As promised, today we are publishing the first of a series of features ahead of the forthcoming release of Xray’s all-new RX8 1/8 nitro on-road car. First up we have this exclusive interview with Xray designer Martin Hudy about the development of the RX8 and 1/8th scale market in general, and also the soon-to-be-released NT1 2014. Following that, some time in the middle of next week we will also have an exclusive write-up available with more in-depth information on what racers can expect from Xray’s new flagship 1/8 on-road racer.
Red RC: The original RX8 1/8 nitro on-road chassis was released back in 2011 with the first major upgrade being introduced last year with the RX8’13. Now in March 2014 Xray announces the ‘all-new’ RX8. What can the racers expect from the car?
Martin Hudy: The RX8 is the Xray flagship car, as are 1/8 on-road cars from their respective manufacturers. Despite this is a fairly small niche racing class, we focus a great deal of attention and effort to make it the world’s best. Our development process for the RX8 is much the same as all other Xray cars: the team runs the car, we collect the feedback and reports and improvement ideas, and we incorporate the best ideas and parts into new versions of the car. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes the changes are more significant. We keep up with the changes to the class and always see where we can improve the car. While the RX8 is a very good car, there are always ways that it can be improved. The RX8 since its release has therefore had a new upgraded version every year, to keep it at the forefront and give our customers the best car that we can possibly design.
When I started to work on the 2014 specs, I did not have any plans for major updates. However as development was progressing, changes were made here and there since I did not want to make any compromises on any parts we wanted (or needed) to change. So from the initial expectation that 2014 would have mostly small changes, it has evolved to a major change… almost a completely new car.
For 2014 almost everything has been changed, including all-new bulkheads, front arms, steering blocks and uprights, shocks, chassis, 2-speed and gearing. At first I expected to finish the design of the 2014 specs within a few days, but by the end it actually took several months of intense work. The major updates required a lot of changes to existing moulds and even the creation of some new moulds which was a source of delay for the car’s release. But as I said, I did not want to make any compromises.
Red RC: Why did you feel it was time for a redesigned platform? Despite doing well on a national level and backed up by taking the ROAR national title, did you get the impression that the car was lacking speed on an international level? (What comes to mind is that the car did fail to make it to the 2013 Euros main final, although your team did bring home a 5th place at the 2013 Worlds.)
Martin Hudy: The RX8 platform has been very competitive and successful, and there was no intention for any major updates at first. The RX8 has enjoyed success at all levels of racing and a vast amount of victories. The 2013 National title in Italy could be viewed as the most valuable accomplishment, as Italy is the “mecca” of 1/8 racing with the highest competition.
The 2013 Euros in UK was the first race when we used larger, hard spec tyres without additive, and so the handling of the car was completely different from what we were used to. Before with soft tyres we needed to set up the car for maximum stability and we were fighting traction roll, but suddenly with the new tyre rule we had to work on the set up to improve traction and steering. So certainly the Euros 2013 were a big change for us in the way we approached our car set-up, and the new spec tyre rule (with no additives) required us to change the design of the car as well.
Red RC: What was your main goal when designing the 2014-spec RX8?
Martin Hudy: Forced by the new tyre rules, I was seeking the best balance between steering, traction, and cornering speed. while of course having a car which would be easy to drive and fast not only for top level racers but also for all club-level drivers.
Red RC: What are the main advantages that the 2014-spec RX8 will have over the competition? What aspects of the new RX8 do you feel will make Xray triumphant?
Martin Hudy: It would not be appropriate or professional for me – as a designer and manufacturer – to compare our product with the competition. I always prefer that the customers and drivers evaluate the results of our work and let them experience themselves what they will like about our car better than others. Competition in the RC market is extremely high, and as such all manufacturers compete to earn their customers. It is therefore the customers who motivate the factories to constantly improve their products’ quality and reliability as well as the services they provide. The customers’ overall satisfaction is the only criteria that matters in the end.
From my experiences I can say that the customers who choose Xray products are those who are looking for ultimate quality, unbeatable reliability & durability combined with highest performance. One of our greatest achievements would certainly be the highest quality we achieve; every single product is made in-house using the most precise European technologies and materials. With the strictest industry quality standards that we adhere to, legendary reliability and durability are achieved thanks to all the premium materials we use as well as the long-term knowledge and experiences in materials & production processes we possess and employ.
Red RC: Do you feel that there are many big innovations left to pursue in the 1/8 nitro on-road platform, or do you think the future will only hold small “fine-tuning” improvements?
Martin Hudy: This is a very tricky question. Every time I finish the design of a new car I say to myself, “Now it is perfect and I cannot imagine what I could possibly change next.” However the next time we hit the track there are already some new experiences and ideas that we can pursue to make changes for the better in terms of handling, reliability, or even just making it easier to work on the car. So over the years I learned that development never stops, and as my father says, “It is impossible to reach perfection, you can only try your absolute best and do everything possible to achieve it.”
In the last few years the majority of development was driven by ever-changing rules, changes to related products such as batteries, electronics, and bodies, and also by the use of new materials which allow us to make designs that were impossible to make before. You will see that the majority of cars in most classes look pretty much the same for years at a time; there were no major design changes and unless there are some radical rule changes I do not expect the cars to change for a while. It is of course one of the frequent “comments” we hear from customers, that the new car looks the same as before but from a designer’s perspective it is extremely difficult and almost impossible with a feasible ROI (return on investment) to develop something completely new and innovative that would look all different but would have racing characteristics at least at the current level if not better.
