This year the Neo buggy was back, as expected to bring you some of the best racing you can try to wrap your mind around.
The layout this year was a little more technical than the last couple years that I have attended. Although it looked pretty straight forward, you add the slippery track conditions to the equation and you have a very technical, precise layout that will take some serious skill to master.
The Neo, being a race that only allows you to see the track 3 times before qualifying, definitely rewards those who have the right setup that matches the condition. This race typically attracts the best drivers around the world and acts as a precursor as to what you might see at the Worlds later in the year. The power ranking of drivers is like the waves of an ocean. Some drivers move up, and some drivers move down the ranks depending who is hot and who is not, each race is the determining factor. Sometimes you’re hot, cold and well maybe some people haven’t got out of the freezer yet.
This race has always been a little difficult to get a handle on for me, mostly due to the limited experience I have in looser track conditions. The trick for the S811 is managing the wheel spin and finding a balance between stability and speed. It is not often I mess with the gearing and differentials of the car, but the Neo for whatever reason seems to be the perfect place to utilize these adjustments. With the hard acceleration of our 4 shoe clutch and efficient drive train, it puts a lot of emphasis on how to manage your power. Using the Nova Rossi Bonito, and its amazing power band to propel any vehicle is a challenge, add that to the S811 and you have a lethal accelerating machine.
In this case, I found that the 4 shoe carbon clutch was a help in limiting wheel spin. Another great thing I found to help me cope with the looser condition was to go up to a 17 tooth clutch bell. I rarely do this and in most cases the typical 16-46/48 gearing is just fine, but the Neo, is a special place and special dirt.
Aside from trying to put all the power to the ground, you have to find good balance between, steering, and rear side traction.
This year, I found that the differentials were a huge help in keeping the car under control. Typically I had been running 5 5 3, which seems almost standard in the Racing industry amongst top level pros. I heard a lot of chatter around the pits about running lighter fluid, and in many cases in the past when running other cars I too had success from lighter fluid. I admit I tested 4 4 2, but found on the S811 and the Neo Track conditions it actually impaired my performance. I think 5 5 3 was actually better, but also though going heavier to say 6 6 4 was also good. So for me 4 4 2… I don’t think so, at least not this time..
The suspension itself had moments of brilliance, and also terror. Being one of the only top level drivers in our off-road program, it’s tough to move quickly to a great setup. With limited runs, and limited personnel you are bound to throw away a few qualifiers in order to try and find that dialed setup. I pretty much would throw away every other run in order to find a better setting to help enhance my performance. Needless to say, I had a few yard sales…LOL…
With the weather being colder, you have to run lighter oil than you say want to. Typically I run 550cst fr/300cst rr, but in the colder weather dropped down to 500cst fr/275cst rr.. This seemed to help in the 50-60F degree or so weather. I ran a pretty typical front end, really did not find much magic there, going back and forth between inside and outside hole on the arm, shocks stood up or down on the tower. I would say… 3 b and also 4 a on the front end was working good either way. In the rear, I was toggling between #5 and #6 on the tower and B on the arm. I thought the car was more stable in #6 and went through the bumps better, #5 felt faster in the corners, but I was prone to more mistakes. Other than that, you only saw the track about 10 times for the entire event, so either you have something that takes you to the top, or you don’t. I only was able to test limited things, but hopefully they help future Neo buggy goers with our car.
Some drivers were pretty fortunate this year, especially teams that were able to use the previous year’s setup. That is a huge help, especially if you had success in prior years with the same settings.
As our car is evolving so is the setup, so from last year, we have changed a few things and it was like starting over for the most part. If only the setups I find here in Florida were as fast in the rest of the world, I would be totally set. It is racing though and there is a right setup for every condition, it’s just a matter of finding it in time to utilize it at the event.
If racing were easy, we would have less video gamers and more RC car racers, unfortunately it takes a lot more time, patience, knowledge and experience to win one of these events. Until next time………