ROAR Nitro Nationals 2023
This past weekend was a trip to the west coast to attend the ROAR Nitro Nationals at Amain Silver Dollar R/C Raceway. Upon arrival a little bit of disappointment crept in as it looked like 80% of the layout was the same as the warmup event and all that was added was the 'dirt oval' section on the right side of the track. In all I understand the reasoning being wanting to have a well packed in track that would hold up throughout the weekend without being watered. It worked out very well as the track maintained very consistent lap times and grip levels throughout the week which made for some great racing. The layout was challenging in spots, being very busy in the middle section but had a fun flow and nice nationals level challenge to it. Grip and tire wear were also very high which for me I haven't seen with my Kyosho rides yet so a few tweaks to the set-up were in store.
Thursday brought our one and only day of practice this year with 3 rounds to be run. Out of the gate I did as usual and had solid top 3 lap times as I often can learn a track quicker than most. However come round 2 and round 3 I was starting to fall back as the rest of the field sped up, I was making more mistakes and my changes weren't working for the better. I left the track on Thursday unfortunately not to confident in how my weekend was going to go.
Friday morning brought with it renewed hopes however as I changed my set-ups some more and also began using MLW tires instead of SLW. I was very limited on truggy tires having only 2 sets of MLW grids and 1 set of MLW Impacts. On buggy the new MLW Diamantés showed up on Friday which allowed me to being using them with success. We had two full qualifiers on Friday including the 3rd round of truggy. Then on Saturday we finished rd 3 of buggy and culminated with the finalization of rd 4 of qualifying. Truggy overall saw some very tight qualifying. I would get a 6th in the first two round on Friday with a small bobble in Q1 and a pretty clean Q2. On Saturday I drove really nice clean runs overall with a nearly 99.4% consistency in Q3 but the field was so tight I finished 8th in Q3 just 0.4 tenths out of 3rd! Overall I qualified 9th in the class but if qualifying was any indication, the mains were going to be tight.
Buggy qualifying required getting in the top 20 to make the semi-finals. My first two rounds were a bit off on final result with 2 upside down crashes in both finishing 13th and 18th, but my pace was much better and I felt much more comfortable than Thursday and so I was optimistic things would improve. That's what happened on Saturday morning as in Q3 I would get a 5th for the round with a relatively steady run. Q4 saw an ok run as I tried MLW Scribbles which were decent so long as I was in the groove and I got a 12th. Overall this would seed me 10th and thus #5 in the odd semi final.
Sunday brought the mains as it usually does and first up was the 45 minute Nitro truggy final. We were allotted an A-main warmup about an hour before but I made a mistake on the first lap and got hit by another truck and bent my shock shaft and had to pull it in without making a full lap. This was kind of a confidence killer heading into the final. However I had my one set of MLW impacts ready to do battle and at the start moved up two positions on lap 1 into 7th from the 9 starting position. A few laps later I moved up some more and into 5th. About halfway through the race still basically maintaining that 5th position something began to happen to Rivkin and he had to bow out and I inherited 4th. For the rest of the race I tried to just stay clean, the podium spots had a good lead on me so I just wanted to maintain. It was a little eventful at the last 2 laps when Phends clutch was going bad or something and he was loosing drive. I was stuck between him and Maifield and had to be careful not to ruin their race. Fortunately all worked out and I came home in a solid 4th.
Next we had the Semi-warmup which my main objectives were to try a couple tires. I started with the MLW Diamanté and after a few laps put on the MLW Scribbles on the front, then a few more laps and put the MLW Scribbles on the rear as well. All told with the higher temps (mid 90's) on Sunday and the high grip, the MLW Scribbles all around felt the best balanced and the easiest to drive as long as I stayed in the groove.
Our 30 minute semi-final was next and the start was just fine. I felt really fast and was just chomping at the bit to make a pass early on. I got into 4th on the 3rd lap and started to put in a charge on 3rd. But on the landing of the double table in the center back I seat bounced onto my lid falling back a few positions. A few more mistakes and I just wasn't where I wanted to be. I was also needing to drive easy because I was really wanting to make the 7:30 pit window because pin lane was about 8-9 seconds at this event. On the first stop I was able to just make it coming in at 7:40 and I was told I was near empty. I knew one other drive had come in and was doing 6 minute stops but because of my position in the 6-7 range I didn't want to do that extra stop. So for the 2nd tank I really tried to take it easy and conserve where I could. I again had to choose if I wanted to push another 7:40 stop as the time was aligning for that again. I decided to risk it and crossed the line and ran out of gas halfway into pit lane. Will got me fired up as quick as he could but I was now in the 8-9 position. Because the refuel took up some time I was hoping I could come in at 7:30 to go (meaning this stop would be about 7:15 or so on the tank). I had to press it though. I began to drive harder and even through down I think the fastest buggy time of the weekend with a 35.9. However when I came in for that last* stop with 7:30 to go I did the exact same thing as stop 2 and ran out halfway down pit lane. I got fired back up again but at this point I was running 9/10 and it wasn't going to happen. I pushed knowing I would probably run out at the end of the race again, but wanted to drive like the car was capable of. I had the fastest top 15 laps of anyone in either semi and am really bummed I wasn't able to make the show. Lot's of people flamed out or ran out of gas trying to stretch it this weekend and I was one of them and it simply cost me my buggy weekend. I had the speed to compete but in hindsight should have just drove like I was capable of the whole race and did my best to make up the 1 extra pitstop. Every once in a while I decide to take that chance and this time it bit me.
Overall I'm pleased with the pace I showed throughout the weekend and got some decent set-ups for really high grip. I learned some more and will keep moving forward to the next race with a renewed vigor to compete against the best and hopefully it will all come together in the end at one of these races!