Round 3 of the 2018 U4RC Summer Series had us traveling back to Cherry Valley RC Raceway, however if you asked me before the race where it was at, I’d have sent you to the wrong location. It was early on Saturday and, as I jumped in my car to head out, I pulled up my ‘saved’ locations in my GPS, punched in the Apple Valley address and hit go. As I drove, I thought about both rigs; had I done enough prep – was the Bomber going to be a handful to drive – did I put a Hostess Ding Dong in my lunch. Ya, it was a drive filled with all kinds of random thoughts.
As I approached the track, about 5 minutes out, I started looking around – nothing looked familiar. Well, it did, but not familiar to the Cherry Valley track. If you noticed in the above paragraph, I said I ‘punched in the Apple Valley address’. Uh ya, that’s not right. Round 3 is in CHERRY VALLEY, not Apple Valley. I figured out my snafu and, after a few choice words, punched in the correct address and started the hour and a half drive to the correct track. All in all, it took me about 3 hours to get to Cherry Valley RC, a track that is normally a tick over an hour away. I really hope the rest of the day was going to go a lot better.
Cherry Valley RC Raceway – The Track
Cherry Valley RC is located on private property, the front portion of Chris Pickering’s personal abode. He’s built a bad-ass track with all kinds of differing terrain, perfect for testing the abilities of your rig. Let’s take a quick look at what this track has got going on…
1) At the top, you’ll see the driver’s stand which flanks the main straight. This is by far the fastest part of the track, but don’t be fooled by that. Just before the elevated first-turn rock pile is a small jump, one designed to help slow the rigs down before entering the turn. If you figure this jump out, you can actually launch deep into the turn, a tactic that helps get you around the corner faster to avoid the dreaded ‘first-turn pileup’. Get it wrong, though, and you could be the CAUSE of the first-turn pileup.
2) Once out of the rocks, there’s the Chevron Straight. Deep ruts have been dug into the dirt that are designed to upset the handling of your rig. There’s a fast line through them – and lots of not-so-fast lines. Consistently hitting the same line is key here.
3) Another right turn leads to a small double jump followed by the Half-Moon-Hill, a tabletop with a circular entry face carved into it. It seems trickier than it is, however it’s the descent that can get you in more trouble. Multiple, deep holes have been dug into the downhill part and, since it’s on a corner, hitting one of them while downhilling to fast could result in a flipped rig.
4) A short chute with roller and double jump follow, dropping you down into Sand-Pit Hairpin. This is a pretty standard corner, just be sure not to enter it too fast as your full-lock wheels trying to turn in the sand can sometimes cause you to land on your lid.
5) Another short chute with a triple jump – well, only a triple jump if you’re going the opposite direction. This one was a bit tricky until I figured it out – slow double in, power out over the table top and land at the base of the rocks. Easy peasy, worth about two-tenths of a lap. And safe.
6) The Double-Line Rock Corner. This is one of the evil parts of the track – the inside line looks fast and inviting, however a mistake can cost you quite a bit of time. The outside line has way less rocks and is much flatter, but it’s really the LONG way around – a mistake can cost you quite a bit of time. This is definitely a roll-the-dice corner; I always choose the inside line, easy on the steering, minimal throttle inputs. Best to take a little extra time here and not crash.
7) The Not-So-Rhythmy-Rhythm Section. I’ve tried inside, outside, double in, single in – just no fast way through it. Medium throttle and let the car bounce around. Anything faster and you’re bucking around like a bucking buckaroo. On another side note, marshals don’t typically monitor this area. Take you time, get through safe.
8) I’ve lovingly entitled this section Triple Threat. It’s a doable triple jump for most 2.2 Unlimited trucks, it just takes some serious throttle control to get ‘er done. Take the hairpin a little wide, ease on the throttle to get some speed and right about the base of the jump (maybe 2-3’ before) pin it! The lead-up is quite loose so throttle management is key, especially on a MaxAmps 3S (that’s what I’m running). Rigs with 4S probably have a better shot at it, but the wheelspin prior to take off is what kills ya. Launch off the lead jump with anything but a perfectly straight vehicle and you’re on your way to a fantastic Fail Army video.
