Associated B5 Track Feature
Feature: Associated B5 on Track
By Stephen Bess
After giving Associated’s new B5 a thorough shakedown at SDRC earlier this winter, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of our test B5 rear motor kit for full testing.
Rather than bore you with a generic “review” which would insult your intelligence, or show you photos of suspension components you’ve undoubtedly seen a thousand times already, I’ve kept this article as a focus on the car’s handling traits.
I’ve raced the B5 buggy weekly for the last several months, often twice per week, here in Southern California with some of the fastest club racers around. I’ve won a few, I’ve lost plenty, but through it all the B5 has performed like a champ. Here are some thoughts about the car and my experience with it thus far.
On the Bench
First off, my B5 kit built as well or better than any Associated kit I’ve ever assembled. And I’ve had some good ones, and some really not so good ones over the years. AE nailed the mouldings, fitments and clearances with this car. I’ll usually spend an extra hour or two on any kit I build from any brand to eliminate binding in the suspension and transmission.
Minus a quick pass with my Hudy push/pull reamers through the suspension arms.
I didn’t have to spend an extra moment freeing anything up on the buggy. The B5 was a great build.
Once I began dialing the car in for the track, I did discover a few little things. First, those cool new heavy duty ball cups are nice, but they grip the turnbuckles so tightly that I had trouble adjusting camber without one of the ends popping off a ball stud.
Multiple friends of mine who built B5s also had the same issue.
I had to hold one of the ball cups with pliers to adjust the tie rods, at least until they had been adjusted many times. I also found that some of the ball cups began binding once dirt entered the picture, and no amount of crushing with pliers helped free them up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find extra ball cups anywhere (both locally and online), so I’m running the car as free as possible while I wait on new ball cups.
Building the B5’s shocks are a walk in the park, at least in my opinion, when compared to building the older style AE emulsion shocks. Before you cry foul, understand that I am a perfectionist. I like all of the shocks to work properly and evenly, and no matter how precisely I built the old emulsion shocks, they never seemed “right.”
The B5’s big bore shocks, with the bleed screw cap, assemble nearly perfectly every time. I topped the shock off, capped it, pushed the shock shaft in to bleed the air and extra oil, and tightened the bleed screw. Booyah, perfectly bled shocks. Nicely done, AE.
Editor: We lost Stephen for a while as he celebrated his shock build by obsessively pressing the suspension up and down about 576 times. Buttery smooth baby. - Reference
On the Dirt - "calm and collected"
AE’s engineer Bob Stellflue (listen to Stellflue’s audio interview about the B5 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PktSPXID4qk
) was quick to tell me at the first Associated test session that the AE team spent lots of time on the B5 and B5M’s baseline set up. Knowing that the team gets exponentially more hours on the track with their cars than a club racer ever could, I built the B5 exactly to the manual’s suggested set up.
I requested the rear-motor B5 because my local track, Hot Rod Hobbies in Southern California, is an outdoor track. Not only is the traction relatively low when the track isn’t grooved (it grooves once per year for the Hot Rod Shootout), but on club racing nights, the track is also watered. You’ll get low traction when the sun is up, and medium traction at night once the moisture comes up. In other words, Hot Rod is a rear-motor type of track and similar to most other outdoor club tracks I’ve visited. A B5M would be a waste of time here.
The B5M Mid Motor - No good at Stephen's local track
With the stock set up, the B5 impresses immediately with tons of rear traction…even on a slippery surface. Initially, I couldn’t believe how planted the B5 felt under acceleration out of corners; rather than looping out or pushing into a gradual over steer, the B5 felt calm and collected.
After several club outings, I grew accustomed to the B5’s slight push and started looking for more steering (more on that in a minute). With the stock set up, AE uses the 4mm trailing front axle insert for maximum stability. That stability never goes away even as the tires wear, and for most racers, this is a great thing. 2wd buggy tends to be very difficult to drive on an outdoor track with unpredictable traction. The B5 feels dialed in even right out of the box; even when it isn’t the absolute fastest thing on the track, it’s stable and consistent. I’ll take it!
