XB2 Feature: Martin Bayer interview
After a lengthy sit-down with the suited Martin Bayer – ready for business, discussing the behind the scenes and makings-of XRAY’s new XB2 gamechanger, we followed up with a few more questions of our own about how it was to work on the project and get even further details…
“The off-road division now covers almost all classes, but some are still missing. As we have now finished the XB2 project, you can maybe draw your own conclusion what may be the next logical new project we will work on…“
NB: Martin, thank you for taking time to speak with us about the new XB2 buggy. As you mentioned in parts 1 and 2 in ‘The Making of‘ feature, there were a lot of lessons learn’t in developing a 2WD buggy. What would you consider to be the biggest lesson of them all, and why?
Martin: The entire development procedure was a huge learning experience for me, where Juraj shared & revealed all his knowledge to me. In 3 years I have learned what he had to learn and experience by himself over the 40+ years he has been in the RC hobby. The amount of information I have absorbed and all the tests we went through in the last years brought my understanding of RC cars to another level… or another dimension it seems! The major steps in progress we made always occurred after we realized we had done something wrong. So I learned that to do something you need more than knowledge, information, and resources… you have to work extremely hard and not to give up when all you seem to get are failures and mistakes.
NB: The XB2 is the first ‘from the ground up’ 2WD buggy produced by XRAY, and with you fully in charge. While the car has yet to be released – assuming it is a success – is it your ambition to lead development projects like this in future?
Martin: Absolutely! I have been involved in other projects like the XB8 and XB4, but only partially as both of these platforms were already designed before I joined team. The XB2 was the very first project that I worked on from the very beginning. In XRAY, internal responsibility for the projects is split between Martin Hudy (who is responsible for the on-road division) and Juraj Hudy (who is responsible mainly for the off-road division). I am now involved in further development of all XRAY off-road cars, so the next projects we have been working on are my responsibility.
NB: Tell us about the kind of responsibility you have. What is a typical day like?
Martin: At this stage my major responsibility is to test, analyze, and provide feedback to Juraj about all the smallest details of different parts in relation to the development of the car as a whole. I collect information not only from our own testing but also from the team, and I have to consider feedback from other drivers as well. In this way we progress with further development and at the end we decide which parts will go into the final release and which will not. Then the rest of the work with drawings, production, etc. is under Juraj’s control.
The next step for me is to be directly involved in the drawing of the cars, which means I will turn my ideas into real physical parts, and part-by-part will create the whole car. That is my next personal professional development process; it is another challenge but I am looking forward to it.
Final gear box brass electrodes with the final moulded pieces
NB: Now that you have a 2WD buggy platform, will we see that adapted to develop a stadium or short-course truck?
Martin: The “Golden Rule” at XRAY is that we never comment on rumors or disclose what we have been doing, until we are ready to let the world know. However, as everyone knows XRAY has an extremely fast-paced development tempo that is hard to match. We have gone through logical development building the new cars based on market evolution. Once a new platform is added to the product range, a portion of development time goes into the annual refreshment & update of existing products, while another portion of time & resources goes into new product development.
The off-road division now covers almost all classes, but some are still missing. As we have now finished the XB2 project, you can maybe draw your own conclusion what may be the next logical new project we will work on.
NB: Throughout ‘The Making of the XB2’ you continually discussed XRAY’s (specifically Juraj Hudy’s) desire for perfection. What part of the XB2 were Juraj & yourself most focused on seeking perfection for?
Martin: That would certainly be the overall flex of the car, not only the arms or chassis, but everything together. Flex has a major influence on the way the car handles, period. You can spend countless time on developing & testing small details such as suspension geometry or shocks (where these small detail perfections may give you small steps forward) but no matter how perfectly you have all the individual parts… if you don’t have the proper flex, the car will never be competitive.
Ironically, we were fully aware of this ourselves, but we lost a lot of time being too much focused on only the rear of the XB2 and not looking at the overall picture. Maybe it was because the 2WD rear end was so new to us and we wanted to make it perfect right away, but we forgot to start from the very top which is the overall flex. This was a very costly lesson for us, which we will make sure to never let happen again.
NB: You mentioned that originally the XB2 was using an XB4 front end. After deciding that was the wrong direction, you re-engineered a 2WD-specific front end and design. Do the XB2 and XB4 share any common parts at all?
