Testing in Taiwan

January 30, 2011

January 31, 2011

Just getting home from my trip to Taiwan after visiting the Alpha Plus factory along with a day trip to Kingstar. I spent 5 days in Taiwan, mostly practicing and wrenching on my Durango. I think I spent at least 8 hours of actual on the track practice time which equated to a LOT of abuse! When I arrived the first day and we headed to the track, I still had my set-up from CRCRC. This track couldn’t be any more different! It was a challenge with many ruts and holes in the jumps. It was common to hit a jump and go cartwheeling if you hit a hole. My set-up was very stiff from CRCRC and my car was just a handful. Many locals showed up every day that I was there to run with me. That first day they were definitely showing me the way around the track! I was crashing everywhere and had some pretty spectacular tumbles. We went back to the Alpha factory that evening and I did an overhaul on my set-up. Changing to larger hole pistons, shorter camber links, different shock positions, and a lot more droop! We also prepared some engines for testing that second day.

Day two went a lot better as far as me getting around the track! My set-up changes, while no where near dialed in were much better and I was able to complete laps without crashing all the time! I was now able to at least run with the locals. (There are some very fast local drivers!) A representative from Team Durango / Kingstar showed up and I got to see his car all decked out with some prototype bling that we should hopefully be seeing in the near future once testing is finalized! As for me, I played with a few different engines and carb restrictors among other engine tuning things to try and get maximum fuel mileage while maintaining the awesome power of the Alpha Plus engines. This track was a very fast track with basically a 200 ft front straight away with a left turn at the end and full throttle all the way around to the back straight which was about 100 ft in itself. So basically it was about 350ft of full throttle all the way around the front, right, and back of the track only letting off a smidgen to get around the corner. Fuel mileage wasn’t the best for anyone at this track so making any kind of progress when running this flat out I’m sure is going to pay bigger dividends on a more ‘standard’ type of track.

Day three Alpha was generous enough to drive me to Kingstar which is the manufacturer for Durango, along with many different R/C companies. I got a private tour of the facility and while I am sworn to secrecy of what I saw and encountered I can say that Kingstar is a top notch company and they do amazing work! I got to see the assembly lines of people packing parts for kits. Also where and how the RTR kits are built in mass production. My favorite thing though had to be how bodies were made and more specifically how the screen printed bodies are made. My journey to Kingstar is one I won’t soon forget and it was an amazing opportunity to get to experience what I did.

Day four was some more testing at the track. I ran about 3 hours of actual on track time on day four and I began to really like this track. It got more fun the more I ran on it, which is rare for me but shows the level of difficulty of the track and how it was constantly challenging. We did a lot of engine testing and fuel mileage runs as well as just hanging out with the locals.

Day five was the last day at the track. Probably ran just over 2 hours of on track running. Did some more runtime tests and just had a good time. At the end of the day I pulled off my first Durango DNX408 backflips with a twist in them. Also allowed about 5 of the locals to run my car and have some fun with it. Being there in Taiwan with my ‘fans’ was such a great experience and I had a great time with them.

Now for some things I can share about the Alpha Plus factory. Before I went there I admittedly knew very little about R/C Engines, you know, how they worked basically. haha. But I now have a better understanding and also a deeper appreciation for Alpha Plus as a company. People often times bash these Taiwanese companies as not making products that are as quality as other places in the world. However after having spent a few days working with the main designers of the Alpha Plus engines and getting to know why they chose what materials they did for the engines I have come to the conclusion that they know how to make a great engine and can produce engines as good as anyone in the world. The main designer for Alpha Plus was the first person to bring the correct technologies to produce top of the line competition R/C engines in Taiwan. I was able to take some photos of before and after of the Piston, Sleeve, and Case to share. While many people may know what the before and after of engines look like I for one didn’t so this was cool to see for me.

Alpha Plus, Piston, Sleeve, and Case

I also want to explain a little on how the Alpha Plus engines are different. If you have ran an Alpha Plus engine or tuned for a buddy who has one you may find that they are very tight when new. Also they like to run a bit hotter than other engines. Some people assume this to be a bad thing however I have learned that it isn’t bad at all, only different. Alpha Plus uses different materials for their Piston and Sleeve which allow for a different expansion rate of each compared with other companies. This is why the engines take about 1.5 to 2 gallons to fully break in a get rid of the metal pinch. During the break-in time the engines will run a bit hotter and will not provide optimum performance. However once they pass their break-in time and loose the metal pinch they will cool off slightly which will allow the user to lean it out more. One very cool feature about these engines is that they can run hot and it not really affect the tune. This for one gives a wider tuning window and allows for a ‘lean mistake’. These engines also allow you to run them hot without damaging them like other brands. Mine have seen over 300*F on many occasions and they are totally fine with it. It doesn’t shorten their life or anything! They were made to handle it! 🙂 So if your Alpha Plus engine is running 240 and your afraid to lean it out a bit, don’t be! Tune for performance and don’t worry so much about the engine temperature.

