Neo Buggy: What was the most difficult task for you as a designer while working on the new XB8?
Martin Bayer: Before I was directly involved with R&D, I always thought that the most difficult part of the design process was to find the proper geometry of the car. Now I know that the most difficult challenge for a designer is to face resource limitations and especially The Deadline directly related to the production schedule. In high-competition racing, the customers buy cars for a new season, so missing a release date automatically means less sales which means less resources available for further development of the platform. So my biggest challenge was to find the moment when I had to stop testing and provide the final specs of the car. If there was no deadline, development would be infinite… I would just continue with another & another last small tests here and there.
Neo Buggy: So does that mean that the finished design is not yet “perfect”?
Martin Bayer: The first thing that Juraj taught me was that you can never achieve absolute perfection, but of course you never give up trying. I had to learn to accept that even when I still felt that we could improve this or that… I needed to face reality and meet deadlines. Of course that does not mean that I would ever turn over to Production a car that I would knew had some faults, absolutely not! But at the point when I turned the car over to Production, I had to be sure that the car is a definitive improvement over the previous version.
Of course I had to learn that even when I thought, “Okay, now this is the perfect car,” the next day – when coming to another track or facing different track conditions – I knew I would think that things could still be better. Such is the never-ending development process.
So to answer your question, the 2016 version of the XB8 is definitely another major improvement in terms of performance and reliability. We have worked very hard on the final specs of the car, used all our experience and knowledge from long term testing to make the final car the best possible car in the moment. We will continue to attend all major races around the world to support the drivers, but also we will continue to work on further platform development.
Neo Buggy: What are the major improvements on the 2016 XB8?
Martin Bayer: In the recently published “Making Of” story, I disclosed all the development goals and steps that were made to achieve them so you can see that the list of all the improvements is fairly extensive and we focused on many different areas. It is nearly impossible to list only a few certain changes or improvements, because all of them were done to make the car faster overall, and most of the improvements are directly interrelated so one would not work without the others.
Neo Buggy: So I will ask in another way… What was your primary focus when working on the new car?
Martin Bayer: Our ultimate goal for all the changes was to make the car faster and easier to drive. We particularly focused on rough tracks, which was an area where we were off the pace. With all the changes made – including changes to the layout of the car, incorporating a more conventional pivot ball suspension, and completely changing the weight balance & flex of the car, the XB8 2016 is now a significant improvement on rough tracks while still being improved for any other track. I am convinced that customers will feel a major difference in the car on rough tracks, where the new XB8 has risen to a completely new level compared to the previous car.
Neo Buggy: From looking at the car, it seems to me that the pivot ball suspension is the most visible change.
Martin Bayer: Yes, along with the all-new body it would certainly be the pivot ball suspension that is most visible change. However, it is not only the suspension but plenty of other related details that had to be changed and those details are not visible at first sight. For example… there is a different Ackermann plate and small changes to the servo saver which are all changed as a result of the changes to the pivot ball suspension.
Neo Buggy: So… why the pivot ball suspension?
Martin Bayer: The 2014 version of the XB8 used a unique pivot ball suspension with one horizontal and one vertical pivot ball, an idea used by Juraj already in 1986. So the change for 2016 to a more “conventional” pivot ball was not any fundamental change but I understand that it may look different. I really wanted to avoid the “copy jokes” and first tried to do all possible to cure the current suspension but all the solutions we tried to implement did not bring the desired results. So in the end we came to the conclusion that sometimes to move forwards you have to look back. So at the end I have simply decided that I will face the “copy comments” but was convinced that the reliability improvement in the dusty conditions and the performance improvement on the rough tracks using the conventional pivot ball suspension will be appreciated by the customers who are the judges of my work. So here I am ready to face the comments :)
Neo Buggy: Coming back to your work as a designer. Where do you test all the new parts?
Martin Bayer: On the tracks, of course :) The 1/10 off-road platforms are run & tested both on carpet and dirt tracks, while the 1/8 off-road platforms are tested exclusively on dirt tracks. Unfortunately, there are not many permanent 1/8 off-road tracks around where I live, so to do testing I usually have to travel. Usually I travel to the nearest tracks either in Austria or Italy and the season before I actively run at various tracks in Germany. However, just recently in my home city we built a new outdoor dirt off-road track which I will now use for summertime testing.
