When they gave us our schedules, we expected that Claw Viper would be our “easy fight”, at least relative to fighting the rank 1, 4, and 7 robots. Two fights in we were doubting that assessment. Three fights in we knew it was wrong. 3-0 Claw Viper! Great job Kevin! We’re over here at 1-2, a strong-ish 1-2, but a devastating loss to Claw Viper might be enough to keep us out of the tournament. A good win would secure our slot, a dominant win should edge us close to the middle. Before this fight, my most optimistic outcome is we’d be seeded 16.
Claw Viper is the only robot in the field we can’t outrun. Our top speed is higher, but it takes us about twice as long to reach it. There’s no point doing the math on exactly how much head-start we’d need to get away, the box just isn’t that big. Moreover, after a grab, they only have to back up about four feet. We knew going in we’d have to be extremely careful. In the whiplash fight, we kept the weapon throttle low to start, and it noticeably improved our driving control. For this fight, we would start with the weapon at about 40%, and wouldn’t raise it until we had Claw Viper on the ropes. We found out during weigh in that Claw Viper was running low on spare tires and would be running Colsons on the back. Our assessment was that would hamper them slightly, but not enough for us to risk upping our aggression. We put on our tire warmers regardless; knowing we’d need every possible advantage for speed and agility. Due to the hurry up and wait nature of fight days, we had about two hours of continuous heating on our tires before the fight. I measured them right before removing the warmers on the tunnel ramp, and they were up to 143°F. There would be almost 10 minutes of air cooling, which would drop the temperature a bit, but the steel floor in the BattleBox would start rapidly pulling heat out. Nothing to be done about it, and anything would be an improvement over room temperature. Skipping ahead, the tires were at about 120°F when we came out of the box, so they definitely held temperature.
As we always do, we spent a bunch of time watching Claw Viper’s previous fights. In every single one, there was a box rush, and most were successful. We don’t have too much confidence in our forks and the BattleBox floor is always a gamble, so we had no intention of countering with our own rush. The green light stays on for the first second of the fight. Claw Viper is about 5 feet past the midline before the light changes from green. From the front edge of their starting square, they moved about 20 feet, in one second. Will feints forward as if to drive headlong into Kevin, but dodges toward the shelf. Most other drivers would have flown past and crashed into the screws. Not Kevin. He stops and pivots instantly. But seems to keep rotating, turning to run away. At the time we hadn’t made this assessment, but most of that was oversteer due to the reduced traction Claw Viper has with Colson wheels on the back. We catch up chasing them back to the blue square, crashing into the far and middle screw boxes. Fortunately, Spinner Privilege™ prevails and we land a glancing shot to Claw Viper’s side, putting them in the air to land on their side by the shelf. Will takes a medium-speed run at Claw Viper, trying to catch them as they self-right (showoffs!), but missing. He pivots around to correct, but they’re almost out of reach already. They oversteer again, giving us a golden opportunity for a side shot. We get good engagement, but with the weapon speed so low, it mostly serves to just flip them over. We don’t miss the follow-up this time, hitting their top as they’re inverted. We chase them to the screws for another flurry, still with the weapon low so we don’t gyro over by accident in all the tight maneuvering. We’re especially susceptible to doing so anytime we drive backwards. We land a couple more hits, many to their top, some directly on the arm axle.
They start to slip away the second all four wheels touch the ground, but end up in our near side corner, which has terrible visibility for the opponent. They’ve also lost a belt to the rear right wheel in the last hit. After some hits in the corner, Claw Viper moves to the middle of the arena. They’ve succeeding in making space to reset the momentum, but once again those slippery rear wheels betray them, leading to more oversteer. We capitalize immediately, Landing a hit on their front, then climbing under them for more to the bottom. Doesn’t seem to do much. Oversteer again, leading to another good side hit. The follow-up catches Claw Viper’s front corner, flipping them over once again. Will carefully lines up as I gently ramp the weapon up just a little, but still below our normal 70%. As we move into the death alley on the side of the shelf, I ramp the weapon a little higher. These are execution shots, we need to make every one count. Will is careful to back up perfectly straight to prevent any gyroscopic gymnastics. Claw Viper has landed on their wheels but doesn’t seem to be moving. Kevin’s grimace tells what’s left of this story as he inches it along. We’re not anticipating them to recover after seeing Claw Viper inch forward a couple of times, so we wait out the KO count in the middle. We’re now 2-2 with a dominant win to end Claw Viper’s breakout run. Our tournament seat is pretty certainly locked as is theirs.
The only damage we took in this fight was from sliding into the spike wall, bending some of the rims. All the armor, electronics, and weapons are still pristine. Talking to Claw Viper after the fight, we realized just how impaired they were by the mismatched rear wheels. Hopefully, we’ll get a rematch when they’re at 100%. In the podbuster before the last fight, we hear Kevin talking through the damage Claw Viper took in that fight. It becomes apparent in the replays that we came very close to decapitating them. We tore through their light top armor, hitting all sorts of expensive parts inside. We both had all four fights on the first four days of the qualifiers, so we’ll have a whole extra day to prepare for the tournament compared to teams fighting on the fifth qualifier day. I couldn’t be happier with what our spare parts situation looks like. We have two fully working robots, the SawBlaze chassis has been repaired, we’ve swapped the guts out of the End Game chassis into the spare, and our aesthetics team has every bit of armor fully vinyled. We haven’t lost a motor, ESC, or battery yet.
It was Will's birthday during the gap between this fight and the start of the tournament. We had some cake and Mammoth let Will smash a pinata with their robot, but then it was back to work.