Friday, May 6, 2011

Team Losi Racing 22 2WD Buggy Review

Competition breeds innovation. The desire to be better than anyone else is a driving force behind those in the racing community, whether you're talking about drivers or manufacturers. A lot has happened since the last all-new buggy design was released by Team Losi Racing over 11 years ago. We've gone from 2000mAh sub-C NiCad batteries and 12-turn brushed motors to 6000mAh LiPo batteries and 6.5-turn brushless motors. Tires have gotten softer and stickier to better adhere to tracks that are no longer dirt, but high-bite clay. Tracks have also changed from rhythm and washboard sections to Supercross-style tracks. With the demands of tracks and drivers changing, it was only appropriate that a new type of car was due to meet these requirements. The folks at TLR have answered the call with what they feel is the most innovative, original and fastest 2WD buggy ever created in the 22.

The 22 capitalizes on knowledge gained during the development and testing of their multi-National Championship-winning 8IGHT 1/8-scale buggy to create one of the most unique vehicles to come across our bench in a long time. The 22 features an all-new aluminum chassis, big bore 12mm shocks, beefy suspension components and much more. They've even taken the extra step of including all-metric hardware to make this a more "world-friendly" platform. If that wasn't enough, you can also configure the 22 in one of two different orientations – either in a traditional rear-motor configuration, or as a mid-motor chassis. We built the car in the more traditional rear-motor configuration; however, we will be visiting the mid-motor configuration in the near future. We glued up some Pink-compound Losi tires, charged our LiPos and hit the track at RJD Hobbies and Raceway to see if the 22 lives up to all the hype.

Speed Specs
Vehicle: 22 Buggy
Part Number: TLR0022
Vehicle Class/Type: 1/10-scale Competition Level 2WD Buggy
Target Audience: Competition and Performance Buggy Enthusiasts
Completion Level: Kit

Track Notes
If you'd like to see the actual build of the TLR 22, we built it live on our UStream Page. The build took about 5 hours in all and things went quite smooth. Take note when assembling the front uprights; the spindles are labeled "L" and "R" towards the top. You can overlook this (as I did), which will cause you to have to disassemble and reassemble this part when it comes time to install it onto the chassis. I built the 22 per the manual setup even though I knew that many drivers around the country have gone with Dustin Evan's setup. I wanted to test the 22 as it came out of the box, and that included the manual setup.

Speaking of the assembly, I was amazed at just how buttery-smooth the diff and the shocks ended up being when completed. This isn't hype, this isn't hyperbole, it's the simple truth – the 22's diff is the absolute smoothest ball differential I have ever built for any chassis, hands down. Even when it was totally locked down, the diff was ridiculously smooth. The shocks were very smooth as well, just like the larger versions I've used in the past on the 8IGHT 2.0, 8IGHT-T 2.0 and L8IGHT Model. The design works very well when shrunken down to 1/10-scale.

I've been running a good bit of 2WD as of late, both at RJD and in a recent trip to SoCal at OCRC with the last 2WD chassis from Team Losi Racing, the XXX-CR. I really liked the tire and electronics setup that I had been using in that car, and copied it in the 22. That means I used my Spektrum DX3R PRO and SR3520 receiver, Spektrum S6040 servo, Losi Xcelorin 6000mAh 60C LiPo and a Tekin RS Brushless ESC with the latest 212 software. Our track has a 17.5T motor rule in-place and allows both timing advancement and boost, both of which were turned on.

The TLR 22 is unique in that it doesn't include any tires with the kit. Instead, two sets of wheels are in the box, which I really appreciated. You can run older XXX wheels on the back of the 22 if you'd like simply by removing the drive hex. The front, however, uses a totally different wheel offset and mounting configuration that is new and unique to the 22. For tires, I opted to copy what I have been running on the rear of my XXX-CR and glued up a set of Pink-compound Losi BK Bars. Many team drivers, including Matt Chambers and 2011 Reedy Race Champion Dustin Evans, have been running Pink-compound Taper Pin front tires. I was very impressed with how both Dustin and Matt's 22s ran at the Spektrum Electric Off-Road Championships with BK Bars and Taper pins, so I decided to give that a try. I've found most of my setups translate well from RJD to Trackside, so I was hoping for the best.

