oOple Off road Open Series 2017 – Round 4 – Mendip RC Raceway.
Well, how do I start to write a race report on a weekend like that!?
Let’s start with a little bit of history…….
In 2014 the oOple crew decided that they wanted to bring the feel of the Invernational race meetings to a wider audience. The fun feel of a low key race meeting, coupled with some top level drivers making guest appearances has made the oOple Off road Open Series a real draw for every level of driver.
But, don’t be fooled into thinking the oOple guys are a low key, quiet bunch. These are some of the most fun, friendly and accepting RC racers in the UK. With a passion for the sport, competition and banter between friends. The team have made these meetings among some of the most anticipated race events of the summer calendar.
Each year the team pick and apply to a number of clubs around the UK, depending on a number of factors. The most important one being the evening entertainment.
If you are racing in the South West of the UK and you are looking for activities after racing for the whole family, you must make a trip to Mendip RC Raceway a priority on your racing calendar.
The club is based in a sleepy village just outside of Weston Super Mare in the North of Somerset. It not only boasts one the the most legendary on road tracks in the U.K (yawn), but also, one of the most challenging and fun off road tracks that I personally have ever raced on. Being the ex-chairman of Mendip, I would say that though 🙂 To top it off, the site is completely self contained and has covered pits for 70+ drivers, as well as 2 race control areas, mens and ladies toilets and camping facilities for anyone that likes to ‘rough it’ and stink up the rostrum……You know who you are.
For those that don’t, there are numerous hotels and holiday parks, as you would expect in a sea side town. Topped off with pubs, clubs and restaurants to suit most tastes…….
So, you can see why Damien Whittle and the crew love to keep coming back.
This year saw the 4th consecutive return of the oOple event and what an event it was!!!
The Mendip committee had been working through the week to get the track and site prepped for the 100+ visitors that would be descending on the club on Friday evening/Saturday morning. Rob Paynter, Martin Owen and the crew had done a great job and when I arrived half a day early to the track (as I always do) there was very little that needed to be done, other than the usual race day finishing touches.
While waiting for more people to turn up to the track, I made use of my time and spoke to Rick Evans (Treasurer of Mendip) and we made a start on getting the track prepped for the rest of the team, that would be turning up shortly.
Once Rob Paynter and James Boyland had arrived, I handed the leaf blower to James and set my head to race mode. My work was done and all that remained was to get the BBT team organised for the coming battle.
Once back at the team caravans, we spent an hour in the swimming pool and then went to the pub for food and Pimms! As is the traditional drink at Mendip oOple. Much fun was had and the evenings entertainment was brought to a close. Having known that everyone in the team had prepped their cars fully before the event, we could all afford a little time to relax and catch up with each other.
Saturday – Qualifying
Registration and practice from 9.30am
Booking in closes at 11am
Practice will be controlled and timed – 4 minutes each session
14 heat schedule, 5 minute heats, 2mins between heats
11.30am – drivers briefing
12.00am – RD1
01.36pm – RD2
03.12pm – RD3
04.40pm – End
Disclaimer – we may add an extra round on Saturday depending on numbers of entries or we might not!
Practice was opened as usual at 09:30, but with this round of oOple, there had been no Friday practice session. This meant that there was a constant stream of drivers heading up to the rostrum on a 4 min turnover.
With 2wd, 4wd, sct and ST’s all running laps with each other, picking the right time to go up was essential. the last thing you want as a buggy driver is to be stuck in with a load of massive short course trucks during your first few laps of a new/unfamiliar track.
Practice ran through smoothly, with nearly everyone abiding by the practice/marshal duties, as you would expect. – Just a quick note…if you are the type of person that would go up for practice and then not marshal, you suck.
Ok,……so we hit the end of practice, the sun is shining, the track has gained a fair amount of grip in the right places and every single racer in the venue was buzzing to turn their first wheel in anger. The atmosphere was superb and a better weekend of racing could not have laid before us. The Mendip track was looking stunning and with a layout that caught out even the most regular of Mendip racers, we all knew that this weekend was going to be one to remember.
