2019 SIGP in Xiamen, China
I had a great time this past week in Xiamen, China for the 2019 SIGP. I arrived at 1am on Thursday morning and would be at the track by 8am for a day of practice. Some people had already been there 1, 2, or more days getting their practice on. I figured Thursday and Friday were going to be plenty. The layout was the same as last year when I was there but the grip levels were a lot higher due to last year there having been rain leading up to the event. I still was super pumped to be so economical on tires during practice. On Thursday I used 1 set of AKA SLW Double Downs all day. On Friday I used one set of AKA SLW Catapults all day. Thursday was also the hottest day if the week being in the low 80s whereas the rest of the weekend was mid and low 60s. So I needed to adjust shock oils 50cst after that first day of practice.
I also did a couple of setup changes which included lowering my rideheight to around 22/23 and also going up in front swaybar to 2.4. My cars were feeling great and as far as I could tell I was throwing down the fastest lap times of practice. Come Friday evening it was confirmed as we did the first qualifier and I was able to TQ Nitro buggy by 8 seconds in the 6 minute run. We got out there for the electric main after dark and all of us old guys were saying how hard it was to see. Our marshals (they pay to have marshals there) seem to have up at left promptly at 6pm and so we were left with no marshals for our race. They called for volunteers and so a few pit guys jumped out there to help us out. So I knew not crashing would be pretty important. So you know what I did right?! Halfway thru the first lap I flipped it over hitting a pipe on the left side. The marshal was afraid and thus waited for any car in eyesight to go by. I lost 21 seconds on that first lap sitting upside down. Not giving up I put my head down and put in a clean rest of the race. I was clearly fastest on the track and worked my way back to 2nd place by the end and just 4 seconds out of the lead. Which means with a clean run I was looking at a 15 second victory or so. Man my cars were feeling good and I knew I would bounce back on Saturday.
So Saturday was set to offer rounds 2-4 of qualifying. In Nitro things remained pretty straightforward. My Agama A319 was so fast and while a couple guys started to find some pace and edge closer I was still able to TQ all three rounds on the day to take the overall TQ. In Electric my A319E was really class of the field and I was often 1 second faster than any one else. I was able to TQ rounds 2 and 3 and thus would earn the overall TQ for the double TQ honors. Unfortunately this year TQ didn’t bring any perks and I would still be required to race into the final in Nitro from the Semi Final. There was the threat of rain Saturday night and until around noon on Sunday to contend with so I tried to prepare a bit for that.
So Saturday night I prepared two sets of SLW Catapults and a set of SSLW Double Downs and a set of SSLW catapults hoping that would have me covered. As we arrived to the track we found ourselves in a holding pattern as it did in fact rain and was raining. They did have tarps over the track but upon their removal around 10:30am the track was still pretty wet overall. So as they started with the lower mains we watched and saw how the grip was primarily due to the mud. After a couple races in some sections a wet groove so to speak formed and it was very slick. Having only prepared SSLW tires I went out on the P1s in A1 and yes it was slick. Jörn has brought some M4 Electrons and seemed to have better grip than I and I made to many mistakes as he ran a better race and I settled for 2nd in A1. About 6 races later we had A2 and conditions were perhaps more so of that slick groove just feeling like I didn’t have any good options for it and at a loss on what to run I stuck with my SSLW P1s . Again I was slick and just felt out tyred for the conditions. I had a good lead open up early but crashed on my own and a slow marshal had me in 5th. I fought back and did some drifting and launched a corner jump further than ever before but just made too many mistakes and watched the title slip thru my fingers. Jörn won again and thus got the title and I would have to settle for 2nd after such a promising weekend.
At that point I knew the only thing I brought in a standard compound was a couple sets of SS P1s. I had one set of wheels left and mounted them up to use for the semi final of Nitro. First tho we had A3 of ebuggy and I saw the Agama boss had aluminum rear hubs on his car with the option of a high roll center position. Even though that goes against what I would usually want on a lower grip track I felt it was something I’ve wanted to try for a while, so why not now. So I put them on and I really did like the feel. I could drive it harder in the corners and it would still feel more supported than before. I was able to take a pretty easy A3 win and then we had 20 minutes until Nitro semi was up.
I wanted to use those rear hubs on my nitro too but I had to finish gluing the SS P1s. So I didn’t think I would have enough time to remove the rear hubs and camber links from both cars and swap them over. So I opted to be clever (or so I thought) and just swap out the rear clip since I run the same setup on both cars and I was already sharing shocks between the cars all week. So we were ready to run our semi and it had started raining lightly again. I usually really dislike running in the rain as something always seems to go wrong. Well they give us an entire 1 lap warmup and my car doesn’t seem to have quite the power I’m used to and I just figured it had something to do with the rain. Well as we set off I was flying. I was over a second a lap faster than everyone on the SS P1s. My car was ridiculously easy to drive and fast (just not entirely on the front straight). I would come away with the victory of the 20min main by nearly a lap and a half. I was feeling pumped at this point. We only would have 35min to prepare our buggies for the 45min A final.
