With the domestic UK National season shortly upon us, we thought it a perfect time to spend some more time talking with off-road racing icon, and Team Durango pro driver, Ellis Stafford.
Ellis was very keen to give you all a deeper insight into his current pre-season preparations, and also some valuable thoughts on how the high pressure National racing scene should be navigated by a seasoned professional. Mr Stafford is no stranger to the very highest level of 10th scale racing competition, with hundreds of A final finishing places to prove his pedigree even further. Team Durango are very excited to see how Ellis will develop his already formidable racing record with the already world-class DEX210 and DEX410v3 platforms. Ellis was kind enough to share his thoughts for you all to gain inspiration from his experiences.
Ellis Stafford is ‘Serious About Racing’.
Team Durango – How many sets of tyres would you typically carry to a National off-road meeting?
Ellis – Far too many to be honest, I’d actually like to see the tyres changed for National meetings, as it gets a bit crazy especially when the two main manufacturers suddenly brought out a third compound option, I think one make for each national would be better and much more cost effective for people and would maybe let some new manufacturers get a look in. As to the quantity, it does depend on the venue, if its one I have been to and know the tyre wear then I will take what I feel I need, for new venues, depending on what it is I may well take a lot more, but I would guess on average I would have around 25 sets. Hard to answer though really as I obviously I look at forecasts as well, wet weekends never need as many tyres but the the flip side of a dry day is for 2WD if I run staggers I only really need tops three pairs.
Team Durango – Can you expand on the importance of consistency at the high level of National competition?
Ellis – Due to the nature of the nationals being over six rounds, consistency is key if you want a top result. You can’t for example just go for four results (scoring is only for four rounds) as it never works out how you try to plan it. For me, consistency comes from practice and regular racing. If I have a little break I can tell straight away that I’m just not as sharp from the start of the day.
Team Durango – Do you ever carry two full cars in 2WD that allow you to instantly drop a new set-up on the track without having to change one buggy? Are the set-up changes needed ever this dramatic?
Ellis – I did do this a few years back when Losi came out with the VLA arms but it really just got too confusing as something would be better on one car than the other etc. Also it’s hard to keep both cars the same to eliminate parts on one that might make it better than the other. Also you will tend to get to a base setting which pretty much works everywhere with a little tweaking. For the 2013 National series I’ll be talking to Adam,Craig andNathan to get some ideas for any specific settings the guys might have for a track. We already are talking a fair bit about settings between us which is good. I do have two cars now, but one is mid motor the other is set for rear in case I ever need it for over here or otherwise for the euro’s etc.
Team Durango – Are you from the school of belief that running a ‘hotter’ motor turn is not always needed to be quicker on the track? What advice would you give first time regional series racers who feel they are lacking speed?
Ellis – Yes I am to a degree, especially in 2WD. However it is nice if you have a tonne of power but it all kind of depends if you can control yourself and that power. As to advice, just learn to get the maximum from the corners first and learn to control slides. I used to run my car a lot when I lived at my parents outside the house. I’d just put old tyres on and fly along flat out wiggling the steering and just trying to control the car! My son, who has just started racing, keeps asking me to make his car faster and I have just said to him as soon as he crashes less he will get more power, we are down to around 100 crashes a race but then he is only six and has only actually done six race meetings. I plan to get him outside the house soon driving the car around to help him, this is almost as good as practicing around a track in my opinion.
Team Durango – The distance travelled by racers who compete on the National circuit can be extensive. Can you explain how you combat the fatigue of long dives so you are sharp for the meetings?
Ellis – I try to have a relaxing week leading up to Nationals and also try not turn up too late on Friday if I can help it. I also try not to be up too late in the evenings when I am there. I’m there to do the best I can and if that means not going to sleep at silly o’clock then that’s what I do. It’s good to catch up with all the guys and have a chat but now I’m nearly an OAP I do like my sleep
Team Durango – What is your favourite venue from this year’s UK National Series and why?
Ellis – Oswestry. It normally produces really good races and being a neutral venue we all go there on a ‘level playing field’. I agree, it could do with a few features but recently the club have done a good job of adding a few extra obstacles and the ground stays really consistent once the grass has worn off. I tend to like fats tracks, or tracks that have some really fast challenging corners. A few clubs tend to try and fit too much in which just kind of makes the track an assault course and really not very good for actual racing.
Team Durango – With the A final pace of the British National scene, can you explain what will give each driver the biggest advantage? Are there some racers who excel in certain weather conditions for instance?
