Nats Recap – From a Drivers View
Nats Recap by Leon McIntosh
WOW! Another 7-day racing trip is in the books. Last Monday when I left the house for the airport, I knew I was heading to a really good track with obviously lots of good competition. However, “good” is a gross understatement of how awesome this event was.
Rob, Levi, and the rest of the Thunder Alley crew deserve a HUGE amount of credit and respect for the work they put into the Nats. Those guys have built a facility that, I promise you, rivals any other R/C racing facility in the world. I have traveled all over this country for different events and I can only remember 3 that have come close. Also huge props to Rob for working his tail off all week keeping the track watered. The dude is probably a couple shades tanner now that he was on Monday.
As for the track, Levi Jackson was the designer and it was really a great layout. For the most part the track was pretty easy. It didn’t have any misplaced jumps or rollers in awkward spots or use some sort of turd pile looking mounds just to create obstacles. It had a great flow and really made you drive every lap as fast as possible to be a top contender. Guys all the way down through the top 70 were turning laps in the 30 second range to give you an idea of how flowing and good the track really was. So needless to say there was a ton of close racing going on and it would only take a small bobble to bump a guy back from a prospective top 20 run to then being only good enough for a top 50. For me it took a ton of getting used to and I looked like a total squid my first time on the track. Back in Florida our tracks are a little smaller but probably require a little more precision because of all the 90° and 180° turns we have. So it was a little weird driving on the throttle as much as you had to for this particular layout. Eventually I came around and put in some good runs but nothing near what I was capable of.
Unlike the 2008 Nationals at Thunder Alley where they ran the track completely dry, they decided that this year they wanted to keep some moisture in the track. This turned out to be a huge deal for the drivers because the water didn’t create the “loam” they were hoping for but instead just cooled the track down. As a result, you as a driver could expect to go much slower for your watered round as opposed to the round where you got a dry track. It was easily almost a second slower if you were in a watered race. Also, what I found is this track is amazingly sensitive to how hot the track surface is as well. Just like if you were in a watered race you went slow but if you were in an early morning race or a late afternoon race you went slow too. So this information played complete havoc on tire strategy with everyone all week. I’m pretty sure that between all the brands that every available compound was tried by someone in one heat or another. It got to the point that we were planning different compounds for water/ no water and then taking into account the time of day you were running……..definitely had some head games going on this past week.
Interesting highlights from the track itself was the double/triple combo in front of the driver stand. It was awesome but gave a lot of people fits because it required perfect timing and a good motor to get over properly. There also was a step heading to the back of the track that was really cool. You could “Bubba Scrub” the face of it to set you up for the landing and it just was awesome to watch guys like Cavalieri, Tebo, and others do that. If you watched the race or seen pictures you undoubtedly saw the big NASCAR style berm in the middle of the track. It was really neat to throw your car in that thing full wood and come shooting out back towards you.
From the racing side of things I won’t bore you with how I should have finished higher than I did, but rather tell you how amazing it is to see some of the top guys do battle on the layout we had. We have all seen someone lay down a fast run, but watching Cavalieri, Maifield, and Tebo do battle in both truggy and buggy nose to tail just leaves you in awe. It didn’t matter if it was hot/cold, day/night, wet/dry, or etc. These guys do it all the time and they make it look easy. I have to say though that the guys developing their cars are doing a hell of a job as well. Clearly the Associated and Kyosho cars are the class of the field in terms of manufactures right now and I say this because those guys’ cars, as well as others running them in the main, just looked 10 times better than any other vehicles I saw all weekend. They responded better, jumped better, landed better, and carried way more corner speed. Hot Bodies isn’t far behind and nor is Losi but it is definitely them and then the rest, but good luck getting some of the parts they have on their cars .
Also, all the big manufacturers were out in support of their teams the biggest of which was Pro-Line. With the factory only 10 minutes down the road from the track they brought two new tires to the table for this race, 1 for truggy and 1 for buggy. The truggy tire is a new iteration of a previous tire. It is the Revolver 2.0 1/8th truggy tire and it provided awesome forward traction with increased side bite. Paired with new Closed Cell truggy foam they were an awesome combination and I used it personally all week with great success.
The buggy tire that you have probably already scene plastered all over the internet is the new Blockade 1/8th buggy tire. It is a pattern that visibly is similar to a Revolver 2.0 but is a bigger and broader lug for increased traction and longer wear. This also was the only tire I ran all week on my buggy and it was incredible. They make the car very neutral feeling with a great balance of steering and traction. Overall they make the car much easier and forgiving to drive. Ryan Cavalieri used this tire in the M2 compound to grab the championship this year. It’s not a bad day when you can win a National Championship with a tire that was hot off the press only 5 days prior.
This tire is perfect for grooved and non-grooved track conditions alike and will provide a wear characteristic unlike anything else available today.
On the more personal side of things, I need to give a huge THANK YOU to the entire Pro-Line crew that was in attendance at the race. Both Daniel and Gerardo had to deal with drivers asking for tires every second of the day and they always did it with a smile. Also, Tim Clark, tire designer extraordinaire, was on hand giving recommendations on what tires to run and collecting feedback from all the drivers. He is a super nice guy and is always trying to come up with new ways to improve Pro-Line products. Last but certainly not least is Pro-Line owner Todd Mattson. Sir, without the support of your products and ALL of the great people you have found for your company many drivers like myself would not have experienced a lot of the success we have. There were a lot of other folks that came out to the track from PL that also are awesome people and make it such a great company. Thank you again and I look forward to winning more races for you guys here in the future.
Random Fun Race Facts:
- Mark from PL makes good hamburgers and guac….but Daniels are pretty awesome too!
- Billy Easton changes the setup on his car every time it hits the track
- The Hampton Inn in Beaumont doesn’t appreciate tire gluing circles left on room furniture….(they will charge you $300 for the tables in the room fyi)
- For some reason Tyler Vik has to eat a jar of Apple Sauce on main day, but he has only been spotted with the “Motts” brand for some reason.
- Daniel Adams can blow up servos before he even puts his brand new car on the track with his mind.
- People in California like black shin socks, black low-top Chuck Taylors/Vans, and Dickies shorts
- Florida boys showed they can race with anyone. JR Mitch and Billy Easton made the mains…way to go boys!
- TLR looks like a real race team….they have team meetings at the end of the day.
- Clint Wachter looked hurting in the beginning of the week but drove his butt off and put it in the main…..congrats bud. Somebody didn’t put the right cover on the TPS report when sending out the right setup sheets
- Taylor Peterson looks better in “Rhonda Pink”
- Rob Jackson is super organized…..he makes his lists with fluorescent yellow poster board so you can see it from anywhere on the track.
All in all it was an amazing week of racing with a bunch of great people at a great event and folks you simply can’t ask for anymore.
‘Till Next Time
p.s. sorry for no awesome pictures…..busy TRYING to make my car better for 6 days straight