Practice at the Electric Touring Car World Championships in South Africa has finally concluded and it is the reigning champion Ronald Volker who is the top seed for qualifying. The Yokomo driver topped 2 of the three rounds of controlled practice but it it was his 3-consecutive laps from CP1 that was the time to beat. Bruno Coelho would top the final practice getting much closer to Volker than before, the fastest time separated by 0.073 of a second. While Coelho was happier with his CP3 pace, it was his team-mate Alexander Hagberg who made the biggest improvement in the final practice as he was second fastest with a time that moved him up to the No.3 seeding position. Like Volker, Viktor Wilck’s best time would come from CP1 leaving him 4th overall ahead of Christopher Krapp, who suffered a huge crash in CP2, and Freddy Sudhoff. In a change to the previously reported rule that drivers who have to run a set of tyres from CP1 or 2 in the opening qualifier all drivers will now have the option to run new tyres. There were complaints following the first two controlled practices regarding the definition of the ruling and the 95% race pace ruling. A number of drivers backed off considerably after posting 3-laps which would have seen a large percentage of drivers disqualified. Another issue arose from the fact the ruling was in the Stage Report but was deleted from the IFMAR rule book. In the end it was decided all drivers would be allowed new sets of tyres for CP3 and Q1 after which the new ruling regarding when a driver must choose new and used tyres will be implemented.
Finding himself only 5th fastest in CP3, Volker said, ‘the car was a bit better in CP2, it was more comfortable, so I think we will do another fine adjustment for Q1’. The German continued, ‘As you can see it is very close between the Top 6 and you need to get an edge over the others and we are still looking for that’. On being top seed, he said, ‘I like to start in the front but I think the gap between cars should mean qualifying is the driver just against the clock. It is a large track and everyone is so close on pace so there should be no need for anyone to need to be getting out of the way. Hopefully we can find that edge and be on top but it wont be easy’. Asked about tyre ruling which delayed the schedule by 45-minutes, with himself and team-mate Krapp accused of backing off too much, he replied, ‘the rule wasn’t clear before the start of controlled practice and I think the change was the right choice after some complaints’.
Summing up his final, and fastest, practice run, Coelho said, ‘It was ok. I think we are back to a good pace but again it is not perfect so we will try to improve for qualifying’. The Xray driver said, ‘we changed the car a lot between CP2 and CP3 and now we will try something small for Q1. The car is good but just not 100% what we like to have but I’m sure we will find something’. Asked about the changing of the tyre ruling, the Portuguese driver said, ‘It fair because it they continued to the rule many drivers would be disqualified after CP1. Me and Alex where the only one to push for the 5-minutes but I don’t want to see anyone disqualified so its fair for everyone’.
‘A lot better’ was how a pleased looking Hagberg summed up his improved CP3 pace. The newly crowned 1:12 World Champion continued, ‘we are closer to the pace now and the race starts now. We are where we want to be and hopefully we can fight for the TQ’. Asked how he improved the car the Swede replied, ‘we changed a couple of details like geometry changes and I will probably leave it as is for Q1 and work on my driving’.
Summing up his CP3, being third fastest behind the two Xrays, Wilck said, ‘It was almost the same as before. There was a little less grip but not a big difference’. A podium finisher in China 2-year ago, he added, ‘5-minutes is very close so it should be interesting. I will leave the car the same for Q1 and just drive clean’. Asked if the track presented a challenge to making a clean 5-minutes he said it was pretty good but pointed out some drivers have suffered ‘spins on the curbs’.
Ending up P5 in the seeding, Krapp said, ‘I am just happy to survive my crash in CP2. It was horrible’. Explaining the high speed crash he continued, ‘I had a short circuit in the battery and the speedo shut down when I was on the straight and I went full punch into the wall’. Having to replace the car’s chassis and top deck, the chassis having to be re-marked by technical inspection he thanked his team for effectively building him a new car for CP3, ‘my team did a really good job to rebuild me a new car’. Running the car in CP3 he said, ‘I am happy with the car, overall it felt good and I was third fastest over 5-minutes. I lacked a little steering so I will make some changes for that for Q1’.
Completing the Top 6 in seeding, Sudhoff said, ‘I think the track changed quite a lot that time. We made a small set-up change but the car was sliding about on all four tyres. I think this was the track conditions’. The Awesomatix driver now plans to ‘go back to CP2 set-up for the first round’ describing it ‘more safe to drive’ and ‘it should work’ given ‘it is cooler now’. Behind Sudhoff, Meen Vejrak and Loic Jasmin complete the 8 car line-up for the top heat.