European Championship 2018 - One big test !
At the end of July we had the annual European Championship Largescale Offroad. This year the event was helt in Austria at the WMW-Fehring track. But for us the European Championship started 3 months before the actual event. At this time and after a lot of discussions we decided to part from our existing N-R-P Ultron and to devellop a new car instead of forcing a lot of updates into the old model. Now it was a big race against the clock to get the job done, with that we mean drawing, discussing, drawing once again, machining and building the cars with only 3 months to go. A big thank you allready for the team members and volunteers who helped us in the factory to get the job done in time !
Even one week before the start of the European Championship we were still considering to run the old model as it might not be ready in time. But due to some hard work and late night shifts of Nick (mr. N-R-P) who arrived 1 day later in Fehring to machine the last parts we had the car almost ready to go on track and face a big challenge !
We had 5 cars pre-build for 70%, so we still had quite some work ahead of us when arriving in Fehring. The plan was to run all 5 cars but due to the amount of work we had on the cars Nick decided to not run this event and concentrated on the on-track perfornce and helping the drivers with the setup of the car. The proto-type cars would be run by Rinus Visser, Michael Keinemans, Craig Orman and Tim Vander Elst.
For those who have never been to the track at Fehring I can only say one thing about it. This is a track that requires high skill, balls and a strong car to get thrue the week. The track is fast, technical and has jumps who are unforgiving. Get the jumps wrong and you can be 100% sure something in the car will not have a pleasant time. Therefor it was a huge risk to run the proto-type cars for the first cars at this specific track, but on the other hand this was the best test we could have. If the component on the car won't fail here, they probably never will on any other track.
Training heats started and we felt the car was very different to drive compared to the older model. Much more responsive on the steering and a lot more stable in the corners due to it's new weight balance. This also meant that our previous differential setting were absolutily wrong and we had to start from 0. Step by step we improved the setup and were getting closer and closer to the front runners who had a lot more expirience with their cars and some more training ahead of the Euros.
-Rinus Visser, who had not raced a buggy for years, and didn't held a transmitter for a year was suffering from "rusty hands ;-)" but was enjoying the new car and had fun on his pace.
-Craig Orman, who had a serious injury 2 weeks before at the European Championship Touringcars (broke his arm) still wanted to drive the new car, despite suffering from some pain while holding and using the transmitter. Craig decided to run the old model at the first days of training, but later in the week switched to the proto-type. As the car was quite different to the old model Craig had to get used to the new car in qualifiers, and due to some bad luck (stalling the engine etc) ended up in the 1/4th Finals.
-Michael Keinemans had a good first round of qualifying but due to a bad jump on the back straight he tested the car the hard way and we now know what parts need to gain some weight for more strength. This combined with some setup work ended up in missing his next qualifiers run. With 1 DNFinish and 1 DNStart Michael was on a mission in his last Qualifiers heat to jump straight into the semi finals. Faith was not on his side as his air-box fell off during this run. He kept going and going but the final minutes of his qualifying his engine was getting worse and worse resulting in not being able to make the jumps. Due to this he finished P15, 1 step away from the semi-finals. This meant some extra practice in the 1/4th for Michael later that day.
-Tim Vander Elst was trying a different setup every run and managed to get the car quicker and quicker arround the track without taking much risks. This resulted in a 4th place overal with this brand new proto-type. Straight into the semi finals with high expectations as we were still adjusting the setup.
1/4th Final for Craig Orman had begun and Craig had a flying start, driving inside the top 3 and in the bump-up positions. However the final was too long and Craig was once again suffering from pain in his hand. Dropping back little by little. Eventually when was out of the bump-up positions he needed to push and misjudged the jump where he damaged the exact same part as Michael had in the qualifiers. Like mentioned above we now know where we have to focus.
1/4th Final for Michael Keinemans, starting in P1, with good pace in his last qualifier, a brand new engine, this seemed like an easy task. For those who were standing at the side of the track it seemed like Michael was getting verry nervous, making silly and strange mistakes, dropping back and forth all the time, but still managed to finish within the bump up positions. As soon as Michael came off track we found out his problem as he was complaining the engine sometimes got stuck on 40% throttle. In all the stress and chaos the day before one of us made a small error by mounting the throttle lever the wrong way, which caused the throttle to get stuck from time to time when using the brakes. Michael his next final was the semi final. After an amazing start Michael raced from P10 to P5. If he kept going like this he was going to make it into the main final ! But once again Michael his air-box fell of the car ! Michael came in the pits to repair this but the damage was allready done. Bad luck is part of racing but this was really painfull for us as it was the 2nd time this was happening while never had any issue with the same airbox in the years before.
Semi final for the last running proto-type of Tim Vander Elst. Tim started on P2 and in the first lap he managed to pass Dario on the infield section. Showing immediatly that the new setup was working and suddenly you start to realise that this car has a lot of potential ! After leading the semi final for 10 minutes and a few tangles with the cars behind he had to yield and dropped back to P3. This was still enough for the main final, in which we could adjust the setup even a little better to gain some speed but due to one of the tangles he had before his exhaust was hit, got bent and melted thrue the fuel tank. Which made him ran out of fuel.
Mixed feelings after this weekend. Dissappointment if we look at the result. But also a very rewarding feeling, to see this new car do so well after all the work, on its first race ever, on such a demanding track. We have not had major issues with all the new parts on the car apart from those mentioned above. We just had a lot of bad luck on our side this year as we felt we should have had atleast 2 cars in the main final, possibly fighting for the podium.
In the upcoming months we will run the proto-type cars as much as possible, to find out if we missed some weaknesses. After that we will tear them apart and check all components. When all this testing is done we will bring this new and promising machine on the market !
Keep an eye on our page as we will announce the release date and it's price as soon as we have all things sorted !
See you all next year !
Check out the video below to find more information about our new prototype car !