 USD -- $200 for the TRF201/DB01R, $150 for radio/receiver/servo (Futaba 3PL, R2004GF, S3305), and $150 for a sensored brushless system (Novak 8.5T or 10.5T), give or take. Tires and wheels are extra. The body and wing come with the TRF201 in the USA. You do need to get a Baldre body set for the DB01R.

If you're still running NiMH or NiCd, I strongly recommend moving to LiPo batteries because the discharge curve is flatter and the voltage doesn't sag as much under load (acceleration). You'll find other racers have moved to LiPo almost exclusively.


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The DT02 (2WD) and DF03 (4WD) are basher class buggys. They will stuggle badly in a racing environment.

In opposition to speedy's comments about the DT02 vs DF03, I've had no problems with either of my DT02s where as I had nothing but issues with my three DF03s until I managed to get Five Stars all steel mainshafts for the two them I still have left (sold two, then bought one back when I got the impossible to find FS7039 shaft for it). DF03 has an aluminium gear on the mainshaft which wears quickly when you bolt in powerful motors.

The DN01 Zahhak (2WD) is a low spec version of the TRF201. For the amount you will pay in hopups to bring the DN01 upto TRF spec, it's cheaper to just buy the TRF201 straight up.

In 4WD you have the TRF501X (belt drive), TRF502X (shaft drive) or the lesser DB01R. The DB01R is cheaper than a DB01 plus hopups to bring it to the same spec. Again, cheaper in the long run to buy the higher spec buggy straight up.

Don't forget to include the shipping cost when buying a base kit plus hopups from many sources, and that the ebay 'list' price as converted from $US to $AU is usually 5% or so off what you really pay when you get to checkout on ebay/paypal.

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+1 on what TA-Mark mentioned on the Zahhak vs. TRF201. Just buy a TRF201 if you want to choose between the Zahhak and 201, the Zahhak doesn't have many of the 201's reinforced plastics, doesn't have TRF dampers, Universal Shafts, Titanium Turnbuckles etc. And like TA-Mark said, if you want to use the car for racing, you are best of buying a car that has a decent spec for racing out of the box - this counts for whatever offroad racing class.

As for the Dark Impact and Sand Viper, these cars are ok for bashing (with 'mild' motors), but for racing they just don't cut it performance-wise if/once you have some experience. More importantly though, their construction and materials are not up to the abuse like the TRF cars.

However, I'd like to throw a few questions in here:

1. Why don't you invest the extra 75-100USD for a brushless system? Or a second hand brushless system? It is quicker, more efficient, nice and silent, practically free of maintainance if you don't overload the system...

2. Why aren't there non-Tamiya cars on the list? They are very good cars, yes, but competition is close, it's more about finding a chassis that suits the track surfaces you're most likely to drive on, and suits your driving style best. For example, I wouldn't go for a rear motor buggy on astroturf or high-bite surfaces. Also, it might be wise to visit the local track(s) to see what people run, and talk with them about it.

My club track (and many 'nearby' tracks) are clay, so rear motor cars seem like an 'obvious' choice. However, I have driven a mid-motor Team Durango DEX210 and an Xfactory X6 of some fellow members on there, and I have to say I think a mid-motor suits me better. So if I can give you one piece of advice, look further than just Tamiya's lineup (even though I can highly recommend the TRF201 on fronts of durability, ease of maintainance and the big smile it puts on my face every single time it hits the track) :)

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The problems I had with my DT02 Sand Viper included:

- Screw pins in the front and rear suspension arms kept loosening (tried rubber cement and nail polish as mild adhesives; didn't help).

- Some self tapping screws in the front and rear damper stays where they attach to the main tub would loosen (tried rubber cement and nail polish as mild adhesives, didn't help).

- Some self tapping screws used to secure the bottom of the gearbox to the chassis tub would loosen regularly.

- The screw holding the servo saver to the servo would loosen (semi-fixed with a larger screw).

- Servo saver snapped at least once.

When the front suspension screw pins or servo saver would loosen up, it was a pain in the neck to pull the front bumper and/or top brace just to get to one or two screws. I got tired of checking all these screws after every run on the track; it was unrewarding and I just broke the buggy down for spare metal parts. The way screws kept backing out drove me insane. Later I built it back up with fresh plastic and used it as a light runner, but stepped up to an Associated B4 FT and a TRF201.

On the plus side, the Sand Viper never gave me any drivetrain problems, and the suspension was fine after changing some springs and oil. You can fit standard 2.2" buggy tires on the kit wheels.

Problems I had with the DF03 Dark Impact:

- Front diff joints kept chipping

- Front left steering knuckle screw kept backing out, even after changing plastics and screws

- Front damper stay is kind of weak; I broke several of those

- Occasionally had small rocks jam the steering

- Wore out the slipper layshaft gear after installing a 19T single brushed motor

- Difficult to keep the motor cool because it's buried in the middle of the chassis

- Difficult to install a brushless motor because the solder tabs are almost buried in the chassis as well

- Rear ball diff needed constant maintenance and rebuilding, moreso than other cars

- Some self tapping screws on the bottom of chassis tub would occasionally loosen and back out

I guess now that I listed out all the issues experienced, I might have to switch and agree with TA-Mark that the DT02 is the better vehicle (at least from a problem point of view). They both have problems, but there are a greater variety and number of problems with the DF03. I might be biased a little in that the DF03 was much more fun to drive. It made some cool noises and had some responsive (but not perfect) handling. I guess it felt like it had more potential, at least. Like the Sand Viper, I broke this buggy down for spare metal parts and later built another one as a shelfer for my son. Both he and I moved on to DB01/DB01Rs, and even with their issues they've been much better buggies.

I really like my Associated B4 Factory Team and keep eyeing the B4.1 Factory Team Worlds Edition. Where I live, it's easy to go to the local hobby shop and get Associated parts. They also get shipments from Great Planes in 2-3 days max. This is very helpful when trying to keep a vehicle maintained.


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Apparently balance is a very important part of a buggy for racing. And so for this reason it seems like you're going to want to go with a buggy that takes saddle packs and such.

And yet another important consideration is ease of maintenance. Ie, how serviceable are the diffs and how easy would it be to swap out pinions and change gearing, etc.?

This rules out a large chunk of Tamiya and leaves you with only TRF models and popular buggies from other companies - eg, Team Associated B4 and B44 etc..

That said, I do recommend the DB01R. Or even the DB01. I count it as the BEST 4wd buggy for both refined racing and hard bashing that allows the use of stick packs and has a sealed drive train. No question. There doesn't exist buggy better than this.

I'm only a basher but I've had the DB01 to close to half a year now and more than everything, I am impressed by how extremely durable the DB01 is. That is, once you swap out the suspension block and mounts for the alloy and add the fluorine coated suspension balls and once you add a T Bone Bumper (not recommended for racing, but hey), the DB01 becomes bulletproof. I can't count anymore how many times I've got into some cringe-worthy crashes and yet -- nothing. No damage. Every now and then a tie rod might pop out after a bad jump or something but no real damage. The only wear my buggy gets is at the wing and the scratches at the bottom of the chassis. And that's it. Dust and scratches are the main adversaries to the DB01. -- That and its stock differentials, of course. Unless you're a pro with ball diffs, get the optional gear differentials and save yourself the headache.

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