An all new format with a capped entry count along with a 4 day race and the tightest most technical Race Time Entertainment layout I can remember greeted us for this years Alabama Manufacturers Shootout. Let's start with the track which was a ton of fun to drive on. Lots of 'speed bump' singles to keep the cars slowed down and a dog leg double-double-double section to refine your in air car control. Couple this by the end of the weekend with a tight groove with good grip and a shuffleboard type dust surface just outside of it created a true test of man and machine come main day!
Practice for this years event was on Thursday and it was 3 rounds of controlled practice which I liked because everyone got the same amount of track time with each car. To start I went out on AKA SSLW compound and it worked well from run #1. During practice I also gave some Clay compound scribbles a try but with the groove and then dust outside the line I found them a challenge to drive so from then on I decided to focus on SSLW compound. I didn't have some of the tread patters I think I would have liked to run like Typo so I ran what I had which consisted of Catapults, Double Downs, and Zips.
Friday was qualifying day and we had a standard three, 5 minute qualifiers. However only your top 3 consecutive laps were counted for each run. After the end of the 3 qualifiers they combined your fastest two sets of 3 consecutive laps and added them together to rank you in order to where you would start for the Super Pole. I was pretty consistent in all 3 classes in the 4th -8th range most of the runs with my best being 2nd in Nitro buggy in Q3. My WRC SBX felt really good and I was excited for the potential of the finals as I felt better set-up for the long mains. In the end I would seed 5th in Nitro buggy and 6th in both Ebuggy and Nitro Truggy.
Saturday was Super Pole day. They seeded 10 people directly into each main and thus I was in the A group and our finishing position in the 10 minute super pole would be our final 'qualifying' position and it's where we would line up on the grid for the A-main's on Sunday. First up was nitro truggy. My truggy was really good on AKA SSLW Scribbles and I felt super fast in this Super Pole. However starting 6th on this tight track it required waiting for mistakes and I felt held up a bit at the start for a number of laps and was chomping at the bit to get pushing. Eventually I got up to 5th and caught up to the battle for 3rd/4th. They tangled and both were upside down in the first part of the double/double/double section. I jumped in hoping to miss them but instead hit one hard and ended up snapping a shock shaft and loosing my shock spring. I found myself in 3rd though suddenly but now severely wounded with over 4 minutes remaining. The pack started to catch me but on the tight course I held them off as best I could and they bunched up and began making mistakes giving me some room. I got a little bit of a gap worked up with about 1 minute to go but here came another challenger. Fortunately I was able to keep it clean and come home in 3rd with just 3 shocks! I was very happy with this result. I also opted not to pit in this 10 minute dash as I was getting amazing fuel mileage on this track with my Alpha engines. At the end of this race I still had over 1 minute of fuel in the tank which calculated out to 11:30 runtime!
Nitro buggy was up next and I opted to run SSLW Scribbles. At the start they were excellent and I followed the freight train around. After a few laps and some mistakes by others I got into a solid 2nd place and was rolling well. But now a decision had to be made on whether I wanted to pit or not. Because I was starting to struggle in the dust and make some mistakes with about 3 minutes to go I opted to try to mellow out my driving and conserve fuel and go the 10min. But as the tank ran low the engine leaned out a bit and I missed my mark twice with a lap to go and go super loose in the dust and lost a number of positions and fell back the 6th. I ended up running out of gas 2 feet before the line but coasted across just ahead of 2 more cars to remain in 6th, but I was disappointed I had given up the #2 position. But I was happy again with my 10+min fuel mileage with my Alpha Plus Dragon IV Edition 2 on this track!
Ebuggy was my last super pole and I opted to try some SSLW Zip Downs. I had a great start and moved up from 6th to 3rd by the 4th lap. But I wasn't feeling very comfortable. The Zip Down combo created a feeling of a bit of push on the front and a square up forward drive under acceleration that just caused me to miss my marks. In the end I would fall back to 9th in this one. A better option would have been all zips I believe.