Neo Buggy: We have seen some photos of the building of the new off-road hall at Hudy Arena. Is this a running project?
Martin Bayer: Yes indeed! We are fully aware of our disadvantage of not having a permanent covered dirt track at the factory. This has been one of the obstacles of faster and more flexible development. After some internal discussions about the future plans and strategy of the company, as well as some financial analysis, we made the decision to build our own in-house indoor dirt off-road track. The building is already started, and the hall should be ready this summer. I can’t wait for it to be ready! I know how much of a difference our indoor carpet off-road track has made in the development of both the XB4 and XB2. As such, development on our own 1/8 off-road track will be much faster and more flexible. I am really excited. :)
Neo Buggy: So it seems XRAY is getting more focused in off-road?
Martin Bayer: XRAY was already focused on off-road, but Juraj’s responsibility for running the entire company did not allow him to fully focus on off-road. He had to spend his limited time on all classes – including both on-road & off-road, as well as nitro engine development for both. Since I took over responsibility of off-road development, you can be certain that XRAY is now very serious and more dedicated also in off-road. You can see that our first serious worldwide achievements include a World Champion title, European Champion title, as well as the recent EOS season title, so we work hard. And we have still a lot of growth in the future!
Neo Buggy: What are your plans for the XRAY off-road team? Will we see any big names joining the team?
Martin Bayer: With our increased dedication and work in the off-road classes, we have significantly improved the cars which has resulted in better results for the drivers and of course this attracts more potential drivers. I am sure we will add several new drivers to the team, but at this moment I do not expect any “big names” as you say. XRAY is still a family company which has a lot of responsibilities, and we must invest very wisely. But XRAY is also one of the very few true manufacturers, and as such all resources are first invested into new projects, new technologies and machinery, and only what is left over is spent on the team and races. Therefore it has been XRAY’s strategy to build the team and work on young & talented drivers so that both driver and company can push each other further. A great example of this is Martin Wollanka taking the European Vice-Champion title, and recently Bruno Coelho winning the World Championship title. Both drivers are taking the racing scene by storm.
Neo Buggy: So you foresee the future of your team is with junior drivers?
Martin Bayer: Absolutely! We are very focused on following and picking up young talented drivers, supporting them, and working with them. This is a part of my job that I really enjoy… working with these talented young drivers that could one day be the next European or World Champions. I am really proud for our European Junior team which includes Malin Karlsen, Alexander Landen, Joel Valander, Jarno Pijpers, Ruben Perez, Max Gotzl, Milan Mudra, Kaja Novotny, Kenny Bender, John Zubber, and many other talented kids. They are all the future of this sport. With the very strong off-road platform line-up in all classes, we are ready to build strong junior teams in Asia and America. I am very positive about the future and our XRAY junior team.
Neo Buggy: Where do you see the development of the market (nitro vs. electric)?
Martin Bayer: Anyone who follows the racing scene understands and knows that the trend is towards electric. I really love nitro racing as this is where I came from… the smell and noise of nitro engines is music to my ears, and I will continue to race nitro as long as the class are supported. At nitro races you usually see the “old” faces, whereas in the electric races you see most of the newcomers and young kids coming through the ranks. So while I am responsible for commercial success of the platforms, I will of course have to put our priority and efforts into the classes that will see growth, popularity, and prosperity.
Neo Buggy: What is XRAY’s priority class then?
Martin Bayer: In off-road? There is no “favorite” class that would get special treatment, but I would say that where we put our efforts depends on how each of the platforms are standing in competition in the moment. Two years ago we put a massive effort to improve the XB4, which has worked out extremely successfully; the XB4 is one of the best performing 4WD 1/10 car on the market and as such at this moment does not require significant effort to improve it… just “regular” improvements and constant development. Last year we released the XB2 platform, which has right away picked up the momentum and works very well. So again there is not much work to do on that platform, but of course we already have some ideas for small incremental improvements. Last year and this year we invested heavily into XB8 platform development, after which will be the XB8E platform, and then following up with the XT8. So we do not rest and we are always looking at ways to improve our platforms to make better products for our customers.
Neo Buggy: So what is the next new project?
