This week’s Thursday Testimonials is a bit different than most.
Bob Wright, an experienced engineer who designs custom homes for his own firm, Wright Design, contacted me several weeks ago about reviewing a computer program he built called “RC Crew Chief,” or “RC3.” The program is an incredibly in-depth setup application that allows you to drill down into almost any aspect of an RC platform in order to analyze what each adjustment will do to the car’s overall performance. He described more about the program in a "Talk It Up Tuesday" interview a couple of years ago.
While dozens of different vehicle models are available, which means you’ll get to play with different setup sheets published by various manufacturers, physics are constant - the rules apply to any vehicle.
I enlisted the help of Kevin King, a local racer in my area that’s sponsored by Kyosho, Orion, Pro-Line, Schelle, and B-Fast. Not only is he one of the fastest 2WD Modified Buggy racers in San Diego, but he’s easily the one who has asked me more setup questions over the last ten years than any other single person.
I asked Bob to set up Kevin with a copy of the program so that he could play around, and here’s what he thought:
“I had a chance to go through the program with an off-road chassis. I selected the B5M, as it is the most popular and most familiar to me in regards to off-road cars.
While the RC Crew Chief program has a TON of options, especially for on-road applications (like compensating for bodies that offer different downforce), I found that I was mainly interested in the Springs/Shocks/ARB tab in the setup portion. This tab allows you to select springs, oils, and pistons, but most importantly it allows you to click and move different shock locations and instantly see what it does to the theoretical ride stiffness of the car. The suspension tab is also great as it shows you roll center adjustments and gives you a great idea of what the car is going to experience when you move the links in, out, up or down.
The "Suspension" tab showing the effects of moving the camber link.
As with anything, a program that deals with numbers can get very confusing. I found it very easy to understand what each adjustment meant in the suspension properties section. Simply click the help button, and Bob tells you what you need to know and what you are looking at. This will help people understand exactly what they are tweaking in their setups. To get a little number-heavy, I would mess with the roll centers to see what they would do. A higher roll center is a stiffer car, and you can see that with a click. If I wanted to know what raising the front ball stud on the tower does, I simply click it and see the roll center go from 4.67 (1mm shim) to 2.77 (2mm shim), and that tells me the roll center has been lowered and I should expect more grip on the front of the car. The same applies for the rear, and for people who enjoy visualizing things I found it to be an excellent tool in this department. Roll centers give RC racers fits and while I figured I had a good grasp on what they did and what adjustments to make, this gives it to you in a perfect illustration to learn.
On the "Springs/Shocks/ARB" tab, you can see the changes of springs, pistons, oil, and more.
One caveat to the program is that you don’t get the typical “Raise this stud and you will get more turn in and less exit steering” type of answer, but honestly I find that to be great. Too many racers rely on someone else giving them information - and it could be wrong. I have always loved to change things on my car to learn what it would do for me and my driving style. While manuals sometimes help with the generic “X changes Y,” there’s nothing like actually testing things. I think that when you are looking for a base setup and how it will handle overall, the program is a great tool to get a nice look at how the chassis is going to react in a pure numbers sense. Off-road is a different beast so when you think you stiffened up the car and to expect a car with less traction, you might actually gain some.
When a change is made on the screen, the field turns yellow - and the difference in the affected values is shown on the right.
For on-road racers, I can only imagine that they would totally love this program. It offers a plethora of information that they can handle, with a constant grip surface compared to that of off-road. You will need to find a chassis that fits your application and that might be the biggest struggle for people. You can build your own chassis, but measurements must be exact or it throws all of the math off. To get a good idea, however, simply select the car that is closest to your application and use that to see what changes do. The numbers may not be exact to your car as each model has their own roll center, but the general principles are still in place for you.
Overall, for someone like me that totally enjoys testing things and wondering what effects what and why, this is a great program. Typically I would try to visualize changes in my head, but this gives you no nonsense numbers that will help you know what changes to expect at the track.”
RC Crew Chief
- Incredible wealth of information
- Amazingly detailed
- Free updates
- Terrific instructional videos and overall support
- Can be overwhelming
- Requires basic knowledge of racing physics to interpret what the setup changes will do once the car hits the track
- Only available for PC
For the price of a set of tires, RC Crew Chief will unlock more information about what the thousands of adjustments on your vehicle will do to its on-track performance. When used properly, RC3 allows racers to tune their cars and trucks for optimal handling performance. If you've got a PC and a willingness to learn, there's really no reason not to give RC Crew Chief a shot.
Beacon rating: 5/5