Reigning World Champion Simon Kurzbuch has hit the top of the time sheets for the first time in France as he set the pace in the second round of controlled practice. Starting Day 3 of the 21st running of the 1:8 Onroad World Championship with a confidence boosting time in the final free practice that left him P2 behind Dario Balestri, the Shepherd driver after struggling with windy conditions in CP1 adjusted his car perfectly for CP2 to set the fastest 3-consecutive laps of the afternoon run. Behind him it was his new for 2017 rival Bruno Coelho who was second fastest, the Xray driver also making improvements to his car after struggling in the the opening controlled practice. The first time an Infinity hasn’t filled the top spot on the time sheets, it was Naoto Matsukura who was their quickest driver setting the third fastest time despite crashing out of the 7-minute run. For free practice pace setter Dario Balestri a rear drive shaft failure in the warm-up would prevent him from taking the start of CP2, the Italian saying the drive shaft was due to for changing after the run.
‘A very good consistent run at at the end we also had the best three laps so I’m very happy’, was Kurzbuch’s reaction to topping the times. He continued, ‘the changes paid off and now we are even more prepared for qualifying. We know what to do if it’s windy or if it is perfect conditions’. Happy he has all set-up options covered, the factory Novarossi driver said which engine to run is now his next focus. ‘I am testing some different engines but I don’t have a favourite yet because they are all working great but we will keep trying until we choose one’.
Coelho summed up his run as ‘very good now’ adding ‘it was much better than the first one’. The Portuguese driver continued, ‘It was very difficult to drive and on power was very loose so we completely changed the car and now it is much better. We were super close to Simon so it is a big improvement’. Looking to the third controlled practice, he said, ‘maybe I will make just a small change but with having made so many set-up changes I would like to focus on having the same car again to try to get more out of my driving rather than having to get used to another set-up’.
Matsukura felt third wasn’t a true reflection of his pace. Making his 1:8 Worlds debut, the Japanese driver said, ‘I don’t make three good laps. I was on new tyres so the first 2-minutes was breaking then in and I was only starting to get up to speed when I crashed so I didn’t get the best from the tyres’. Asked about his off, which sent the marshal running for cover and resulted in broken rear body support, he said, ‘it was my mistake. I was looking at another car which crashed ahead of me. I think I ran wide and then the wind got under the car’.
Behind Matsukura, team-mate Carmine Raiola posted the 4th quickest time. The 2013 World Championship finalist said, ‘Now it was OK. I changed back to my set-up from yesterday and it made the car more stable and I could drive it easy’. The Italian continued, ‘the focus is on qualifying not three laps so I’m happy with the car now’.
Fastest in the opening control practice, that time still the quickest three laps, Jesse Davis would set the fifth fastest time in CP2 describing the run as ‘different’. Having had a braking issue in CP1, the Australian continued, ‘the brakes are still not sorted but the track felt weird for me. I couldn’t put three laps together so I just went for a clean Top 10 run for the seeding’. For his next run, the Infinity driver will fit his race engine as well as his race body to ‘check it is all ok’ for tomorrow’s qualifying as well as trying to get to the bottom of his brakes issue.
‘Now I think I can get into my rhythm’, was Robert Pietsch’s reaction after CP2, the German adding, ‘It already feeling a lot better’. Switching back to standard Sanwa servos having started out the event with a new programmable servo the Japanese company have released but which he hasn’t had enough time to familiarise himself with, the Mugen driver said he got a more true feeling of where his car is at. On that he feels he is missing a little steering on the entry into the corner and for the next one he will change the front geometry but concluded he was ‘happy, now we are on the right way’.