You’ll immediately notice the B5’s improved jumping and landing characteristics. Jumps don’t upset the car. Landings are smooth and predictable. Yes, you can wad it up, but you really have to screw things up to do so. The car’s stability continues in bumpy sections. Through a particular whoops section at our local track, B5s charge through the bumps, floating over the bumps at three-quarters throttle. Sections like this tend to cause a 2wd buggy to get “assy,” swapping the rear end left and right until things slow down. The B5 is just locked in.
All of this stability means that the car occasionally is too locked-in for its own good. Experienced racers will likely wish for more steering than the stock set-up provides, which is always better than wishing for more traction. Read below to check out some of the changes I made.
Dialing it in
So I’ve gushed a bit about the B5’s out-of-the-box handling, but I’m not the only one. Check the forums and ask at your local tracks. The rear-motor car works really well out of the box, but like any race car, it can get better with some tuning to your own preferences.
By far the most popular class at our track and throughout SoCal is the rapidly growing 17.5 “blinky” class, which is a no-timing, no-boost class. The focus is on chassis tuning and driving rather than overpowering the car with a 6.5-turn modified. For 17.5-turn racing, I set my LRP ESC to the “blinky” mode (one slowly flashing blue light), and installed the most popular 17.5 brushless motor at our track, the Trinity D3.5
To help reduce rotating mass and improve acceleration, I removed the robust but overkill-for-17.5 racing VTS triple slipper assembly and replaced it with AE’s lightweight standard V2 2-pad slipper clutch (#9603 pads, #7495 vented plates). This is a great tuning option for stock racing, but for modified I would stick with the VTS triple set up.
I also installed a Robinson Racing lightweight aluminum pinion gear, and set the slipper to raise the front end slowly under full throttle. Next, I installed a set of AE’s Factory Team titanium turnbuckles (#1282), and I installed a set of AE’s aluminum screws (#91543) to shave just a bit more weight…and to look super factory dialed, since I don’t have the driving talent to wear oversize sunglasses and a flat bill hat without looking silly.
On the bench, I swapped out the stock #4 front trailing axle inserts for the #3 inserts, which move the axle forward slightly for increased steering. Following the manual’s instructions, I altered the Ackerman shims and front castor hub position to match the #3 trailing insert.
I’ve found that the B5 is, like all 2wd buggies, sensitive to ride height adjustments. For some reason, ride height is one of the last adjustments a racer will think to check, if at all. Spend some extra time before your first run, and every few runs after, to make sure ride height is set properly as the springs settle in. Even a few millimeters can make or break the car’s handling. Use a perfectly flat surface (your warped wood pit table probably isn’t a good idea), and set the car’s ride height first, then set camber and toe. Your B5 will thank you on the track.
For a bit more steering, I also unthreaded the front shock ends 2-turns for extra down travel. Finally, keep an eye on the rear ball diff—keep it on the tight side rather than too loose, to improve longevity and overall performance. After nearly 2 months of racing weekly (or more), my car’s ball diff is still very smooth. So far, it is wearing well.
With these adjustments and parts additions, my 17.5-class B5 is a rocket with excellent performance on our local outdoor track. I typically run Pro-Line M4 Holeshots front and rear (holeshotM4.jpg)
and I installed a super fast ProTek RC 130S speed servo for quick handling and turning in tight sections. Small adjustments work on the B5, and you can tune in more or less steering easily with the front trailing axle system.
I am not a professional driver, so the fact that the B5 works so well in my hands should be encouraging. If you’ve considered trying a 2wd buggy but were unsure of which car to try, the B5 is an excellent choice. It’s easy to drive, the stock set up works better than any other stock AE set up that I can think of, and the car is durable…which is a good thing, because as of this article, the only flaw in AE’s nearly perfect B5 armour is parts support.
