My location: United States
Nov 6, 2011

South American Champs
Santiago, Chile

This year I was invited to attend the South American Champs in Chile. Since this was not really a place I have ever raced before, I figured it would be great opportunity to see what types of surfaces and conditions others are racing in. It proved to be quite the experience; the track was freshly built out of what I would call farm soil. The track was in the country next to a field that presumably was unpacked and never scene chemicals to hold it together.

Typically in situations like this, they build the track and water it as much as possible. Since the soil is fresh and has not been weathered by storms and heavy rain fall, the dirt will end up with a 1inch thick crust. What eventually happens though as many of you have experienced the condition will dramatically change through the event. The track normally starts off real soft and loamy; dries out then becomes very hard. After this, the surface begins to crack and break away. The end result is a very hard crust with a lot of broken sections and a really rough racing line. That would probably be the best way to describe exactly what had happened.

The practice program was set to have controlled practice by heats. You would have to sign up in a heat and be there when the heat was to be run. You could only sign up for one heat at a time, after you run your heat sign up again. Depending on how eager you were, would determine how much practice you were able to get in.
I brought with me a few new parts along with a few test parts to determine if I was heading in the right direction when it came to rough track handling. The most important thing in rough track handling is really the shocks. So the first new part we had available was the 8 hole square pistons. Although the conical ones were previously available and what I normally use, these would be up on the list to test. Typically I run 1.3mm holes X 8, this has become my standard setting. I have been running Team Losi shock oil as well. Normally 40 front and 30 rear. In my static test I had the two sets of shocks with the different pistons and overall they felt the same in your hand. I figured I would start here with my test. After a few runs on the track to learn the layout, I was feeling pretty comfortable and decided it was time to test the shocks. There was a jump section that was a double/double in the back of the track and then a triple in the middle of the track. These two sections of the track proved to be difficult and I wanted to see if there was a noticeable difference with the shocks. The rest of the track at that time was relatively flat so the shocks would get their chance to shine. When I placed the new shocks on the car, I didn’t really notice any handling differences in most of the normal flatter, smaller jumps of the track, but I did notice that in the sections where I was having the most difficulty the Square pistons gave me more lift off the jump faces. I would refer to this as POP…. I felt the Conical ones kept the car a little lower in flight vs. square ones. This extra lift enabled me to get through the tough pyramid double/double section with ease. So, was there a noticeable difference. Shocks are all about timing, when and how they compress, and also when and how they rebound. In this case, the square pistons were a compliment to the track layout and my lap time. I can definitely endorse them as a great tuning item in your pit box. (600488 8 hole shock pistons square)...

As the track condition continued to change it was becoming more and more high bite, but also rougher and rougher. I was beginning to gain a bit of an over steer off throttle and a grip roll on corner throttle up. This is kind of the same thing you might notice if you race a EPTC on a asphalt track with VHT sprayed on it. I know it sounds crazy but it makes for a difficult time and tuning is quite tough. You are tuning your car in opposite directions for the different conditions. On one hand you have high bite and need to slow things down, on the other you have super rough which you need to keep the car more reactive. I opted to go for heavier front shock fluid, but after back to back tests I couldn’t really tell that I had changed it. Although I should have probably stuck with the lighter oil for the bumps, I went with heavier fluid to 42.5 wt. I thought the lap times were a little better, but this I’m still uncertain of.
This brings me to the tires; I pretty much packed everything I could, in the end though you never have exactly what you need. With tire wear being a huge problem for me the main would turn to be a bit of a challenge, since you had to go one hour. However in qualifying I had all the tires I needed to run the 10 minute qualifiers. The first round I ran m3 Calibers front and rear. The second round I ran m2 calibers front and rear. The third round I ran m3 calibers on the back and m3 crime fighters on the front . The fourth round I ran m3 Blockades. After qualifying was over, I would have to say my best tire combination was the Round 2 set. They were the most stable, but could maybe only achieve 30 minutes before they were slicks.
The finals were coming around and quite frankly the track was a total mess. The bumps were forming all over, in fact they were not bumps they were craters. I was faced with a big dilemma, tires and handling. I didn’t have any tires that would make the 60 minute final and well the hard M2 tires didn’t grip the dirt. Aside from that I felt that shock oil couldn’t take the abuse the track was putting out. I had a great set up for the qualifiers, but in the finals the track had gone beyond my setups capabilities. I had to buckle down and make some decisions, first up was tires. What tires do I use? I went with m3 Revolver 2.0’s. Although the pattern was not ideally tall enough, the density of the pattern and the material could last the distance. I also wanted to thicken up the shock oil to try and fight off some overheating.
Once the finals had started I knew right away that I had made some bad choices. The shocks were simply not absorbing the bumps any longer and choosing tire wear over performance was also a bad idea. Within 20 minutes of the final, I was in a crash with another vehicle and lost one of the front spring buckets on the front right shock. This then took my already poor handling car to another stage of frustration. It is really a shame the final ended the way it did after such a dominating qualification performance. Racing though is just that, frustrating at times, but you have to make choices and the choices I made for the main were simply bad ones. Racing big races though really does educate you for the future. I feel that I still have lots to learn and certainly don’t know everything in regards to racing on super rough,dusty and loose dirt conditions. The choices we make today indeed shape the future we will live tomorrow, so after this experience I am hoping for a better finish next time.