2011 UK Scaler Nationals sponsored by Axial
October 1-2, 2011
Words: Frank McKinney
photos: Chris at RadshapeRC.com & Frank McKinney
Rock crawling has been a surprise hit in the UK RC scene, with groups of drivers meeting up via internet forums and national championship meetings for the past couple of years. While the competitive crawling scene seems to be dominated by the cost-is-no-object mindset, at the other end of the spectrum are the hobbyists who just want to drive realistic-looking trucks and have a good time.
With this in mind, Peter Gray, the head editor of Radio Race Car International Magazine, decided that it was time for RC crawling enthusiasts to have a big meeting for some fun times and just a little bit of extremely friendly competition. Radio Race Car, one of the UK’s biggest RC-oriented magazines, is celebrating its 30th year of publication this year and what better way to help commemorate the occasion than with the first-ever UK Scaler Nationals?
The word went out over the grapevine for scale crawling enthusiasts to meet up the first weekend of October at Bracken Rocks, a motorcycle trials area deep in the Peak District area of central England. The Peak District is a popular place for hikers, horse riders, full-size truck driving (called ‘green laning’ in England) and other outdoor pursuits, making it a perfect location for the weekend’s driving. Normally it would be pretty wet with a high chance of rain, but for a whole week before the competition the weather was sunny, clear and breezy, meaning the rocks would be dry and there would (probably) be no mud!
As a first-timer to this kind of event, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but British RC folk are very friendly and open, and I expected the same from the people I would meet over the weekend. I knew the crawling fraternity are even more open with each other than competitors in other classes, and I wasn’t disappointed with the reception I had when I arrived Friday evening at the camping site, or with the banter I shared throughout the weekend with the other drivers. Everyone was totally friendly and not a single instance of drama cropped up – how often do you hear of that at most RC race weekends?
Saturday morning started with the dawn chorus of tweeting birds waking us up not-so-fresh but plenty early, and it was time to put the kettle on and fry up some bacon before the rest of the drivers showed up. Between 8 and 9 plenty of cars drove up, a couple of model shops started hawking spares and options and the drivers started signing up with the officials. In total, nearly 40 different rigs were signed in, with some drivers driving 2 trucks (like me) and a couple driving 3.
There were 3 classes of trucks:
Class 1 were the proper scale trucks, being representative of full-size street-legal trucks like the Range Rover, Land Rover, etc. Basically something you would drive to work in, but take on the trails on the weekends.
Class 2 was for the trail-modified truck that might not be street-legal in real life. This class allowed tire modifications like cutting lugs out, but still no dig.
Class 3 was for all scale trucks running 2.2 wheels, they had to conform to the same rules as the other scaler classes.
The Wraith class was set aside specifically the new Wraith, and allowed 2.2” tires, rear dig OR rear-wheel steer, plus other small modifications that would basically have you running a rock racer type machine.
I brought along two rigs. An SCX-10 that was topped with a Land Rover Defender 90 body and the Axial Wraith RTR rolled on soft 35R Ripsaw tires, and because I wasn’t sure what to expect I set the wheels up with 180g of weight in front and 120g in the rear. The steering was upgraded with a Savox servo because of the extra weight on the front wheels. I added a few upgrades thanks to Rodney at Axial, so the drivetrain was protected with machined diff gears and the front end was rock-solid thanks to the alloy C-hubs and steering knuckles.
In addition to the bolt-on mods, I moved the receiver box forward about 2.5cm with the help of a thick Lexan plate. This allowed me to put a normal size battery pack just in front of the dash, under the hood. The speedo was relocated to the rear, where it sat on its own Lexan plate, zip-tied in position, and I ran the battery cables over the passenger seat. An extension lead had to be used to connect the speedo to the receiver, and this was wrapped in tape in an attempt to keep water out. (Luckily I didn’t have to test this out, but the next time I run I’ll route the extension through the cockpit.)
One of the best things I got in my care package from Rodney was a clear body set, which I painted chrome on the inside (amazing stuff, the chrome spray paint – you could literally use it as a shaving mirror!) and bright green on the outside. This would let the green paint rub off as the truck gets scratched up on the rocks, and then bright ‘metal’ would shine through the scratch marks. You try explaining that to a normal RC racer and they’d laugh their head off…but when I explained what I was doing to the guys at the meet every single one nodded with appreciation and many said they’ve done the same thing! It’s so nice to be among like-minded people ☺
So with everything ready to go, the drivers split up into two groups and headed into the forest to the course areas. The plan was for each group to get a run in on a course, have a lunch break, then swap with the other group, then do the same thing the next day on two completely different courses.
