Jilles Groskamp pulled off ‘a perfect day’ on the opening day of qualifying at the TITC in Bangkok, the Infinity driver TQ’ing all three rounds at the Infinity Addict Circuit. A race title that eludes the former World Champion, who has been runner-up on three occasions at the famous Asia event, Groskamp would end the day as he started, again being the only driver to post a 20-lap run. Improving position every run, the closest challenger in the third round would be Nicolas Lee, the Yokomo driver missing out on a 20-lap pace by just over 6/10ths of a second. One of Infinity’s latest signing to their new EP team, former TRF driver Akio Sobue would complete the Top 3, a safe run paying dividends. Unfortunately the tyre struggles that some drivers have been faced with showed no signs of abating with Bruno Coelho, Ronald Volker and Marc Rheinard all clearly struggling on the track with a lack of traction. Summing up the struggles while talking to Coelho, Volker said you know something is very wrong when you look and see ‘Marc (Rheinard), (Yukijiro) Umino and Francesco (Martini) talking together’. For Volker and Rheinard, their tyre issues will mean they drop out of the top heat for the remaining three qualifiers as reseeding is done based on the best two of today’s three rounds. While Coelho remains in the top 3, sitting 3rd overall, the defending champion is not happy with the tyre situation going as far as changing from an aluminium chassis car to a carbon chassis with ARS as he ‘needed prove to himself it was not the car’. He said the carbon car ‘was even worse’.
One of the few drivers smiling throughout the day, Groskamp said after Q3, ‘I changed tyres for this round and the car still feels great, I have super good traction’. He continued, ‘I push at the beginning to get a gap and then I can control the race by listening to the timing announcements. It’s somehow unreal how well it goes, 2-seconds over Nicolas at this level is a lot’. Admitting ‘some good guys have a problem’ he said, ‘For sure something is wrong. Maybe the sweet spot for the tyre is hard to find and I’ve been lucky to find it. It is almost unbelievable that at the TITC someone is so much faster. I hope it’s clearly a set-up thing. I’m happy for Akio and Chavit that they got a good run but I feel sorry for Marc because he was super fast in practice’. He concluded ‘for sure today was a perfect day for me’.
Running the same set of tyres as he ran to P3 in Q2, while happy with getting a second for the round Lee said, ‘I was too slow compared to Jilles’. The World Championship finalist continued, ‘the car is good its just Jilles is too fast snd we need to talk about it tonight and come up with something to try for tomorrow’. While it wouldn’t have affected his result, Lee said there was a little confusion at the start of the heat. Expecting to start third based on his result of the previous heat the 25-year-old went off as the third car as did Alexander Hagberg, the order actually based on the overall standings after two rounds.
Enjoying his first Top 6 run in the day’s closing qualifier, Sobue said he had to drive safe after lasting just over a minute in Q2 before rolling his SMJ chassis and pulling off. The Japanese driver said he also ‘drove super smooth’ to get the tyre to last the 5-minutes with the car getting ‘too loose if he pushes hard early on’. Holding sixth in the overnight standings, the multiple Worlds Finalist said the plan of attack for tomorrow is to ‘keep driving more easy’.
Doing well representing the host nation at the TITC, Chavit Saligupta would also end the day with his best run, going one better than Q1 to record a P4. With electronics issues in seeding practice putting him in the third fastest heat, the Bangkok driver hasn’t let this hinder him but admits his reseeding into the fastest heat for tomorrow is sure to help him improve on his current pace. Describing his SMJ as ‘not very easy to drive at the beginning’ due to the track being ‘a lot hotter’ he said with a minute to go his ‘tyres had overheated’.
Running new tyres, Hagberg said he was ‘surprised by the first lap that Nicolas went in front of me’ adding ‘it cost me time on the first lap’. Losing over a second to Groskamp over the first lap his fastest lap would not come until lap three, all those finishing ahead of him opening the heat with their fastest lap. This incident aside, the former Nitro Touring Car World Champion said, ‘basically I’m too slow, the car is safe but off the pace and we need to work on the set-up’. The Swedish driver added, ‘I didn’t really have a problem with tyres and I think today was hotter than previous days and we need to work on a better set-up for that’.
Making it four Infinity drivers in the Top 6, Andy Moore managed a P6 just ahead of Awesomatix’ Ryan Maker. The 2006 World Champion said, ‘It was just a safe run because I needed it for the reseeding’ adding ‘it was not sparklingly fast but the car was consistent & balanced.’ Running in the second fastest heat, opening the day with a P8 in Q1, the British driver would suffer a ‘hyper donut’ on the opening lap of Q2 and while he would try to continue to break in the tyres after four laps he pulled off suspecting a problem with his car. With problems being found, he ran a brand new set of tyres on his prototype SMJ saying these where not as good at the beginning as broken in tyres but he got the result he needed to put himself in the top heat for tomorrow.