World Champion David Ronnefalk has got the defence of his 1:8 Offroad title off to the best start possible by the TQ’ing the opening round of qualifying in Australia. Running in the second heat, the HB Racing driver topped the 10-minute qualifier by a significant margin, more than 5-seconds from Naoto Matsukura in turn was 6/10ths quicker than Bruno Coelho, the two onroad World Champions also in the same heat as Ronnefalk. The big surprise of the first of the six scheduled qualifiers was that of young American CJ Jelin who took his Xray to the fourth fastest time for the round ahead of team-mate Ty Tessmann, the Canadian being the highest place driver from Heat 1. Seeded in Heat 3, Joern Nuemann would complete the Top 6 just ahead of Ryan Maifield and Dakotah Phend.
‘I’m super pumped to TQ’, was Ronnefalk’s reaction after Q1. The Swede continued, ‘I knew we had the better track that round and that I had to make the most of the opportunity. It was a safe run although a couple of laps I was on the limit. All my laps except one was in the 33s (seconds).’ Only 7th in seeding, he said, ‘we improved the car from last night and it is now more comfortable to drive’. Choosing JConcepts’ Reflex tyre in R2 compound for the qualifier he added, ‘we were debating which tyre to go with and I was thinking of going for a softer compound but after I saw the first heat I went with the R2. We probably could have went harder’.
Summing up his opening effort, Matsukura said, it was ‘not too bad’ adding ‘I’m feeling now the offroad driving style’. The newly crowned 1:10 Nitro Touring Car World Champion continued, ‘the engine was very good and we made no refuelling’ but added than any advantage gained was negated by ‘2 times mistakes’. The Infinity team driver, who is running a Mugen, admitted that even without any mistake he wouldn’t have been able to match Ronnefalk’s TQ pace. Describing the car as ‘difficult’, he said ‘we need to make easier to drive’. Asked what changes he planned for Q2 he replied, ‘I let Miura decided’ – the Onroad World Champion of 3 different categories being looked after by legendary mechanic Masayuki Miura.
Coelho described his qualifier as ‘a solid run’. The Electric Touring Car World Champion continued, ‘the car was working good. I tried not to go super fast and take it down one gear and finish good. It worked out’. The Xray driver, who earlier this year became the European 1:8 Offroad Champion in his home country of Portugal, said for Q2 ‘maybe we will make some small changes but the car is good so we will leave it more of less the same’.
Having made his Worlds debut in Las Vegas two years ago at the age of 12, Jelin was taking his P4 in his stride. Splitting his World Champion team mates, the American said, ‘I started off fast but then backed it down. I tried to stay ahead of David (Ronnefalk) but he got passed but then I tried to pace myself off him. I had just one mistake so overall it was a clean run and I’m happy’. Running the same Pro-Line Buckshot tyre as Coelho, he said they were really good but for the day’s second qualifier he might go up in diff oils and the watering of the track would ‘dictate if we do or not’.
‘I thought it was good’, was Tessmann’s response when asked about his run, the 2014 World Champion having topped the times for the opening heat. He continued, ‘the car was too stiff for the cold conditions and I thought there would be good grip but the car was pretty loose’. Ending up almost 9-seconds off Ronnefalk, he said, ‘I drove round as fast as the car would let me. That was all I had to give’. He concluded, ‘I hope it’s dry the next and we can do better’.
Pleased with P6, Neumann said, ‘It was good. No big problems, just 1 or 2 times on 2-wheels because there was so much grip. Otherwise it was a clean run’. The Sworkz driver continued, ‘we made small adjustments to the car for this round and it was even better than practice’. Looking to Q2, the German said, ‘the next round, depending when it is, I need to decide if I will change anything but I think I will keep the same and maybe try some adjustments tomorrow’.
Pushed out of the Top 6 by Neumann, Maifield was content with his opening run after a mistake on the final lap cost him a Top 3 run. The Mugen driver said, ‘It was OK just first race blues I guess’. Out in the first heat, the 1:10 Offroad World Champion said, ‘in the shadows it was loose and it was also hard to judge where the car was. I crashed on the last lap. I was nervous and driving a little tight. It’s hard to wake up and just drive easily at the Worlds’. With 18 heats to get through because of the over 200 entries, the first heat of the day hit the track at 08:00 local time in Perth.