My location: United States
Oct 14, 2007

The Noris Cup took recently and Mark Pearson travelled to the Germany to the MAC Nuremberg Club’s Zollhausring. Racing his Serpent, Mark enjoyed a strong result taking his 720 to a podium finish.

Here is Mark\'s full report from the event -

Saturday morning started bright-and-early at 07:00am: today was the last nitro race of the season. Typical within the region of Germany are friendly races at the end of the season – this gives the competitors of the national races a chance to come together to enjoy racing in a relaxed atmosphere. The Noris-Cup is the traditional friendly race, which is held at the MAC Nuremberg Club’s Zollhausring circuit. This year, for the first time, there were two Noris-Cup races held on two different weekends: one for the 1:5th scale racers and the second one (this weekend’s) for 1:8th and 1:10th scale cars. This allowed a more relaxed time schedule for the race and gave the racers more track time in training – something which everyone appreciated.

After a thirty-minute drive, I arrived at the circuit just before eight o’clock, to be greeted by a couple of very keen 1:8th drivers, who were already busy testing their cars on the still very greasy track! I would wait until later to venture out onto the track and my first job was to change my engine. I’ve been running a RER-REX engine from the top German tuner Michael Heinrich since June and the engine has proved to be extremely
reliable with good power. Even though I also posses a second REX engine, which has even more power, I’ve chosen to run the RER due to its friendly characteristic. However, time had come to drive the LR3, it was both my home-race and the last race of the season – so I quickly changed the RER for the LR3. Even though not too many of the regulars from the southern German nationals were coming to the Noris-Cup, I knew already that Michael Heinrich would certainly be attending – who has been running the Xray NT1 this year, and has proven to be within the top 4 of the regular attendees of the southern German national championship. Michael also tests often at the Nuremberg circuit and he’s always quick here – certainly quicker than me! Having switched from Kyosho to Serpent a few weeks back, I was looking forward to how I would be able to do with the combination of the 720 and the LR3.

The attendance of two of my old PRO 8 team-mates (Ralf Drachsler and Christian Unger), as well as regulars from the MAC Nuremberg club (along with guests from other circuits) promised for a good and competitive race. Having just finished putting the LR3 into my car, Michael Heinrich arrived and asked if I wanted to test an engine for him – it was an engine, which he’d just finished and he wanted to know if it would work well. It was the same spec as my own engine, so I had no problem in putting it into my car. So my LR3 was taken back out of my car, as quick as it had been put in.

I was running the same basic setup on the 720, as I had in the previous race in Bamberg. The car had worked extremely well there and I was sure that only a little tuning would be required. I’d installed softer rollbars front and rear, as this was the way that most of the drivers were running their 720s and it was supposed to work really well. Hitting the circuit for the first time, the balance of the car seemed very good, but I had a little too much steering on the entrance of the corners and a little bit too much understeer at the exit of the long banked curve onto the straight in front of the drivers’ stand. I took the front rollbar setting from 20º to 45º and increased the caster. Both worked very well and the car seemed to be very well balance – only the circuit was still lacking grip and I would opt for softer tyres for the training sessions. Even as the qualifying sessions started, the grip hadn’t picked up too much and I opted to stick with the 38-shore front and 40 shore rear Xceed tyres.

The first qualifying session was going very well until I got mixed up in traffic, whereby my bodyshell got stuck under the rear tyre and it took a few seconds unit it was release again. Following this, I exited the hairpin on the main straight too wide and got onto some leaves, which were still a bit wet from the morning dew – my car spun and then slid around a lot due to the water on my tyres!!! To top things off, I ran out of fuel with almost a lap to run – arrrgghh!!! I was hoping for a better weekend than this – and just hoped that things would improve in the second session. Things hadn’t been any better for Heinrich in his first session – he hadn’t even been able to run a lap due to problems with his car – so nothing lost so far!
Sure enough come the 2nd qualifying runs, Heinrich took provisional pole with a 21 lap 5:00 and a fastest lap of 14.0 – I knew I was capable of driving a 14.0 at the circuit and had done so during my first test of the 720 a few weeks back, but with the grip being low, I wasn’t too confident of being able to match Heinrich’s time.

This time the session ran really well, I’d leaned the engine a bit, as it had seemed to have been running too rich and that should help the run time, too. I was able to run my laps very consistently and quickly, so I was very interested come the end of the session, what the results would say: 22 laps in 5:13 with a fastest lap of 14.0, just a couple of hundredths faster than Heinrich’s! Wow, this was pretty good – I’d not been able to match Heinrich’s pace all year and now I was lying a second in front of him. The 720 was running really perfectly and I was able to carry a lot of speed into the corners, without the car getting overly nervous or understeering.

I eagerly awaited the final qualifying session, to see if Heinrich could better my time – as I had to true some tyres, I couldn’t watch the session and upon returning to the pits, I saw that Heinrich hadn’t been able to better his own time and therefore I was sitting on an almost certain pole position. I had trued another set of the softer 38/40 shore tyres for the last session, but as I knew that my provisional pole was pretty secure and that I wasn’t sure whether or not to run a harder compound tyre in the final, I decided to go with the harder compounds (40/43 shore) in the last qualifying session. I didn’t need to improve and it would be interesting to see if my lap
times would suffer from running the harder compound.

