1/8th Worlds – Sort of a Big Deal?
It is often thought that any class of RC hits its absolute peak of popularity and competitiveness when the IFMAR worlds for that class is hosted in the United States. You can look back to the 1/10 Off-road Worlds in Pomona California in 1997, the TC Worlds in Kissimmee Florida in 2003 for proof of this idea. At those races, every team showed up with a new car – every tire company showed up with new tire designs/compounds – Team driver’s were switching teams and/or resigning lucrative deals with their current teams. The amount of energy that drivers and manufacturers place into winning the Worlds in the US is quite intense. The 2008 1/8th Off-road Worlds was no different. For this event we had all the elements of a killer event; A strong turnout of the world’s best drivers, strong manufacturer support, an incredible venue to host the race, and most importantly the attention of the largest market in RC – the U.S.
I arrived at the track on Friday morning, the last day of qualifying. Allison and I drove up Thursday night after a grueling day at the JConcepts factory. Things have been incredibly busy at the factory. The full tire line is just around the corner from being 100% on line, with complete inventories of all the innovative JC treads and compounds in stock and shipping. On thing about diving into the RC tire business in 2008 is the vast span of classes, conditions, and compounds that must addressed immediately. You must have a tire for 1/10th Off-road stuff, 1/8th Off-road, 1/8th Truck, Rock Crawlers, CORR trucks….and you must have tread patterns and rubber compounds that work in all conditions. You also have to meet the needs of all these classes and track conditions – IMMEDIATELY . A partial offering is of no value to racers. The fact that JC has designed, tested, prototyped, tested, TQ’ed the Nationals, redesigned, re-tested, Won the Silver State, tweaked, re-designed, TQ’ed the Worlds, finalized, packaged, distributed, and now sold their tire line in under a year is amazing. (Was that a run on sentence?)
Like every World Championship that has come before this one – there was controversy leading up to the race. The usual fuel racing stuff mostly, tank capacities, pitting rules and regulations, warm-up times and policies, fuel mileage strategies, etc. The one hotly contested controversy leading up to the race was the apparent lack of any specific rules from IFMAR regarding 1/8th scale tire width. Oh boy. Apparently you can squeeze a about 5mm of addition tire and wheel width on the rear of most 1/8th buggies without them rubbing anything. You can even run them of the front of some cars and they will still steer without rubbing. As you can imagine, everyone was hot to try this new tire combination. It is safe to say that at the World Championship level of RC competition, EVERYTHING matters. Leading up to the worlds, people were calling and emailing the JC tech line asking for the weight of the JC wings, wheels, bodies, etc. The weight differences of the various 1/8th buggy wings were a factor for some people at this event. You may ask yourself now, what does wing weight have to do with tire width? Well, the point is that at the Worlds level, drivers look for every advantage. For most drivers, after testing the wider tires back to back with the standard tires, no one ran them. No one ran them in the Semi’s….and none in the A-Final.
We setup our booth on Saturday morning, showcasing all the new JC products, especially the new tires making their debut at the Worlds. Three brand new tires – the Sevens, CrossBows, and CrowBars. You could say four new tires if you count the Double Cross, but it has actually been our since the ROAR Nat’s back in June. Ryan Maifield was able to qualify 4th running the new Sevens. The Seven is an exciting new tire, combining the immense flexibility and traction of the venerable Double Dee’s, with added durability and stability. The tire features a small connecting bar between some of the tread lugs, the bars being about half the height of the lugs. These bars support the lugs(an advantage on the heavier 1/8th cars) and offer a fresh sharp edge when the lugs wear down to the level of the bars.
For the last round of qualifying, Ryan was already thinking forward to the Semi-finals. He chose to run a tire that would be suitable for the Semi’s in his last qualifier. After much contemplation, Ryan reached for the new CrossBows. He laid down the second fastest qualifying time of the entire event – in a ten minute qualifier – running a tire developed for an hour long main. Nice to see you can have a large-pin, long main tire get it done against a field of micro-pin blue groove tires that were slick after 10 minutes. If this stuff continues, tire designers around here at JC need are going to want a raise.
Back to my earlier anecdotal mentioning of “TQ’ing the Worlds” – First a few questions – If you are at a club race, and you start the A-main at the front, what would you tell your friends when they asked you how you did? If you run the fastest overall time of the event in a bracket-style main format, what would you call that? If you turned the fastest single lap in that entire bracket system, What would you call that? If you start the Final at the IFMAR Worlds with your car sitting on the painted square with a large fluorescent orange ”1” painted on the ground, and if everyone else starts the race behind you, what would you call that? If you started the A-Final of a race in the forth position, would you call yourself the TQ?
All I’m saying is this: when the final buzzer sounded to start the Final at the IFMAR Worlds, Ryan Maifield, running a Team Associated RC8,with JConcepts CrossBows in Yellow compound screwed on all four corners of it – was FIRST on the grid. He went faster then everyone else, so he got to start in front of everyone else – Call it what you like, but I’m calling it a Top Qualifying position. Period. <- That is another period, FYI
By now you have already read the accounts of the racing itself somewhere on the internet. Our very own Andrew Moore has written an undoubtedly spectacular account of the race. I’m sure you can read that and find out who was leading on lap 83 of the main. Here is the short version – Maifield and Cavalieri checked out. Cav’s front brakes locked up. Truhe crashed a ton in the first 15 minutes. By the 45min mark, Maifield, Truhe, and Hara were way out by themselves, in that order, only momentary shaking up that order during pit laps. At the seven minute mark, Maifield came in for his last fuel stop. Pit man extraordinaire, Jake Thayer caught the car, dropped on the top of the wall, flipped the fuel cap up, and then his shoulders sank, his quick hands and actions were immediately calmed. It was like someone had hit him with an armor piercing round fired from a sniper rifle 500 yards away. Flame out. Funny, Jason and I were just talking the previous day about what exactly is a flame out, and what causes them. Jake coolly switched gears, and quickly wrenched out the plug swapped it for a new one, refueled and fired the car. It seemed like it took 4 days. The lap times of the main reflect about 23 seconds. But 23 seconds at the Worlds is the difference between 1st and 4th.
I guess it is a good thing he ran that super-light JConcepts wing huh?