Up until 2014 rc-mini.net was the go-to place for Mini building tips and setup advice. Created by Tony Grey, who is the father of the modern racing Mini in the brushless age here in Australia, it was read and re-read by many a Mini racer. Sadly rc-mini.net is no more.
The following two articles from rc-mini.net are almost 10 years old but are mostly still relevant today as they were when they were fresh off the press. They are reproduced here under permission.
This first article was written by Tim K and focuses on the upgrade path he recommended for an M03. It's still relevant to M05 drivers. I've added some editors notes in italics where appropriate.
MINI FOR DUMMIES
OK, this is the info you wanted. No pictures, no bullshit, just the facts.
We'll assume here that you want to build yourself a competitive race Mini, and dont want to waste money on unnecessary items that wont make you go any faster. Follow our guide here for the simplest and fastest way to victory lane.
Stage 1 - The Basics - START HERE
M03 - Start with an M03M Suzuki Swift kit or a LWB 2006 Mini Cooper. They're the best overall value for money - No questions, its just the way it is. The M03R is more a show pony although it still has most of the good stuff anyway.
[M05 - start with any of the kits. If you can afford a M05v2 kit then grab that. The key difference between the original M05 and the M05v2 is that the original M05 uses a round 'stick pack' style battery where the M05v2 uses a square 'lipo touring car' style battery.]
Bearings - You'll need 2 - 8 x 5 (850) and 4 - 11 x 5 (1150) These are for the transmission. It comes with wheel hub bearings standard. [Still true for the M05 with the exception of the wheel hub bearings. You will want 8 - 10 x 5 (1050) for this. If your ordering from your local bearing shop ask for 10x4x5.]
Shocks - 50746 Super Mini Oil shocks. Get them, you don't need alloy ones, these work just fine. And the kit oil is FINE!
Springs - 53333 Tuned Spring set, or the 53440 Tuned Spring set. You need them to enable you to drop the ride height far enough.
M05 - Well, it's probably best to buy the Pro kit if you can afford it. Mainly because it already comes with all the bearings. And on an M05 that's a lot as it also includes the steering.
[M05 - The 3 steering upgrades for the M05 are a mandatory upgrade on a 13T M05 Mini race car. Just the with g's generated during cornering with a good set of sticky race tyres are known to bend the plastic box originals and they don't hold up well in a crash.]
Add shocks as well because the clear plastic ones are CRAP! But the included spring set is good.
Thats it, you do not NEED anything else. Thats really all you need to go fast with a Mini.
Stage 2 - I have some cash left over still....
Diff - 53267 TA03 Ball Diff. You dont NEED it, but lots of people prefer it. For the 05 there is the optional M05 ball diff (54194) but the jury is out on these. They are proving somewhat troublesome. [For the M03 the TA03 Ball Diff is still the king. But for M05 most of us use the 3 Racing 39T gear diff for the M06 (Part # M06-06). Commonly refereed to as an 'oil diff' it allows the builder to use different viscosity oils to give a different levels of LSD like action.]
Unis - 53597 Assembly type Universals. These are pretty good. We like em. [...and we all still do. Even though they are labeled 'M03 Assembly Universal Shaft Set' they work perfectly on an M05.]
Pinion - 53509 Hardened Pinion. Its tougher and doesnt 'go italic' like the standard one.
Shocks - 53571 TRF Shocks. They don't really make a difference on a Mini, but DAMN they look cool. [Today you would use part #54000 TRF Shocks. Unlike Tim, I do think they make a difference in the long run as they can be 'rebuilt' rather than 'replaced' and arguably better at sealing in the shock oil than the plastic versions.]
[Something I think Tim forgot on his Stage 2 list is #54183 'M-Chassis Reinforced Freewheel Axle Set' because nobody likes wobbly back wheels and the standard set will bend after a few nasty crashes. ]
Stage 3 - My Granny died and left me some money on the proviso it was spent on my Mini
[Sorry to hear that, Tim. But your Granny sounds awesome.]
Roll Bars - 53343 Anti-Roll Bar set. Some swear by them, some at them. You choose, and they're for the M03 only. There are none available for the M05 as yet. [But they are now. #54239 'RC M05 Stabilizer Set - Front/Rear']
Output Shafts - 53217/8 Hardened Output shafts. Last heaps longer than original. [if you bought the 3 Racing 39T gear diff you won't be worried by this.]
Turnbuckles - 52527 Titanium Turnbuckles. For the M03 steering. MUCH stronger. [Not used on an M05. Try #54195 'RC Aluminum TB Steering Rod - M05 Turnbuckle' for a cool, blue, adjustable steering rod.]
