Winter Cup at IBR Padova in Italy.
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Well this past week I traveled to Italy to race at the IBR Padova Winter Cup but the trip almost didn't happen. *See bottom paragraph if you are interested in the details.* In the end though I made it just a day late and got to the track to meet up with the Nemo Racing crew and throw down some practice laps. First impressions of the track were that it was difficult to go fast in that the surface is generally on the slicker side. It was going to be critical to really work on my set-up to get a lot of steering and a good rotation out of the rear end with stability on exit.
I ended up arriving early afternoon on Wednesday and we would have the remainder of that day as well as all day Thursday to do open practice. On Friday we would have controlled practice with 3 consecutive seeding laps to get us all sorted for the qualifiers to come on Saturday. I primarily ran my Agama A319 Nitro buggy and in the end just copied over most of the set-up to my Agama A215E Electric buggy. I believe over the 2.5 days I ran probably close to 20 sessions on the track. The other thing to try to figure out was going to be the tires because the track while covered and mostly indoor sees huge changes due to humidity levels. In the morning and at night the traction was reasonably decent and then midday on the sunny days the track got super ice rink slick. The difference in lap times could be up to 3 seconds or more! So choosing the right tires for the conditions was going to be paramount.
Once seeding began on Friday I had made a lot of changes to my car. I was running lighter swaybars than I had ever ran. I came with 2.4/2.5 and ended up Friday with 1.9/2.1. You just wanted to get any weight transfer you could get and any traction you could muster. I also started on the new black/green springs but went two stages softer to the grey/orange springs. Even with the low grip though I did prefer the high roll center rear hub position as it put a bit of extra pressure to the front end giving more steering. And although the traction was reasonably low we were on the gas hard most everywhere so you needed it to steer quickly and be predictable on the exit when you mashed the throttle. Another thing that perhaps was something I shouldn't have been doing at this track but did was I came with a new heavier diff set-up of 30-12.5-20. By the time the mains came about I was down to 12.5-12.5-7. I know most everyone else ran much lighter but I want to try to make a heavier set-up work for consistency purposes. Perhaps I just needed more time on this track but for sure my car felt so stable and would have been great for 95% of the people out there.
Seeding wise in Nitro buggy for 3 consecutive laps I was able to seed 3rd which is pretty impressive against the young fast guys at this facility. This is a track that is open 360 days a year and there is a lot of super fast young talent here that knows this track like no other. I was fortunate that on Friday when it was lower humidity that the AKA tires were showing to be the best on the track. It was just looking like I wasn't going to have enough and I was going to have to make some compromises on tire choice for the remainder of the weekend. I was choosing at this point to stick to just the clay compound and just run with it but I only had 1 set of clay Catapults, 1 set of clay chainlinks, and 2 sets of clay typos to get me through qualifying and finals.
Come Saturday we had 3 qualifiers on tap and two of our three A-mains for electric buggy. I would end up using the same set of tires for the entire day and they already were used a little from practice. I ran Clay Chainlinks on the front and typo on the rear. Typo would have been the absolute go to all weekend I just didn't have enough. But I liked this combo because sometimes the Typo can be too aggressive feeling on the front and because it was raining outside on Saturday the grip level was getting much higher. So the chainlink in the front helps to mellow out the steering a little bit and make it easier to drive and the typo in the rear really locks it in stability wise and has great forward drive. In E-buggy I would have 3 really solid runs with a 2nd, and two 3rds. This would seat me as second qualifier overall for the triple a-mains. In Nitro buggy I was a just a tad off the pace as it would get the 'leftover' tires especially for the 3rd round. But in the first two rounds I had a pair of 6's which would end up qualifying me 8th overall and thus 4th in the even semi final.
Saturday night we had A1 and A2 of Electric buggy to content with. I would run my fresh set of AKA clay Typo's and they would feel great. At the start I would stay right with Canas biting at his heels. But I would make a mistake and fall off his pace. However I still had 2nd place speed and held the position until the last half a lap. Coming on to the right chicane and straight I just clipped the inside pipe and went tumbling. I tried to get back over into my lane but it just made matters worse for me and I fell to 5th. A very disappointing result and totally on me. In A2 I would again have early pace but made two mistakes on my own and fell to 6th and finish there. So a disappointing start of mains for me when my Agama A215E felt so good. The pace on this track is just so absolutely high and just the slightest mistake send you cartwheeling for a while. It is so much fun to race on though!
