Davide Ongaro is the top seed at the 1:8 Offroad World Championships in Australia. The young Italian star produced the fastest 3-consecutive laps in the second of the day’s two controlled practice rounds to top the times from Ryan Maifield with Ty Tessmann completing the Top 3. Initially it was Tessmann, who ran early in the round, who set the pace bettering Dakotah Phend’s CP1 topping time by 1/10th of a second. Third fastest in CP1, Ongaro, who ran 9 heats after Tessmann, set a blistering new pace to go over 1-second quicker than the former World Champion. Two heats later saw the first serious challenge to that time as Maifield got to within 0.315 of the time to set the second fastest time of the day. Unable to better his CP1 time, Phend would end up 4th fastest ahead of Bruno Coelho, who also couldn’t better his opening time, with Robert Batlle completing the Top 6 ahead of the reigning World Champion David Ronnefalk.
Commenting on his run Ongaro said, ‘we changed the car and it was better but the track was faster also’. The big talent discovery of the previous World Championships two years ago in the US, he was also happier with his line through the steps section which he reported after CP1 was causing him a few issues’. With the fastest individual lap of controlled practice, a 32.526, he is also confident that he has a good car for 10-minutes saying they will leave it as is for Q1 and ‘just glue some tyres’. Changing to AKA’s Double Down tyre for CP2 having run Catapults in the first run, he said they both felt similar to drive but the wear was less on the Double Down which he added was good to know for the finals.
Fastest in free practice and ending up 3rd in seeding, Maifield said, ‘the whole week has been really good. The double electric 1:10 Offroad World Champion added, ‘the car is awesome and really consistent but the track is tyre sensitive. It changes a lot and that time was the most traction the track has had. I went out on tyres I thought would work but then changed to a harder tyre and they worked better. Starting on JConcepts’ R2 compound Detox tyre he said they lacked steering and so he switched the new compound Blocker tyre. He continued, ‘the car settings haven’t change for a long time because the balance is consistent over the different track conditions, I just need to pick the right tyre. With the right tyre you can go faster without trying’.
After being only 45th in the first controlled practice due to running on a watered track, Tessmann was happy to be at the sharp end of the time sheets in the second round. The Xray driver said, ‘It would have been nice to be fastest at the end of practice but it’s not everything. I just wanted to get a better run and be in the Top 24 so to be sure to be in one of the top 2 heats. I thought it was a good time but the track got better in the evening’. On the run itself, the 2014 World Champion said, ‘the track was really dry especially because we also had the lunch break before my run. For the higher grip we went heavier with everything and the car felt good’. Running Pro-Line’s Buckshot tyre, trying with S2 and S3 commands during the heat, the Canadian is enjoying the track describing it as ‘cool’ and adding ‘Worlds’ tracks are normally not nice to drive’. With the track watering working against him in CP1, Tessmann said, ‘the watering schedule is not consistent but they (the organisers) say they need to do the heavy watering to keep it right for qualifying so hopefully now it (the level of watering) will even out’. For the opening qualifying he plans to make changes based on what he learned from CP2 and on how the track looks nearer to the time of his run.
Fastest after CP1, despite not posting a faster time in the second run Phend was happy with his final practice performance. Sixth fastest in CP2, the TLR driver said, ‘we made some changes to the car and it was better. The time was slower but that was because the track was different. It was watered and we ran at night but everything felt good’. Looking to qualifying, drivers face 2 runs a day over the next three days with 4 from 6 to count, the American said, ‘we will leave the car the same for the first one and then see where we are at’.
Also unable to better his CP1 pace, fourth seed Coelho said his marginally slower CP2 run ‘was OK’ but changes to his car were too much. The European Champion said, ‘we changed the car to try make it more comfortable to drive and it was too much. It was easy to drive but slow. It was a big change so we could get information and now we will go back and try something else. It will only be a small change but we will go in a different direction with it. As he did in the first seeding run, the Portuguese driver again opted to run Pro-Line’s Buckshot tyre.
Summing up his final practice run, Batlle said, ‘it was not bad and I managed some decent laps but still the car is critical’. The former World Champion explained, ‘we need to take grip out of the car because we are missing corner speed’. Running in the same heat as Ongaro, which ran straight after one of the scheduled waterings, the Mugen driver said the wet track had less impact than expected. ‘The first 3-4 minutes was worse but in the end it dried out and I could run good laps but for qualifying this (watering system) will not be so fair. They should water for everyone not just every four (heats)’. Using Hotrace’s Alaska tyre in medium compound the Spaniard said that while he ‘still managed good lap times’ the compound was ’too hard’.
Ronnefalk said while on time sheets it looked like he was missing pace, with 2-second between him and Ongaro over 3-laps, he is confident that on equal track he is ’not far away’. Improving just slightly on his opening time, the HB Racing driver said on CP2, ‘the track was still grippier than I thought even with the lights on. While the visibility was worse (from racing under the flood lights), the main thing was I didn’t drive that well and had a couple of mistakes’. Again running on JConcepts Stocker tyre in R2 compound he also felt it was ‘maybe too soft’.