The time for talking was over. Bets between friends had been placed on winners, losers and flouncers and we headed in to Round 1.
With my Team Associated B6 at the ready and the weight of all the confident words I had spoken in the lead up to the weekend on my shoulders, I headed up in heat 3 out of a possible 5. This heat placement was clearly an attempt by Damien Whittle to hinder my progress through the day. I’m only kidding. There is not much worse than a moaner when it comes to how the heats are organised, so I took my cards to the track and played the only hand I could. A good solid clean run in round 1.
This wasn’t to be. A couple of minor mistakes saw me drop to 3rd in my heat, but starting from 9th, I was reasonably pleased.
I knew the B6 had more to give and I just needed a bit of clear track to settle into a groove.
Qualifying 9th overall was ok, but when you know there is more to come, it’s also endlessly frustrating when you can’t quite clinch that clean 5 mins.
That being said, there were some really quick runs from the guys at the top of the field. Mark Hancock and Gavin Crolla pretty much had this sewn up from round 1. It was just a case of how things played out from here on.
Could Gavin topple the local lad Mark? Not in round 1!
In order, the top ten in 2wd,
- Mark Hancock – Team Associated B6 – CML Distribution
- Damien Whittle – Losi 22 3.0/4.0? – TLR Racing
- Jim Dixon – He was deffo driving a buggy of the 2wd variety
- Dan Hurrell – Yokomo YZ-2 – LMR
- Mark Field – Team Associated B6 – RC Octane
- Gavin Crolla – Some Serpent thing – Serpent team
- Tom Knowles – PR VM F3 M PP DB CDT? – Privateer
- Simon Osbourne – Yz-2/KF2 hybrid – Phat Bodies
- Matt Guppy – Team Associated B6 – CML Distribution/BBT Racing Team
- Gareth Hartley – Again,
4wd and Truck Results,
Heading into round 2, I was confident of a good run. I had worked my way to starting 3rd in my heat. So it made the journey to some clear track a lot easier.
After a few laps of getting settled in, I decided it was time to start putting the pressure on the car in front. It worked and as I got closer to each car, they just decided to let me through so we could all carry on with out losing huge amounts of time. A rarity in toy car racing, but a moment I would gladly take.
I managed to get 3rd overall in this round, but that was as good as my day was going to get.
The other guys from the BBT had put in some great round scores as well, but with my 3 and 9, I was confident of a BBT TQ for the weekend.
Another decent round for me. 6th overall in 2wd after leading out the heat. My time in round 2 had put me at the front of the heat for staring positions, so a clean track lay ahead. All I had to do was string 5 minutes of clean track time together.
It didn’t quite turn out like that….. I’ll take a moment to explain the grip levels at Mendip (and on outdoor astro turf tracks in general) so that you can understand why.
When the majority of clubs make the move to atsro turf, it is normally because they have got to a point where maintaining a dirt or grass track has become too much. Astro turf is easy to maintain and gives clubs a chance to concentrate on other things, rather than a constant need to keep the track surface in one piece. 9 times out of ten, this astro is gathered from old football training grounds, hockey pitches, tennis courts…..you get the picture….and that means that it is mostly back filled with sand. As we all know, sand and fast RC cars that need a lot of traction, don’t mix. So, there are a couple of things to be on the look out for when racing on astro, if you want to make the best of your experience.
Let’s start with the wet stuff.
Generally, wet astro has little traction. I don’t think there are many that would argue the point there….however….. When astro is very wet, it is a very different surface to when it is just a bit damp.
A very wet track will generate grip, but tire choice is essential. Using a tire with a long spike (like a BB Green) will give you an advantage, but the track will still be a lot slower than it would normally be and once the edge of the spike has rounded, you may as well put slicks back on the car. To gain grip on a very wet surface, the spike on the tire and it’s shape must be in good condition/
A damp track will be very slimy. This is because the water has dropped down below the track surface and left the oily, greasy layer (oil being lighter than water, it sits on top) and creates a very unpredictable surface to run on. This is where a softer compound tire comes in to play. Again, it won’t solve all your problems, but it will help give a little more movement before the tire starts to slide.