9) A quick left after Triple Threat send you up to a slightly elevated rock path. Outside line, medium throttle. If you’re feeling sassy, you can try and squirt the throttle and clear it, but I see it as a 20% chance of success. Oh, and anything but straight and you’ve got a chance to pulverize a marshal. No extra points for that.
10) Although it appears to be a small rut cut in the corner, it’s actually a pain in the ass. I’ve entitled this little guy The Finger – as in, it’s giving me the finger. The track is quite a bit off camber here (hard to see), there are rocks piled at the apex and this rut is pretty deep. This makes you want to slow down a bit to hit everything perfectly. However, as you roll over it, it’s very easy to catch a tire and send yourself tumbling down. Marshals are usually paying alot of attention to areas 6 and 9, so a mistake here is definitely a finger! After many attempts, I found the best way was to roll up to it high and blip the throttle to ‘leap’ over the rut. Again, a little extra care to the approach will get you through without any issues.
11) Oh boy, section 11 – affectionately called Hell Holes. There are multiple ruts dug out here with rocks and lengths of wood buried underneath. While it looks like it would be easy, all the obstacles tend to bounce the rigs towards other obstacles, making it very easy to flip over. If I was feeling confident, I’d ease my way through, trying to stay on top of the steering and throttle (not always the safest). If I needed safe passage, the outside line was usually best. Evil section for sure, but fun all the same. For the 2.2 Unlimited rigs – just turn and burn.
12) Welcome to Hamburger Hill. This section elevates to almost 6′, with an easy approach uphill. Make a hard right turn and down you go, but be careful of the downhill ruts and tiny jump at the bottom. Take this hill SLOW! Because it’s elevated, getting a marshal up there to flip an overturned rig is no easy task – oh, and don’t fall off the back side! You can’t be seen, you can’t be heard and there is a kind-of-covered well that eats cars. Saw it happen. Yum yum.
13) This large jump was new to the layout – I don’t have a name for it yet, but it really slowed everyone down coming onto the straight. If you were perceptive, you would have noticed a sneaky inside line that saved a couple tenths per lap. If not, you’d clear the jump and land in a huge hole, adding a couple tenths per lap. I tried the sneaky line every lap, but it’s very speed dependent. Had a chance to meet the hole a few times.
Axial RR10 Bomber
After 2 races where the Bomber was a complete and utter handful to drive, I think I finally got this sucker figured out. Before we get into the qualifiers and mains, though, I want to go over what changes I’ve made to get the Bomber into fighting trim.
Pro-Line Racing 2.2 Dual Stage Closed Cell Inner/ Soft Outer Rock Crawling Foam Inserts
One thing I wanted to address was the foam in the tires. The Pro-Line Hyrax tires comes with a full, open-cell foam. This is great for overall driving but tends to add alot of squirm to the Hyrax tires. If you want some serious performance, you’ll need to stuff the Hyraxes (or Hyraxs) with PL’s 2.2 Dual Stage Open/Closed Cell Foams. Being a dual-stage, it comes with an open-cell outer foam and a closed-cell inner foam. The open-cell foam (white) allows the tires to conform to the terrain – rocks, logs, bumps, etc – helping the tires grab and claw their way over these obstacles. The closed-cell inner foam (blue) helps the tire keep its overall shape with massive support for the sidewall. This is key – if the tire rolls over too much, it can cause traction rolling (in corners) and unwanted deflection (in the rocks). Trust me on this – these are an absolute game charger for Rock Racing! I noticed a huge improvement right off the bat!