Sunday it was main day and there were now 15 in the A finals with the 1 bump from the B main Super Pole and 4 bumps from the actual B-mains. First up was ebuggy A1 and knowing I had two Ebuggy mains before the Nitro buggy main I wanted to try to test some tire options. In Ebuggy A1 I opted to try regular Soft Zips all the way around. I felt they were a good feeling of balance front to rear but they were just a little bit hard feeling and didn't produce the grip that the SSLW compound had throughout the weekend. So I only managed a 10th in A1. In A2 things went a little better and I chose SSLW Zips. I struggled a little in the bumps that were developing and I realized later after the event I should have gone back to the shocks I had taken off my Nitro buggy in qualifying when the grip had gotten to it's highest point. I had switched to 1.2x8 front and 1.3x8 rear for both cars at that time but realized after the event when doing my GoPro video that my 1.5x4 front and 1.5x5 rear was much better in the rough and didn't have the tough too much roll characteristic it did in qualifying as there was now a little less grip and more dust everywhere. Anyways I would come home in 8th in that one. Those first two were my best two and thus I would get 11th overall in Ebuggy.
The Nitro truggy main brought with it a lot of promise as I was pretty confident heading in. I opted for the AKA SSLW scribbles again and while they were fast the track was a bit dustier and thus staying tight in that line was critical. I started out ok but made a bobble on lap 3 tagging the driver in front of me and thus I waited for him to be marshaled and fell back to 6th. On lap 10 I was able to get back into 4th which began a remainder of the race battle with Rivkin for that final podium spot. I would get close and we would battle for a number of laps before I would make a mistake and fall a couple second back. When I came to lap the driver whom I tagged at the start of the race he was immature and held a grudge and tried to brake block me through some slow sections of the track and then he brake checked me on the front straightaway as well before blowing off the track and breaking his car. After that immature episode I would mount another charge towards Rivkin and we would again be nose to tail. With just a couple minutes to go he finally made the mistake I needed and I got by into 3rd, but it was short lived as I landed wrong at the end of the triple doubles section and let him back by. Now with just 3 laps to go I was about 4 seconds back and I threw down some of my fastest laps of the race to get right on his bumper. On the last lap he got swirly a little up the face of the triple doubles section and I gassed it hoping to scoot by but instead clipped him and went tumbling and that was that. I had to settle for a hard fought 4th place. A tough but very fun race. Super pumped with the performance of my Alpha Plus Dragon engine with 2159 pipe. Plenty of power and excellent fuel mileage (11+) on this track!
The Nitro buggy 45 minute final was near the end of the day and I was confident in my tire selection (SSLW Zips) and during the warmup laps thought I had a great chance at doing very well as everything from Set-up to Tires to Engine felt really good in those warmup laps. However the start was tough dropping a spot on the first lap to 7th. Then making a mistake on lap 2 and falling to 12th. Not the start I wanted but everything felt so good so i pressed on and by lap 21 I found myself back up to 6th place and putting in some good laps. It went downhill from there. On lap 24 on the left side double after the straight I tried to be cute and downside and instead shorted and ended up on my lid. The marshal didn't see me for a good 5 seconds and that wasn't the worst of it. As he went to marshal me he flipped me back on my lid. Not once, not twice, but three times and each time waiting for more cars to go by. So after a 16 second crash I found myself back in 12th. But as I said everything was running so good and 10 laps later I was back in 7th. On lap 50 however I ran out of gas coming into pit lane and lost another 14 seconds on restarting. Back to 11th I went and it was time to just try to salvage the run. I fought back to 8th until lap 80 when I did my last pit stop with 7min to go and my engine had moved from the bottom screws and I stripped a spur. Race over. So needless to say a very disappointing result for how good everything felt and was working going into the race. I feel so bad I haven't been able to showcase the ability of the cars with my final main result especially with how well they have been running!
Overall it was a really nice event. The track was one of the funnest layouts I've ever drove on. I did enjoy most things about the format except for it having to be a 4 day event. But we did get a lot of track time and everyone got a long main so for most I would say it was worth it. I was happy to have pace for the tricky condition and as mentioned I learned after the event during my GoPro run that my shocks that I took off in qualifying in Nitro buggy because the grip had gotten too high would have been perfect for both cars on main day due to the slightly lower grip level, the roughness at the beginning of the straight, and the more mellow Zip tires I was now running. Lesson learned and it will just help for the future!
*Notes for Ebuggy set-up compared to Nitro buggy: I did run 1.2x8 front and 1.3x8 rear set-up but after my testing after the event I would have ran the same 4x1.5 / 5x1.5 set-up that I ran in Nitro. Battery is the ProTek RC 6000 Shorty. Rear sway bar 2.6. All other settings basically the same.
*I used the new Ackerman arm plates on both cars. 100520-1
*Other Options on both cars: Hard servo saver spring, Aluminum upper servo saver, Aluminum front chassis brace, LCG CF front and Rear shock towers, Hard rear arms (soft front).