A track that has just dried out – Possibly the most grip you will get on an astro track. The oil has disappeared or been worn off by traffic and all that remains is washed astro and a sticky, almost tacky layer on the surface. This is what most astro turf fans wait for. The uber high grip period. This is when the seriously fast racers put in their most competitive times, IF they can handle the grip.
A completely different game. You may bee fooled into thinking that a very dry tack has a lot of grip and to some extent, you would be right. But in the case of sand filled tracks, it is almost the complete opposite. After the track has dried, the sand works its way to the top of the astro and stops being flung off the racing line. This is because the astro has lost the worst of the sand and now acts like a net. Catching all the grains of sand as they are grabbed by the tires. This makes the surface slippery. Imagine driving your real car on a road covered in tiny marbles…..this is the same thing. So again, a tire with a long spike will give you the grip back, but in a similar way to how it helps when the track is very wet. The length of the spike does the work for you, rather than the compound of the tire.
So, at this point I will say that my tire choice throughout the weekend was not the best. Especially in the following round…..
Round 4 – The extra Saturday round.
Being as all went smoothly during the day, the oOple team and the guys running the show at Mendip decided that we could squeeze in an extra round of qualifying on the Saturday afternoon.
Another chance to get a decent score and secure a place in the A final!!! but with seconds to spare before the start of my heat, a cloud appeared in the sky and put the entire track into shade. This dropped the track temp dramatically and made what little grip there was, vanish!
We all quickly understood what was going on with the grip levels and took a steady approach to the qualifying session. Another half decent score for me, but getting caught up in lapped traffic seemed to be my downfall. No improvements.
At this point I was sitting 7th in the A final, but knew that it would only take a decent round from a couple of drivers to see me knocked out of contention. Some great scores from all of the BBT team and a more than happy bunch of racers called it a day.
With this in mind….. we went to the pub!
Sunday started at 09:00 with an hours open practice. 3 min runs at the track meant that the session was stacked with drivers from the word go.
10.00am – RD4 (or 5 depending on Saturdays progress)
THREE LEG FINALS FOR ALL STARTING AT:
12.00am – Finals Round 1
01.36pm – Finals Round 2
03.12pm – Finals Round 3
04.40pm – End
Qualifying round 5
This being the last chance that everyone had to put in a good score before the finals, I knew that I just needed a solid run to the line to keep myself safe in the A final.
I guess that when it comes to the last round, nobody wants to let anyone through as every seconds counts. That being said, when you come up behind a much slower car, you do expect them to move, just because that’s the polite and correct thing to do.
Sadly, this wasn’t the case in round 5 and my lovely qualifying heat turned into a free for all. As a result,I got my worst score of the weekend and the game was over……all that remained was to see how everyone else ended the session and what their scores meant to my A final finish…..
Thankfully, I was only knocked into 9th position on the grid for the A final.
Not the worst position to be in, but certainly not the best. But as the first of the BBT members to make an A final at an oOple event, I didn’t care if I was 1st or last. I was there.
The videos tell the story of my finals. I was more than happy with the results and I will be looking at trying to repeat the same at the next and final round of oOple 2017 in a couple of weeks. Held at one of my all time fav tracks, Bury Metro.
Thank you all for reading through my short race report from the weekend. We will talk more about it on the Podcast this week, so listen out for more news, views and results on episode 10.
A massive thank you to all at Mendip RC Raceway for their efforts in giving us the best track and facilities they could and also to the oOple team for running the competition each year. And a special mention to John Howe at RC Images. Great pics John.
One of the best racing weekends I have had in a very long time. Clearly more things to say and more to report, so I am sorry if I missed anyone out. I will try to get to you all in the podcast.
Overall Results for each final – Pics from oOple
2wd E Final
2wd D final
2wd C Final
2wd B Final
2wd A final
4wd E Final
4wd D Final
4wd C Final
4wd B Final
4wd A Final
Stadium Trucks – A Final
Short Course Trucks – A Final