So as our cars were in tech I thought I would be clever again and use the front clip off my Electric buggy since it was already clean! You know, save some time and allow me more time for cleaning and going over other components. So I got that ready and when we got the car for the 35min thrash session we got to work. A huge thanks to the team of guys who helped me wash and clean various components of the car in preparation. I swapped out the front clip, checked the clutch bearings, and cleaned it up best I could. When my tires came back from cleaning I was shocked that they had worn so much. They were maybe 1/2 pin! I started to worry a bit but within the rain still lightly falling just hoped that a mud on mud tire would produce enough traction.
Well we got out there for our 1 lap warmup and on the back straight I just felt like I had no speed. I started to worry thinking these tires don’t have enough pin and I’m just massively spinning wheels here. Nothing I could do and they slow us down on the front straight so couldn’t notice anything until we got underway. At the time we were off and Jörn was quickly on my heels. We got around for the first lap and down the front stretch he caught me so fast and I blocked him as he ran into me not expecting me to be so slow!! I was like, what is going on?
Next lap he knew better and as we got on front straight he literally drove around me. I was rolling through my mind thinking what is happening. Then it hit me, I am a complete idiot. I just swapped the front clip and I run different gearing in my ebuggy! (I had forgotten I had swapped the rear before semi). So I surmised that I had massive underdrive with 43/10 (4.3) front and 39/12 (3.25) rear. I got so upset with myself and prepared my pit guy to go quickly clean the front clip that was still in my pits because I would have to change it because I thought I was going to toast my center diff. I fell back to 4th place and languished for a bit as Easton and Jörn set sail. I still had pace to run with JQ tho and I caught him and got a pass on him to get to third which is where I stayed for a while.
My engine was literally screaming so loud down the front straight and seemingly not going anywhere but after 20 minutes or so of trying to take it a little easy I said forget it. Damage is done. See what you can do with what you have. Shortly thereafter Easton ran out of Gas and I was in 2nd about 18 seconds behind. As the race began to wind down I started to mount a charge and was whittling away at the lead. Although slow, my car was setup perfect and easy to drive and I just adjusted lines to make the jumps and keep momentum up. With 14 to go I knew because of my fuel strategy I still had to pit twice and Jörn only one more time. I was reeling him in 0.5-1 second per lap and was in a groove. I came in with 8:50 to go and I had the thought for a couple of laps that I would take it easy and see if I could stretch the mileage and not have to stop again. But then I just said I have to push it and do that stop and go. They called me in with 5 minutes to go but I said no. There was no cars between Jörn and I and I had to at least pressure him into a mistake. And he made one and I got within seconds but I felt the engine go lean on the top right and felt for sure I had ran myself out of gas. I pulled only 1/10 throttle to try to make it around to pit lane on fumes and by a miracle it somehow made it as everyone noticed me going extra slow on those sections. So I came out of the pit lane 8 or so seconds back with 3 minutes to go and I said this engine is really going to scream now. I pushed hard and caught up to within 5, then 3, and we came across for the last lap 2 seconds apart. I nailed my lines and a backmarker in front of Jorn didn’t move and I was closing fast. I gave it my all around the final corners but came up 0.7 tenths short of victory.
So here I thought I had ran severe underdrive for the whole time but as we were packing up I started to think about it and realized I had actually ran the severe underdrive in the Semi and come the A final when I swapped out the other clip I actually was running the same gearing front and rear. Just undergeared by 4 teeth! If you know your final drive ratios I usually have 11.75 in my Nitro buggy. Well I ran 15.5 that whole main. A full 4 clutchbell teeth too short. 4.3 internal vs 3.25. Wow what a self sabotage I did to myself. I guess the positives being I still managed 2nd and was still competitive though I felt I had the car to win by 3 laps if the semi was any indication. Man, I just need to get out of my own way at some point and stop making these errors.
I want to give a huge congrats to Jörn for taking the double victory. Also to Thomson, Tommy, Vic, as well as Jade and his Dad for all their help this week. I had a great time and I just know I’m going to do great things with these buggies!
I’m on an every other week racing rotation right now with the PNB coming up next followed by another international affair in England at the DXR race. A couple more biggies to showcase these Agamas at! :-)
Note: All photos credit to AsiaRC.info