Words and Photos: Don Almeido
Desert Land Shark
The first written account of a shark attack is found in Herodotus’ (c. 484–425 B.C.) description of hordes of “monsters” devouring the shipwrecked sailors of the Persian fleet. Until just recently, another very rare encounter was reported a remarkable 273 miles inland from Newport Beach, California all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada. My first thought was that someone fell into The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, but the incident was reported just off Highway I-15 south heading into Las Vegas. The Nevada Highway Patrol reported a violation of speed in a no tolerance zone just off Las Vegas Blvd, which can carry steep fines and possible vehicle impoundment. The vehicle in question was described on the citation, “Military Shark Vehicle 1/10 scale in size driving at excessive speed on a public roadway”. Manufactured by HPI Racing RS4 Sport 3 Flux model #114350, the vehicle was clocked going 88 mph in a 25 mile zone and described on the ticket as a Futuristic Spyder-style Racing Porsche 911.
When RC enthusiasts asked for a faster version of the Sprint 2 Falken Porsche, HPI Racing was listening. The release of the all new RS4 Sport 3 Flux hit the tarmac in summer of 2015. For the lucky few who reacted quickly, the car flew off hobby shelves at lighting speeds. Sharks are natural born hunters and the RS4 Sport 3 Flux shares similar DNA characteristics when let loose on the open road. However, first reports of early ownership reviews had experiences with the dog bones popping out and erratic steering alignment due to rocks getting trapped in the bell crank steering. Not big corrections in my book, but at the time first units delivered didn’t have much to fall back on until the aftermarket caught up with the all new design. Until then, my box would sit on the island of Misfit Toy’s for a good portion of the 2015 calendar year awaiting the arrival of the well anticipated hop ups to arrive on a floating iceberg.
A Look Inside Desert Land Shark
I was surprised to find that Sharks don’t have a single bone in their body. Cutting deep into the cartilaginous skeleton of my RS4, you will uncover several upgraded bones in the form of Yeah Racing and Exotek Racing respectively, both quick to respond first to the RS4 Sport 3 Flux with quality aftermarket upgrades. Soon to follow, HPI Racing hop ups became available, including their high speed gear set to propel the car to speeds near the triple-digits.
The new design of the RS4 Sport 3 flux was over a year in the making and, upon further examination, reveals a new semi-tub with an injected molded plastic material as the primary platform. Being a big proponent of the officially licensed HPI vehicles, staying true to the integrity inside and out of the RS4 Sport 3 Flux was a major focus on rebuilding Desert Land Shark. With that said, the factory internals such as motor, ESC and servo would remain HPI factory stock – this also includes the BBS wheels and Falken Tires.
The Land Shark is propelled by a powerful Flux MMH-4000kV Brushless Motor hooked up to a Flux EMH-3S Brushless ESC. Sharks like to eat, so I fed this predator a diet consisting of a Venom 3S LiPo battery. To keep the temps under control on the waterproof ESC and motor, a pair of high speed Castle Creations fans are used.
Gutting the Land Shark
To keep the Land Shark light in weight, I installed a HPI carbon fiber front and rear shock tower and graphite front bumper brace. To keep the Shark steady at high speeds, aluminum racing shocks with 30 weight oil were carefully assembled. A carbon fiber center drive shaft cover was added and not only adds a bit of additional chassis rigidity, it also looks the part. I replaced the center drive shaft with an extra light 7075 alloy drive shaft from Exotek Racing. I also upgraded her teeth with Exotek’s ultra-lightweight replacement differential gears (both front and back) for better bearing fit and gear mesh. Finishing drivertrain touches include a lighter, alloy spur gear mount, front drive spool and adjustable turnbuckles all the way around.
The suspension received a bit of an upgrade as well, replacing all the plastic with a Yeah Racing Aluminum conversion kit. The kit includes everything you need to unleash the potential of the RS4 Sport 3 Flux with front and lower arm sets, ball bearing aluminum C hubs, front and rear knuckle sets, universal CVD’s and aluminum ball bearing steering arm set. The results of this upgrade are astonishing; the performance and durability of minimum friction and reduced flex within the car’s suspension system really shines when you put rubber to road. As a final touch, I used some heavy duty 3M Scotch clear transparent film on the belly of Desert Land Shark and on the rear diffuser.
Wheels and Tires
The jet black BBS mesh racing wheels come standard and fit the Land Shark perfectly for daily driving. They come as a set of 31mm wide front tires and extra wide 35mm rears for maximum grip on the tarmac. The addition of four, red-anodized HPI RSR alloy wheel nuts help eliminate any wheel slop and enhance the shark red accents from front to rear.