All in all I was extremely impressed with the level of professionalism and just outright nice people I encountered in Taiwan both in the factories and at the track. Alpha Plus can and does make engines that are of as high a quality as any other engine out there. Even the engines that cost more than twice the price. Kingstar is also a top notch company that is growing fast with some amazing ideas! There is a reason why they manufacture a lot of the best R/C cars on the market today!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip to Taiwan, if you have any questions feel free to shoot me an e-mail, or if I forgot to mention anything in my blog here let me know and I will add it!

Next two weeks for me will consist of starting my 1/8th track in the backyard, (tractor arrives Wednesday!)
maybe a club race or two, and spending some good quality time with my family!


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Thursday January 20th, 2011
Day one of the Midwest Gas champs is in the books:
Practice went well for me and I did a dozen or so tanks and felt like I got my DNX408 pretty dialed. Here is a video of today’s practice and the snow we’ve gotten! Check back throughout the weekend for more updates!


Saturday January 22, 2011
Qualifying here at the CRCRC Midwest Gas Championships is done. The mains are set up and it’s time for a good night’s rest to prepare for Sunday’s mains. Usually a 45-minute main isn’t that daunting. But when that 45 minutes is inside — where the temps are near freezing and the sound continues to drum in your ears well after the main is over it — makes it a bit more important to be prepared and well rested!

Let me recap how my Durango DNX408 and I fared today during our three qualifiers. Quals were sorted from practice so all of the fast guys were together in the same heat. Rd one started out well for me and for the first 3 laps I was running right behind Maifield. I was beginning to get in a groove when I took a bad tumble and broke my rear upper turnbuckle arm. They were resorting every round and thus for the second round I was in the first heat of Pro Buggies with all the people who struggled their first round like me. Asround two began it was my mission to run a clean run and avoid traffic as much as possible. I was able to accomplish this and while I didn’t throw down anything crazy fast I was able to put in a 6th overall for the first two rounds. The race crew had decided on doing a rocket round and thus it only takes one good run to get in the main.

Next up was round three, and again there was a resort. I was in with the fast group again, and in the warm-up I was feeling decent about the few changes I made to the car. As the race got underway I had a solid start and was running top 3 for the first half of the race. Then on the back straight a bump caught me and I went tumbling! Lost 5 seconds on that crash, and on a track so small with a group of racers so fast those 5 seconds were huge! I pulled it back together for everything but the last two laps where I bobbled on each. I ended up with a sub-par run due to the crashes.

Overall after 3 rounds of qualifying I was able to seat 7th for the A-main. I really think the A-main will go well. My engines are running awesome (10min!) and I believe in my car’s ability to stay together! I’m excited for Sunday!

Sunday January 23, 2011
Well Sunday racing has come and gone. It was a long day of racing only running in one class, but the anticipation built throughout the day until the culmination at the beginning of the A-main!

Starting 7th on the grid right in the middle of the pack is kind of a make or break position. You have half the field in front and halfbehind you so I was just looking to stay clean and hope for mistakes by those in front of me. At the start it was clean up front and eventually 8th bobbled and it was a 7-car breakaway. Soon, on subsequent bobbles from those ahead of me I steadily worked up to 6th, 5th, 4th, and then 3rd for a short time. I then made a bobble of my own and fell back to 5th which I held until around the 8:30 mark. The track had gotten slicker for finals day and I hadn’t done a runtime test since practice. I must have been spinning a lot of tires and driving to hard as I ran out of gas crossing the line. I fell back about 2 laps by thetime I got fired up and back going. I got into a good groove and began working my way back through the pack.

Then with about 18 minutes to go, someone crashed over the back double and I nailed them head on, breaking my shock shaft! My right front shock was standing straight up in the air! I continued to drive and actually began having a really good time with it! The car was working surprisingly well with only 3 shocks and I was actually passing people!!! I was amazed that I was driving the snot out of my DNX408! I couldn’t believe nothing else broke in the front end with 18 minutes of slamming into jumps and landings on 3 shocks! Even though the result wasn’t what I wanted (finishing in 8th), it was fun to manhandle a 3-shocked buggy and do some drifting again and have a good time.