The car felt really good in the final run and it was very easy to drive – I was again able to drive consistently, but I wasn’t too sure about the speed – it certainly didn’t feel quicker, but I certainly liked the way the 720 was reacting – the rear of the car was very stable under acceleration and I had sufficient steering on turn-in without the car being overly nervous. On completing the session, I was amazed to discover that I had improved my run by a second and also improve my fastest lap to a 13.9 – obviously the harder tyres were the right way to go for the final!

I had to check my car carefully after the qualifying run, as I had seen that the rear belt had looked a bit worn and sure enough it was looking in need of being changed, so not wanting to risk anything, I quickly changed the belt – unfortunately, the race director had only allowed 30 minutes between the end of my qualifying session and the 1:10th final!!! I had though we had an hour and had been taking my time in changing the belt – now I only had fifteen minutes to true a new set of tyres and to charge my battery. Then I discovered that the thrust bearing in the clutch was destroyed – now everything was looking very tight! I didn’t have a thrust bearing and I had to ask Heinrich if he had a spare one (which he fortunately did!) and then it was onto truing the tyres and charging the battery.

Most of the remaining time up until the final was taken up truing the tyres and it didn’t leave much time to replace the broken thrust bearing. I had wanted to check the clutch gap, as the thrust bearing wasn’t a standard one, but now there was no time! Also I had wanted to change the spur gears (which were also looking worn), but for that, too, there was no time left – actually I had just enough time to fit the tyres and run to the start!! So much for my idea of having a relaxing race!!!

As the flag was raised indicating the start of the race, I reacted too slowly and then a large cloud of blue smoke came out of my exhaust, showing that my engine had richened too much during the period just before the start.

Due to this, I didn’t get away from the start quick enough, allowing Michael Heinrich and Christian Unger to surge past me into the left-hand kink. I was however able to recover second place just after the left-hand kink from Unger as I carried more speed into the hairpin. My engine was now running perfectly – also the car was superbly balanced and I could really carry lots of speed into the corners. I wasn’t too sure if my brakes we set strong enough for the race, as I had set the relatively light for qualifying to allow for smoother corner entry – but now in a race situation, I didn’t know if this would prove to be a disadvantage or not.

I was able to close the gap to Heinrich and in the 2nd lap on the straight; I could keep to the inside for the lefthand hairpin and out brake Heinrich to take the lead. It wasn’t so much that I could brake later than Heinrich, rather that I was able to release brake whilst still running straight ahead and with more speed turn into the corner. We kept at a similar pace for a couple of laps, and then I started to pull out a gap on Heinrich, which became even larger, as his car traction-rolled in the long banked corner which leads onto the straight in front of the drivers stand.

Fortunately for Heinrich his car landed back on its wheels. So he could continue without loosing too much time to me. Heinrich was actually laughing about the fact that his car had traction rolled and heard him say: “I don’t believe my car just traction rolled”. Ironically, just before the start, Heinrich had seen how large my tyres were and had asked if I were not worried that I would start to traction roll ! I was able to lap consistently from that point and was able to keep extending my lead. Just before my second pit stop, I hooked the curb in the long banked corner and managed to flip my car through 360º, with the car landing directly back on it wheels – that could have been a costly mistake, but it worked out ok in the end.

After fifteen minutes, I could extend my lead over Heinrich, but then I made a slight mistake in the hairpin after the “S” section, as I got onto the high curb on the exit and it pivoted my car onto two wheels and the car landed on its roof and the engine flamed-out! \" By the time my mechanic got the engine running again, I’d lost a minute and now Heinrich had taken over the lead. It didn’t take me long to recover my lead and a second traction roll (this time in the “S”) for Heinrich allowed me to extend the lead out to 3 laps by the penultimate pit-stop.

However, bad luck struck with eight minutes still to run, as my second gear broke. At first, I thought my race was run and that I’d come away with nothing to show for my race – there was no way that I could hold Heinrich back eight minutes long, as I was now losing more than a second in every lap, but I knew I had a large gap to third placed Dieter Meier and decided to keep going. I had to keep lifting off the throttle on the straight in order not to overstress the engine; after all I had got the engine from Heinrich to test and not to destroy. Not long before the end, Heinrich passed me to take the lead and in the end was able to pull out one lap advantage over me.

I was a little disappointed not to have won the race after having lead for most of the race, but I was absolutely delighted with the performance of my car and the pace with which I could run at with the 720. It was still more important for me to learn more about the car during a race than the actual result, so the 2nd place was still an excellent reward for what turned out to be a hard race.

Especially impressive was the way in which the 720 held its pace constant from the start until the end – indeed I set my fastest lap in the lap just before the second gear broke. I had started the race with a 14.1 second pace and my car kept getting quicker up to lap 87 I where I put in a 13.8 second lap.

All in all it had been an excellent weekend. The weather had been perfect, the race was run really professionally and all the competitors enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, which is always part of the traditional Noris-Cup.

Cheers, Mark.