Hot Racing Axial RR10 Bomber Torsion Sway Bar Set
The second major upgrade was the anti-roll bars. This took me a little while to wrap my head around this, mainly because I’m not all that familiar with tuning solid axle rigs. I did see them mounted on Jesse Villa’s Bomber (fast SoCal U4RC competitor) and his rig is fantastic around the track, so I thought I’d give them a try and see what’s up. The upside to anti-roll bars is that they help keep your rig flat, allowing faster cornering in most situations. I figured I wanted a little roll, so I installed both the front and rear with the thinnest bar. This added performance, though, does come at a cost. In the rocks, you definitely want the suspension to flex and absorb irregularities. The anti-roll bars purpose is to help PREVENT flex, so you will notice a bit more bouncing around in the rocks, log areas and deep ruts. A little more care needs to be taken in these areas, but the performance boost on the rest of the track certainly outweighs the negative.
Pro-Line Racing Power Stroke Rear Shocks
The next area of work revolved around the shock package. I’ve had Pro-Line’s PowerStroke Shocks on this rig since day 1, however I’ve been using 88mm lengths on the front and 102mm lengths on the rear. The rear always felt great but the shorter fronts seemed to always be way to stiff and bouncy. After quite a few attempts at getting these to work, I finally dumped the front 88mm shocks and threw on a pair of the 102s. I used 10wt oil in the fronts with blue/blue springs and 15wt oil in the rears with yellow/blue springs – this combo seems to be really, really close to what I’ve been trying to get at – some final tuning will tell. Now, you may think that the oil and spring rates seem really soft, and it is. However, with the addition of the anti-roll bars, this allows you to run a much softer shock package to help flex through the rocks. A great marriage right there.
Axial Open Differential Set
So, the final piece of the Bomber performance puzzle is something I’ve been wanting to try for awhile now. Thanks to my history with other forms of racing, I decided to try removing the locked rear diff in favor of an ‘open’ diff; one that uses an internal gear set similar to what’s in your real car. This is an excellent tuning aid with the characteristics being altered via different fluids. So, I built one up (using all Axial parts), installed it and reaped the benefits! What this does is give the rear of the Bomber added grip without hindering it in the rocks (the front end helps pull the rig through). Huge gains in performance – huge.
So, now that the work is done, let’s take a look at how the day progressed in both qualifying and the mains!
2.2 Solid Axle – Qualifying
From the get go, the Bomber felt super planted and WAY easier to drive! I noticed a huge difference in rough areas of the track; the Chevron Straight and the Not-So-Rhythmy-Rhythm Section. With the open rear diff, I could keep the throttle pinned and it would just blow right through, areas that I would have to tip toe through before. I did have to massage my way in the rock gardens, but this is an area you have to tread lightly anyway so it was no big deal. All-in-all I was extremely happy with the performance and the qualifying time, setting a really fast time and taking TQ.
2.2 Solid Axle Main Event
Taking TQ means a front row start, but that also means you have to take advantage of that in the first turn or get eaten up! The track was pretty dry and dusty, so getting a good start was key to getting through the first corner. I did a couple practice starts to see how the Bomber would react – it really was amazingly good! At the horn, I was able to get through turn 1 clean and it was cruise mode after that. Steady laps and hitting my marks in the rocks netted me a 1st place finish – something that was only overshadowed by how easy the Bomber is to drive now. The setup is really, really close but I know there is still room for improvement. I have a few more ideas in mind to get this rig even faster.
Tekno RC DB48
This is only the second race on the Tekno DB48 – I can honestly say I didn’t need to change one thing on this rig! I did a full tear down after Round 2 and, other than a few scarred parts, this thing was in 99.9% excellent shape. Because the DB48 is not necessarily designed for Rock Racing, you will notice a few more bumps and bruises on it after each run.
Tekno RC V2 Aluminum Adjustable Hinge Pin Brace “A” Block
The first part I thought that might need attention is the A Arm Mount. This is the plastic piece right behind the front bumper that holds the arm mount pills. Because of its position, it does take quite a bit of abuse from rocks and was showing some signs of wear. To reinforce this area of the car, I installed one of Tekno’s 7075 Aluminum V2 Arm Mount Braces. This part will stand up to WAY more abuse than the plastic piece and greatly reduce the chance of failure. After my Round 3 run, it still looks in great condition, minus a little bit of the anodizing.
