Neo11Drescher: Sexy Sunny Neo11

Its a new year a new day and a new neo for 2011, and our outspoken guest writer Craig Drescher sinks his teeth into the biggest race of the year so far cutting away the fat and picking up on the important points.

Without doubt the best track we have seen at Harper Adams, when I say best I mean sexiest. The DXR crew did themselves proud this year with a Playboy style calendar edition, curvy and voluptuous track. It was a tough nut to crack but like all beautiful women – they are worth putting in the effort with, and if you persevere perhaps you’ll manage to get one crack at getting it right- and if you do, it’s worth the effort. Unfortunately tracks like this are like eating a burger for the yanks. It’s a staple diet in the USA and when they drive tracks like this it all becomes clear why Toy Car Racing is so much fun and enjoyable not only to watch but to drive.

I’m not religious but I now pray every night that we can get more tracks like this in the UK.

They are tough and completely different to what we normally race on but my god they are great to watch and drive. They really do sort the men out from the boys and in reality this is what the cars are designed to do. You get to see some unbelievably fluid and beautifully timed driving but you also get to see some monumental crashes and bad laps. Its amazing how quick the ability to drive can disappear on a track like this. People go crazy- rapidly and it can be the worlds’ most frustrating thing to attempt at times. I loved the track this year and although my results were poor it’s good to drive a rewarding track and sometimes get it right…… Those fleeting moments of magic make it all worth the effort.

Having a sunny Neo is a rarity, in 5 years we’ve seen 5 different kinds of weather. Nobody believes me when I tell them it can be beautiful and sunny in the UK. Admittedly its not normal in April. However – when the sun shines it’s a different country all together. T-shirts & sunnies on. After the Worlds and pre-season warm-ups, nationals starting and winter breaks there’s always a host of points to prove, ego’s to squash and rumours to disperse. We’ve seen plenty of changes through the off-season so this race although a one off early in the calendar year is always a great platform to promote and prove the changes and decisions the drivers have made were the correct ones. Lots to prove and I always like the challenges that rise from teams and individuals.
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The main event teams
Without doubt the biggest and most expensive deployment of funds through the off season go to Team Durango. With a fun packed team of guys they were expecting great things and look to have made forward strides over the past few months with some small and subtle changes that appear to be making a difference. Lutz made the rest of the team look stupid at times. Quote “Hupo”. Because he was so fast and so much faster than the rest of the team. The rest of the team were left scratching there heads and didn’t quite understand why it looked so different. Tires?, different parts? driving? I don’t know myself but something was different- perhaps a combination of all 3 made the package better. He was amazingly impressive and both car and driver looked awesome. Lutz wasn’t a disappointment and how he didn’t TQ I don’t know but it turned out to be a monumental battle between Lutz, Maifield and Tebo in quali, all three putting on fantastic drives which were a pleasure to watch. Neuman came good towards the end of qualifying and did a great job to make the final. Fischer didn’t look good compared to the last time I watched him race in Pattaya with the Losi car. Definitely room for improvement there and I’m sure he would agree. He looked disappointed with his results.

Maifield who’s been on form for the past 3 weeks was tipped as favourite in my book and during both practice and qualifying he looked strong but like all race events- lady luck needs to play a part and he doesn’t have much of that at the big races. AE have made some subtle changes to the RC8B and they are definitely making steps forward. Cavalieri is much happier with the car, Cragg was flying (showing signs of his 2005 former glory) JR Mitch was unlucky not to make the main and looked solid throughout qualifying. According to the US Team manager Brent Thielke, the changes have made the car much easier to drive for the masses and will be available soon. Small but important changes to the weight distribution, chassis length, rising rate, roll bars and front roll centers. Combined, these changes have made a big difference and 3 cars in the top 6 after qualifying speaks for itself. 3 cars in the top 6 after the semi’s and 3 in the top 6 after the finals shows its moving forwards. Cavalieri having one of the best races of the weekend during the final with former team mate Battle. Finishing 3rd in the end after a last corner battle with Batlle, beaten by 2/10ths. He was pumped after the race and was happy with his result after a poor gas season so far. Craggy was elated to be competitive again and it was nice to see big smiles on his and his pops’ faces. Some of the nicest people around the pits and great team mates.

Tebo as always shines. Always in control and looking slow because of his smooth style. He makes it look effortless and you can see that he loves his Kyosho car. For me the Number 1 most consistent driver right now and although he didn’t win the worlds he’s definitely the Flagship driver at Team Kyosho. You can always expect results when Tebo is about and its usually a 1st place. If not a 1st place, you can guarantee a podium. Kyosho’s line up is impressive at the moment and proved to be the number 1 car at this event with 4 cars in the main and the highest concentration. WC King took his time to get going and made the main but never looked completely comfortable. He’d admit that he wasn’t on it and doesn’t quite know why. Getting tied up in the pack during qualifying is normal when its not running right and he did a lot of this. Shin and Aigoin did a great job also to make the main and back up Team leader Tebo and WC King in the final. All 4 cars looked supple and easy to drive and this showed in the results. Tebo looked unstoppable in the finals and perhaps a little vulnerable in qualifying but he came through with both accolades in the end. The final was measured and controlled even though he did get waffle stomped coming out of the pits by team mate King which cost him a bunch of time and allowed others a glimmer of hope. Tebo soon got his head down and disappeared into the setting sun again.

Mugen Seiki
Batlle was impressive like I predicted pre-season and I enjoy watching him drive. Disappointed that he’s no longer with AE but a smart move on his part. I truly believe he will be a force at all the races he attends in 2011. Some will say a step up the ladder to a proven product in the 1/8th class whilst AE are still figuring out the tweaks it takes to get the whole team fast. Who knows in reality but he’s not finished outside of the top 3 in all 2011 races so far. Robert was quoted in previous reports wanting to be “number 1” in a team so perhaps he has found his place in the Mugen camp. He declined Durango because of this and I’m guessing that’s part of the reason he left AE but like we all say “there is no I in TEAM”. That’s why I love my team because its a proper team with everybody working together. No ego’s and perhaps this is Robert’s biggest downfall he likes to go it alone. Big Red, Simon Willetts did another good job and made the final again after a slow start. He’s made a seamless transition to Mugen from Kyosho and its a fairly safe sideways step; another driver that looks good with the Mugen car.

Bloomers looked like the strongest Losi front runner and was very fast throughout the weekend. Drake didn’t look comfortable and seemed to be lost and Bayer like always was well in the mix. I can’t help feeling that the open tire system Losi are running is causing more problems than its resolving. Especially at a race like Neo where you get 3 practice sessions to figure it all out. In the states when you get days of practice I can see this working. Having the time to pick the best combinations and manufactures that suit the particular surface. Here in Europe we are usually very limited to track time and you need to know your products. I feel this time that perhaps they were chasing the tires that others were running well on. I know from Pro-Line that some of their guys preferred M4’s and some preferred M3’s so copying this wasn’t easy and it was down to personal preference. Losi eventually opted for AKA towards the final and this was the tire of choice in 2011. I expected more from Losi given the results and performance of the team in the past few years. No doubt they will fight back and Yannick was missed as defending champion.

We can’t forget young Hara who always seems to sneak in through the back door and come good towards the end of the event when it matters the most. He made the final from 30th after qualifying so it didn’t go all his way. As always he works hard and gets it right in the end. Perhaps all the different classes he’s racing is starting to put pay to his dominance in any particular class. He’s a huge talent and can drive anything he tries but I question the number of disciplines he is trying. He’s a RC whore right now and can’t get enough of his racing. He still owes me a Rolex from a race he won in China back in 2000. He took me out to win after I TQ’d and I’ve never forgiven him. If I ever wanted to fight anybody at a race track it was him at that race. Needless to say I didn’t speak to him for years. Hara is a great ambassador for the sport and we LOVE each other now but I WANT MY ROLEX.

For me the Neo race is the best race in 1/8th. I’m not just saying this because I write for the site. You all know Phil’s a bit weird but he knows how to put on a good spread with the crew he has in place  (he’ll kill me for that one).

Phil takes Jerome Aigoin on a scenic tour of the track

The Race has a kudos surrounding it, and reminds me very much of the US Reedy Races of old when the fights are titanic. The track is always a pleasure to drive and a treat for us Europeans. A glimpse of what the US guys get to race on week in week out. Its a spectacle for racing with style and finesse needed and the coverage is World class. If you ever want to showcase a racing class this is the place to do it. Forget the Worlds – too much pressure for drivers and the event never has a fun feel. Forget the European Championships because 90% of the tracks don’t cut it. Its all about the US style tracks and smooth surfaces for me. When you see these drivers get difficult tracks right its ART. It tickles my fancy to see what these guys can do and I love seeing a run come together. As a driver (some people may question that) its so good to nail a lap where you get your lines right, style it up a little and nail the jumps- its a brilliant feeling and then you look at the lap times and these guys are 1-2 seconds a lap faster. I don’t get it but I love it anyway. Racing on these tracks can be frustrating but it defiantly does it for me and as frustrating as it is, its the best to drive and watch. Did I mention its only half an hour from my house. Now that’s a big PLUS…..when the sun is shining England is a wonderful place to be. I guess we worship the sun more than most because we don’t get to see it that much.

Many of the Americans experienced their first curry in Newport. Unfortunately the best Indian food in Newport is at an unlicensed restaurant so even this was a mini adventure. Having to buy your beer down the road at the off license and carry it into the restaurant was a novelty. Let alone all the pictures taken in the off license because of the weird and wonderful beers available. There were a few sceptical faces when the food first arrived and some pushing around the plate like a nuclear particle had been placed on it but I have to say it was a success. Once them Indian spices passed their lips it was all smiles. The next thing to try was fish-n-chips out of the paper. I wasn’t around for that one. Quality English cuisine.

After the currys…

Orion dominated the proceedings in the engine department which was a surprise. 5 from 15 in the main is a solid job well done. TQ and win. What more can you do? I’d say its all about feel at the Neo rather than raw power. Because the surface is slick and the track is tight and technical for us Europeans having an engine that gives the best feel is very important. Running ten minutes in these conditions is generally not a problem at all. There was talk about certain drivers trying to run 12 minutes in the main. I didn’t check to see if anybody did this. Novarossi were the second best engine with 3 in the grande finale. This team is considerably smaller than it was last year but is still a performance package and an engine thats getting results. Reedy took the last spot in the top ranks for power plants with 2 drivers running the VR spec engine that’s smoother than the newer ST engine which has more raw power. The best of the rest were shared between Nitrotec, Nvision, OS, Picco and Alpha. A right old mix of engines, cars and tires used in the main. With so many manufacturers now in the market place its a tough nut to crack the high percentages for brand sin the finals. The best of the new guys has to be Durango with 2 cars making the main. Agama and JQ not managing to break into the top 15 this time around.

Impressed with
3 English guys in the final on a US style track- well done.
Craggy for showing signs of some old fashioned FORM.
Tebo for a dominant performance. Very professional and controlled.
Maifield for some super style driving again. This kid is awesome to watch.
Cavalieri for securing a podium position and finishing a final in gas.
Batlle for a fantastic finish line poach to take second.
Lutz for disciplining everybody at times in qualifying.
Ozzies visiting Neo. I love these guys.
AE/PL team van. Looks fantastic.
I didn’t get 1 single hang over. But I got to see some impressive ones.
The smells coming from the Nemo truck the day after a night out for the team.

We only get to race on this track once a year.
Batlle and others using tire additive which puts a damper on the rules when it clearly states, EFRA and BRCA. Knowingly cheating or not I don’t know. Rumours have circulated in other years at Neo and other events about additive being used.
Half hour semis and one hour final.
My results
A closer race for the win
Food van… I want something other than burgers. The pork was okay but 4 days in a row?. A choice would be nice and something thats cheaper. Chilli, lasagne spaghetti Bolognese.
I missed out on the evening activities. No hangover.
No topless trophy girls.

Craig Drescher