As I mentioned before, the land we ran on is a real motorcycle trials area, belonging to a local trials club. Motorcycle trials isn’t that big in the US because it doesn’t involve V8 engines and massive top speeds, but it has many followers in the UK and Europe. It’s a highly technical sport, demanding top-end equipment and nerves of steel – just like RC rock crawling at times! The first course was amongst the trees at the base of the hill, with snaking tree roots and tightly clumped rocks to make life difficult for the drivers. The other three courses were laid out up and down a good-sized hill that would have you out of breath if you attempted to scramble up it on foot. One of the hill courses was at the top of the hill, while the other two went from its base almost all the way to the top. The scorekeepers and photographers would be burning some calories over the weekend, for sure!
Every course had its score-killing section (or two). The first course I ran was the one at the bottom of the hill, where I cut my teeth using the SCX-10 Defender. With no winch (yes, winches were allowed and encouraged, as well as sand ladders and earth anchors!) I struggled to get through a few of the ten gates without using too many ‘Hand of God’ tip-overs. The speed was good, though, and I was glad I’d played around with the Defender in my girlfriend’s back garden. My second run was with the Wraith, which suffered from a lack of BEC, so the motor would cut out, then the servo, so I had to get a DNF…not a good start! But it looked good, with 2 full-size spares on the back! And that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
Not really, because the competitive nature within was starting to peek out, and I took off the spares, put in a 2S pack and got ready for the first hill climb course we would be attacking. Once again, I drove the Defender first and after an easy start straight up a dirt gully I struggled mightily trying to get over a double gate going over a pair of steps. I rolled over several times before eventually getting past the steps. The Wraith did much better, the tall Ripsaw tires shredding the undergrowth and getting me to the top in style – I did a couple of backflips before the final gate, trying to get up a very tall rock step! I clipped a few gates here and there but I was getting the hang of things, definitely!
At the end of the first day, settling down for a few drinks, nearly everyone shared their story of how they got into RC, where they were from (several had driven 2-3 hours to attend, while one guy and his girlfriend had driven several hours up from Bristol!) until the night fell apart with jokes and laughter as the drinks starting taking effect. We couldn’t stay up too late, though, it was another somewhat early start!
On Sunday, the two groups of drivers once again split up, taking to the hill once again, this time on completely new courses that promised new challenges. After walking the course and pointing out dangers to each other while joking and laughing, we started with the toughest first gate of the event – a nearly slick rock angled up at about 45 degrees, with the first gate right at the top! In the spirit of the event, no reverse penalties were given until the drivers were past the gate, but it set an ominous tone. A hard gate over two rocks set in a sawtooth pattern gave most drivers lots of trouble, and a tree root set at an angle to the path was a source of heartache for some. The toughest gate on this course, though was the final one – down a short rock canyon that meant most drivers decided to try motoring through, hitting the gate in the process!
Somehow, after looking at the score sheets at the end of the event, this hill climb turned out to be my best-scoring run for both trucks – only 2 points with the SCX10 Defender, and 3 with the Wraith. I don’t know how I did that, but I’ll take it!
The final course of the weekend for my group was the hilltop route, which was a welcome relief after climbing up and down the last 2 courses! There weren’t as many really tough gates on this course, apart from a gate deep in V-shaped dirt gully which led you to a hairpin turn over a root through another gate. Some interesting lines were taken here, with a couple of drivers opting to use their winch to pull them straight through the gate! Another hard gate was the final one (again!), which was a steep sheer climb up a granite boulder, and you had to stop on a dime to stop your truck from plummeting nearly 5 feet!
Finally, after getting attacked by ants and plenty of flying, biting bugs, the weekend was over – everyone gathered their trucks round for group photos and the concours judging, which had the finalists chosen by yours truly. All the trucks considered for the concours had to have been driven on at least one course, but the runaway winner by popular vote was a red Landy laden with overland gear on its roof rack, fully equipped and ready to go.
As the scores were getting tallied up, the raffle prizes were given out, with the top prize an Axial SCX-10 kit. The raffle prizes were £1 for 5 tickets, and with the help of the entry fees, soda sales and more, nearly £1000 was raised for The Pluto Appeal, a charity that sets up a remote surgery robot so doctors in London can operate (via robot) on patients in third-world countries. Now, isn’t that a perfect tie-in with RC or what?
And finally, it came time to give out the trophies, designed and donated by Radshape RC, a custom metal fabrication company.
First place, Class 1: Andy Smith
First place, Class 2: Rich Cahill
First place, Class 3: Chris Foxell
First place, Wraith: Royce ‘Rock King’
Everyone in attendance agreed that it was a terrifically fun weekend and that it should happen again. Right now we’re looking at doing this again in January!
All in all, this was the friendliest group of guys I’ve had the pleasure to compete against. There’s no doubt I’ll be attending more scale crawler competitions in the future!
Many thanks to Axial and all the sponsors of this fun and fantastic event ☺
Also, thanks to Chris at RadshapeRC.com for the use of his pictures!
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