From the first pull of the trigger I knew I had a totally different car under me than what I was used to. The 22 is very smooth and fluid in everything it does. It's almost as if the car is an organic being. The track at RJD was very damp when I got there and had a ton of bite. As the night wore on and the track got a bit colder and dried out, I found myself looking for a bit more rear traction. I played around with pre-load, camber, travel adjustments, roll throttle and more as the night went on. In the first round of qualifying, I managed to capitalize on some troubles the other drivers had to TQ the first round. The 22 felt very good as I was the only driver to turn 20-laps; however, the track went through a major change between the first and second round and, while I backed it up with another 20-lapper, local driver Travis Chance bested my TQ .

In the main, Travis, Myself and Alan Bachman battled it out from the moment the tone went off. Travis' car let him down less than two minutes in as he broke a drive pin coming off the jumps on the back stretch. His misfortune was the opening I needed, however, as I made a mistake a little later when I hit a pipe and flipped over. This allowed Alan to take the lead but I was in hot pursuit. With less than a minute to go I made my move coming into the infield as Alan overdrove the corner and opened the door for me to get by. A few turns later, I over-cooked the entry of the corner by the loop and Alan tried to take the spot back, but he pushed wide and we touched wheels with Alan getting the worst of it. I wound up hanging on to the lead and took the overall win in my first night out with the 22.

Top Speed/Acceleration
If you are looking to get the holeshot on someone, the 22 will get you out of the box remarkably fast. The 22's transmission and driveline has been designed with today's brushless/LiPo powerplants in mind. The new gearbox is very smooth and the lightweight diff outdrives give it that factory look. This all translates into a transmission with very low rotational mass, optimizing both acceleration and top speed. As I mentioned, I've used this motor, ESC and battery combo in my old car and was always satisfied. With the 22, there were times when I swore I was picking the front end off the ground when I pegged the gas. The 22 is a rocket out of the corner and it's not hurting for top-speed either. Sure, many people think 17.5/Stock instantly means "slow", but that couldn't be further from the truth; especially with the boost and timing adjustment that the Tekin RS provides. We're going faster now in stock than some of the modified classes used to go!

This is one of the more unique reviews I've done lately as normally, when we review a chassis, we're the only ones around. Testing the 22 under the veil of a club race added some interesting aspects. I was able to truly gauge the performance of this chassis against other cars and drivers, which made me work harder to get the most out of the car as possible. I didn't have any other springs or tuning parts with me, meaning I was working in a small box. The 22 didn't disappoint, however, as there are plenty of tuning options designed into the platform.

With the box-stock setup, I found myself looking for a bit more rear grip as the track dried and got colder, but I was able to compensate by reducing my steering travel, reducing front toe-in, adding a touch of rear camber and giving the car a bit of roll throttle. For me, the roll throttle change really helped as the car didn't transfer as much weight to the front end quite as quickly. I also took some mechanical timing out of the motor's end bell after the second round, which definitely tamed things down.

I let Travis drive the 22 and he and I both had the same feeling - the 22 is just incredibly smooth. It absorbs jumps and landings without thinking twice; it lays the power down well and changes directions well. He agreed that the car needed a bit more rear bite for his preferences, but thought the car was quite good.

