I always enjoy building a kit; there's just something special about taking a bunch of loose pieces and putting them together to create a vehicle. The 22T was no exception and, if anything, I'd say the build was even easier than the 22 buggy! That's saying a lot because the 22 went together extremely well. If you'd like to see how the assembly went, I actually posted photos of the build as it progressed to our Facebook® page at: http://bit.ly/ImrzKl. In the end, the build took about 5–6 hours to complete, not including painting the body or gluing up the tires.
While I typically build vehicles for reviews as the manual suggests, some discussions I had with some of the TLR drivers and my personal experiences with the 22 buggy led me to make a few minor tweaks. One of the easiest tweaks to make was to raise the transmission by 1mm. This is a trick outlined on the TLR Blog (LosiRacing.blogspot.com) in January of 2012 by Ryan Dunford. It doesn't seem like it is much but I knew from previous experience in raising the transmission in my 22 buggy yielded a dramatic increase in rear traction. I had also heard that the aluminum front kick plate (TLR1105) was highly recommended, as were the low-friction shock seals (TLR5074), so I decided to give them both a shot. Finally, I replaced the stock diff balls with hardened tungsten carbide diff balls (TLR2951). These carbide balls are harder and more durable than the stock units and will stay smoother longer, extending the time between rebuilds.
Since the 22T is a kit, I needed to add several items to get the truck up and rolling. I had heard some very good things about the Team Orion® R10 Pro ESC and was looking for just such a project to test it out. In addition to the R10 Pro, I chose a Team Orion VST 13.5T Pro Stock motor for this test. Steering duties would be handled by the Spektrum™ S6070 low-profile steering servo and connected to a Spektrum SR3520 receiver. As with my review of the TLR 22 buggy, I also used my Spektrum DX3R PRO transmitter. The 22T comes with 8-wheels but no tires, instead leaving the choice of race rubber to you. I turned to both Losi and Pro-Line for tires with the Losi® Pink compound BK Bars and Pro-Line M4 Suburbs. For both tires, I once again turned to Pro-Line and used their new closed-cell foam inserts designed specifically for stadium truck tires. With everything glued up and installed, I was ready to hit the track.
My testing took place over two days on two different layouts at LCJ Hobby World in Pekin, IL. The track has a very high level of clay in the dirt, which provided a ton of bite. The first test would be on a normal club race night, while the second test day would be during the 2nd annual Cabin Fever race. The first track was much more open and high-speed, while the second layout for the Cabin Fever race was more technical. With the box-stock setup and the Pink BK Bar tires, the 22T felt really solid. Power from the Team Orion R10 Pro and 13.5T VST motor was very good, however there were times when I would get on the power a little too hard and kick the rear end sideways. After a few batteries, I was able to really get comfortable with the truck and turn in some consistent laps in the mid-to-low 18-second range.
After a few runs, I swapped out the tires and installed the Pro-Line M4 Suburbs and noticed an immediate difference. With this track layout, I had the hardest time getting on the power right in-front of the driver's stand without kicking the rear end sideways. With the Suburbs I was able to get on the power harder and sooner off the corner and the truck stayed more locked-in. Looking back, perhaps I should have tried the Pro-Line MC clay compound tires, but the M4s worked very well. In practice, I lowered my fastest single lap to an 18.0 while turning very consistent 18.2s and 18.3s. I ended up keeping the Suburbs on the truck as I raced in the club race that night. I ended up qualifying well and finished third in the Modified A-Main. Not too shabby considering I was using a lot less motor than others, and I am not a modified driver.
After the club race, I spoke with TLR driver Ryan Dunford about how the truck performed. He's been doing a lot of testing at both West Coast RC and OCRC in southern California. Having raced at both tracks myself, with my experience with the dirt at LCJ I thought there might be some cross-over regarding the setup. He sent me his setup, which I put on the truck before the Cabin Fever race, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. The 22T, which was already really good, was even better. I was able to hustle the truck even more and bump-up the performance via the R10 and its programming box. This all combined to faster lap times with a truck that was even easier to drive fast! There were a number of really fast guys running the class, but I managed have a few decent runs, qualifying 5th overall. I had a rather rough A-1, and even pulled off the track, frustrated with poor marshaling (it's always better to pull off if you're frustrated than to stay on-track and potentially ruin someone else's race). A-2 and A-3 went much better though, as I was able to run in the top-3 for much of each main, eventually finishing 4th in each. When my results were tallied up, I walked home 5th overall, again, with a 13.5T motor in open modified. Not too shabby.
