5 top tips to get a headstart in FPV racing by Steve Price ( IkuraFPV)
By Steve Price (IkuraFPV http://www.ikurafpv.com/)
One of the most fun things you can do with FPV, and the activity that will ramp up your skill level the fastest, is to get involved in FPV Racing. As I get more and more involved in racing, and organising races, I’ve been spending more and more time thinking about the factors that can lead to a successful outcome in any race event. I’ll have the chance to test my theories at the FutureMe Aerial Race in Singapore next weekend - a race which will really challenge me and put me up against some of the best regional racers! So, what am I doing to give myself the best chance? Here are my five top tips that I think any racer should focus on in the run up to an event.
1 - Know The Rules
If anything, this is the most important thing to understand. The better you understand the rules, the less you will need to concern yourself with these on the day, and the better you can plan your strategy. Think about things like:
Race format - is it first past the post, or fastest lap (time trials). If it’s first past the post you might expect more collisions, and therefore decide to run with a stronger prop - you can’t win a race if you can’t finish!
Course length & number of laps - how short / long is the course and how many laps will I have to do on a single battery? Courses with long full throttle sections will drain you battery rapidly, compared to tighter & more technical courses. The layout / design of the course may play into choices about prop & motor combination. Those long full throttle sections will be more efficient with a 6” prop, whereas a tight twisty turny course may benefit from something that can put out low end acceleration more quickly.
Race regulations - you don’t want to turn up and find out you’ve lost even before you’ve had a chance to fly because your battery is too big, your props are too long, your motors are too fast or whatever...
2 - Practice
Once you know the style of course and style of racing you’ll be doing, it’s time to put in the hours and get good. If it’s a first past the post, you’ll need to work on your starts - getting from armed & on the ground, to full throttle in control and heading for the first gate is a very challenging skill - but get it right and you can lead the race. When you have other racers in front of you, you have to think about where / how to pass, how to avoid hitting them when you converge on a gate, and a whole host of other factors. When you’re out in front - you only have to care about staying there. For a great example of this in action - go and watch Zoomas racing in DRL Miami Lights. Every start he’s out in front. Every finish he’s there first. You can’t win if you’re behind - so get in front and stay in front!
If your race is more focused on time trials, then focus yourself on the main manoeuvres you’ll need on the course - hairpins, right-angles, under-over, gates, chicanes. If the race course is published in advance - so much the better, go and setup a course of the same shape and keep hitting it. The more data you can gather during this process the better. Record your video feed and analyse it later. What makes you faster in some parts of the course than others. How does the angle you take into a flag / gate affect the speed that you come out of it at, and how fast you can get to the next one? Sometimes it pays to go wide and keep the throttle up, other times it’s better to be accurate and tight. Knowing which is which will give you a handy advantage in nailing those fastest laps.
Lastly - always practice with your final race setup - there’s no point tuning your thumbs into a quad with an HD camera and then not racing with it, as your muscle memory will work against you. Likewise, use the same size and condition of battery.
3 - Tuning & Equipment
To win a race you have to finish the race. Make sure your build is tight, and keep the build simple and clean so that in the event you have to make repairs course side, you can do it quickly and without fuss. Make sure you have enough spare parts so that you can swap things out rapidly - and if they’re things with firmware / software configs - make sure they’re all setup and ready to go. Spare Flight Controller should be pre setup (calibrated and configured) with the exact same setup as the one you’re racing with! Every little thing helps here - so trim your motor wires to length, have lots of PVC tape ready, and be prepared to fix things rapidly but effectively when they break. Think about the maintainability of your quad - and think about the likelihood of something breaking. If it’s reasonably likely to break it should be easy to replace...
Make sure you’re running the best tune you can. Try out different props & motors to nail the fastest times on your practice course. Ignore the massive amounts of misinformation and myth that abound in this hobby - and collect your data well. Once you’re consistently hitting the same times on your practice course, try a different set up. Give yourself a few laps to get used to it as the handling will be different. Then when you’re hitting consistent times again, compare it to the previous setup - is it faster or slower? Only change one thing at a time!
4 - Practice with Others
The only way to know how you’re stacking up to your competition is to race with others. That will give you good benchmarks to compare to - and help you highlight if there’s issues with your tune or equipment
. If your friend is faster in the straights and slower in the curves - think about what’s different in his setup and see if there’s anything you can change to get better straight line speed but retain your cornering. It’s also more fun to be sociable and compete with others casually, and it’s easier to set up and take down a course with more hands!
5 - Mental Preparation
If you do all of the above, then you can set your mind at rest that you’ve given yourself the best shot at success. Sleep well in the days running up to the event, limit your caffeine intake on the day of the race (the adrenaline will make your thumbs shake a LOT already - you don’t need the added jitters of over caffeinated thumbs!) On the day, take things slowly, breathe deeply, and relax. Have fun. You’ll fly faster if you’re having fun, and you’ll enjoy it more.
These are the top things that I think about in the run up to a race. I’ll report back after the race with what worked well and where I was lacking (hopefully not too many areas!) and what I can learn for future races… It’s only 7 months until DroneWorlds now - the more I can learn now - the better shot I’ll have of a good result there!!
About Steve Price
Steve Price (ikuraFPV) is a well traveled Brit with a passion for technology. Living in Asia for 13 years (Tokyo, Beijing and now Singapore), ikuraFPV got into the world of FPV through a chance encounter with a Parrott Rolling Spider. Working in the tech space, the idea of a bluetooth controlled drone was too much to resist, and finding himself in Taipei airport with some NT$ in his pocket to burn, looking at the Parrott on the shelf - it was too much to resist. That led to the Parrott Bebop, which led ikuraFPV to look around for a meetup group to find others to have fun with these toys. Finding none, he started Singapore’s first (and to date, only) meetup.com group for Drones - at http://meetup.com/dronesg.