Carbon Shaft - 53390 Carbon Gear Shaft. It's your money....They don't do a THING [except shed rubbish into the gear set when they start to chew-up. Don't get these, and if you have some, then give them to your worst enemy].
Heat Sink - 53344 M03 Motor Heat Sink. Feel free to buy one, just don't actually think that it does anything. 54184 is the M05 version and it's usefulness is also questionable. [If you have an M05 ver.II (M05 v.2) then you want #54609 'RC Aluminum Motor Mount - M-05 Ver.II'. I find the motor mounts help to strengthen and provide more stiffness to the chassis. Personally I would have placed this item in Stage 2.]
OK, thats it in a nutshell.
This second article was written by Brad Portelli (with intro by Tony Gray). For those that are unfamiliar with the name I can tell you that Brad Portelli was (and probably still is) the Michael Schumacher of RC Mini racing here in Australia. Nobody could beat Brad consistently and he has won every event there is to win in Mini racing. It got to the stage, like Micheal Shumacker, that people got bored of Brad winning every event. But that wasn't Brad's fault, he was, and still is, just a great driver. I don't think many people would argue that Brad Portelli is the King of the Mini's. Fortunately for us Brad sat down and put down in words some of the things that made his Mini the fastest of them all.
M05 - RACE SETUP
Down here in Aus, it's usually either Tim or Brad that win everything (bastards). Now Tim is an old school kinda guy who (like myself) worships at the altar of the M03. Brad, being quite a bit younger (and because Tim told him he had to), opts for the M05. So, we tied Brad up, applied hot mustard to various part of his body, and insisted that we wouldnt let him go until he gave us the dope on getting your M05 dialled. A lot of it is what we've already told you 50 times before, but some of you just wont listen!
Take it away Brad..
One of the most easiest ways to gain speed is to have the freest drive-train possible, so here is how I like clean my bearings.
Firstly I like to spray each bearing on both sides with electrical motor spray, then give them a quick blast with air to evaporate the motor spray, and depending on how each bearing feels, I may repeat this process a few times over.
If you have access to a ultrasonic cleaner, then this would speed up the process as there is no manual labour required and us mini blokes try to do as little as possible. (however not necessary for same end result)
Once each bearing is free from grease or dirt, I then apply one or two drops of bearing oil or any other oil that is super thin. This is followed by spinning each bearing to allow the oil to penetrate the casing, after this I simply clean off the excess from the outer-side of the casing so it doesn’t cause dirt to stick when going around the track.
This is a critical part of getting your mini to work well, but it's actually quite easy. I'm currently using a Team ARB oil-filled diff which is filled with 100,000 wt oil, and it seems to work ok. However, it is NO FASTER than my previous choice which was the TA03 ball diff (built as per rc-mini practise with anti-wear grease instead of diff lube) Honestly, it really doesn't matter whether you use an oil-filled gear diff or the TA03 diff, in terms of actual lap times I've found no difference at all - the data doesn't lie.
Spools are ok, but they do accelerate the wear on the car significantly, especially the outdrives. In my opinion they're a compromise and I prefer a proper diff.
With the m05 I went to using the option TRF M-Chassis almost immediately, as the kit shocks in my opinion are just rubbish. Setup wise I pretty much go about building the shocks per instructions with the one singular o-ring under the piston. However I’m fond of using the 3 hole piston configuration on all four shocks, and with the Urethane spacer installed.
As for shock oil, I've always used heaver oil in the front whether it be 50cst or 5wt to 10wt difference, and generally start around 500cst/50wt front and 450cst/40wt rear. The car just seems more consistent to drive while being docile at the same time.
All comes down to how you like and drive your car, I can simply say go and put grey or purple (hard) spring on the front with red or yellow (soft) springs on the rear, and it will most likely push like a ****, but every mini chassis handles different. So one thing may not work for you, but is fantastic for someone else. As a general guide, try Blue Front - Yellow Rear, then go harder or softer depending on the cars reaction to the change. There is no hard and fast rule for this despite what some people will tell you. I do like to use a vernier to measure the spring adjuster on each shock so that they're equal side to side though.
Every mini is different, they might be built the same but they WILL react differently.
Option Shock Tower (#54236)
Probably one of the most crucial components to making the car easier to drive. The reason behind this I think, it removes some of the twitchiness which the M05 seems to have in bucketloads in standard configuration. With it installed, and changing the shock angle to the outer-most position it allows the overall balance and drive of the car to be more pleasurable. Only problem is not all the bodies fit due to the new raised positioning.