With a race kit, the top speed is more often determined by the motor installed than the kit itself. That being said, the snap out-of-the-corner of the 22T with the Orion VST 13.5T motor and R10 Pro ESC was incredible. The forward bite was amazing too, all of which translates to higher top-speeds at the end of the main straight. I never found myself looking for more power or acceleration, and I was thrilled with the overall top-speed of the 22T. In-fact, I was able to pull the front wheels off-the-ground if I got on the throttle too hard. Yeah, power and traction!
Overall, the 22T is really well planted with the box-stock setup. It has a lot of rear grip and side bite. Moving to Ryan Dunford's setup, the truck really picked up the pace and became even faster to drive. Regardless of which setup I ran, Ryan's or the kit setup, the truck was easy and forgiving to drive with tons of grip and traction. Tire-wise, both the Losi BK Bars and Pro-Line Suburbs worked well, however the Suburbs provided a little more rear grip on power and yielded slightly faster lap times. With the amount of grip provided by the clay surface, I would be interested to see how the Pro-Line MC-compound tires would work. I'm also toying with the idea of creating some Pink Compound Losi slicks by sanding the pins off of a set of Pink Taper Pins. This is something I'll continue to experiment with.
The one critique of the handling I have is that I am still looking for a way to help the truck transition faster in slower/tighter sections. It wasn't that the rear of the truck had too much grip, but I felt as though I needed more grip from the front end. Regardless of what tires I used up-front, I was still looking for more steering. I could free the rear of the truck up and allow it to swing around corners more, but that's generally not a feel I like to drive. That is something that, if I can solve, will really help.
Neither track layout had many jumps, but there were some nice rhythm sections that, if you got just right, could really reduce your lap times. On the original layout I didn't notice that the step-down on the inside of the sweeper had a second little lip to it initially. For the first few laps, I kept wondering why the rear of the chassis was getting kicked around here until I figured it out. I then found a nice approach and line that allowed me to carry enough speed to just blip the throttle and clear the small doubles that followed without overshooting the apex of the left-hander after that. Then there was a nice rolling jump that I was able to regularly down-side really well. The ski jump that shot you straight up was a bit of a challenge, but I eventually found a line that really worked amazingly. If I hung tight to the pipe on the right-hand side of the track as I went up-and-over this jump, I would be setup perfectly for the corner that followed without losing time by being hung in the air.
The layout for the Cabin Fever race was a bit different than the one from the previous week. There were a number of rhythm sections that really required you to be on the top of your game to be fast. There was one section right in-front of the driver's stand that was like a 20-foot long step-down jump. The 22T took this jump very well all weekend long and was one of the areas I was able to make up time on the competition. The 22T flew gracefully—level and predictable.
I don't like when a car or truck over-rotates when I get on the power. It makes it harder to get straightened out coming out of the corner and on the gas. If anything you could almost say that, with the setups I ran, the 22T under rotated on-power. The 22T seemed to have an inherent understeer when switching directions or when I got on the power mid-corner. This helps to make the truck forgiving to drive, but could hamper lap times if you have to wait to get on the power out of the corner. One thing I want to try and simply haven't yet would be to reduce the down travel of the front shocks to reduce the weight transfer to the rear of the 22T. This would help it change directions better and provide more front grip.
After a ton of laps with the 22T it is easy to say it is the best stadium truck I have ever driven, be-it from TLR or other manufacturers. The TLR 22T goes together amazingly well and really performs out of the box. I am looking forward to spending more time with the 22T as I continue to work to optimize the setup to my liking. The main goal I have is to get the truck to change directions a bit better, but for me to have a truck that is this comfortable to drive hard this quickly, I find it to be quite amazing. I love the fact that I can easily swap wheels and tires (front and rear) along with the fact that the 22T, like the 22, includes 2-sets of wheels. This was my first experience with the Orion R10 Pro and VST 13.5T motor and I was extremely impressed; this may be my go-to setup for the foreseeable future. If you're looking for a top-notch race truck with the kit setup, your search should be over with the 22T. I'm hoping that the strength of theperformance of the 22T will help rejuvenate the stadium truck class, just as the 22 helped breathe new life into the 2WD buggy class. It's a fun class that a great truck makes even more fun, and the 22T is truly a great truck.