Robert Batlle is the 2017 1:8 Offroad European Champion. Ten year after winning his first title, the Mugen driver delivered a dominant race performance at the Gröndal Ring in Sweden to claim his third & most important Euros win. Top Qualifier for the race Batlle would win his Semi to start from pole and after some early errors in the 45-minute final, returned to the front from where he pulled away from a thrilling second place battle. Having taken the early lead until a mistake, Swedish hero David Ronnefalk would duel it out with defending champion Elliott Boots and rising star Davide Ongaro. A hard fought battle, Ongaro would come out on top to claim his first Euros podium finish with 2nd. With high expectations for his home race, Ronnefalk would take some consolation from completing the podium in Eskilstuna having to work hard to stay ahead of Boots. Setting the fastest lap of the race, Boots’ quest for a third title in a row would disappear in the pits with the British driver suffering flameouts on two of his fuel stops.
‘Amazing’ was the word Batlle used to sum up winning the 37th running of the European Championships. A driver who since winning his first title in 2007 in France has always been a title contender, the Spaniard added, ‘Each title is always special but this one is important. After the last three or four years when we always have mechanical problems finally we did it. This is David’s home so to beat him here is super amazing’. Commenting on the race, he said, ‘we knew at the start we would all be close together on the track. I made a good start but then had two errors, the one on the right side cost me a lot. After that I talked to myself and said it was ok to drive 2 or 3 tenths slower because I saw the others were crashing a lot also. I started to drive the most comfortable I could and finally we got the win’. Reminded its ten years since his first win he said, ‘this is a nice way to mark it’.
Receiving congratulations from his very pleased team boss Craig Drescher, Ongaro said, ‘I’m really really happy’. Making only his third Euros Main start, the 16-year-old Team Associated driver added, ‘It was very difficult race because of the track. It was very rough’. Changing to the same tyres for the final as Batlle, both drivers running AKA’s soft compound long wear Impact tyre, the Italian said, ‘all the package worked and I just tried to drive without mistake’. He continued, ‘I had big battles with David and Elliott but this fighting cost too much time & the chance to fight with Robert for 1st position but I’m happy to get my first podium’.
‘In the end it was a podium which isn’t bad considering how hard I worked out there’, was how a clearly disappointed Ronnefalk summed up his third place. The HB Racing driver continued, ‘the car was too edgy for me, we need to check it over but I think maybe the temperature drop because of the clouds was the problem. It felt to drive like a spring cup had come off. I had to fight really hard with Ongaro and Boots and this let Robert get away and take control of the race’. The World Champion concluded, ‘I wanted to win here because its my home country but next time’.
Asked to sum up his final Boots replied, ‘shit pretty much’. The Kyosho driver said, ‘the car was really good in the end and was getting better and better. At the start I got stuck behind a few people and when they crashed it stopped me. I ended up making a couple of mistake because I was pushing hard to get back to the front and we also had a couple of problems on the pit stops. I caught up to the lead almost’. Suffering two flame outs, on his 1st and 3rd fuel stops, he said, ‘If I had no problems in the pits I feel 100% I would have won it. Sometimes that’s what happens’. Behind Boots, Kyosho team-mate Riccardo Berton would claim his best finish with P6 ahead of young Spanish talent Juan Carlos Canas.
Robert Batlle will lead away the 13 drivers that will battle it out in Sweden to become Champion of the 37th running of the 1:8 Offroad European Championships. The Top Qualifier won his Semi with the faster time of the two encounters with David Ronnefalk recovering from a bad start to win the other, just 1-second of a difference in their winning times after the 20-minute races. Keeping Batlle honest in the early part of the race and leading the Spaniard for a time before a costly mistake, Davide Ongaro would finish second to secure fourth on the grid. Behind Ronnefalk, reigning champion Elliott Boots having had a very comfortable lead early on over fellow Brit Darren Bloomfield would finish second with a difficult car to start his quest for a third title in a row from 3rd. Behind the Top 4, João Figueiredo will start 5th with former champion Bloomfield lining up 6th making it five different manufacturers in the top half of the grid.
