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To test the newly hopped-up buggy champ, took it to the third round of the new BRCA UK micro National series, in hereford.  The event was well attended with 5 heats of the pro-stock class.  I was seeded in heat one which I was happy with since I didn't expect the car to be on pace.

The car ready for action, with kit supplied hard tyres, Aeration dampers on the rear and CVA dampers on the front.

In practice the mini champ(ion) felt fairly good but the rear was quite loose on some portions of the track (the bits we call corners).  The car also felt too low and too soft on the back.  I switched to the cut-down kit springs all round and put the soft compound champ tyres on the rear – leaving the harder kit tyres up front to give a nice predictable understeer.  I also dumped out the supplied oil in the rear (aeration) dampers and replaced it with some Associated 40wt - which stiffened the rear quite a lot.

Before racing I decided to just see if the car would fit in the scrutineering box – used to measure the maximum width & height of the cars.  To my shock, the Buggy Champ was too long and in fact illegal for this class of racing!  Instead of going home crying I cut off the rear bumper 'loop' – leaving the motor guard, which was just enough to make the car legal.

Round one and the car was pretty much dialled, I put in a decent time and didn’t feel a need to change anything.  The car felt much like a 10th off road 2WD buggy on the small track, very stable.  Power delivery was buttery-smooth from the Tekin ESC and speed was excellent.

The rear motor guard after removing the bumper 'loop' - to meet the micro size regulations. The front kick-up has a large plastic 'lug' which is where the bumper screws on from above. Landing from jumps nose-first meant this lug would dig into the surface. I used a shorter screw and dremeled the lug flush with the chassis.

Round two and whilst barrelling down the straight a marshall stepped out without looking and knocked a front lower shock end off the ball.  After losing a couple of laps whilst another marshall fixed it I was really pushing the car to make up time.  Taking the large tabletop jump a little too fast, followed by a hard landing, saw one of the rear shock bottoms pop off a ball stud.  I wasn’t happy – something needed to be done. 

I looked at a few options to ‘capture’ the rods on the ball but it was hard to come up with a solution.  On the rear I stood the shocks up when viewed from the side, by moving the spacer from the rear to the front.  I also changed the ball cup on the bottom of the rear shocks to some from 3Racing.  Measuring the brass kit ball studs against the hop-up blue alloy ones showed the alloy ones (which were on the car) were marginally smaller, making it easier to pop the rod ends off.  I switched to the original brass ones for the rear shocks.

The tiny alloy balls in the vice and drilled. There wasn't much left after being drilled out - but they worked!
The new bullet-proof lower shock mounting.

Up front I had another solution.  I found some small balls from the GPM shocks I’d used on the original mini frog review.  The balls had the correct outer diameter but the screw hole was only 2mm instead of the required 2.5mm.   We put the balls in a vice and drilled them to 2.5mm and used a counter sunk screw to effectively capture the end of the front shocks – making it impossible for them to ‘pop off’. 

Round three and with no more problems with the car I had a good one – placing me 20th over all, with one qualifier to go.  I needed to keep the position to get into the B final, so had to go faster to make sure.   

With the car now reliable I wanted to try a little more steering, so I changed to soft compound front tyres to match the rears.   I also tested the car on the main straight during the lunch break and noticed the Tekin wasn’t quite reaching full speed – instead of mess with the B1R (which was performing perfectly) I just put the transmitter throttle end point from 100% to 105% - achieving the desired ‘all lights flashing’ full speed.

Round four and this time I was perhaps pushing too hard, and made too many mistakes.  The car felt quicker but looking at the lap times my fastest lap was half a second off my previous time. 

In the end I dropped two places and qualified 2nd in the C final – not bad considering I’d not really driven the car before and the obvious disadvantage of racing a 2WD car in a field dominated by 4WD cars.  I was in the final above the next highest placed 2WD car, so it wasn't too bad.  Since going to the softer front tyres I was slightly slower even though the car felt better - so I changed the CVA front damper oil from the supplied oil to some Losi 35wt, which was a bit stiffer to match up with the more agressive front tyres.

The Final
The start of the final was the nightmare I’d imagined it might be.  The first few corners I was trashed several times – the lines I had to take to get round didn’t gel too well with the 8 4WD cars behind me trying to come through.

After a couple of corners I was dead last and off the track.  After rejoining I quickly got into a rhythm and with the field more spread out I had some space to race.  I managed to work my way back up to 2nd (from last!) and almost won - finishing less than a second behind the winner, which I was very pleased with. 

Overall I was very impressed with the Buggy Champ – a few choice hop ups really make the car shine like I don’t think the original GB01 ever could.  The front suspension might not be modern or even well designed – but it’s a darn sight better than the older car and very strong to boot. 

Other than the shocks popping off the ball studs a couple of times there was no real damage / problems with the Buggy Champ, despite some heavy crashes.  I lost one of the driving lights on the roof during one race, but it was unharmed and simply snapped back in place on the roof.

Many people wanted a look at the car and were both amazed by the handling / performance, and pleased to see a nice looking ‘retro buggy’ from Tamiya competing at a decent level.  It certainly seemed to get the most looks on the day.

The aeration shock absorbers were expensive in Japan when I visited, but almost criminally expensive here in the UK.  At around £65 ($130) they are ludicrously priced.  The worst part of course is the fact they don’t actually fit the GB02 and optional shorter front bodies are also needed.   The plastic CVA oil shocks, whilst pretty ugly, work almost as well (especially at this scale), are complete (don’t need new front bodies) and are vastly cheaper. 

I was shocked that even these high spec aeration oil dampers are specced with the overly-long kit springs.   If you build them with the oil and springs as provided they are just way too 'bouncy'.    

The bling turnbuckles were nice looking - though I didn't have any need to change settings all day.  The blue ball studs were however a side-step rather than an upgrade to the car - if you want to race then upgrading to a more secure way of mounting the shocks is advisable. 

There wasn't much to say about the Tekin B1R that I didn't already say - it performed very well throughout 2 National rounds with the Tamiya. Always giving a smooooooooth power delivery that suited the 2WD chassis perfectly, but with plenty of grunt to clear obstables when needed.

I don't know if Tamiya ever intended to make the Buggy Champ a viable racer, but as soon as I drove it I could tell it felt good - hence the decision to hop it up a little and go racing. It won't ever match some of the more developed 4WD buggies, so if you want that sort of performance look elsewhere.

Buggy Champion or Buggy Chump ? - ultimately it depends what you want to do, and if having fun whilst enjoying racing is your thing, the GB02 is a great car with some upgrades.

Discuss the Tamiya TamTech-Gear range of cars in the Forum!

Needless to say, I put a lot of effort into this review, so if you like it, let me know, thanks.

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Many Thanks to the following for their help with the review: Vicky oOple, John Price, Cris Oxley, Steve Curtis-Rich, Scooter

Special Thanks to Tekin for their great help with supporting the review

This review is not endorsed or supported by Tamiya or any of their importers in any way.

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