It’s nearly impossible to find suspension arms and suspension parts, even online. Everyone is backordered, which is surely a sign of the car’s popularity. Grab spares when you find them, at least until AE catches up with demand.
Associated B5 Rear Motor Kit, #90001
- Retail $239.99
Reedy 4100 2S Shorty LiPo, #ASC602
- Retail $89.99
LRP Flow ESC, #80970
- Retail $199.99
Trinity D3.5 17.5 Brushless, #1082
- Retail $88.99
Pro-Line M4 Holeshots (F/R), #8220-03 F
& #8206-03 R
Futaba 4PKS-R radio, #4903
- Retail $519.99
ProTek 130S Speed Servo, #PTK-130SS
- Retail $89.99
Elliott Boots joins Byron Fuels
Top UK driver and professional at whipping his car
Elliott Boots debuted at the Easter weekend's Neo14 event the fuel he will be running for the 2014 season - Byron. The news comes just over a year after his signing with VP Powermaster
, Elliott is no stranger to Byron fuel having used it during his days running for CML/Associated.
The 21-year old Brit, best known and loved for his unique 'nothing left on the table' style of driving finished a solid 5th at Neo14, playing his part to ensure a dominating result for Kyosho with 4 cars in the top as well as for engine sponsors REDS taking 2nd with Cody King and 5th with Elliott.
| Boots' latest 'Under the Hood' @ Neo14
AKA release Typo & Catapult tyres
AKA have been in touch announcing that they have two new tyre tread patterns available on ther market - first up is the 'Typo' - Originating in 1/10th scale, the Typo quickly became the go-to indoor tire. The Typo is a very low tread pattern that has been optimized for hard-packed indoor tracks and low dust, grooved outdoor tracks. They are available in AKA's race proven Clay, Super Soft and Soft Compounds.
Second is the 1/8th Catapult; engineered to offer a balance of long life and traction on dusty abrasive tracks. The larger lugs keep wear at bay while the "C" shaped treads dig through the dust to find grip.
The Catapult found its way to the top of the podium on its first race out with AKA driver, David Ronnefalk, running away with the championship at the 2014 Dirt Nitro Challenge in E-Buggy. They are available in AKA's race proven Super Soft, Soft, and Medium compounds.
Typo - (Clay, Soft, & Super Soft)
Catapult - (Super Soft & Soft), 4/30 (Medium)
Neo14 TQ Reno Savoya’s report
As the first ever non-US Top Qualifier of The Neo Race in it's 9-year history, Frenchman Reno Savoya made history this past Easter weekend, whilst his Championship challenge may have faltered ending with an overheating throttle servo he reports from Neo14:
"Well known as the Indoor World Championship, The Neo Race attracts every year all the best drivers on the planet."
Fresh from winning the last race in France, I was really confident getting ready for Neo. I started with the same setup except a few details on sway bars, camber and diffs, and the car was amazing since P1!
I then changed a few details and work on the tires to get the best out of my package! It was an amazing team effort as we all worked together, Miguel Mathias, Martin Bayer and Lorenzo Crolla all securing the semi spots! I had 2 perfect rounds in Q1 and Q2 giving me the opportunity to be on a provisional TQ before Q5. I tested a harder compound on Q5 and it didn't work but I still hang on to the TQ overall! An amazing result! First non-american driver to TQ Neo!
In the mains, the temperature was higher, so between the semi and the main I had to rise the shocks oil to 800-600 and diffs to 7-7-3. In final, my car felt way better than in the semi and I could really feel it and fight for the top spots. I was 3rd 7 minutes before the end and my throttle servo died because of overheating. Too bad as the podium was already quite secured! Too bad but it was a really good practice for World championships in September, and I feel a little bit more ready every race I attend!!
Next stop: French Nats next week end! Reno Savoya's XB8 Setup
| Under the Hood: Reno Savoya
| TQ Video interview