School of R/C: Preparing for a Major Meeting

With the Tasmanian Championship for EP Tourers and Mini just days away, we thought it time to run through some of the preparation involved in getting your car and yourself ready for a major race meeting like this.

Prepping for a big one is different to getting ready for a club event, with a lot more on the line. No matter whether you think you’ll be fighting for the Championship win, or your aspirations are a little more modest, I imagine you’ll still be wanting to have your car, and yourself performing at as high a level as possible.  Read on for a few ideas to help you….

Preparing the Car

If there’s any time when your car deserves a thorough rebuild, it’s in the days leading up to a major event.

Start by stripping the major drivetrain components (diff, spool etc), and shocks from the car, and while you’re at it, take the motor out also.

Start with bearings. Make sure that wheel bearings, diff outdrive bearings, and layshaft bearings all spin freely.  If you need to clean them, blast with contact cleaner (you can pick up a can at Repco for about $8) or soak in shellite, and then re-oil with a quality light machine oil. Mobile 1 oil is a good option.  If, after cleaning, the bearings are still gritty or tight, then either replace them, or start again.

Check that all suspension hinge pins and steering components move freely. Suspension arms should fall under their own weight. Carefully ream the arm holes if they don’t.  If there is excessive wear or slop, replace balls, ball joints, hinge pins or arms, or shim out the slop.

Rebuild the differential, replacing parts if they’re worn. If you’re building a touring car, the performance of the car depends enormously on how smooth your rear differential is.  Take the time to make sure it’s completely smooth in motion, with no notchiness at all. If you a running a ball diff, take a look at this video and follow it closely (no matter what brand car you have).

I can’t over-emphasise how important the diff is.  If it goes notchy during the event, pull it down and rebuild it.  There are no short-cuts.

Shocks should be pulled down, drained and carefully rebuilt. If seals are leaking, replace them, adding some Team Associated Green Slime to the seals as you build them.  Follow your manufacturer’s instructions carefully. One tip is to be really careful to get all the air bubbles out of the shocks once you’ve filled them with oil, and before sealing them up.  Move the shock piston slowly up and down to release air bubbles trapped beneath the piston, and then let the shock sit vertically for at least five minutes before finishing the build (punch a hole in the base of a foam coffee cup, turn it upside down and sit the shock shaft through the hole to make a cheap shock stand!).

Take the motor apart (I’m assuming brushless here), carefully cleaning the components (use some of that contact cleaner on a clean cloth). Make sure you note which shims go on which end of the rotor (if there are any).  Check the bearings for smooth operation, and again, clean or replace as necessary. Be very careful when reassembling the motor – don’t let the rotor “snap” back into place, and be sure to reset timing where it was before you pulled it apart.

Carefully re-assemble the car. Check carefully that everything is square, tight and ready to rock. It’s time to move from rebuild, to setup.

Setting up the Car

In every class of R/C, the precise-ness with which you do car setup matters – but never more so than in EP on-road.  Every camber link, every shock, every steering rod has to be adjusted perfectly in order to get the best from the car.

It’s always worth starting with your manufacturer’s recommended setup, or try a setup from one of the Team drivers usually available from your manufacturer’s website.  If in doubt, here’s a few starting points for touring car setup:

  • Do all setup with the car fully prepared for racing – with battery in, body off, and the tyres you’ll be racing on fitted
  • Use a clean flat board to do all your measurements on. An R/C setup board is one option, a thick/solid/flat piece of MDF, or a glass kitchen chopping board are others.
  • Start with no wheels/tyres. Sit the chassis flat on the board and make sure it isn’t tweaked/twisted. If it can rock side to side, it’s twisted. Undo all the top deck and shock tower mounting screws, flatten the car, retighten and try again. You might also need to sit the car upside down on shock towers (remove body mounts first) and undo/retighten the main chassis/bulkhead screws. This is about getting a square base to work from.
  • Camber – 1.5 degrees negative front and rear (top of tyres leaning in, measure using camber guage)
  • Ride Height: 5.5mm front and 6.0mm rear (measure from underside of chassis to flat surface using a ride height gauge).
  • Droop: 3.5mm front and 4.0mm rear above ride height (measure using ride height gauge and lift car until the point where the tyres leave the ground. Add droop amount to ride height amount (eg 5.5 + 3.5 = 9mm when front tyres leave ground)

Tyre Preparation

In every class, tyres are critical. If you’re on the wrong tyres it’s very tough to be competitive. Even in a control tyre situation (like most major on-road events) how you care for your tyres is critical.  Here’s a few tips:

  • Keep the tyres clean.  And be anal about it. Don’t put your car down on a dusty pit table, use a car stand. Don’t drive your car through dusty or dirty parts of the track. Don’t put its tyres down on the scrutineering table (put it on its side). Don’t use greasy old rag to clean your tyres.
  • When you remove the tyres from your car for the days racing, clean and then store them in sealed zip-lock bags.
  • Clean tyres using a cleaner like Simple Green or WD40 (Simple Green is sold at Bunnings)
  • If you decide to use traction compound and tyre warmers, make sure you follow the same system each time. Putting the compound on for longer, or the tyre warmers hotter or colder will change the way it works – so be consistent
  • If you’re running hot weather tyres (like Sorex 36) and track temps are below 30, you’ll get an initial performance boost by using tyre warmers.
  • Between runs, make sure you check wheel nuts every time, and check gluing every time as well (both sides!).

