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I managed to get the Durango ready in time for the weekends racing - but only just.  I didn't have time for anything other than setting up the car so it went in a straight line so it was going to be a bit of a learning experience. (The blast on some dirt was for photos - I didn't even drive it.)
I decided to attend a club meeting at my local race track - Batley.  The track is a multi-surface affair - with grass, astroturf and brick/concrete areas.  Despite being quite close to me I'd not actually raced there for a couple of years so I wasn't up to speed with how the track flowed and this would be a bit of problem during the day.

Stu Evans prepares to get some shots of the Durango in action

Even before round one of qualifying I knew the setup wasn't right - by luck, the Team Durango team manager, Adam Skelding, was racing at Batley also, so I took the car over for his opinion.  I'd setup the front dampers wrongly, with Associated 40wt being just too hard with the kit 2-hole pistons.   Adam suggested dropping to 25 or 30wt up front so I went with 30wt and got the car prepared.

Round 1
Round one saw a few mistakes as I hadn't been out for practice I'd a lot to learn.  Indeed, I put the car down for the first time - bearing in mind I'd not driven it before at all- and as I put some power on there was a nasty noise and the car barely moved.  I ran back to my table to assess the damage - fearing the worst.  I'd tightened the slipper during the morning as it felt too loose, and forgotten to re-tighten the small grub screw that locks the slipper setting in place.  No problem and no damage done - I re-set the slipper and reinstalled it.

On the track the rear of the car was unsettled and things didn't feel stable at all.  It's hard to judge laptimes against better / faster drivers but it was clear I wasn't on the pace - being over 2 seconds slower comparing fastest laps with my (slightly quicker) friend Mr.Price.

National A-Finalist Jconcepts driver Richard Lowe suggested standing the rear shocks up a little more, I was running on the inside hole on the rear tower - and middle hole on the wishbone.  Richard said this would effectively soften things sightly and calm the rear end down - so I went for a small change, moving the lower mounting to the inside hole and keeping the top on the inside.

Round 2
The car was now a significantly better - moving the rear dampers inboard on the wishbones had done a lot to keep the back end stable.  The car still didn't feel planted but comparing fastest laps I was 1.2 seconds quicker!  The overall time was quicker by about 5 seconds but I made more mistakes during the run - something that became a bit of a common theme during the day as I was mysteriously attracted to the pipes.

Round 3
I wanted to try NiMh cells in the car - if only for the completeness of the review.   With all my cells being quite old I was down to one working pack to test out how the car went.  I installed the NiMh mouting stuff - which is tricky but possible without dismantling the car.   It was the first time I'd tried fitting the cells and they fit perfectly which was nice.  The car now felt really good - the back end was firmly planted and the car was super stable everywhere - wow!   Down the main straight the Tekin was struggling to draw enough juice from my cells and the car wasn't really as fast as I'd like but everywhere else it was great.  Considering I'd started out on a 27.41 fastest lap, round three was now down to 25.60 - not bad.  I had some problems - more crashes but also a strange problem with the car cutting out for a moment before powering up again so the overall time wasn't really any quicker than round two.

Fitting the 'SUB-C' cell mounts and strap is pretty easy - the only tricky part is getting the gearbox brace off. Hard to explain but it took 5 minutes in total. The cells were held in very well and I think looked nicer in the car than lipo.

I had a couple more occasions of the car cutting out later in qualifying before finally realising what was wrong in round 5.  I put the car down to practice before the qualifier (the joys of club racing) and put the brakes on.............. And the car shot backwards!  Ah OK.  The Tekin RS brushless ESC comes pre-set for forward & reverse.  There's a delay (after brakes) before reverse can be used - and it's the same for going forwards.  So I was sometimes causing the ESC to be in 'reverse mode' either by being on the brakes in the air for too long and again going into the corner, or from rolling the car onto its roof and the wheels completely stopping - either way the ESC has a small delay or 1-2 seconds from being in reverse to allowing the power to be put back through the wheels and propell the car forward. It seems a little odd that a competition level controller comes pre-set to use reverse but it's a very quick and easy job to change and after this I had no problems.

