No amount of money spent on the most expensive RC gear is going to make up for crashing three times around the same corner, and there’s simply no cheaper “hop-up” than practice – after all, Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Jackson can’t drive the car for you. However, there are essential car mods that do dramatically effect performance, and are must-haves if you want to take your RC car action from tyhe backyard to the track for real heads-up racing. In order to find out just how much difference a few well-chosen upgrades can make, we visited Heritage RC Park in Chula Vista, CA for a private track day with a brand-new Team Associated ProLite 4×4. After benchmarking the truck’s performance in box-stock trim, we upgraded the battery, tires, and servo and watched our lap times drop each step of the way. See for yourself, the results were surprising.
Test 1: Stock Benchmark
With a transponder installed and the scoring computer tracking our laps, we first drove the Pro-Lite 4×4 in stock configuration, using the included 7-cell NiMH stick pack and adjusting the truck’s ride height to get a baseline for fair comparison. The truck was easy to drive, but hard to drive aggressively – in which case it was all over the place. With a lighter touch, we achieved our fastest laps.
AVERAGE LAP: 25.05 seconds
Test 2: Battery Upgrade
Reedy WolfPack 6500mAh LiPo
The ProLite 4X4 includes a 7-cell NiMH pack that offers 8.4 volts and 3000mAh of capacity. Our upgrade pack is a Reedy WolfPack 6500mAh LiPo, which actually offers one less volt of juice at 7.4 volts, but has more than double the capacity of the NiMH pack. And it’s lighter too, trimming more than 2.5 ounces from the truck. With more power and a noticeably more nimble chassis, the truck felt more sporty in every section of the track, and lap times improved further.
AVERAGE LAP: 24.6 seconds
If you’re currently running NiMH packs, you probably put your truck away with a “dead” battery after the last run of the day. Don’t do that with LiPo batteries; LiPo packs should be stored 40-50% charged between uses, or you run the risk of having the cells over-discharge in storage
Test 3: Tire Upgrade
Pro-Line Ion SC on F-11 wheels
Ask any racer what the single most important part of setting up a short course truck for a particular track is, and they’ll tell you it’s choosing the proper tires for the racing surface. With Pro- Line’s Ion tread pattern gripping the well-swept surface, the truck’s forward traction and cornering limits increased dramatically, which made for higher cornering speeds and improved times.
AVERAGE LAP: 23.75 seconds
As tires wear, the leading edges of the tread blocks round off; this is great when the track is swept because it increases surface area. If you’re racing on a dusty surface, however, swap the left and right tires to restore lost grip by turning those less-worn trailing edges of the tread blocks into renewed leading edges.
Test 4: Servo Upgrade
Team Associated DS1510MG
The ProLite 4X4’s stock DS1903 servo is rated at 52.8 oz.-in. of torque — that’s fine for play but light for track duty, making it tough to correct the truck’s direction mid-corner and stay true down the fastest sections of the track. For more responsive handling and greater line-holding precision, we installed Associated’s DS1510MG servo to bump torque to 139 oz.-in. . Replacing the servo provided the biggest jump in performance yet, especially in the track’s many 180 degree turns. With the stronger servo in place, the truck reacted instantly to inputs, held its line throughout apexes, and exited corners without wandering off course.
AVERAGE LAP: 22.45 seconds
Don’t squander the performance of your steering servo on a loose servo-saver. If your truck uses a bellcrank-mounted servo saver with adjustable spring tension, tighten the adjusting collar against the spring to sharpen steering response.
Replacing a few components can net a huge return on the stopwatch – not only did we knock 2.5 seconds off of our single best lap, but we were more consistent and made fewer mistakes after installing a different battery, tires, and servo. The performance gains that made such a profound difference on the track translate into the open field, too, with a truck that’s easier to drive and easier to drive quickly.