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April 4, 2016

Making the Xray RX8’16 – Part 2

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After making the decision to incorporate the changes, I was almost a permanent fixture behind the computer… trying to put all the changes from the 3 different concepts into one car. This was very tricky & demanding, as I had to throw away a significant amount of the work done beforehand, and even still I was constantly running into conflicts and problems. After a huge amount of time & effort spent on this, I finally finished and was very pleased with the outcome. I uploaded all the manufacturing programs to the production server, and Production started to work on the 20 pieces of the cars for the team. While working on the team cars, we sadly informed distributors that the RX8 would be delayed for the 2015 season. This was not very welcome news.

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By some kind of miracle we were able to produce the team cars fairly quickly before the first races of the 2015 season, so the team got their cars which they could use to test & approve the new final design. As usual, I was very anxious and could not wait for the feedback to roll in. I was contact with the team drivers very frequently, to poke them if they had any new feedback for me.

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The first bits of feedback did not please me. There were several issues reported which were not good news: the front bulkheads were breaking again (but in a different area), the rear lower suspension mount was bending, and at some particular tracks with angled curves the engine would still choke despite the changes I had already made to the fuel tank. All of this feedback sent a clear message to me: there was no chance we could start mass production of this car, and there was no chance I could make all the necessary changes and still be on time for the 2015 season. For the second time, we had to face a tough reality and send the bad news to distributors – for the first time there would not be an updated version of the RX8 ready for the 2015 season.

Was I broken? Yes!
Was I frustrated? Like never before!
Did I give up? Absolutely not!

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All the issues & problems I had not expected served to jumpstart my motivation to a whole new level.
Since I had nothing left to lose, I needed to first solve the existing issues:
– The front bulkheads got a design change, with reinforcement in the area that saw breakage;
– To eliminate the rear suspension holder bending issue, I changed the mounting from 2 screws to 4 screws which made the assembly very solid and impossible to bend anymore;
– To solve the problem with the fuel tank, I have decided to use a completely different fuel tank;
– To get more steering from the front suspension I incorporated the same design I recently (successfully) used on the new NT1. Instead of the front upper arm mounting from the side to the bulkhead, I changed the design so the upper arm holder was mounted in two different points – in front at the bulkhead, and in rear at the radio plate. This design resulted in changes to the flex characteristics which improved steering (especially at high-traction tracks). This new design concept required completely changing the front part of the car – making it more difficult to implement – but the benefits & performance improvements were significant.

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All these new changes were put into production and we managed to get the parts to the team for further testing. Finally, the feedback that arrived was positive and no more issues were reported. Unfortunately, we were too late.

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The team continued to use prototypes for the rest of the season, in many cases very successfully. The team used the newest prototype at the European Championship, where Bruno Coelho qualified 5th and Nicola Marrone finished 5th overall. The performance of the car was finally where we wanted it to be, and the team was satisfied and happy.

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After summer 2015 had passed, I considered putting this latest version of the RX8 into mass production. However, since I was busy with the new T4, X10, X1, and NT1 projects and still had enough time, I decided rather to wait. Finally I had made a good decision!

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Prototype #4:

Despite being convinced that we had the final design, a coincidence changed this. This time the idea came from a completely different source: the new T4’16 that I was working on at the time. While racing on asphalt, to make the car roll better we added a 1mm shim under the top deck. This small change gave the car much less roll resistance through the corners, increased traction, and made the car much easier to drive. With this positive experience on the T4, I really wanted to try this on the RX8 as well.

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Despite this sounding like a small change, the opposite was true. I ended up completely changing the front bulkheads, radio plate mounts, and servo saver. To incorporate this idea I had to change the steering servo mounting… by raising the radio plate I had to lower the servo mounting to keep the heavy electronics as low as possible. So this “small” change resulted in many long hours at the computer (again) to produce plenty of new parts to try out.

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After the production run, I received the parts early in December 2015. Since the season was finished almost everywhere, I was lucky to find one last race in southern Italy where we could test this new part. I prepared my own Prototype #3 (which we used the entire season) along with the new Prototype #4, and sent both to Italy for testing. Luckily, as I had hoped & expected, the feedback on this new radio plate mounting system was positive, the car was easier to drive, had more traction, and had increased cornering speed. To make sure that we were not hanging our hopes on the feedback from a lone driver’s feedback, I sent the same parts to Mike Swauger for the Winternats. Mike tested both prototypes back-to-back, and confirmed the same good feeling with the new radio plate. I was so relieved!

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By this time, I was convinced that this was “it” and I could finalize all the drawings, update all production programs, and release the car to Production. Despite our disappointment in missing the 2015 season, we know the final car was worth the wait. We have completed all of our long-time tests, and fine-tuned all the details. I am certain that you will be impressed by the new RX8, and enjoy it as much as I do.

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I hope you have enjoyed this short story that hopefully gives you some insight into my daily life and the challenges I face, but also tells of the joy I get once we successfully finish an important project. Please know that I will be with Team Xray at all races during the 2016 season, so I welcome you to come see me at any time if you need any help with anything.

‘Till next time!

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