The DEX410 flew well and reacted nicely to inputs Joffrey working on the car between rounds

Round 4
For the penultimate round of qualifying I went back to Lipo since I'd only brought the one pack of NiMh cells - and you can't hammer them straight back on the charger like you can with LiPo. Adam Skeling had been running the brass weights that Team Durango make for the car and he kindly agreed to let me borrow them to see if I could match the performance with LiPo that I had when running the car with NiMh cells.
Straight away the car felt dialled now - the addition of the weight at the back end really helped the car compared to how it had gone in round 2 - and the extra power and speed compared to when I'd been running NiMh in round 3 was making the car a lot more responsive.  I thought I must be way down close to 24 second laps with the car as it felt so good but the lap times had actually gone up - 26.2 seconds, though the overall time was 9 seconds quicker than the previous fastest I'd gone.  Hmmmmmm, was NiMh the only way to go fast with this car?   I couldn't understand it - the car genuinely felt really good and the back end of the car was planted.

I don't have my lipo weights at the time of writing - but I borrowed these from Adam Skelding. The weights are expensive but a nice way to add some weight where it's needed when running ligjht lipo cells - even with my heavy lipos I still felt these were a great addition

Round 5
I really threw the car at the track in the final qualifier to try and bring the lap times down - but only really suceeded in making more mistakes.  The only change I'd made was to raise the ride height a little as it was quite low previously.  I noticed looking at the car going down the straight that the left front wheel was bouncing a lot but didn't really think about it too much, I'd noticed the same thing in round 4 but again ignored it (I'm not the brightest of sorts am I) - Hey, I was busy trying to put in some good laps.  I managed to get the lap times down to 25.8 but the car didn't seem like it'd go any faster, at least with my driving.

Rebuilding dampers isn't my idea of trackside fun - now I question whether I did threadlock the screws at all, I feel like a silly bear!

No brakes, no brakes!
I was never happy with the brakes on the Tekin and left it until after the finals to mention it - it turns out that the Tekin RS comes pre-set with a very weak brake setting.

All day I'd been on the brakes too long into the corners - sometimes even over-shooting the apex because I couldn't slow in time.

30 seconds with the manual to check what needed changing and we stuck them on full power. This was night-and-day better - actually it was a little too much, but I lowered the end-point on the transmitter slightly to reduce the brakes that way.

During the break before the finals we took the car round for a few photos before finals and I noticed there was something seriously wrong.  The front end was now dramatically bouncing around - like one of those pimped out G' cars with pneumatic suspension.   I knew what was wrong as soon as I saw it - the pistons had fallen off both front dampers. Oh dear.  Having had a similar problem in the past I knew it would be a mess in there - with various damaged parts.  One of the dampers had clearly been run this way for 2 rounds of qualifying and the other had just happened when we were taking photos.  I took the dampers off the car and the front shafts just fell out.  I cleaned everything up and thankfully the damage was limited - one of the pistons had been chewed up, but because of the excellent seals / rod guides in the bottom of the damper bodies it had kept the shafts running straight up and down instead of allowing them to flop about causing damage to the insides of the damper cyliders themselves.  I took out one of the spare 2-hole pistons from my box and rebuilt the dampers with some Tamiya threadlock - smooth again and no lasting damage - only to my pride.

It was now pretty clear why I'd not been able to go faster than when I'd used the NiMh cells - the front suspension wasn't working correctly and the bouncing from landings was now begining to make sense.  Again - I feel a bit of a fool writing this, but I'm not a professional racer!

With the newly re-done front dampers on the car, the only other change I made was to try a newer set of tyres up front.  I'd been running some fairly bald ones up front to make the car easy to drive as I got used to it - the change in tyres allowed me to hook in tighter and really attack the track.   I started 6th on the grid and after a couple of laps was up on the other cars.  I passed a couple to get upto fourth and was looking for a way past third when I clipped the rear of his car, sending him onto his roof - oops!   I did the honourable thing and waited, which put me down to 6th again and the resulting frustration saw a couple of crashes in quick sucession and a 36 second lap!!!! - game over man, game over!  I managed to put in a quicker lap than I had with the heavier NiMh car, but it was my driving that was lacking on the day.

The car got better every time - I didn't make many setup changes and those I did make were small.  I was photographing and talking about the car more than working on setups - but overall I was very impressed with how it performed and know it's capable of a lot more as the setup develops.  I crashed the car several times with no damage and another Durango ran full-tilt into the metal drivers rostrum - causing a horrific 'bong' noise but no damage. The front dampers took a particularly heavy hit after I hit a track marker at full speed and cartwheeled across the track for what seemed an eternity. The only problems with the car were down to poor preparation - but it's something we all do now and then - myself a little more frequently.

Of course, we'll updated the review with more race writeups soon - 1 race isn't enough to paint a true picture, so check back here soon for an update.

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