Come Sunday our first race up was Ebuggy A3. I used that same set of clay typo's and noticed that the tire wear was really starting to minimize from earlier in the week. That concerned me a little as I was planning to run my bigger patterns in Nitro buggy but I knew this was going to allow everyone else to potentially get away with small pins and possibly softer compounds so I knew my strategy might not pay off at this point. Well in A3 of e-buggy I would start out front as Canas would already have the victory. Like each of the previous mains it just took me to long to get going. I would make a couple early mistakes and just not be able to make up the difference once I got going. I would settle for 3rd in this one and thus overall a disappointing 5th after having qualified 2nd and blown a 2nd in A1. A podium was for sure in reach but I will have to settle for trying again next time!
The Nitro buggy semi-final was up next and I used my most used set of chainlink fronts and catapults in the rear. It was before this race that I fully went down to 12-12-7 in my diffs which I before was at 15-12-10 in my previous runs. I was looking to get that little more 180* turning ability. The race was 20 minutes long and I was able to have a great first lap. Starting 4th I was able to quickly move to 3rd at the end of the first straight and then make another pass into 2nd mid lap. After that though as the others got in a groove I would give back a position. My rear end was almost too locked in and I was loosing some corner speed not getting the rotation that I needed. It took about 15 minutes and suddenly the rear freed up and I was able to put in my fastest laps. I would still finish 3rd and make the A-final but my quickening pace helped me to have the 5th fastest time overall and seed me 5th into the A-final.
The A-final was to be 45 minutes. I had saved my newest set (had about 7 minutes on them) of Chainlink fronts and Catapult rears for this final. They are taller pins and especially the catapults aren't necessarily optimum for the super smooth medium grip surface. Well I would freight train around at the start and make an inside move through the 'ice' section but that driver dove in on me knocking me into the infield and I fell back a couple spots. About 3 corners later I rolled it over on a hairpin and fell to last. I would make up one position but that's where I would stay for the next 15 minutes. I would be about 0.5-0.75 a second off the top pace as I just was lacking a bit of side and forward drive. Basically just didn't have the traction I needed. My teammate Joni was on the clay typo and was doing really well on them. Just wish I would have had another set. Anyways on my in lap for the second pit stop I would run out of gas as I seemingly just had to much wheel spin and that was all she wrote. I got back out there and ran another 20 minutes until I made a mistake upside down and flamed out with a fouled plug. We got that fixed up and I finished the race but obviously not with the result I would have hoped for.
All in all I learned a lot again this weekend. They say it takes a good year to get really familiar with a new platform and I continue to learn new stuff each time out. This race we did some changes that I hadn't really done before and I learned more about the car and what I can do with it. Also as with any indoor type facility tires are such a huge factor. I know what to bring next time if I get another opportunity to go and I will be better prepared in that case. Also I can absolutely see why the young Italians are so fast being able to practice and run here all the time. This track was so fast and really could teach a lot about line selection and set-up and just getting the most out of everything. Trying to find extra 1/10th's here and there. On top of that racing together on this very racy layout has really taught them to be more calm under pressure.
A huge thank you from me to Nicola the track President for his hospitality and having me out for this event. Also to Jon at Nemo Racing for the great meals and insights into his Tesla. Also to Dave for the all the help and Pitting assistance all week. What a great group of people I got to spend time with and I can't wait for the next opportunity!
Next up for me is the LongStar Classic at Indy RC World in Texas first weekend of December!
* I 'booked' the trip 2 months prior and I thought it all was taken care of. The itinerary was showing in my Delta app the entire time and I had selected seats and everything. When I arrived at my home airport to depart I was told I didn't have a ticket! I showed them my app and also called my frequent flyer line and while they had never seen this glitch there was nothing they could do. I started my journey back home but received a call from the boss saying they still wanted me to come and so we had to pay 4X the ticket price that I originally thought I booked for. (I guess my credit card transaction never went through.) So I booked the flight on my phone and went back to the airport to catch a later flight. Well my first leg got delayed by mechanical issues 1, then 2, then a 3rd time which pushed back our arrival past my connection. So I called my number again and they said they saw my 'unbooked' reservation still in my account so they offered to give me my original price and I would just go out a day late. So in the end it worked out and I was able to make it to Italy.