I tend to run my mini quite low, as coming from touring car background its just what I'm used too. But generally I run from 4mm to 5mm depending on how bumpy the track is. Oh, and my front usually ends up lower then the rear, mostly because I don't change front ride height after it's setup with new tyres ;-) Don't sweat about getting it exactly right though. Close enough is usually good enough. Take a look at the photos, you'll see that the lower arms on my car are parallel to the ground, or just a little above that. That's where you need them, you don't need to physically measure it.
On the M05 if found that I've needed to run much more toe out on the front than what I used to on my M03. I'm sure there are many ways to measure this, but here is the way I measure mine; Using the steering links, I put a 0.5-1mm spacer sandwiched in-between to determine the toe out, I'd say its 2degrees or so (by eye).
For the rear nothing special here, I just use the 1.5 degree toe in blocks as they seem like the best all round setting for most tracks.
For some reason I've always seemed to run with swaybars, but only in the rear. During and prior to the Mini Nationals 2011, testing was done with and without the rear bar, both Tim and myself came to the conclusion that the car just seem much easier and more consistent with the rear stabiliser on. So on that basis we just keep running with the rear stabiliser and would advise others to try it also.
However the front sway bars were not the same. When installing, they had the tendency to bind on the right side due to being so close to the gear housing, and once on the track I didn’t notice any difference to handling. I was expecting the car to be more lethargic going into a corner and hopefully reducing the roll I had, but it didn’t seem to do either.
So unless I had run out of ideas and had no other options but to install the front sway bars, then I guess that would be my last choice.
After pulling the chassis apart so many times and having to remove the front right body post each time to get to that damn screw. I decided to get a X-Acto knive and remove just enough plastic off the section of the post so you can remove the screw without taking it off, and this makes disassembly so much easier.
Also seeing that we only use the 20T pinion in our m05 and the other two motor positioning holes were useless I decided to plug them with blue tac, and guess what! best thing I could have done, it keeps the gears so much cleaner and stops stones or other fragments getting inside which could strip your spur-gear.
I also like to use the little thin aluminium motor plate that you get with heat sink set, this helps to stop debris, getting into the motor through the screw holes.
Running lipos has caused one issue, we now need to bring the M05 back up to weight, from memory without any lead it was 1280grams or thereabouts with electronics installed and a 3200mah 20c lipo. So for our current rules we needed to be 1330g with a transponder. Which meant I needed to put lead onto the chassis. The placement I chose seemed to be quite simple and effective, I could squeeze 30grams into the front bumper, and then just stuck another 20 directly onto the little gap in the centre above the battery which was offset slightly to the right(so I could remove the chassis half’s without removing the lead).
On my car I've setup the Hobbywing esc on the opposite side to the motor (Right) making the receiver and transponder on the (Left). The theory behind this I figure is that it may balance out the weight of the motor actually causing each opposing wheel to be heavier, rather having just the left side of the car bearing all the weight. I cant say if it really makes any difference in handling but it was just easier for me to tuck away all the wiring into the chassis gaps/spaces available.Some people spend a lot of time making the side/side balance absolutely as perfect as they can.
In my experience it makes little to no difference at all, so don't sweat it.
The servo I'm using is a Futaba s9551 low profile design with the Tamiya Hi Torque Servo Saver that came with the kit, One thing that I always do with the servo saver is get some more blue tac and put a blob on top of the screw, it tends to stop if from unwinding while you race, and this way you wont need to go searching for It later after you crash! And this has happened to me as I had forgotten to replace the blue tac... do'h
There's not much I can say about tyres as this is somewhere that it's entirely track dependant. And if you're running TCS rules then you're pretty much stuck with items from the Tamiya catalogue and that's it. Here we have a vast choice available to us, but we all tend to stick with proven choices. For the front I favour Sweep 40's or Ride 3035's. The Sweeps have better turn-in, but wear quite quickly. The Rides, last for ages.....
On the rear I switch between Cross 36 (round edge) and sometimes Sweep 33's. Insert-wise I stick to the stock Sweep pink inserts (because they come with the pre-mounts!) Ride and Cross tyres usually get 5.0mm Spice medium inserts although this isn't really critical one way or the other.
And, that's about it. There's no real secret to getting your car to perform, you just need a decent baseline setup to start with, and then just play around a little. You'll never get your car perfect, and you really shouldn't waste too much time trying. Remember, the most significant part of the equation, is the guy doing the driving...
NOTES FROM TONY G
I think the most important thing anyone can get out of what Brads written is that there really is no 'rocket science' here to making your car work. Brads car uses sound, well-tested set-up principles that anyone can do. If you're looking for a magic bullet to transform your car then you won't find it here. Brads car epitomises the rc-mini principles - Find a half decent baseline setup for your car, and then STOP FIDDLING, just drive the wringer off it!