Martin: Our initial idea was to share as many parts as possible, but the more time we spent on the XB2 the more we realized that it was simply not possible. At the end, very few parts are compatible and the majority of parts are all unique and specifically designed for 2WD… either for carpet or dirt, or for particular traction conditions.
Testing of various front upper decks and shock towers
NB: Other brands have 2 or even 3 different cars to work in different track conditions. Will XRAY will have only 1 car to suit all different types of tracks?
Martin: This was exactly the most difficult and challenging goal we had while we created the car over 3 years. The XB2 platform will work in all track conditions, but specific parts have to be used when either racing in dirt or on carpet. That means it is impossible to have only one car that works in all conditions from very-low traction to very-high traction. However, we were able to develop & design the XB2 so by changing just a few parts, the car will work at the highest performance levels in every track condition.
One of the many prototypes. Note the graphite decks and aluminum guards.
NB: What are those particular different parts you need to change to adapt the car to widely different traction conditions?
Martin: The major difference is of course in the flex and weight balance. For medium to very-high traction (usually carpet & astro turf) the suspension must be harder, the gear box is in the middle with layshaft positioned lower, and the motor is positioned more in front. For very-low to medium tractions (usually dirt or clay tracks) the suspension must be softer, the gear box is mounted more to the rear or even behind the rear suspension, and the top shaft is placed higher. The XB2 platform is designed so that you can swap all the required parts quickly & easily.
NB: So all these parts are included in one kit?
Martin: To include all these parts in one kit would make the kit much too expensive for most customers. With the majority of drivers racing locally either on dirt or carpet tracks, expecting those drivers to pay for a higher-priced kit with parts they likely would not use would just be wasting their money. For this reason, the XB2 will be available in either a Dirt Edition or Carpet Edition, each with all specifications & parts specifically selected. And of course the customer can exchange all the parts among both cars. Simple and smart.
Difference between mid and mid-rear gear box
NB: That sounds like a great and innovative idea. Mid-motor buggys have taken over in popularity around the globe, however, a rear motor buggy is still seen in action from time to time. Has there been any consideration to a rear-motor conversion or version of the XB2?
Martin: The design of the Gear Box in the Dirt Edition allows it to be turned around, and as such the motor can be installed either in the middle or in the rear. Moreover, the motor and layshaft can be installed in both positions also on left or right side. So yes, out of the box the XB2 is ready for the rear motor with some few extra parts.
NB: What do you consider to be the XB2’s most unique feature, and why?
Martin: It would certainly be the Uni-Platform which makes the XB2 the first 2WD off-road car with all the various motor positions in the same chassis, and the very smart design of the Gear Box which allows for quick & easy differential access. For those who read my story from the Development you know how much work was needed to get to this point.
What I personally like on the XB2 is the way it handles; it is very easy to control & very forgiving, but still very fast and able to win any race. But you will especially enjoy the handling when you drive the car in high-competition races and go to the limit; the car will never let you down with unexpected handling, and you will always have confidence in the car in any condition & situation.
NB: Have you tested the production XB2 on dirt as well as astro turf? If so, how does the XB2 compare to itself when racing on these greatly different surfaces?
Martin: This was the major challenge we faced, because despite the 2WD buggy cars seemingly being very easy, they are probably the most sensitive cars to small set-up changes and especially to changing traction conditions. It took us a long time to test and select the proper designs & part materials and combine them in the final car layout to have the car working in all the different tracks. So of course we had to test the car in dirt at either low-traction dusty tracks or hard-packed clay tracks as well as on carpet and high-traction astro turf. I am personally satisfied in how the XB2 handles all these conditions, but ultimately it will be the customers who will decide if they will be satisfied. But personally, I am very confident. J
NB: Some brands recommend different differentials, different motor placement, different battery configurations, etc. when switching from dirt to astroturf. What sort of set-up changes are needed for the XB2 when racing these different surfaces?
Martin: Differential (ball or gear), composite hardness (flex) and motor/layshaft position (weight balance) need to be changed to adapt to these different surfaces. Chassis, geometry, drivetrain, shocks, steering, body, and other parts all remain the same.
NB: It seems to be a toss-up in the 2WD market, as some brand cars come out of the box with aluminum chassis, others using carbon fiber chassis. Which have you chosen, and why?