Tomorrow (Monday) I’m off to Taiwan to do some testing with Alpha Plus at their factory! I can’t wait to visit their factory and see what producing engines is all about! I look forward to reporting back about it in as much detail as I can when I return. (Or maybe if I have good Internet while I’m there!)

Thanks to the CRCRC crew and the RC Factory for a quality race and I look forward to coming back next year!


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January 16, 2011

Headed out yesterday to Delta R/C in Antioch for Rd 3 of the Delta R/C Winter series. The current layout is very fast and it’s really a matter of not crashing and tire selection. Tyler Vik was also in attendance and was flying around this track as he usually does. I ended up qualifying second behind Tyler as he put down a blistering time with his SS Wishbone tires. In the main I went with soft Gridirons like I usually do but for whatever reason the track wasn’t abrasive last night and SS was the way to go. The softs were just a little slick and had a small push to them. This made the car very easy to drive but I was about .3 of a second a lap off pace of where I was in qualifying with SS tires. Tyler Vik was on SS and was also on Fire. I think he drove a pretty flawless race and just pulled away from the field. I ended up finishing 2nd, 2 laps down after 20min of racing.
This race reiterated to me how important the right compound of tires is, especially on a small (18 second) indoor clay track. Next time I will be sure to pick the right tire and I hope to give Tyler a run for his money @ Delta.

Delta R/C Winter Series

Durning the course of the day I also allowed 6 other people to drive my new Durango DNX408. It was very satisfying as they all really enjoyed it and said they were very impressed with it! (Then I asked if they had ever driven a buggy with 20-20-6 in the diffs!) haha. They all looked at me in disbelief that, that was the diff set-up in my car. Either way though they were very impressed and I was glad to see it! I’m getting more and more used to the new car and I’m liking it more and more each day! Looking forward to the Midwest Gas Champs next week in Jeffersonville, Ohio!

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Via NeoBuggy.net

Lutz signs 10-year contract with Durango
Its not unheard of for drivers and companies to spend 10+ years together but from a contractual perspective the longest we know of is usually ~5 years. Ryan Lutz’s (26) decade-long deal dwarfs that and is quite difficult to comprehend the reasons for such a lengthy agreement. Details of the contract aren’t public so its possible there could be some clauses and a mutual break. Most drivers, even good pros usually have a competitive (for lack of a better word) lifespan of around 10 years, the absolute top guys e.g. Aigoin, Pavidis etc. seem to be evergreen and have outlasted their peers.
The news is very much a shock to the system in that whilst it shows a tremendous commitment from Lutz as well as Durango, times change, cars are fast and sometimes cars are slow, times aren’t always rosy. Ten years ago today the MP7.5 was ruling the offroad tracks with designer Yuuichi Kanai as World Champ, Alex Laffranchi European Champ with a Thunder Tiger & Brian Kinwald was reighing ROAR 1/8th buggy champion. 10 years is quite a long time… On the flip side it may turn out to be a good deal depending on the small print, a nice weighty 10-year deal freshly signed is some good security.

“I am extremely excited today to have forged a long term contract with Team Durango. Originally we agreed, in principle, to work together until the end of the 2010 season and we would talk longer term come December. Another thing this offered was the chance to really test the DNX408 and get to know the company before making any decisions. This is why I am so excited to have signed a 10 year contract with Team Durango. In the past three months I have gotten to see how this company operates, and the pride that they take in making top-of-the-line racing vehicles. Their slogan is, “Serious about Racing” and I have never witnessed a company take this more to heart. That is why I am confident that the next 10 years will be wrought with success for both parties involved and why I am proud to put my name alongside Team Durango. In the next 10 years I will do everything I can to help Team Durango make the best R/C cars on the planet, and help make sure their customers are as satisfied as possible with the products they are buying! All-in-all with this deal of a decade in hand I’m ready to get started winning and performing at my best for this company that has put a lot of faith in me! I’m really looking forward to it!”

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January 5, 2011

January 5th, 2011

Building a track is HARD work!! Especially by hand. Eric and myself were at it again today and yesterday. The progress is starting to show but we are still a long ways off. The lanes are a bit more narrow that I would like but hopefully it will teach us better control and being more precise with our driving. Were doing a lot of banking and luckily so far the dirt is a nice moist clay and outside of tree roots is very easy to work with!

Here is a couple of  photos of our Progress:

<-> Lutzinator <->

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