Describing it as ‘a good semi’, Batlle said he had to push more than he needed as Ongaro was stuck on his rear wing and that resulted in 2-mistakes as he tried to get a gap on the young Italian. The Mugen driver continued, ‘apart from this the race went as we planned’. Asked about the main final the 2007 & 2011 Champion said, ‘It good that I am starting from No.1 but there are four drivers who are all within 10-seconds of each other so I am just going to try and be the one that is the most consistent’. He concluded, ‘I think the race will be about who makes the least mistakes’.
‘Its going to be an exciting final’, was Ronnefalk’s reaction to the grid for the final. Asked about his poor start, the HB Racing driver replied, ‘I just didn’t want to crash and told all the other drivers from Sweden not to but then I did it myself’. He continued, ‘Coming up the roller I hit a rut. It’s the worst place to crash and I lost at lot of spots there but it was nice to come back from that and get first’. Looking to the final, the Word Champion said, ‘Its a long main but I think the start position is important still. I didn’t know Robert’s time but with my crash I knew it would be hard to beat but in the end it was just a second’. Setting the fastest lap of the two Semis, only himself and Batlle posting 39-second lap times, he said, ‘I’m happy with the car so I’m ready’.
Boots described his Semi final result as ‘not too bad’. The Kyosho driver added, ‘I had a problem with my car near the end. I don’t know if it was a stone or something but it was binding up and switching the rear around but at the start it was pretty good’. Asked about the pending 45-minute final, he replied, ‘the tyres were a bit edgy (in the Semi) so I think we’re going to change compound’.
New for this year, the Last Chance Final would see 3-time Champion Renaud Savoya join as the 13th starter. A race between the 12 Semi Finalists to not make the Top 6 cutoff to progress to the Main Final, the TLR driver won the 15-minute shoot out from last year’s podium finisher Neil Cragg. For the first half of the race female racer Jessica Pålsson did an impressive job of leading the final but rejoining right behind Savoya after her fuel stop the Swede had a mistake which dropped her back to 6th.
The Semi Final line-up is complete for the 37th running of the 1:8 Offroad European Championships at the Gröndal Ring in Sweden. In the first of the 1/4 Finals it was French driver Rayan Medjoubi who took the win from pole sitter Hampus Berg. The Kyosho driver won the 20-minute encounter easily, going an extra lap, to book his first ever Semi Final appearance. The others to progress would be Jorge Soler and 2016 Finalists Bryan Baldo. The TLR driver started his day in the 1/16 Final and just made it through to the 1/8. Starting from the back, the Spaniard again claimed the last bump up spot to again carry the No.12 in the 1/4. Battling with Jürgen Trieb, he would jump down the inside of the Sworkz driver as they started the last lap to progress once again.
In the second of the 1/4 Final encounters, 2015 podium finisher Alex Zanchettin started on pole and lead throughout. The Tekno driver lead home Infinity driver Lee Martin, the newly crowned 1:10 2WD Offroad World Champion back in the Semi having missed the cut last year. Having bumped up from the 1/16, Kyosho driver James La Pavoux continued his good run to finish 3rd and progress for a 3rd time. Completing the Top 4 & becoming the final of the 24 drivers still in contention to become European Champion would be Marcel Paul, the German leading the most race mileage done award having qualified down in the 1/32nd final.
We caught up with Jason Ruona in the JConcepts cabin, where he introduced us to their newest tire called Kosmos. A “hefty medium pin tire”, as Jason described it, the Kosmos is a result of many recommendations by their Eeuropean drivers as well as the input from some Aussie drivers. Placing itself in between the Reflex and the Detox, the new tire is a great option for abrasive tracks where a heftier pin is needed. Also coming from the American company is a pre-production silicone parts tray that features holes to hold in place most buggy differentials.
Chassis – Mugen MBX-7R Engine – Picco V1 Team DLC Tyres – AKA Impact Soft Fuel – Runner Time Radio/Servos – Ko Propo/Highest Body – Bittydesign Force Remarks – Former 2-time European and World Champion Robert Batlle is top qualifier at the 2017 Euros driving a pretty standard version of the Japanese MBX-7R, only equipped with front & centre High Traction differentials. His Picco V1 Team DLC engine is fitted with the new 2099 pipe.