Ellis – I wouldn’t say there is anyone that is really good in any particular condition but the person who reads the tracks best will obviously do well. Being able to drive fast but clean is very important now as well with the times being so close, you can’t really afford a big mistake and still get a really good time. Again, really it comes down to who has practiced the best and prepared the best.
Team Durango – How many National A finals have you made in 2WD and 4WD?
Ellis – I’m not sure on the total, I think it is around 205 now, might be a couple more? Not sure on the split between the two though, I would think I would have made more A’s in 2WD though than 4WD, but I honestly don’t know. Not sure though if it’s a good figure or if it means I just should have stopped a long time ago
Team Durango – Can you give us a deeper insight into how you prepare for the massive pressure of a National meeting? Have you any specific rituals or maintenance regimes that you find always come to the forefront at this time of year?
Ellis – Nothing major to be honest. I like to get the cars ready as early as possible so I can just relax if possible at the end of the week. I tend to try and order tyres with plenty of time to get them again just so I have everything I will need ready in the garage. I’ll sort all my kit ready and just put it all at the end of the garage ready to be loaded, I always, no mater what what is happening at home or work, will have my cars ready to go for when I turn up, I’d hate it if I turned up and had to work on my cars, it would just be too easy to miss something, as I would want to be out checking the track and seeing what’s going on rather than trying to prep my car. To be honest I’ve been doing it for so long now it is kind of just second nature to me, but as long as I’ve fully checked my cars over and done any tweaks I think I might need for a track, I’m pretty much done.
Team Durango – The DEX210 benefits from the super flexible Hybrid Technology gearbox configuration. Is there a track on the National circuit that may require a change from the favoured mid-motor 4 gear configuration this year?
Ellis – I don’t think so to be honest, although a lot did try rear motor at Oswestry last year where it was pretty greasy, but at the end of the day the mid cars were still faster. Maybe if we have a mega grip day at one of the tracks I’d possibly consider going to 3 gear mid but that really would be my last set-up option, and I would probably have run out of time trying all other options before I would get round to going 3 gear.
Team Durango – National 10th off-road meetings are often run across two days. Do you find the switch from 2WD to 4WD difficult ever?
Ellis – Sometimes in practice yes. Normally if it’s been slippy in 2WD and then the next day you get the 4WD out and feel like you have so much grip you drive the thing like a maniac . Normally I have got it out of my system though after the first practice but the 4WD’s do feel awesome sometimes after 2WD around certain tracks and it’s very easy to overdrive them.
Team Durango – What are you most looking forward to regarding the DEX210 vehicle this coming season?
Ellis – A balanced car at all tracks and all conditions. I think, from what I have seen, that we are getting a little more understanding of the car within the team which will obviously flow out to the customers as well. I’m pretty happy so far with where I am at with the 2wd as I did have my doubts about the car and knowing what is going on at the HQ I think it could be really good for all of us.
Team Durango – Can you explain the unique parts of the DEX410v3 that give you confidence for your 4WD National campaign this year?
Ellis – Probably the diffs and how easy the car is to work on. It’s amazing just what a difference you can make to the car by playing with the diff oils. It is so easy to change them that it’s not a massive time constraint to do it. Also having to not worry about the drive train, belts, as good as they can be can also be a pain.
Team Durango – What track surface do you consider your best racing environment?
Ellis – I’m not massively fussed to be honest. Dirt, when it grooves up, is really nice to race on but the line tends to be very narrow so passing is even harder than normal, I don’t tend to like the really high grip tracks too much and I think I’m pretty good on low grip as I don’t mind my car moving around but I do find slick tracks a little annoying as you just feel like you are going so slowly. I do like my car moving around a little though as it gives me good feedback so I guess I prefer slightly lower grip tracks, or at least not insane traction Astro tracks.
Ellis is keen to communicate that his new Team Durango cars are already driving well during his pre-season testing. Ellis is set to spend some dedicated practice and development time behind the sticks over the next few weeks. We are very excited to watch his 2013 season develop, and judging by how Ellis always approaches his racing, we look forward to congratulating him on his podium positions with his DEX210 and DEX410v3 over the coming year of racing.
Team Durango are ‘Serious About Racing’, Ellis Stafford shares our passion and dedication to winning every time he touches the track.
To learn more about how Ellis sets up his cars, click here: http://www.team-durango.com/in-the-pits.php
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