Schumacher Eclipse – A New Dawn

1/12th Circuit

Over the years Schumacher have often been rumoured to be working on a new LMP12 car, so it wasn’t a surprise when the Eclipse was announced prior to the start of the 2016/17 BRCA season. What better time than now to sit down with some key members of the team from Northampton to talk about the past, present and future of the company in the class and the development of the Eclipse.

 

James Stewart: Firstly, thank you for inviting me here – now, Schumacher have a long history in this class don’t they? It was the ball differential for 1/12th scale cars that was your first product?

Robin Schumacher: No problem  - yes, when I raced 1/12th in the late 70’s and early 80’s all of the cars had a solid rear axle, then someone came up with a rudimentary gear diff – it worked but was quite heavy. This led to Cecil developing the first ball differential and then the demand increased to a level where he had to leave his job with Cosworth to supply that demand. The lexan car was the next step forward while we raced on polished floors with armaflex and stippled silicone for tyres; then in the early 80’s carpet started to find favour as the racing surface of choice. The lexan car relied on flex to generate grip but once we’d moved onto carpet the car would tie itself in knots. c car ftq 500

The C car was the next development.

JS: Yes, the C car is legendary and looking at it now, you can see the basis of the current cars in there.

RS: Yes, you can see the line there, certainly. As we got towards the mid 80’s the popularity of 1/12th was on the wane and the growing off road class was becoming more and more of a focus for the company. With limited resources all of our attention went there and the C car was never replaced.

JS: Okay, so that covers the early history of Schumacher in 1/12th scale, what came next?

RS: Well, 5 or 6 years ago the local club in Bedford decided that the touring car class was no longer suitable for their venue with the cars being too powerful and fast. They’d all moved to start racing Mardave cars and, seeing an opportunity, we decided to see what we could do to use in the class. We also had the Contact tyres for those cars available too.

JS: So this became the first Supastox?

RS: Yes, that’s right, and that class then rapidly developed into GT12.

JS: Ah, we’re moving closer to the present day now then – so what happened next?

RS: Well, the GT12 class kept evolving into what we have now – a shame in many ways, as it’s possibly moved away from it’s original ethos of racing on village hall style tracks slightly, but that’s inevitable once racers get involved I suppose. Once we had the GT12 cars and started development of them we gained more and more pan car knowledge and expertise, both internally and on the team too. We’d seen that the LMP12 class was now growing in popularity again so decided the time was right to start a new project.

JS: So this is where Andy comes in?

Andy Murray: Yes, as you’ve no doubt seen trackside I’ve been running plenty of different cars over the past couple of years to gain understanding of them, then we started out by making a few parts to tweak existing cars to try out and prove some ideas we had.

JS: So this project started about 18 months ago?

RS: Yes, that’s correct. These things can take a lot longer to bring to market that most people realise!

Eclipse Pod 1000

JS: Yes, I can relate to that…. So, Andy, the first thing that’s obvious is that this doesn’t look like a conventional 1/12th car?

AM: No, it would have been very easy for us to make a clone of existing cars out there on the market but we didn’t want to do that – and you don’t get to the front by following! We tested plenty of prototypes with a conventional style rear pod and tried various geometries but they were all variations on a theme, they didn’t offer anything new over existing cars on the market. Once we tested the Atom style rear end it became clear just how well it performed, and that opened up a new route for development.

JS: Speaking of the Atom, are any parts carried over?

AM: A few, but not as many as it would appear at first glance. It’s ancillaries like side spring mounts, bearings, screws, parts like that. Obviously we have applied our experience from the Atom to this car so inevitably it’s going to have some similar features and appearance, but the majority of the car is all new.

JS: So then, the inverted pivot and side links – what was the thought process there?

AM: Well, it gives much greater scope for roll centre adjustment. I’d already seen on other cars how powerful a setting this was, as a change of 0.5mm would make a massive difference. The inverted pivot was a start, but with a conventional rear pod the chassis and pod plate still limited how low you could mount the balls. By inverting the links too it allows the roll centre to be dropped below the top of the chassis plate if required, so you have infinite scope for tuning to just about every conceivable track condition.

JS: Speaking of side links these are very short aren’t they?

AM: Yes – in theory a long link allows the pod to roll more before it binds, but in practice the pod never actually rolls enough for it to make a difference.

JS: Yes, that fits with my experience too. So, onto the diff – as a company you can legitimately claim to have more experience with the ball diff than anyone else! Anything to note there?

