February 19, 2017

Coelho Top Qualifier at TITC

Bruno Coelho is the Top Qualifier at the TITC after an exciting final qualifier at Infinity Addict Circuit.  After taking both of yesterday’s qualifiers, Coelho was the only driver who could deny Jilles Groskamp his first overall TQ at the famous Asia race and initially it looked like the Infinity driver was about fill that void.   With Coelho’s Xray coming good from the mid race, the Portuguese driver would start to close the gap and as the heat entered the final minute it was apparent Groskamp was starting to struggle.  With Coelho already ahead on the timing screens, Groskamp’s would attempt to keep his dream alive running a tight line off the straight but clipping the curb flipped off the track. While all the attention was on Groskamp and Coelho, Alexander Hagberg was all the time closing on his team-mate but in the end came up 3/10ths short.  With Coelho and Groskamp sharing TQ runs each it was Coelho’s time from last night’s Q5 rocket round which would secure the defending champion his second consecutive TITC TQ.  With Groskamp second and Hagberg third, Nicolas Lee starts fourth as the best Yokomo ahead of Akio Sobue, whose attempt to try to take third on the grid from Hagberg didn’t materialise.  World Champion Ronald Volker would complete the Top 6 on the grid, the 2014 TITC winner very critical of the track conditions drivers faced in the final qualifier.

Reacting to taking the TQ Coelho said, ‘It was very good.  At the beginning Jilles pulled away a lot but as we knew from yesterday my car works better from the middle to the end. It was double fast compared to the others and I could catch Jilles.  He then made a mistake maybe because of the pressure I don’t know but for sure it is great to get the TQ again.’  Asked about the finals, the World Championship Top Qualifier replied, ‘It’s difficult to know because we have a new set of tyres and we don’t know what is waiting for us, it’s a lottery, each set is different’.  He continued, ‘I am not confident.  I’m confident in myself and my car, we will see what happens’.

‘A good job from Bruno but my tyres just switched off after 4-minutes’ was how Groskamp summed up the final qualifier.  Using the same set of tyres he used to TQ the opening two qualifiers, the 2012 World Champion said, ‘I was surprised at the beginning by my pace but suddenly I had not traction.  I think Xray have something better with their tyre preparation and that I was too heavy, too long with mine’.  He added that ‘running the tyres for a third time may also have added to how much they dropped off’.  Saying it was a ‘dream to TQ the TITC’ he added ‘2nd is OK because the outside is a good starting position (on this track)’ and ‘it’s a new game because we are all on new tyres so there are no strategies’.

Returning to the Xray cabin, Hagberg understandably looked pleased with his final qualifying performance.  The 2015 Champion said, ‘At the start it pushed a lot but then came in at the end.  I was closing at the end but it was not enough but I have a good starting position for the final’.  Describing the track as ‘pretty open’ and feeling ‘you can overtake in a few spots’, the Swede said, ‘It will be interesting to see how it goes with everyone on the same tyres.  We all start from zero’. Runner-up to team-mate Coelho last year he concluded, ‘I think I have a good car for the final and it was always good on new tyres’.

Lee felt he ‘drove better today’ but added ‘I needed 2nd for the round to start higher and couldn’t make it.  This was the best I could do because the track changes so much’. Asked about his expectations for the race, the Singapore driver said, ‘I have no idea, I think there is no space to overtake. I raced the Ride Cup race here 2-weeks ago ad there was no space to overtake’.

Changing his car from an aluminium chassis to a carbon chassis in an attempt to TQ the round to get 3rd on the grid, Sobue said he had too much understeer to challenge for the round.  Another driver who feels it will be ‘difficult to overtake’ in the final, the Infinity driver plans to remain on the carbon chassis but change how the car is set-up.

Getting a P6 for the final qualifier to improve his overnight P8 position in the ranking, Volker wanted to voice his opinions on the final qualifier in particular how it cost Thailand’s top international driver Meen Vejrak a spot in the A-Main.  The German said, ‘I’m pretty upset with how things went for Q6.  It was wrong to have no free practice to clean the track before the qualifier started and it meant the conditions were unfair as the qualifying round was the track cleaning and it was of course going to get faster every heat’.  Running in the second fastest heat after Day 1 tyre issues saw him reseeded out of the top heat, he said, ‘I can complain even more today about being in the second heat but I feel sorry for Meen as the track was way worse than the top two heats’.  Running in the third fastest heat, Vejrak who has been on the podium at his home race for the last three years, would top his heat but would end up 15th fastest, compared to a P5 yesterday in Q5, a result that puts him 2nd on the B-Main grid.  On his own performance, Volker said, ‘I couldn’t do much to get Top 5 (on the grid), my car & tyres actually fell alright.  As I expected yesterday I am mid pack and I can’t do much but like anyone starting 5th or 6th I can just hope there is some incidents ahead of me’.

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