Normally a Rodeo Ring is where a cowboy puts on an exhibition of his skills at rounding up cattle but this weekend the ‘Arena of Cowboys’ will play host to a very different form of taming the wild as some of Europe’s best r/c drivers exhibit their skills at controlling 1:8 Offroad cars. Situated on the outskirts of Voghera, which is around one hours drive south of Milan, the organisers of the Arena Offroad Meeting have created a fantastic US style dirt track and after the opening practice drivers are full of praise for the large indoor track.
The biggest off road meeting on the Italian race calender, this year is only the second running of the event indoors which was won last year by Austrian off road star Hupo Honigl. Unfortunately the LRP team driver isn’t here to defend his title but the success of the inaugural indoor ‘Offroad Meeting’ has meant a number of the sports big names have made the trip to Italy to experience the much talked about track for themselves.
While the big focus is on winning Sunday’s Main final and lifting the 2009 Arena Offroad Meeting title there is a lot of excitement among the top drivers about the ‘Race of Champions’. Based on qualifying for the main event, the Top 16 drivers will line up for this special event on Saturday night. With a reversed starting grid, the race will see the last placed driver eliminated after 5-minutes and every 2-minutes there after until just three remain when they will have a further five minutes to try stake their claim on the ROC trophy.
Fresh from his Pierrefeu GP win Yannick Aigoin is making his first appearance at the indoor event along with his Losi/Novarossi team mate Martin Bayer. Competing in both buggy and truggy, the pair described the track as very technical but former European Champion Aigoin said the American style of the track should really suit the 8ight and if they dont get a good result it wont be the fault of the car. Afterwards he said he hoped he would not regret that statement come Sunday evening.
Current European Junior Champion Elliot Boots is another on his first visit to the Arena and after just one practice run he feels this event could very well become a regular fixture on his annual schedule. The young British driver said the size of the track is very impressive and he is confident of putting in a good performance with his RB powered Mugen.
Having made the trip from Spain, Borja Hernandez is here representing GS Racing. Running the CLX fitted with BBF diffs all round, the Spanish Championship Runner-Up believes his package will be strong this weekend. Another leading Spaniard here is Richi Gomez who has informed us that this will be his final outing for Hong Nor. Gomez, who is running Reds Racing engines, has a yet to be announced chassis deal in place for 2010 but this weekend is focused on ending his relationship with Hong Nor, with whom he claimed a podium finish at the 2008 Euros, on a high.
Italian National Champion Riccardo Rabitti has to be one of the best home hopes. The race is very much a family affair as both his brothers Stefano and Davide, the guys behind bodyshell design/painting company Bitty Designs, are also racing in the event. Riccardo is also competing in the new 1:8 Brushless class and is one of the favourites having finished runner up at the similar Neo race earlier this year.
‘I wish I could drive myself’, was Adrien Bertin’s reply when asked about the track. The man responsible for the Team Orion engine program is here to support new Kyosho/Team Orion signings Simon Willets from the UK and up & coming Italian Stefano Cantoni. The accomplished all round racer was full of praise for the track and thinks its US style would really have suited him but he will have to be content with being an onlooker, for this year anyway.
He was on target for it in Q3 yesterday but misheard the timing computer and pitted before completing the full 10-minutes, but this morning in the penultimate qualifier Robert Pietsch became the first driver to set down a 30 lap run. The German ace was clearly delighted with the impressive run saying his Mugen was perfect for the conditions. Paying compliments to his pitman for two perfect fuel stops, the factory driver feels it will be very difficult to better the time in the last qualifier with the forecast predicted today as the hottest of the championships.
Setting the fastest 29 lap run was defending Champion Lamberto Collari. The eight time World Champion said the run was good but felt conditions were better yesterday in Q3 but unfortunately on that occassion he had an off caused by a faulty battery lead in his Kyosho. The time moves the Italian back ahead of fellow countryman Alberto Picco who failed to better his Q3 time.
He said yesterday that his Serpent 966 was capable of running in the Top 4 and that is exactly what factory driver Mark Green achieved this morning. The British driver has been happy with his Serpent/Novarossi combination throughout qualifying but said his driving was letting him down. Finally completing a run free of driver error he managed the fourth fastest time to put himself in the direct qualification position for the Main Final.
Just outside that highly desirable position is Serpent team leader Michael Salven. Improving from 12th overnight to 5th the German had problems with his engine running very rich for a few laps after each pitstop causing his 966 to shift late and making it difficult to drive. Once the Mega engine cleared out Salven said it was very good. Incidently using a radar gun the fastest top speed we seen this morning was 111 Kph for European Champion Jernej Vuga but more impressive was the speed recorded by Japanese driver Tadahiko Sahashi’s, his Serpent exiting the pitlane at 94 kph.