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Body
The Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Land Shark authentically replicates the extensive aerodynamic details of its full-scale counterpart with the adjustable rear wing, multi-piece rear diffuser and side body aero pieces behind the front wheels. The rear of the 911 is slightly tail heavy, so to offset the balance without adding extra weight, a custom front splitter was added. This works as a multi-function piece, allowing direct airflow underneath the chassis as well as to both sides of the car to improve the front end tracking. This is especially needed when running Land Shark at blistering full throttle speeds with the optional HPI high speed gear set option.
The iconic gold tooth on the front grill of the 1:1 scale race car was left on during vehicle inspection just before the Petit Le Mans race as a practical joke for the tech inspectors. As the race continued throughout the night the gold tooth became more of a sign of good luck rather than a joke. The addition of front and rear running LED’s are an important aspect to the car as well. Diligent care and effort went into installing the LED lighting system, using a set of Tamiya headlight buckets from rcMart that were custom painted using Vans yellow lens spray paint imported from Japan. Precision techniques were used to trim the decals and ream out an accurate hole for the LEDs – the results are literally night and day and completely worth the effort.
The rear taillights were strategically concealed in the rear diffuser. This placement allows for enhanced visual spotting when driving at night and looks pretty cool going down the road. Keeping up with the scale appearance of the RS4 I used the supplied metal rear LED inserts for the rear exhaust tips which fit perfectly into the rear exhaust decal location.
The Tamiya red blood aero mirrors and shark antenna were added to give the look of pectoral fins of a real Shark. The custom vinyl mouth and eyes as well as the front mount and gill slits were supplied from Vinyl Customs. A telemetry roof antenna was installed for long range shark tracking back to the pit operator.
Attacking the Asphalt
The shark-faced nose art of the Flying Tigers remains among the most recognizable image of any individual combat aircraft of World War II. I understand why HPI Racing embraced the new Forza livery on the RS4 Sport 3 Flux; the vehicle not only looks downright menacing on the shelf, it’s also looks amazing streaking across the dry desert tarmac on a 3S LiPo!
For best results, though, a clear road or empty parking lot free of road dust and pebbles makes for an ideal circuit due to its low-slung nature. My test area was an open stretch of pavement where the car can be turned lose without fear of obstacles in either direction. Unfortunately I forgot my Garmin speed sensor so I’ll have to head back and see if the actual speed infraction on the ticket was accurate.
The second location required a quick gear change to handle the road obstacles and change of surface. In one section where the asphalt changes to concrete, the Land Shark would get airborne and, without missing a beat, land perfectly every time before negotiating the upcoming road cones. The concrete section had plenty of grip, biting back and allowing for a few uncharacteristic wheel stands.
Off the Radar
The speeding citation issued to me by Nevada Highway Patrolman Officer O.V. Hunter Jr. was for driving 88mph in a 25mph zone. After admitting guilt and signing the citation officer Hunter replied, “These Race-Replica Porsches are cursed. My father was the last man to see James Dean alive driving a 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder before the horrible crash that took his life”. I thanked the officer for not impounding my car and after some friendly words, Officer O.V. Hunter Jr. left the scene in a vintage HPI Super Nitro RS4 – a special police issued Wolfpack Radicals C5-R Interceptor. As soon as the billowing nitro smoke cleared, I decided one more speed run was in order. I checked my steering and slowly drove down the highway, almost out of visual site, before slowly turning 180 degrees. I made one final head check to my left before I engaged my index finger to quarter throttle and continued to pull as the camo Porsche began to gain speed. I was at full trigger lock by the time the car came rushing by and, for some reason, I couldn’t unlock my finger from the trigger as the Porsche continued down the highway past my line of site. By the time I finally released the trigger, the Shark had disappeared completely from my view down the long desolate stretch of highway and into the shaded horizon.
I immediately performed my best Marty McFly sprint down the highway in anticipation of finding the remains of my Desert Land Shark off the side of the road in a million pieces. As I continued my run down the highway, my breathing rapidly increased and my pace slowed a bit, still with no visual site of the gray and black Porsche. The sun was not working in my favor this afternoon and I started to perform slow, peripheral vision scans on both sides of the road, having flashbacks of Officer Hunter’s inevitable last words before leaving the scene. My recovery mission had failed after hours of searching for the missing Porsche. My only conclusion was the car had been smuggled off by a distant thug hiding in some remote brushline just off the distant roadway. This is just crazy and starting to feel like a throwback from the movie The Hills Have Eyes!