Martin Bayer: You know that I can’t disclose anything right now :) However in this case I believe that anyone who follows us knows that we are still missing a car in some classes. So you could likely logically assume what will be our next project… it shouldn’t be a big surprise… but I am excited that our off-road line will again get stronger and more attractive. I know that’s probably not the answer you were looking for, but it’s what we can tell you right now :)
Neo Buggy: We have not seen any update on your truggy for a long time. Did you retire from this class?
Martin Bayer: No, we did not retire, but with the very busy schedule that Juraj has there was no time for him to update the truggy in the last few years. But now with my involvement, we plan to make an update in the near future. The new XT8 truggy will be based on the current XB8, and so will share the same platform.
Neo Buggy: Now on to racing! What do you find is a crucial element for the factory to achieve the best racing results?
Martin Bayer: Work, work, and more work! Results will not come without very hard & dedicated work, no matter how talented you are. And of course you need to have a competitive package with a top-level car, engine/electronics, tires, etc. and you also need to good set-up knowledge, a lot of passion, a lot of patience, and of course a lot of good luck. As a team we have in all the different classes a great combination of experienced drivers and a selection of talented young drivers. As a team we work hard, support each other, help each other, push each other further, but most importantly despite this being high-competition racing we still take it easy when we can. At the end of the day, only one driver can win, and when we are not the lucky one it is not a disaster… we continue our work with focus & strategy, and get to the next race with even more motivation. But of course we always try to have a lot of fun even while the adrenaline & excitement are there at the races.
Neo Buggy: How is your 2016 racing calendar looking?
Martin Bayer: Our schedule is very crowded with lots of races and even more private testing. This year our calendar for off-road races features:
Besides these major races and plenty of private testing, I also attend various races around for race practice. So for most of the year I am away at some races.
Neo Buggy: What is your plan for the World Championship?
Martin Bayer: Of course we will do our very best. The competition is extremely tough, so of course our disadvantage will be limited practice time at the Worlds track. We still work to get maximum performance out of the new car, so we stayed for a couple of days after the Worlds Warm-up for additional testing. This helped us to significantly improve the car’s performance. The track was very challenging & demanding, with changing traction during the day so the race will be very much about tires and how fast everyone can quickly adapt to changing conditions. Nevertheless, we continue our work, we continue practicing & preparing, and we will be ready for the race of the year where all the other teams will also come well prepared. I am really excited :)
Neo Buggy: What is the main difference between racing and tracks in Europe, and those in America?
Martin Bayer: The difference today is not as significant as it used to be. In the past, US tracks were huge both in size and jumps. Now that has also changed in both ways; in Europe we have more tracks that are larger and with bigger jumps, and some US tracks are getting flatter and faster. The difference though is that at some US tracks they water the tracks before the race, while in Europe I did not race yet at any track which has been watered before the run. So the differences are not that significant any more. Maybe the traction is a little different because at the US tracks which I visited there are many more racers on the track than we are used in Europe, so the traction was different and the conditions change more rapidly.
Neo Buggy: So when designing the car is there a different approach to have the car working at US or European tracks?
Martin Bayer: Not really. Maybe in the past that would make sense, but not these days. The main differences for sure are the different traction conditions. A very slippery track may require some different parts than a car purposely designed for high-traction tracks. And already now you need a completely different set-up for such different track conditions. Maybe in the future we will see cars specifically designed for low-traction tracks or high-traction tracks.
Neo Buggy: Why should a customer buy XRAY instead of some of the many other brands available?
Martin Bayer: With XRAY you can be certain that the product you get will be the best in quality, premium service, on-going dedicated development, and of course top performing cars. Throughout the very distinguished history of the company, many customers will attest that XRAY quality is quite simply the best in the industry thanks to our complete in-house production in Europe using only premium European materials and the highest precision machinery. So there is no doubt about our outstanding quality. As a factory team, we make ourselves available at all major races around the world with service & support, and our professional network of distributors provide service at a national level. With ongoing development, we ensure that customers will always get a top-level, fully competitive race car that is ready to win any race. So at the end it is the customer who decides where he puts his money.
Neo Buggy: What is on your schedule nowadays?
Martin Bayer: Right now there are big changes going on in my life. In the next few days I will move from my city to Trencin, where XRAY is located, so I can be even closer to the factory and get more involved. With building the new track at the factory and myself living in Trencin, the flexibility & speed of development should go even higher. I also recently got engaged and will get married this year. So there are plenty of personal changes in my life, and everything looks great. I cannot wait for the future!