Updated: Apr 5
This past weekend I took a journey south to White Pine, Tennessee to attend PNB, '23. In recent years this has become one of the largest attended events in the world. This year however saw a bit lower turnout, though still large at 767 entries it did afford for an earlier finishing time come Sunday and a longer 45min Nitro buggy feature! Practice was about 23.5 hours of available time with an average 15-20 minute wait in line during the day and 5-10 minutes or less in the wee hours of the morning. There was also a seeding round put in the middle of Friday to allow seeding for the two qualifiers. Overall I got a decent amount of practice in and was primarily running the new AKA Diamanté in ultra soft, super soft, and sslw, depending on the level of moisture on the track. I also had some fun in Etruggy doing some backflips from time to time over the weekend! 😁
Once qualifying got underway we had two 5 minute runs with just the out lap of practice (though I thought I had seem somewhere we were supposed to have a 2 minute warmup). I was running all 4 of my primary Kyosho vehicles and in Etruggy at the challenge of Joe Bornhorst I spent most of the first qualifier doing a backflip over the leap of faith jump and still managed to come in 2nd for the round. In nitro truggy I only had my first qualifier to go on which was a 10 and put me 13th overall into the A-main. In Etruggy that 2 from round 1 would seed me 3rd overall. In Ebuggy I had a really nice 2nd in rd 1 which would seed me 4th overall and in nitro buggy a decently clean run in Q2 of 8th for the round would seed me 11th overall. Thus making the main in all classes though perhaps not as high up as I would have hoped.
After qualifying we had a fun little exhibition jump / stunt competition. I took my etruggy out there and tried my backflip with corkscrew. The corkscrews slowed the rotation just a bit causing me to land hard into the nose, perhaps costing me the win, but it was still pretty fun with the crowd cheering us all on!
Main day was next and they had a pretty good water schedule this year of every 3 hours. As it was nicer outside on main day the track began to dry out more and the grip really started to come up. Instead of saucing like I had been during qualifying I opted not to sauce for the mains as I was seeing the grip levels up. First up was Etruggy which on the warmup lap I hit a car that had stopped square on my front arm and broke it. (see video here, you can hear the break!) Everyone was super gracious and gave me the time to get it fixed. As we got started I battled with the Fullers and Joe and actually got into the lead. Then on lap 2 I shorted the leap of faith (I approached it the same as I had been doing backflips all of qualifying and that caused me to short it because I didn't pull as much throttle) This knocked me back to 3rd. I got back to 2nd on lap 4 but then had my front upper shock pull off after landing the front triple on lap 5. (most likely weakened from the hit I took in warmup) I knew then I couldn't compete as I only had 3 shocks so I started throwing backflips every lap and had some fun with it. I still held onto 4th for the rest of the race until the last lap when I hit an upside down car on the back straight putting me upside down on the top of the back double and allowing my competitors to get by and I dropped to 6th.
Next up was Nitro truggy and in warmup things were feeling good. Due to the higher grip levels and how my eTruggy felt I went up on my rear diff to 10k (from 7k) to try to not diff out on corner exit as much. My truck felt good and I did my best to stay clean in the freight train at the start. On the 3rd lap some people made some extra mistakes and I was saving my joker laps and I was moving up nicely, but once I got to the concrete section my engine let go and that was all she wrote for that one. 😭 So main day wasn't off to a great start. I was running SSLW Gridirons and they were feeling good at the start.
Ebuggy was next and I did a couple set-up changes in preparation for the higher grip. I went up in front and rear diff (was already pretty high in center). I ran SSLW Diamanté with no sauce. At the very start it felt pretty decent, but in a few laps as things heated up it was a bit hard to drive. I did my best to hang on but I made a few mistakes and fell back a bit. I held my joker until the last lap which launched me past many others and I finished 8th.
Nitro buggy was last and with the knowledge from Ebuggy I made a number of more changes. I again went up in front and rear diff and also went to a 2.4 front sway bar (from 2.3). I added more caster 19*+1 (from 19*-1) and less front kick up (B block up). I also went with SSLW Zip fronts and Double down rears. The zip fronts to take away some of the edginess of the steering. In the warmup I was very pleased with my car and changes that I made. Things were feeling really good and I was ready for the 45 minute battle. One negative to the joker laps is that if you don't take them early it looks like you aren't doing as good as perhaps you are. My plan was to use them as it fit the flow of the race. I had a good start and was making no mistakes and running clean. I ended up battling for a while really well with Kaden Fuller and we freight trained around the track for a good portion of the race. When I did end up in a bit of traffic I decided to use a joker and lo and behold a car was crashed in the joker ahead of me and I hit him and flew off the track. So that was disappointing but I pressed on.
The rest of the race followed that similar script. I was able to run a really good race and gave it 100%, 100% of the time. My other slower laps were hitting cars who crashed right in front of me. I seemed to be a magnet in that regard. Other than that though just ran a solid race, used my jokers as needed to clear some traffic and had a solid result coming home in 7th. It's finally been a solid year so far of Nitro buggy finishes with all top 10's and I am working hard to get closer to those podiums at each event!
Overall the weekend could have gone better results wise but I really feel I've learned a lot the last two weeks on the cars and look forward to improving throughout the 2023 campaign!
As mentioned above, track conditions really got higher grip come Sunday and changes were made to accommodate. Sheets below show set-up for the main event. I have noted above each one any changes that I made for the mains so you can also glean what I was running in qualifying.
*Nitro Buggy - For qualifying was running 7K front and 3K rear diff. I was using 5x1.4 front and 5x1.5 rear pistons with 500 oil. I had 19* caster -1 pill. I had the rear link fully up and in on the tower (I brought this down because it gave good roll on the lower grip, but on higher grip it would dump too much to the outside rear). I also had 2.3 front sway bar. (Went up to keep front from diving so hard under braking in corners. Also went to B block up instead of down for the main to assist this as well.) Finally was running Ackerman one hole further back (moved it forward to make it less twitchy around center and a bit smoother steering feel.)
E-buggy - I was running 5x1.4 front and 5x1.5 rear shocks with 500 oil in qualifying. I also had 7k front and 3k rear diffs. Knowing what I learned from this main, I would have continued to make the same changes I ended up making on the Nitro buggy above.
Nitro truggy - I just went up on rear diff to 10K from 7k in qualifying. I was also running the rear link full high on tower in qualifying and lowered for the main to get less dump to the outside rear.