Dario Balestri is the Top Qualifier of the seventh running of the Nitro Touring Car World Championships. The Capricorn driver claimed his first World Championship pole position with a third TQ run in the penultimate round of qualifying at Miniautodromo Internazionale M.Rosati. After a tough start to Day 2 of qualifying in Gubbio, Balestri took control for the second half of the day as he topped the rescheduled Q2 concluding heat backing that up shortly afterwards with another perfect performance to put the overall TQ beyond the reach of his rivals. Despite conditions being cooler for Q5, which was run later in the day due to the rescheduling of the timetable following yesterday’s rain, the Italian was able to see off Team Shepherd’s Simon Kurzbuch with Mugen’s Takaaki Shimo completing the Top 3. For Q3 topping Alessio Mazzeo, a spin at the end of the straight would end his quest for the overall TQ while for surprise Q4 pace setter Syoki Takahata the round would result in a P11.
‘Whoo, that was super stress’, was Balestri’s reaction, the pressure release of successfully completing stage one of his Worlds campaign clearly evident. The former European champion of both 1:10 and 1:8 Nitro but for who a World title has eluded him, he said the TQ was the result of ‘a lot, a lot of hard work. Maybe too much, ask my girlfriend’. Having suffered with the rear end of his Tesla powered LAB CO3 bottoming out over the last three laps of the previous qualifier he said he adjusted the rear springs to raise the rear of the car and the change made it ‘perfect’ for Q5 which would be 1/10th faster than previous fastest TQ time. Winner of the Warm-up Race held in June, Balestri said, ‘I have to thank Massimo (Fantini) and Patrizio (Rossi) for the work they have made to give me the engines and car’. With the sixth & final round of qualifying set to run in the morning, when asked what his plan is for it he replied, ‘I need to think about what to do’.
‘I gave everything for the last one to try to TQ one round’, said Kurzbuch. He continued, ‘but I am still super happy with 2nd’. Holding third place in the overnight ranking, the Swiss ace said, ‘we should be good for Super Pole so we will try something for that in Q6 to be ready for that. Calling it the ‘the last chance’, Super Pole is new to the World Championships this year and gives the four drivers qualifying from 2nd through to 5th the chance to shoot is out for a second direct qualifying position in the 1-hour title deciding Main rather than having to contest a Semi final. Each of the drivers will individually get six laps of the track with the driver posting the fastest lap getting the Super Pole pass to the final.
Having went out of Q4 when he collected his crashed team-mate Robert Pietsch, breaking the front suspension and then having to run his Q2 heat half way through Q5, Shimo summed his evening up as ‘very busy’. The Japanese onroad nitro stalwart, would make a number of changes to his OS powered MTX6 but felt the car was still ‘only ok’ adding it ‘needs more steering’. ‘Consistent not fast’, he will use the final qualifier to test for the final as he is secure in a Semi Final position. Pietsch would take his example to P7 for the penultimate round to sit fifth in the qualification ranking.
Ending his best result in Q5, Bruno Coelho said of the qualifier, ‘I drove on the limit all the time’. The only driver from the reigning World Champion manufacturer currently in a Semi Final position, the Xray driver said of his Max powered NT1 ‘its a little slow compared to other guys’. Feeling the car is ‘not perfect like before’, after his crash with Kurzbuch in Q3 he said the car was completely different and it is still ‘not perfect like before’. Despite this he was happy to be so close especially after having to avoided a crashed car towards the end of the qualifier that lost him 1/10th and a Top 3 for the round. Unfortunately Alexander Hagberg’s hopes of things turning around in qualifying haven’t quite been realised and the defending World Champion finds himself 33rd with one qualifier to go.
Posting the 5th fastest time, Dominic Greiner said, ‘we tried to make the rear more stable but made it too stable and now we had oversteer’. Top Qualifier at the last Worlds Championship two years ago, the Serpent driver said, ‘Its super close’ but conceded, ‘Dario was the best today and he deserves to be TQ’. Currently holding P4 in the qualification ranking, he said his focus for tomorrow morning’s Q6 is to stay in the Super Pole position and the plan is to ‘put the set-up from before the rain’ back on his Novarossi powered 748.
Completing the Top 6 once again as he did in Q4, Jilles Groskamp said this time the result was down to his actually pace rather others crashing out. The Team Infinity driver said switching to an early practice set-up had reduced his speed deficit saying, ‘we are not so far from Dario now’. Planning to leave his car unchanged for the final qualifier, the former Top Qualifier wanted to try improve on his lowest point he is counting in his three results. With the race the debut for the new manufacturer’s first prototype of a touring car, Groskamp said ‘our aim for the race was to get a car in the Semi and now we already have three which is really good for the team’. Having got a P4 in Q4, team-mate Jesse Davis would end the day with a P9 after he ran out of fuel on the last lap.