AM: Well, that was one of my biggest surprises with the project actually – I already had in mind what I considered to be the ‘Gold Standard’ in front of me in pieces at my desk and several of the more senior engineers here started questioning elements of it and wondering why things had been done a certain way. We’ve collectively put together our experience and come up with a diff that is easy to build to achieve a very smooth action – it comes with a thrust race as standard and we’ve also counterweighted the clamp on the opposite side to make sure the axle runs with as little vibration as possible. The axle has shims either side so it can accommodate zero offset wheels and still be within the 172mm width limit.

JS: Well, the diff is as smooth as any I’ve felt so no complaints there. What about rear ride height adjustment?

AM: Most of the cars out there that use an eccentric style adjuster have too great a range of adjustment as a result of the same eccentric also having to be used for a GT10 and an F1 car and accommodate their tyre sizes too. By slimming the eccentric down to only allow the range of adjustment needed we’ve been able to take a lot of weight from the pod. We’ll also be including eccentrics in 0.25mm steps in the kit, so it’s less to buy for the end user.

JS: That always goes down well! What about the centre straw damper with the spring mounted separately?

AM: Two things there, the first aim was to keep the weight of the car down as low as possible for a low centre of gravity, the second was the damping rate itself. With the current trend for flatter shock absorbers there is a tendency for the damping to become regressive in rate under compression. With this solution we were able to achieve a rising rate all the way through the range of travel.

JS: How about the cell position? Does the inverted link mount limit how far forward the cell can go?

AM: Currently yes, because we felt it important to give people plenty of space to mount their electronics. We have included some extra holes so that a new link mount could be mounted further forward if we feel the need. This car doesn’t represent the end of the development process for us in this class, so we have given ourselves scope to add some Speed Secrets option parts in the future if we feel the requirement for them is there.

JS: Good to hear – so, moving forward on the car then, the holes for the servo are slotted?

AM: Yes, we’ve fitted the Core, KO, Sanwa and Futaba servos to the car and it’s possible to get the output spline of all of them dead in the centre of the car, so pretty much every commonly used 1/12th servo on the market will fit. We’re quite proud of the screws used to attach the servo mounts to the chassis – it might sound insignificant but they’re a hybrid of a flat head and a button headed screw and the chassis has had the slots counterbored to clear the screw head. Traditional countersunk slots tend to get burred when tightening the screw so the screw always ‘finds’ the same position each time. With our solution that doesn’t happen.

Eclipse Front Sus 1000

JS: Small gains like that can add up though, nice to see attention to detail like that. We’ve covered the rest of the car, so do you want to tell me about the front end?

AM: Well the quality of the parts is very, very good – they’re very hard and lightweight. It’s quite a ‘conventional’ front end but there are a few twists; the bulkheads mount using three screws rather than two as on most other cars. This helps keep them in alignment during crashes, which of course happens to all of us!

JS: Ahem – no idea what you mean… The damper tubes on the front end are a nice touch.

AM: Yeah, they do the same thing as grease on the kingpin, but this way is much more consistent and repeatable. At the Eastbourne national I only needed to grease the tubes at the start of each day – normally I’d be doing it before every run. Overall it’s a nice front end that gives just as much adjustment as any others on the market.

JS: Lastly then, the raised nose section of the chassis and the substantial bodyposts – talk me through those.

AM: The raised nose serves two purposes; firstly it means the overhang of the main chassis can be shorter, so it’s less likely to touch down on bumps. Every time it touches down the tyres lose contact with the ground, so the car understeers momentarily. The other benefit is that it’s easy to replace, the front of the chassis is the part that is subjected to most impacts. If the nose section does get damaged it’s much easier and cheaper to replace that than the whole chassis. The bodyposts are keyed to the chassis so they can’t rotate and also pretty beefy at the base, so there is plenty of material around the screw. In the past I’ve normally had to tighten posts down after each run, over the course of the Eastbourne weekend I didn’t need to touch them at all – the locating key takes the load of an impact and helps to spread it so the stress isn’t taken by the threaded section of the post.

JS: One more thing, those look like new wheels, is there a new tyre range on the way?

RS: Yes, we’ll be doing a new range of tyres and compounds on those wheels to run alongside the existing  range we already have.

JS: Thank you both for your time, great results for the car on it’s first weekend in Eastbourne and good luck for the future.

Schumacher LMP12 Old New

Meet the family – the Eclipse next to it’s forebear, the first Schumacher 1/12th scale car

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