Maintenance Between Runs

Between races at a major, get yourself into a routine that takes in a comprehensive check over your car. You should have plenty of time, so use it well.

  • Remove battery and make sure your next pack is charged or on the charger
  • Check tightness of every screw on the car – including pinion gear
  • Check that the diff is still smooth, and rebuild it if it isn’t
  • Check shocks are still smooth and full of oil, and rebuild if they’re not
  • Make any setup changes you want to make
  • Check the setup of the car is still accurate (camber, droop, ride height and tweak/twist can all change fractionally from run to run, especially if you’re involved in a big crash)
  • check tyres for gluing and tighten wheel nuts
  • Install battery (use fresh tape every run if you tape batteries in)
  • Put your car down before the start of your race and check steering trim as you run slowly up the straight for the first time. Do this every single time you run the car. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to drive a car that doesn’t run straight when you want it to.
  • Go dominate.

Preparing Yourself

Being at your best for a major event is not just about preparing the car – it’s about preparing yourself as well.  Showing up at the track in good shape will help you get the best from your weekend.

  • Eat well: Seriously! Eat good food in the days before, and over the weekend. Don’t just binge on junk food – get some fruit and veges into you!
  • Don’t get hammered the night before:  Seriously!  Very few people drive well, or prepare their car well when they’re hung over.  Enjoy a drink, but don’t go overboard the night before.
  • Sleep well: get a decent night’s sleep the night before. Working on the car until 3am and then back at the track at 7.30am is a recipe for disaster.
  • Think about the track: Head back to School of R/C #1: The Racing Line for a refresher. When you get to the track go for a walk, go over your map, watch the fast guys, figure out where there is time to be made, and where are the corners to be careful.
  • Use Practice time wisely: Dial in your car, try some different racing lines, different tyre preparation. Be focussed on the driver’s stand – this is your only chance to practice. It might help to think of it as dress rehearsal – do everything just as you will on race day (including car maintenance and tyre preparation)

Track Notes for STMCC Hobart

To give you a little head start, here’s a few of our track notes for STMCC for this weekend’s Tasmanian Championships:

  • Grip level is higher on the dark painted sections than on the older unpainted parts of the track
  • Grip on the painted lines and kerbs is very low
  • Plough discs will roll your car over – stay off them.
  • Two lines through turn one/two – one is wide entry and very late apex giving fast exit. The other is tight entry (good passing opportunity under brakes) but be aware washing wide toward pipe at exit of 2
  • Grip levels out wide through turn 3 hairpin are lower than in tight. Classic racing line slower than a tight-in/tight-out approach
  • Right-hand sweeper at turn four needs care. Turn-in earlier than you think and watch for running wide on exit – pipe is close to the track.
  • Hold very tight line through turn-5 to setup for the chicane
  • Chicane onto back straight is critical – toughest corner on the track.  Two options: wide entry for straight line, or hold very tight entry.  First is faster, but risk of hitting plough disc on exit. second is maybe slower, but more consistent.
  • Careful on exit off back straight – easy to turn-in too early and hit pipe, easy to run wide and hit pipe!
  • Big constant radius hairpin left in the middle of the track – stay as close to the white line as possible – all the way around.
  • Be wary of slight kink in track on short chute leading back toward front straight.

Those are just a few notes – get to the track, take a look, make your own based on how your car works, how you like to drive, which parts of the track are most challenging for you.

Enjoy your first major race meeting. There’s nothing better in R/C than going up against a big, competitive field on a perfectly prepared race track!


About scottg

Scott Guyatt is husband, father, brother, son, friend, disciple, runner, cyclist and story-teller
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6 Responses to School of R/C: Preparing for a Major Meeting

  1. Derek says:

    Thanks Scott cant wait,should be fun,lovely track!

  2. Andrew Mackenzie says:

    Thanks Scott, great write-up. So much to do, so little time 🙂
    Looking forward to a fun weekend for all.

  3. matthew chandler says:

    Thanks Scott looking forward to a good weekend

  4. scottg says:

    One extra note I just added. Every time you put your car down on the track at the start of a run, adjust/reset your steering trim. It will often change from run to run and there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to wheel a car that doesn’t run straight. Set it EVERY time.


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