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.