While the RJD track doesn't have many large jumps, there are a number of smaller technical ones. The main spot to get air is over the big tabletop right before start/finish and the 2 jumps on the back straight. The 22 jumps incredibly level and lands like a wet sponge. The larger diameter shocks shine when both jumping and landing. The 22 just absorbs any imperfection on-track like it wasn't even there. A perfect example is the landing area on the back straight after the first jump. There is a dip there that would grab my XXX-CR and cause all sorts of havoc. With the 22, it was as if it wasn't even there. I'm really looking forward to getting the 22 outdoors to our big track to see if it flies as well on the 1/8-scale track as it did indoors. I have every reason to think it will.

When the track was moist and had the most grip, the stock setup felt really good off power. As bite went down and the track got more slippery I did have to chase the rear of the car a bit off power. Still, I was able to dial this out of the car with some basic adjustments. As I mentioned earlier, I removed pretty much all of the front toe-in and gave the rear some more negative camber in the rear. Some additional roll throttle was the last piece of the puzzle to help settle things down.

The front Taper Pin tires worked well; however, I was left with the same sort of feeling after using them on the 22 as when I've used them in the past. They felt like they had a bit of initial slide to them, then mid-corner they'd hook up and bite. Being an old touring car and 1/12-scale racer, I prefer something that's a bit more consistent feeling through the entire radius of the turn. I'd like to try some Losi 3-Ribbed BK Pre-Scrubbed front tires, which would be pretty similar to what I had on my XXX-CR to see how it would change the front end.

Where I felt like I was looking for a tad more side bite with the stock setup off power, the 22 felt really rock solid on power. The additional rear camber I added to smooth the car out on entry and off power also helped while on power too. Of course, reducing the motor's timing also helped as I wasn't buzzing and spinning the rear tires, which also helped me get better drive on power. The Tekin RS delivered more punch than I could imagine and was an excellent mate for the 22's capable chassis. I did have to be patient getting on the throttle at times though, as this combo begs for you to grab a handful of throttle.

Out-Of-The-Box Setup
There's been a lot of testing and development going on with the TLR drivers since the initial announcement, including TQ's and wins in both the Spektrum Electric Off-Road Championships and the 2011 Reedy Race of Champions. While the box-stock setup is a great launching point, it seems like a majority of the team drivers and racers out there have opted to use Dustin Evan's setup from the Reedy Race. I thought about doing this myself; however, Dustin's setup requires the use of some parts that aren't included with the kit (5-degree uprights for example). Because of this I decided to go ahead and build the 22 per the manual setup.

The stock setup is very good, at least at my local track. It was fast and I could hustle the car when needed; however, it seemed that if I tried to push too hard I would actually turn slower lap times. With the kit setup, I was rewarded with more consistent times if I "flowed" the car more. This actually reminded me a lot of when I would run a front one-way in my touring car. If I tried to hammer a one-way equipped car into a corner, it could swap ends on me or do other funky things. The one difference here though was the fact that, unlike a touring car, a 2WD buggy only has rear wheel drive.

As I mentioned above, the 22 is very fluid and smooth thanks to the larger 12mm shocks, centralized mass and awesome drive train. I was able to turn relatively similar times in both of my qualifiers (about 5-seconds difference between the two), but the car was the best during the main. It seems like the 22 really responds well to subtle tweaks and changes like preload/ride height and camber. While my old car was very fast, to already be on a similar pace with a brand-new chassis a bone-stock setup on it is very impressive. There are a few setup changes I plan on making before my next race to get a touch more overall grip into the car (mostly in the rear) but this is all fine-tuning at this point.

The 22 is one of the finest cars I have ever built from any manufacturer, and I am not alone in this opinion. I have spoken to drivers all across the country and they have all had the same experience. The 22 builds up well, doesn't require any hand-fitting or shimming, and is on-pace right from the box. I honestly can't remember any other chassis that I was this competitive with right out of the box, let alone with something I won with on the first night I raced it. If that's how good the 22 is without any tuning time, I can only imagine how much better I'll do once I find my comfort level. When it comes to the competitive 2WD buggy class, the 22 is in a field all by itself. With the 22, you pretty much have only one decision to make: you'll either race one or end up chasing one.

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