As the sun was setting in the distance I walked back to my transport vehicle, defeated and still in shock of Desert Land Shark’s final run. The car was flawless all day; was the car sitting off the side of the road, totalled? I can’t recall seeing any dirt, dust or harsh crashing sound. My mind continued to wander as I sat in my car trying to come to some type of rational explanation of how the Desert Land Shark just vanished into thin air. Like James Dean’s final moments on earth, his driving speeds reported on that fateful day in September were very similar to the speeds I was running this afternoon. The imported German Porsche Dean was driving back in 1955 was just getting broken in on the way to Salinas, California for a weekend sports car race. My Land Shark was also just starting to get broken in and traveling at almost identical speeds. Then there’s the speeding ticket issued by the son of O.V. Hunter, just like James Dean’s traffic stop. I couldn’t stop wondering if the “Curse of the Porsche” had fast forwarded sixty-one years to this September day on a similar remote stretch of Highway.
The ghostly spirit of the RS4 would reveal itself as I glanced out of the window and into the far-stretched highway one last time. A tiny ray of light was far off in the distance; no way that could that be Desert Land Shark sitting off the highway. I hit the gas pedal and quickly noticed the lights were getting larger in color, however way beyond my original place of operation. As I started to get closer I noticed the front lights shining forward into the distance; the rear taillights were reflecting out the sides of the diffuser, making it difficult to see from behind. I quickly pulled over and jumped out of the car and could hear the ESC and castle motor fans operating. A quick inspection of the car had everything checking out 100% front to rear. With nightfall approaching, I swiftly loaded up and evacuated the area before becoming a coyote appetizer.
Curse of the Porsche
The question I’m still pondering to this day; was Desert Land Shark just off the road all this time during the failed search party attempt or did some type of transportation take place on this remote stretch of desert highway to another place in time? The flux capacitor power system could of reacted at precisely 88mph just like the DeLorean in Back to the Future. Or is the HPI Racing RS4 Sport 3 Flux camouflage body designed to fly off the radar? The mystery to all my questions came a week later when an envelope arrived in the mail from Dean Jeffries pin stripping. The missing piece on Desert Land Shark had arrived and I was just about to put the finishing touches above the rear exhaust with those famous two words “Little Bastard”. The decal came with simple instructions that read – “Apply at your own risk”. I could be rolling the dice by adding the decal that cursed James Dean’s Spyder or paying tribute to a classic that has evolved into the future iconic HPI RS4 Sport 3 Flux Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
The coin toss just went airborne with a quick flick of my thumb … final conclusion … “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas”.
Yeah Racing Option Parts
• Yeah Racing Aluminum Front Lower Arm Set For HPI RS4 Sport 3 – #RSS3-001OR
• Yeah Racing Aluminum Rear Lower Arm Set For HPI RS4 Sport 3 – #RSS3-002OR
• Yeah Racing Ball Bearing Aluminum C-Hub Set For HPI RS4 Sport 3 – #RSS3-003OR
• Yeah Racing Aluminum Front Knuckle Arm Set For HPI RS4 Sport 3 – #RSS3-004OR
• Yeah Racing Aluminum Rear Hub/Knuckle For HPI RS4 Sport 3 – #RSS3-005OR
• Yeah Racing Universal Shaft Set For HPI RS4 Sport 3 – #RSS3-006OR
• Yeah Racing Aluminum Ball Bearing Steering Arm Set For HPI RS4 Sport 3 – #RSS3-007OR
Exotek Option Parts
• Exotek Turnbuckle Set – #1569
• Exotek Alloy Drive Shaft – #1540
• Exotek Alloy Front Diff Gear – #1574
• Exotek Alloy Rear Diff Gear – #1574
• Exotek Alloy Spur Gear Mount – #1541
• Exotek Pro5 12mm Clamping Hex – #1551
HPI Racing Option Parts
• HPI Racing Carbon Fiber Center Drive Shaft Cover Set – #114432
• HPI Racing Front Carbon Fiber Shock Towers – #114433
• HPI Racing Rear Carbon Fiber Shock Towers – #114434
• HPI Racing Aluminum Shock Set – #114435
• HPI Racing High Speed Gear Set – #114569
• HPI Racing 40T Spool Set – #114436
• HPI Racing Porsche RSR Alloy Wheel Nuts – #109504
• Castle Creations 1/8th Brushless Motor Cooling Fan – #011-0004-00
• GPM Aluminium Motor Heat Sink Mount – #SP3018
• Hot Bodies Graphite Bumper Brace – #68715
• Kimbrough Racing Spur Gear 48P 66T – #301
• LED Lights front and rear
• Tamiya Headlight Buckets GT3 Porsche
HPI Racing, www.hpiracing.com
Castle Creations, www.castlecreations.com
Exotek Racing, www.exotekracing.com
Hot Bodies, hbracing.com
Kimbrough Racing Products, www.kimbroughracingproducts.com
Yeah Racing, www.yeahracing.com
Note: This is Don’s second project he’s done for us at CompetitionX. Wonderful job on both the car and the story – makes me want to build a super-fast Porsche project now! Thanks, Don, for taking the time to write up another great article!