February 18, 2017

TITC TQ to be decided in final qualifier

Day 2 of qualifying at the TITC in Bangkok would turn out to be Bruno Coelho’s day with the Xray driver backing up his TQ run in Q4 to take the penultimate round of qualifying over team-mate Alexander Hagberg.  A day that consisted of just two qualifiers, the result means it will be the morning before the Top Qualifier of the 15th running of Asia’s biggest race is decided in the sixth and final round, that set to be a shootout behind the defending champion and Day 1 dominator Jilles Groskamp.  While Groskamp has three TQ runs compared to Coelho’s two, the Portuguese driver goes into the final round knowing he has the upper hand should it go to a tie break having just posted the fastest qualifying time so far.  With Modified first on track in the morning for Q6, the Infinity Addict Circuit is expected to be much slower. After his bearing failure off the start of Q4, Groskamp’s day didn’t get much better with him struggling with a big drop off in pace, the Dutchman deciding not to complete the full 5-minutes.  It would be Akio Sobue who would set the early TQ pace but the Infinity driver would also suffer a drop off, falling back behind the two Xrays but holding onto P3 just ahead of Ronald Volker.

Commenting on his latest qualifier Coelho said, ‘For sure the result is very good.  The car was a little better now but for sure it is still not the same as before because it is still 7-seconds slower’. He continued, ‘It was not the fastest at the beginning but midway to the end it was impressive’ adding ‘conditions changed a lot for the round and this helped for the quality of the tyres’. Asked for his thoughts on the deciding qualifier, the World Championship Top Qualifier replied, ‘it’s all open for the TQ so we will see what happens’.

Finishing 2/10ths off Coelho, making it the closest round of qualifying, Hagberg who struggled in the previous round said, ‘I just put on fresh tyres’.  The Swede added, ‘I knew I had a good car for the colder conditions and it was as good as expected but I made a slow start and then when I went to overtake a guy he hit me’. Disappointed to lose out on the chance to line-up second overall due to missing the TQ for the round, he said, ‘trying to secure third on the grid now is all I can do’.  A driver normally reserved in voicing his opinion about races, the recent Snowbirds winner while not going as far as to call out the tyre issue said, ‘this is the weirdest race, results wise.  I went from being off the pace in the last round to fighting for the TQ and it’s the same for others. I suppose one positive is that its exciting in a way.’

Asked about his lack of pace in Q5 Groskamp replied, ‘this set-up is not suited to these conditions but still there was way more drop off than normal’.   The Dutchman said, ‘I didn’t want to change anything on the car because it works so well in the day time conditions and thats when the racing is’.  Even with sticking with that set-up he said he ‘I was surprised it pushed so much because I expected it to be edgy and it wasn’t’.  Regarding the overall TQ he said, ‘It was a shame Akio did not take that one but no worries for tomorrow.  In the morning it will be super low grip so I think it will be harder for Bruno’.

‘It started very good but after it understeered a lot’, was how Sobue reacted to Q5.  With a new set of tyres for the heat, he said they were a good set and he put the drop off down to a shock set-up change for the cooler conditions, but a harder spring made the tyres work too much inducing the understeer.  Hoping to have been able to seal the deal for team-mate Groskamp to get the overall TQ and to put himself in contention for an Infinity 1-2 by taking the round, the 22-year-old said his aim now is to secure third ahead of Hagberg, both drivers currently on the same points but Hagberg having two P2 and one P4 compared to his one P2 and two P3 results.

Continuing to turn around a disastrous first day of qualifying, backing up his Q4 P3 with fourth, Ronald Volker said, ‘I’m happy to take a 3rd & 4th after being 7-seconds off yesterday’.  Running the last two heats with the same white bodyshell he used in practice as they tried to eliminate every possibility for his drop off in pace once qualifying started, the World Champion said today’s improvement was ‘definitely down to tyres’, him using a different set today.  Having dropped into the second fastest heat the German said this added another slight disadvantage in term of the track conditions which he felt were better for the top heat.  With only seven heats of Modified, he feels the disadvantage in the morning could be even bigger as each heat cleans the track.  Currently sitting P8 on the grid he said a TQ would put him third but with no reseeding of the heat tonight this will be very difficult to achieve and he may have to settle for a mid pack grid position.

Completing the Top 5 for the round, Thailand’s top international driver Meen Vejrak would be very relieved by the result.  A podium finisher at his home race for the last three years, the former Nitro Touring Car World Champion said, ‘Yesterday I cannot drive the car. It was a really shit day but today it is so much faster’.  The Yokomo driver continued that his BD8 was ‘totally different to practice (yesterday) but now it is back to normal’.  Asked if the turn around in form was to do with tyres, he replied, ‘I don’t want to say anything but I didn’t lose 5-seconds in the set-up’.

Behind Vejrak, fellow nitro racer Dario Balestri put in an impressive run to set the sixth fastest time.  The new Infinity signing, who is a nitro onroad specialist and has little electric touring car experience, is only racing at the TITC before making an onward journey to Singapore on Monday for 1:8 testing as the Japanese brand makes preparations for this 1:8 World Championship year.

View the event results here.

View the event image gallery here.


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