While all designers strive to keep an open mind and imagination for any promising ideas that could be developed into exciting new innovative (and yes, even revolutionary) products, we focus mostly on small fine-tuning details. All details first need to be tested, and afterwards we decide whether or not to move in that direction. One detail builds upon another, and before long you have a solid new product of evolution rather than revolution. We are in this for the long game… not just to try radical new ideas that work only in the short term, be a “flash in the pan” and then disappear. We, like our products, are here to endure. If you take a look at the new RX8 you might say that the car looks the same as the very first version – which from a distance may be true – but it is the details that make the current RX8 is a completely different car than the very first version. And remember that the RX8 has been on the market for only a relatively short time… this shows how fast that development happens despite looking to be the opposite.
Red RC: Since Juraj Hudy started making 1/8 cars by himself, what would he say are the biggest changes that he’s seen over the years?
Martin Hudy: My father Juraj started making the first cars in the 70’s … in the previous century… in the previous millennium! This may give you an idea about how “ancient” those cars were. (LOL I hope he doesn’t read this, I’ll get in trouble.) Since that time I would say that besides the scale, nearly everything has changed. It is like comparing a full-size car from today with the car your grandfather used to drive. It is still a car but it seemingly has a thousand folds’ improvements in handling, reliability, performance, technology, details, precision, materials used… simply everything is better!
Red RC: Over the years 1/8 on-road nitro has often been called the “Formula 1” of RC car racing. Do you feel this is still true, or are other forms of RC capturing more interest?
Martin Hudy: The 1/8 on-road nitro class is first of all one of the oldest classes and back in time it was the most popular category. It has indeed been viewed as the F1 class, especially due to the complexity of the cars and the extremely high speeds they attain, and for which the drivers must have very good racing skills. The adrenaline of racing a 1/8 on-road nitro car is second to none and I enjoy this class a lot, but unfortunately in the last few years this class has seen an exodus of drivers and customers. This class seems to be becoming less of a competition between drivers, and more of a competition between factory teams, and for every manufacturer this class is probably more of a “heart passion” class amongst all the other more popular classes.
This class has certainly become very “niche” which you tell from the number of drivers at the events as well as the amount of races held. At the moment the most competitive classes would certainly be 1/8 off-road and 1/10 electric touring, where you see more companies and drivers involved and there is therefore higher competition and ultimately more professional racers. If you come to a race such as ETS with 300 drivers and then go to a 1/8 European Championship with 50 drivers you will understand the difference. The main reason for the decrease in popularity of the 1/8 on-road nitro class is the complexity of the car – especially the engine & clutch – as well as the high expenses for racing in this class. It is a very sad but harsh reality.
Red RC: Now for the NT1 2014 Spec. The NT1 platform has won the 2013 EFRA Euros B and of course the 2010 World Championships beside a long list of European and national championships. What can we expect from the 2014 version?
Martin Hudy: The NT1 platform is our most successful platform when it comes to the amount of victories it has collected, including World Champion title, European Champion titles as well as hundreds of National Champion titles over the years. Since we released the car in 2007, every year we have brought out a new updated version, however for the past 8 years the platform has stayed pretty much the same with many of the parts still being fully cross-compatible. It is really a joy to work on new improvements for the car while the platform itself has been fully competitive with anything else on the market. It is still the most popular car, but at the same time there are not many things to change. Feedback on the NT1 from customers and racers all around the world is very positive about almost anything on the car, including its durability and handling. This actually makes development more challenging when things are working so well!
For 2014 the major changes are the result of the new tyre rule which required me to redesign several important parts. As the car itself has been working very well I did not have it in mind to change anything with respect to the geometry. Because of the new tyre rule of using larger tyres with no additives, I needed to change the shocks back to long versions, redesign the chassis to make the car more stable, and improve the 2-speed transmission as well. There are several other improvements made which we will present to the public shortly.
Red RC: Using handout tyres – like those seen in the Euro Nitro Series – is becoming more and more popular on a national and international level. How does this influence car design?
Martin Hudy: The new tyre rules in on-road nitro have significant influence on car development and these new rules were the major forces in the new 2014 specs of both the NT1 and RX8. As a designer I need to ensure that our cars adapt to the rules. Not so long ago we had to change our electric-powered cars to use the new generation of LiPo batteries, now we have to adapt to the new tyre rules in the nitro on-road cars. Of course everyone – customers and manufacturers alike – prefer to have consistency in the rules, but some rules need to be changed because of new advanced technologies, to keep the particular class alive, or to reduce costs for racers.
Red RC: Do you feel that using handout tyres and banning the use of tyre additives helps nitro racing gaining ‘lost ground’ again?
Martin Hudy: I hope it will. Personally I prefer to have open tyre rules without additive as we used to do in the past, but I am realistic and understand that at this moment there is no detection machine which can discover additive usage and therefore to use spec tyres is the only way to keep this sport fair. I also understand that for a club-level driver it is much easier and financially affordable to come to the race and to buy one kind of tyre instead of testing dozens of different ones. So the running costs become lower but at the same time it makes the life of R&D teams much more difficult. But we are used to it and will survive and adapt!
Red RC: Thank you for your interview. The last question will be about your racing calendar for 2014.
Martin Hudy: As usual I am very busy with all the races during the entyre year. Last year I had only 1-2 weekends free and it looks as if this year will be the same. This year I will race at all major on-road races with the T4, NT1, and RX8: this includes the ETS series, ENS series, 3x EC, 3x EC warm-up, Worlds and some warm-up, as well as Xray races around the globe. It is a fairly busy schedule that requires me to travel to a race every weekend, but this is what I like and enjoy the best so I am very happy and satisfied. But certainly I get even more satisfaction when we achieve good results and when our customers are satisfied and victorious at races. In the end I would like to welcome everyone to come to see and talk to me anytime you see me.
If you republish any elements from this page on another website, including text, original pictures or results please be sure to add a link back to this page as the source: