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The final installment of our three-part puzzle ‘Exploring XRAY’ has landed, after the hugely popular Introduction and even more so Juraj’s candid honest interview, we bring you a sit-down moment with the two faces you’ll see representing XRAY during 2014: Reno Savoya & Martin Bayer! And judging how our photoshoot Perhaps not only on the track but maybe in Paris & Milan on the catwalks soon…

 

Reno, Martin if we review your 2013, is it fair to say it has served as a ‘warm up’ for 2014?

Reno:
Yes, as 2013 was an ‘in between Worlds’ year, it was very important to make the most of the season to improve my knowledge. I will return stronger in 2014, and for the first time since 2010 going to a World Championship with a racecar package I have spent 2 seasons with!  I now feel very confident in the car, engines and tires, so it should be a great season. I didn’t really win big events in 2013, but I was always on the podium; now I am ready to strike in 2014!

Martin:
Every year is important for me and I approach every race very seriously. In the last few years we have worked very hard with Juraj and the entire team, pushing development of the entire XRAY off-road platform further and further. Of course, for every professional driver the World Championship is the main event and everyone works hard for that race. I can easily say that we did our homework in 2013, and we have the best cars for 2014.

In my opinion, 2013 we have worked twice as hard compared with before because we were so absolutely sure about the performance and reliability of the XB8… we even managed to convince Juraj to race the early prototype at the Euros and didn’t want to disappoint him. We proved to everyone our belief in this project and it worked out very well, honestly better than expected.

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Reno; You famously hunted down David Ronnefalk during the closing laps at the Euros, coming so close to a 4th title. How much confidence did that inspire, with XRAY taking 2nd  and 3rd  with teammate Martin?

Reno:
We worked very hard to prepare for the Euros. We had discussed with Juraj already last year that when we want to move the performance to a new level we need to try the pivot ball suspension and experience for ourselves if there is more potential in the pivot ball suspension than in C-hub suspension. If our thoughts and feelings turned out to be wrong about this, we would have continued further developing the C-hub suspension; but first we needed ‘first hand’ experience and comparisons of both.

Since Juraj is also very dedicated when it comes to ultimate perfection, it was not difficult to convince him about this project. I do not even know how, but after a short development period on the design computers we came up with the first prototypes in record time! We had a really tight schedule, and I would once again like to thank everyone at XRAY who dedicated their time and motivation to this project, especially Juraj! The first tests of the new pivot ball suspension were very successful and already in the very early stages we knew and felt that this concept had HUGE potential, but we also felt that we needed to improve the small details before heading to the Euros.

For me, the Euros were one of the most thrilling events to participate at. The new car, despite being an early prototype, was working famously and I was able to battle for the win. David and I swapped the lead several times, and I finished in 2nd place within less than 1 second.

That was without doubt the tightest Euros result ever. It for sure boosted our confidence for the future.

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Martin:
We were confident going to the Euros that we had a car that we could take all the way for the win. The Euros was the first official public race with the new car, and of course we were under huge pressure. We convinced Juraj to use the prototype at the Euros, and then we needed to prove to him that our intuition was right. The car had already proved itself almost unbreakable in previous tests, and as such I was just worried about avoiding bad luck – if that’s at all possible – from traffic, flame outs, unglued tires, electronic failures, etc.

Luckily we did not have any such issues, we had fairly easy qualifiers, and I was very confident in the final. I was trying to catch the leaders and had worked my way in front, but time ran out to make a serious challenge on the leader. As such I cruised to a safe 3rd place finish, and I knew that if Reno didn’t have any problems that we would have a double podium finish which would be the best debut of a prototype. Of course we would have been happier to get the win, but the tight results show the potential and our double podium finish proved we were right.

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If we rewind the clock by 12 months – back to the slightly controversial Worlds in Argentina where you both unfortunately missed out on the final – can you begin to describe how much work and change has gone into the 1/8 buggy over the last year?

Reno:
During the season, we could see our car was dialed in when the track was flat and slippery. However, on high-grip and/or bumpy tracks, we had to rework the set-up quite a lot in order to get the best out of the XB9. Unfortunately, those conditions were met only a few times a year, and it’s pretty hard to practice in such conditions.

The evolution of the XB9 in 2013 was already a great step forward in this direction. Then, we analyzed everything and realized we had to make some ‘revolutionary evolutions.’  Everything came together when our development team – with Juraj and Martin – had the same idea. This synergy cannot be acquired in only a few months, and it was too early when the XB9 was designed. In my opinion, the new car is the first real ‘baby’ of our 1/8th off-road development team.

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Martin:
We did our best to get maximum performance out of the XB9 platform; we have tested so many different parts & prototypes that public will never know about. The majority of the parts did not give the improvements we hoped for, and as such were discarded but nevertheless it was time well spent in development & testing. We worked very hard for the Worlds, but the track was so specific and special, that it made us struggle like many other teams.

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From individual perspectives, what are the key areas that you have worked on and improved on the most?

Reno:
XB9 has been a very good car, but for my racing style it was too aggressive. I like when the car is smooth and neutral. Small details had to be improved, and the addition of those details at the end made a huge difference. From the very early prototype, we had huge progress until the final design.

I felt the front-rear balance wasn’t perfect. We first worked on the flexibility of the material, then adding stiffener under the arms. It made a huge difference in term of balance and the overall stability of the car was really improved. We also had to take that into consideration during the development of the XB8.

The concept of the pivot ball suspension stayed the same but I believe we changed almost everything else. Of course those are only the small details that non-involved persons might not recognize upon a first look, but if you race the early prototype with the final one you would feel the difference on the track. Juraj is a real perfectionist and he kept us supplied with newer and newer parts to test and report back. This year, I have certainly wrenched the most in my racing career.

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Martin:
Despite the very first prototype being already a huge improvement in performance & handling, we still were not perfectly happy with some details. We had a list of things to change and we had to sort them out based on priorities to make sure we focused first on key areas, and if there was any time left (ha ha) we would work on those other small things as well. At the end, the development team in factory did a fantastic job and incorporated the vast majority of all the smallest details we worked on and which we felt would be improvements. There were some things left out as the changes would have required big changes in the molds, and Juraj may keep those changes for future when production will not be as busy. All the main performance improvements were all incorporated, and customers will most certainly enjoy the car.

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Let’s talk 10th scale for a moment. It was a hugely successful first season for XRAY and in particular for you Martin. What were the expectations after the XB4 release?

Martin:
For me there was no expectation at the beginning of the season, as this was my personal debut in this class. The 1/10 electric class was all new for me. The car is so easy to drive and the handling so predictable that I was fast and competitive right away with the car out of the box. During the year we have challenged the guys at the EOS series, and we worked hard from race to race. After the first EOS, Juraj converted the XB4 into a 2WD version and we worked most of the season on the further improvement of the 2WD prototype to have a good car for the upcoming 2013-14 winter season. The European Champion title with the XB4 was a great satisfaction for me and the whole team and best possible debut. So certainly we were very happy and motivated for 2014.

Reno:
I didn’t have any expectations as I had never really driven 10th scale electric before going to the EOS back in March. I was surprised that the car suited me so well and despite not reaching the podium I was right away competitive among the top guys who had been racing this class for a long time.

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There was not much work to do around the XB4 as the car works great as is, and most of the time we tested small things only – nothing major. Most of the work was spent on the 2WD, and we worked literally from race to race. The final car that was released for the winter season is perfect for high-traction tracks, but for slippery clay tracks we still need to make something. We have now a couple of different ideas to try, but we need to wait for spring first. Juraj says he has some new innovative ideas in mind, so be ready!  Overall I am fairly satisfied with my first year in 1/10 class which was more about learning this class.

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Has there been any crossing of ideas between the XB4 and XB8 platforms?  Any ideas that have transferred from one to another during the development processes?

Reno:
At first I thought that these two scales would share more in common, but the fact is that those categories are very very different. In my opinion, everything is much more precise and sensitive on the 1/10 cars, so what makes a big difference in a 1/10 buggy would not be felt in a 1/8 buggy.

Technically, we had some solutions for the 1/8 buggy but we couldn’t apply it in 1/10. I think that at the end the precision and fine tuning of the 1/10 cars help us indirectly with the 1/8 development as well, because we are now focused more on the ultra-fine details we did not consider to be so important before.

Martin:
Not really. We have had a few ideas, but you can’t take a lot from 1/10 and expect them to work with the XB8 platform… these two cars are so different that there are almost no parts interchangeable. We will continue to develop the XB8 based on the new pivot ball suspension, while the XB4 platform is so good and ahead of its time that there will be no need for any major developments in the near future.

This of course does not mean we will rest!  Actually, the opposite is likely more true as Juraj keeps us supplied with new parts and new many ideas that we will be trying out. The next development goal is for sure mainly about the 2WD platform, where we already have a good car but there is a bit of work to be done to make it more well suited to different conditions, especially low-traction conditions.

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2013: What were your ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ over the last year.

Reno:
For sure the Euros was maybe the most intense race of the season. It felt really good to lead the finals once again, and I felt really comfortable knowing I had the best chance for the win. It is even better when you know that you used a very early prototype which has meanwhile been completely redeveloped and refined and you have such a weapon for the next season. So for me definitely, it was the very tight 2nd place at the Euros.

Lows…I would have to say it was the 1/10 Euros for me. I made some errors with the set-up and I didn’t know the tires well. But it was a week that pushed me forward and brought me a lot of new experiences which made me stronger. I feel more ready for 1/10 now.

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 Martin:
At the beginning of the year I was a personally a bit nervous to be going to race for the first time in 1/10 – an all-new class for me which was already highly competitive with top drivers who live daily in that category. At the same time, I had small but lingering uncertainty about what would happen in the 1/8 class with our car, as we were working on the all-new 1/8 prototype and at the start of the year we had absolutely no idea if it would be better or not.

martin_bayer_car

I was nervous that if the new car was not better, then we would have lost a lot of time which we would not be able to get back during the year. Development is very fast-paced, and time is always limited. To be able to compare the new platform to the current XB9, we had many new modified XB9 parts to make side-by-side comparisons. This cost us time as we needed to test them all and compare them mutually under the same conditions, and we knew that at certain point we needed to decide which way to go and of course we were uncertain when this ”breaking point” would come.

Fortunately everything worked out well! In my debut year I won the Euros which is my personal best achievement in the off-road class, so this will be my main ‘high’ to which I would add the podium finish at the Euros with the XB8, and of course winning the German Nationals and our Czech Nationals. This year was simply amazing!  The only ‘low’ I would say would be that as a team we missed the Euros title in 1/8 class by such a small fraction of a second.

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2014… New year, new car, new goals. What are they from your perspectives and from the company’s?

Reno:
2014 is for sure a key season for everyone, both personally and for the company. The company has put a lot of resources and trust on our shoulders and into this project, and I really want to give my maximum both on and off the track. I will always do my best of course, but I feel 2014 will be  very intense!

I will be travelling with Juraj & Martin and the rest of the team around Europe not only to race and try to get best possible result, but also we will be at these races to provide technical service & support. The list of races is extensive and will include EOS series, Italian Job, GP Montpellier, The Dirt USA, Psycho Nitro Blast USA, French Nats 1/10 and 1/8, EFRA GP, Lyon GP, Quebec Classic, Neo Race, Euros 1/10 and 1/8, Worlds 1/8, French Cup races, and we will have a lot of practices at the Euros and Worlds warm-ups.

So my schedule is fairly full and I am really looking forward to the new season. My goal is to finish as best as possible at every one of these races, so hopefully luck will stay with me as I am very confident in everything I have been racing with.

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Martin:
I think 2014 will be very important, especially with new car we have to focus on minimizing any potential mistakes before they happen. We have to turn all the hard work of the entire team in the last years into “The Win.”  Wehave been working to get our off-road programme stronger and more professional, there are some new designers coming to the team, and we will have some high-profile European top drivers joining the team as well.

I am very happy that European Junior Champion Mikael Johansson has joined our team, especially because the 1/10 Euros will be in his home country of Sweden. I am also glad that we have Lorenzo Crolla on the team. It is also very good news that Martin Wollanka has signed on to be part of the factory team, and recent news that Davide Tortorici will race the 1/10 class with the XB4 gives even more strength to the team. I can say that we have never had such a highly-profiled, skilled, professional & motivated off-road team than we will have in 2014.

I am more than excited, and my goal will be to do all possible to keep the EC title and of course to finish as best as possible at all of these races. It will be no surprise to say that the Worlds will be the highest profile race of the season, the one I have the most respect for, and the one I dream most about winning. Keep your fingers crossed!

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Martin, you have more of a ‘multi class’ background than Reno with your 1/5th scale triumphs, but you’re both now seen as fully-capable 1/10th drivers. Has that class helped you in terms of driving ability & style for 1/8th?

Martin:
1/5 really is a completely different scale, but 1/10 has helped me a lot in improving my skills and performance. The 1/10 cars are very sensitive to set-up adjustments, and you have to be very precise all the time both with the set-up and while racing. Even the smallest mistakes can have big consequences; one mistake at the wrong time and the race is over for you. I did not expect that, but now I can clearly say that 1/10 has helped me a lot and I also really enjoy this class.

Reno:
I think 1/10 is much more precise and more sensitive. After only 5 minutes in electric, you are tired like after a 1-hour final in 1/8 scale!  The final system is really punishing and you have to be 200% focused. The class helps with mental preparation, while 2WD forces you to drive smoother and more precisely.

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What are the best & worst parts about working with such a hard-working company like XRAY?

Reno: Joker!  😉

I’ve been working as a Pro for three different companies, and honestly XRAY is the best for developing products as they listen to all the feedback and are very proactive. There is simply no equal!

When you need to try something, they make it in an extremely short time. The speed of development at XRAY is second to none; it’s a win-win relationship and I think that’s really what I was looking for. The chemistry between Juraj, me and the R&D and racing teams has been working very well and the industry should expect some more great stuff as a result of our work. Of course, successful teamwork requires a lot of very hard work from everyone. Time for rest and relaxation is in short supply, and so I suppose the lack of personal time is probably the hardest part of the work as I am constantly at some races, or at a practice session, or on the way to a race or home.

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Martin:
The best part about working with XRAY is that everything is possible at XRAY.

Juraj does not accept limitations and nothing is an obstacle for him. He really knows everything when it comes to development and production. I live only 2 hours from XRAY which is a huge benefit for me and I am regularly at the factory either for practice or working on new stuff.

The internal testing facility has significantly helped us with the 1/10 off-road development and the new 1/8 offroad track that is in progress will for sure be another step forward for the development of the 1/8 class. If you would see in person the production facility, the capacity, the technology, the know-how, and the expertise of XRAY… you would instantly understand why they have developed so fast into one of the leaders in all RC car classes. They are for sure one of the most respected companies in the RC world.

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For me the best part of this work is that I am directly in the middle of everything happening, and I am part of the development. I can see everything on my own and have a direct influence on things, and provide valuable input. What I love is of course to travel to all the races and to represent the product that I helped develop.  And the BEST of course are the victories which are a huge satisfaction and payoff for the extreme amount of time and involvement that everyone in the team has put into the product.

In those moments I feel really very proud and happy. And the worst part? I honestly cannot come up with anything earth shaking or insightful. Probably it will be the high pressure which is on us. We spend a year of development on the product, and success or failure at some key races could have a dramatic influence on the success of the car. Those types of stressful situations are difficult but at the same time teach me to be a stronger person and to always recognize these situations as challenges to overcome.

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