Martin: We ourselves tested many different chassis types: graphite, fiberglass, composite, aluminum… and of course multiple alternatives & modifications of the flex and hardness. Each has its own positives & negatives. We determined the best overall chassis configuration for the aluminum chassis as we can still control the flex with additional composite parts mounted to it to make it either softer (for low-traction tracks) or stiffer (for high-traction tracks). However, we did not fully dismiss the idea of using other materials, so we will continue testing them whenever we go to new tracks. This is our commitment to continue developing & gathering experience, so who knows what the future will bring!
Different chassis materials: graphite, composite and aluminum
NB: In your opinion, what sets the XB2 apart from other cars on the market today? Why should someone buy the XB2 over other established cars and platforms available?
Martin: This is a tricky but fair question. In the end, it is the customer that decides where he invests his money. But let me tell you where I am coming from. My responsibility, work, and all the efforts I put into this car was focused on making the XB2 work best in all track conditions. I was designing a professional, high-competition car and as such there were no restrictions on us in the development phase. This is the reason we did not give up after several years of hard challenges, and in the end we made some of the most universal & best performing 2WD off-road cars which will work at every track around the world. The XB2 should appeal to any RC car driver that is looking for the ultimate RC car, no matter where the racing is.
One of the many different layout prototypes
The XB2 is a great partner to the XB4, so we now have a complete offering to 1/10 off-road customers. We have proved over many years that development at XRAY never stops. We will continue to travel to races around the world not only to race but also to provide service & support to our customers and work on further improvements so XRAY customers have the confidence that however the different classes evolve, XRAY will always be there and doing the best possible work. So again I say that while it is up to the customer to decide whether or not to invest in XRAY over anything else, they know that our commitment to excellence is beyond compare, and I believe that we offer the best overall package with the XB2.
Part of the idler gear mould
NB: Although it was not a production XB2, were you pleased with the results at the recent IFMAR World Championships?
Martin: Absolutely we were thrilled with the results! This was the first 1/10 off-road World Championship for me and the entire team, and considering the fact we ran a pre-production car and had a small team at the race, we did very well. I myself was very fast and could have finished better, but that is always a “what if” post-race thought. Overall I am very happy, and I am sure it will get only better.
NB: Being an all-new platform, what is the ultimate goal for the XB2 in 2016?
Martin: The first thing I will be waiting for is feedback from our customers. It is only the customer that can judge & evaluate our work, and it is their satisfaction that is of primary importance. Despite myself being confident in the XB2, I am also very nervous as this is my first overall project. But I try to keep a positive outlook. The next goal will of course be to showcase the performance of the car in international races, and travel around the world to major events to promote the car and continue to collect experience & real customer feedback. Then based on this, we will see what will be next.
Shock tower production
NB: While the XB2 has been seen in Europe, what is the first major event in America, and who will be driving it?
Martin: Our US off-road team will Josh Wheeler, Tyler Vik, Tyler Peterson, and some others, but I will come to some of the US races as well and will also practice at various US tracks. It will still require a lot of work & effort to compete with the US-based teams (who are racing at their “home” tracks) but we will certainly continue our work. XRAY has plenty of victories and great achievements from US races in on-road classes, and we will certainly put our maximum effort in the off-road classes as well. It will not be easy, but that makes it even more motivating and challenging for us.
Wheel hubs semi products
NB: XRAY has really dove into the 1/10 market with this release. Is 1/10 off-road becoming XRAY’s primary focus over the next few years?
Martin: Not primary, but certainly it will be an important platform. With the release of the XB2 we have now covered the most popular classes, and all of them are important to us. Therefore we will certainly continue to support & develop the existing platforms, while following the trends and working on new projects as well.
NB: XRAY has yet to release an RTR vehicle, which are quite popular among entry level off-road racers. Are there any plans to release RTR versions of the off-road 1/10 lineup in the future?
Martin: At this moment it seems highly unlikely. XRAY is the only RC car company that does not outsource in Asia but makes all the production in-house in Europe using premium European materials, and produced using very high-end German and Swiss machinery. So with the high costs in production, it is very difficult to produce low-cost RTR products. Looking forward into the coming years, I do not see it being feasible, but then again the future is always in motion.
Suspension holder production
NB: Cheers Martin for your time, looking forward to see the XB2 in action and debut in the hands of customers. Is there anything you would like to add?
Martin: I invite you & encourage you to evaluate the work we have done in creating the XB2… get your XB2 and let me know how you like it! If you see me at any race or online, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments. Finally, I would like to say that keeping in mind all the high-tech production & extreme development behind the product, RC cars should bring you enjoyment and fun. So never forget to have fun with your XB2 and enjoy the racing!