Tekno RC Front Suspension Arms
Another part you might want to get spares of is the front suspension arms. They’re extremely stout and perfect for off road racing, but most off road tracks don’t include huge boulder sections. My arms are getting a little beat up right where the shock mount screw is, to the point where I may be needing to replace them pretty soon (again, this truck has only been raced twice). I may be over-exaggerating a bit, but when suspension parts start to lose chunks of plastic, I tend to notice. Grab a pair (or two) of front arms and you should be covered.
Tekno RC Composite 44T Spur Gear
The final spare part you want to pick up is the center diff gear. Scratch that, pick up 3 or 4. It’s not that the diff gear is not strong – it certainly is – it’s the fact that the gap between the gear and the chassis is extremely limited. I’m talking a millimeter or two at the most. Again, this is great for typical off roading, but when small, pebbly rocks are added, this can cause h-a-v-o-c to the gear. In the second qualifier, a rock lodged itself between the gear and the chassis and locked up the drivetrain, literally shattering the shank on the pinion gear. So, this is definitely a high-priority area to keep you eye on! Now, Tekno does have a steel 44T gear (hardened and lightened) but it’s been out of stock for awhile. If you can find one, get it. This will help alleviate the stress on both you AND the gear.
Other than those few notes, the DB48 was on fire – let’s check out the qualifying and mains for this 2.2 Unlimited rig!
2.2 Unlimited – Qualifying
Qualifying in the 2.2 Unlimited went well – the DB48 made its way through all the new obstacles with ease. I didn’t push it too much during the first qualifier – I really wanted to get a good run in before testing the limits in Q2. The Triple Threat in the middle of the track was quite inviting, and if I got a good run at it, I could clear it using my MaxAmps 3S. It was certainly the fast line around the track. That run up, though, was getting tougher and tougher as the day went by due to the dust on the track. My main goal was to get out front, drive the track and take a few seconds of caution through the tricky areas. I was able to pull down TQ in this class as well with the only 7 lap run. I also squeaked out a 42 second lap; quite quick considering the new obstacles in place.
2.2 Unlimited Main Event
As in the 2.2 Solid Axle class, I needed to get a great start and get in and out of turn 1 without incident. At the sound of the tone, the entire field was blazing towards T1 and it appeared that there might be a some major rubbing, so I made the quick decision to hit the small jump a little faster and send the DB48 deep into the rocky corner. This ended up being a great choice as it allowed me a little extra room to navigate through turn 1 and take the lead. Again, cruise mode was in place with lap after lap sending it over the triple; well, almost. On lap 4 (or maybe 5 or 6), I attempted the triple and didn’t have enough speed. I was already committed and sent it anyway, lawn darting hard into the 3rd hump. Cringe – that’s the type of hits that cause car parts to fail. Everything seemed fine, but I could hear a small whine in the drivetrain. I took it a little easy after that (ok, I still jumped Triple Threat) and brought home the win with a 9-lap run!
It was another great race weekend at the SoCal U4RC Series and I can’t wait to get to Round 4. I have a lot of cleaning, a little tuning and some more learning with the solid-axle Axial rig. Excited to get back out – we’ll see you at Round 4!
I’d also like to give a huge shout-out to Elizabeth Park. I needed a few action shots of my cars for this and other upcoming articles and she supplied me with quite a few killer pix. Big thanks, Elizabeth!
Round 1 Recap – 2018 SoCal U4RC Summer Series
Round 2 Recap – 2018 SoCal U4RC Summer Series
Round 3 Recap – 2018 SoCal U4RC Summer Series
Round 4 Recap – 2018 SoCal U4RC Summer Series
Round 5 Recap – 2018 SoCal U4RC Summer Series
Round 6 Recap – 2018 SoCal U4RC Summer Series
Axial Racing, available at AMain Hobbies
Tekno RC, available at AMain Hobbies
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Futaba, available at AMain Hobbies
Hitec, available at AMain Hobbies
Pro-Line, available at AMain Hobbies
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