Completing the Top 6 and now heading the American challenge is Winternats Champion Paolo Morganti. The factory Serpent driver said his new found speed is down to him becoming more consistent as he gets more accustomed to the banked corners of the Lostallo track. Used to racing on completely flat US tracks he said it takes a bit of time to adjust to the banked corners which pull the car into the apex.
Having not really featured so far here in Lostallo, old tyres transformed the Mugen of factory driver Rick Vrielijnck. Asked if he had found something that caused the huge jump in pace the Dutch Champion replied ‘Oh Yeh’. Having run a new batch of tyres all week and suffered with excessive tyre wear this morning he ran a year old set which allowed him to complete the full 10-minutes without struggling for traction over the second part of the run. Vrielijnck believes the new batch of tyres are too fresh and thats the reason for the high wear rate.
Holding fourth overnight Robin D’Hondt drops to eight. The Belgian, who was tipped as a real danger man this morning, suffered a leaking front bearing on his Novarossi engine which resulted in a lack of brakes on his Motonica P81. For Motonica team-mate Dario Balestri, who had all his qualifying times disallowed yesterday for running an unmarked engine in Q4, the penultimate heat saw him record the 13th fastest time and this should be good enough to see the 2007 Finalist qualify for the Semis.
Elsewhere Josh Cyrul didnt live up to expectations this morning. The Team Shepherd driver was expected to challenge for a Top 4 time but as he put it himself, ‘Drove like shit’. The American said his car and engine were perfect but the run was the ‘Worst I’ve driven in a very long time’. 2007 World’s Top Qualifier Massimo Fantini was on for a potential Top 4 run until he got hit by Marco Müller in the pits taking a wheel off his Serpent 966. Muller got a stop go for the incident but that was little consulation for Fantini who lies 31st. Former World Champion Adrien Bertin continues to struggle with a very painful right arm. The French ace is finding the 10-minutes very hard going with the movement in his steering arm very difficult. The man behind Team Orion’s engine development, Bertin said the motor he used in Q5 was better and its just a case of soldiering on. Currently he lies 24th on the times sheets.
‘We achieved our objective’ was how Renaud Savoya summed up winning back to back European titles here in Austria this evening. The Mugen ace withstood intense pressure from fellow countryman Yannick Aigoin to win the title by 7 seconds after 45 minutes of thrilling action.
The result came close to being very different however when Savoya’s RB powered MBX6 started to run out of fuel on his in-lap for the last pit stop. Flaming out just as he reached his pit crew he fell back in to the clutches of Aigoin with both cars leaving the pitlane for the final 9 minutes racing together.
Entering the first corner the pair clashed but in a great sporting gesture Savoya waited for his great rival and the battle between these two ultra professional drivers resumed. Aigoin hounded Savoya for two laps but rolled giving the reiging champion the break he needed to go on and take a very popular victory. Asked if there would be big celebrations Savoya replied, ‘I think now we deserve a party tonight’.
Aigoin was quick to pay tribute to his arch rival, ‘It was very close and I did my best. I won the Warm-up race and Renaud has won today. He deserves it.’ Asked if he felt pressure from Martin Bayer in the closing laps the 2006 Champion said, ‘Martin was very fast but he is a very fare driver so I just tried to make no mistakes so as to not let him passed. Having the two of us on the podium is a good result for Losi.’
Taking third, Bayer was delighted with his first ever European Off Road podium finish. ‘I’m so happy, everything was perfect’. After a bad start the Czech driver slowly worked his way through the field closing right up with Losi team-mate Aigoin in the closing moments of the race. ‘When I saw the gap closing to Yannick I really started to push hard but in the end my tires weren’t so good.’
Missing out on the podium, last year’s runner up Robert Batlle was clearly unhappy with his performance. Opting for a 7:30 fuel strategy the Associated driver needed to do one extra stop over his rivals and the 2007 Champion said this forced him to push too hard to try and make up the time. The result was many driver errors and excessive tyre wear leaving the Spaniard to finish a frustrated fourth. Summing up the event he said afterwards, ‘Next year we’ll be back’.
The other former champions in the final also had difficult races. Having changed the set-up on his car for the final German Daniel Reckward said they went the wrong way with diff and shock oils and his car was difficult to drive resulting in 8th position. Fellow Mugen driver Daniel Vega felt his JConcept shod MBX-6 was the best it had been all week but intermitent radio problems were to hamper him throughout the race.
Having shown plenty of promise in qualifying Darren Bloomfield was left visably frustrated when a jammed open throttle robbed him from challenging for a first European title. Eventually freeing itself, the British driver went on to set some very fast lap times recovering from 11th to end the race in seventh behind the Kyosho of Jerome Aigoin who recorded the fastest lap of the final with a 43.814.
So the dust has settled on another EFRA 1:8 Off Road European Championship and the title is once again heading back to France. Could Savoya become the first driver to win three back to back European titles? We will have to wait 12 months to find out but its a bet seriously worth considering. Roll on Portugal.
Provisional finishing order
1. SAVOYA Renaud – Mugen/RB – 60 Laps in 45:39.284
2. AIGOIN Yannick – Losi/Novarossi – 60 Laps in 45:46.429
3. BAYER Martin – Losi/Novarossi – 59 Laps in 45:00.232
4. BATLLE Robert – Associated/GRP – 59 Laps in 45:05.483
5. CRAGG Neill – Associated/Reedy – 59 Laps in 45:21.939
6. AIGOIN Jerome – Kyosho/Sirio – 59 Laps in 45:32.076
7. BLOOMFIELD Darren – Losi/Novarossi – 58 Laps in 45:05.754
8. RECKWARD Daniel – Mugen/RB – 58 Laps in 45:17.219
9. LEINO Teemu – Xray/Orion – 58 Laps in 45:40.521
10. VEGA Daniel – Mugen/Ninja – 57 Laps in 45:19.230
11. HÖNIGL Hubert – LRP/LRP – 57 Laps in 45:44.832
12. RABITTI Riccardo – Losi/Sirio – 17 Laps in 14:48.218
We would like to thank Team Orion, Mugen Seiki, LRP and Kyosho for supporting our coverage here in Austria and congratulate the MSV Wolbing club on doing a superb job running a great event. Finally a special word of thanks to Carlos Gomez of EFRA for his efforts.
Renaud Savoya is the 2009 EFRA 1:8 European Champion after successfully defending his 2008 title in a thrilling race here in Austria. The Mugen driver beat fellow countryman Yannick Aigoin to become the first back to back champion since 2005. Third was promising Czech driver Martin Bayer.
Provisional finishing order
1. SAVOYA Renaud – 60 Laps in 45:39.284
2. AIGOIN Yannick – 60 Laps in 45:46.429
3. BAYER Martin – 59 Laps in 45:00.232
4. BATLLE Robert – 59 Laps in 45:05.483
5. CRAGG Neill – 59 Laps in 45:21.939
6. AIGOIN Jerome – 59 Laps in 45:32.076
7. BLOOMFIELD Darren – 58 Laps in 45:05.754
8. RECKWARD Daniel – 58 Laps in 45:17.219
9. LEINO Teemu – 58 Laps in 45:40.521
10. VEGA Daniel – 57 Laps in 45:19.230
11. HÖNIGL Hubert – 57 Laps in 45:44.832
12. RABITTI Riccardo – 17 Laps in 14:48.218
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He was the top Qualifier here in Austria and now thanks to victory in his Semi, with the faster time of the two, defending Champion Renaud Savoya will start from pole position over Spain’s Robert Batlle. Setting the fastest lap of the Semis, the French ace cruised to the win and despite one mistake finished four seconds clear of Batlle and now the pair will line up in the same 1-2 order as in Crete last year. Afterwards Savoya said the race went to plan except for his roll in the last two minutes. Batlle felt his Associated, which had a problem in the 10 minute warm-up, was not so bad but now plans to change to a heavier oil in the shocks for the 45-minute final.
The other Semi saw Yannick Aigoin lead home the very fast Czech driver Martin Bayer who briefly passed his Losi team-mate for the lead. Afterwards Aigoin said Martin was very quick but that this was good for the Losi team. Not wanting to give too much away about his race strategy for the Final the Frenchman said he may try something different with the tyres. Bayer said he drove a safe race so as to ensure himself a spot in the final and feels he can go faster in the all important event. Riccardo Rabitti was very happy to progress to the Main. The Italian Champion said his Sirio engine was slightly too lean and this made it hard to drive out of the corners. One heart breaking moment in the Semi B was that of Christoffer Svensson when the Swede’s car cut out right before the loop on the last lap while he was holding sixth. The benefactor was LRP driver Hupo Honigl who will now take part in his third final of the day having progressed from the 1/4 Finals.
Final Starting order 1. SAVOYA Renaud (FR) – 27 Laps in 20:29.090 (Semi A)
2. BATLLE Robert (ES) – 27 Laps in 20:33.267 (Semi A)
3. AIGOIN Yannick (FR) – 27 Laps in 20:39.660 (Semi B)
4. BAYER Martin (CZ) – 27 Laps in 20:44.739 (Semi B)
5. RABITTI Riccardo (IT) – 26 Laps in 20:01.047 (Semi B)
6. BLOOMFIELD Darren (GB) – 26 Laps in 20:03.633 (Semi A)
7. LEINO Teemu (FI) – 26 Laps in 20:07.019 (Semi A)
8. VEGA Daniel (ES) – 26 Laps in 20:09.064 (Semi B)
9. RECKWARD Daniel (DE) – 26 Laps in 20:10.626 (Semi A)
10.AIGOIN Jerome (FR) – 26 Laps in 20:14.028 (Semi B)
11.CRAGG Neil (GB) – 26 Laps in 20:19.247 (Semi A)
12.HÖNIGL Hubert (AT) – 26 Laps in 20:23.396 (Semi B)