The 2009 EFRA 1:8 Off Road European Championships is underway with cars now on track for today’s single round of free practice. Among the first group of cars on track was defending Champion Renaud Savoya who was faced with a very different track to that of the Warm-up race. Organisers were forced to cover the track with saw dust prior to the event to try protect the dirt surface from the rain leaving the first group of drivers with the role of acting as track sweepers. Savoya said the run proved little other than to warm up his thumbs for the days ahead.
Another early runner was Robert Batlle who was in group 2 and found the conditions terrible with his GRP powered RC8 just sliding around on the saw dust. The Spanish ace is unsure what to do in terms of set up because while the track is drying out now the overnight forecast is for heavy rain.
Running in Group 3 and on a much cleaner track, Factory GS Racing driver Borja Hernandez from Spain was pleased with his outing despite the slippy conditions. The 2008 finalist is running a CLX chassis fitted with the older CL1 front end and is happy with the resulting feel of the car. He felt his new RB9 engine used in the run was still to tight and so will switch to another unit for tomorrow’s second practice.
Neil Cragg said that the track got better throughout the run but will ‘ask the boss’, referring to Team Associated’s Richard saxton who is over from the US to support the team, about what changes if any they will make for tomorrow morning. Cragg suffered an engine cut during his practice but put this down to it being a brand new Reedy unit. After a quick adjustment of the idle screw it ran fine for the remainder of the run.
1999 Champion Daniel Vega said he made the wrong tyre choice for his first run having went for JConcepts Sevens. The Mugen/Ninja ace said the track was completely different to the Warm Up race but the set-up on his MBX-6 still felt good. He plans only to change tyres for Practice 2 and will make the choice between JConcepts Crossbow, Crossbar or Hit Men in the morning. Also in the same group was Darren Bloomfield who described the run as a ‘good start’. The British ace said his Associated RC8 has a really good balance and he plans just a few roll bar changes for the morning.
Right now the skies over the track are getting dark very quickly with the forecast rain looking set to start falling any minute now.
The sun is still shining here in Austria but the big question on all the top drivers minds is, what will track conditions be like following the beating it has taken from the weather since the Warm-up race back in May. The winner of that dry race was Yannick Aigoin whose Losi/Novarossi combination worked perfectly on that occassion but the 2006 European Champion admits that the track will be a very different challenge today. Predicting a close run race, Aigoin is tipping Savoya, 2007 Champion Robert Batlle and British duo Darren Bloomfield & Neil Cragg as his main challengers. Asked for views on the track layout the Frenchman said it is difficult and that it is also very hard to make time over your rivals.
Having endured a difficult final at the Warm Up race after trying something on his Associated that did not work, Batlle stayed on on the Monday for extra testing which he said went really well. However that was on a very dry track and the Spanish ace, who has already wrapped up the 2009 National Championship, says the difference is too much for that set-up to work. Although not used to racing in the wet the GRP backed driver, who is still running both GRP engines and tyres, says he actually likes the conditions but would still rather a dry event.
Current British Champion Cragg was on the podium at the Warm-up and the Associated team driver is being tipped by many of his rivals to be in the hunt come Saturday. Cragg was very happy with his car here back in May and feels if the rain holds off he will be in good shape. Fellow countryman Bloomfield, who was very complimentary of the hard work of the local club to protect the track from the elements, is concerned about changing track conditions and feels the early practice groups will be cleaning the track giving those who run later today a distinct advantage especially if conditions remain dry overnight. Drivers have just one 15-minute practice run today.
We could not let today pass without mentioning that former World and European Champion Daniel Reckward ends a successful 12 year stint of European Championships with Team Kyosho when he makes his first Euro appearance with Mugen Seiki. The German is full of phrase for his new team, who he made a surprise switch to at end of last year, and is really pleased with the close working relationship between the team’s drivers. Reckward, who is well known for his own range of tuning parts, last won the Euros back in 2002 on home soil when he successfully defended his 2001 title.
Wandering around the pit area we came across a number of new items on show starting with this modified LRP S8 BX. Spotted immediately is the new shape bodyshell that mounts the cockpit further forward for better airflow around the engine and rear wing and gives more space around the airfilter. This body will be released soon, but the car also features a number of new prototype parts that the LRP team are testing.
The biggest change being the new rear lower wishbones that, combined with the new lower bracket, gives the car less active caster than the standard kit version. The car also sports a new braking system that they are trying out, which has a larger brake piston for better braking. Finally they have mounted the RX battery to the outside front of the car for a change to the overall chassis balance. Track time will show whether these changes will have a positive effect on the car’s handling around this track.
Other new items include the previously mentioned Tourex X500 tires, which have been specially designed for this track and will take to the track for the first time later today. For team drivers only, RB Products have their new 45% nitro mix here and will be running it with a view to releasing the blend in the near future. More new products later.
The top off road drivers from across Europe are arriving to a sunny track here in Austria for the opening day of action at the 2009 EFRA 1:8 Off Road European Championships, but predictions are that things are going to get muddy for the rest of the week. Race organisers had a busy morning pumping the heavy overnight rain off the huge covers that have been in place for the last few days to protect the dirt track from what is turning out to be one of the Austria’s wettest Summers. Unfortunately the rain is set to return tonight and continue for much of the week.
Heading the entry here in Wolbling is defending champion Renaud Savoya. Having improved his result in this event by one position each year since taking fourth in 2005, the French ace can’t continue that trend this year but his current form gives him a real chance of becoming the first driver since David Tortorici in 2005 to successfully defend his Euro title. Currently leading his home National Championship, one of the toughest in Europe, Savoya says his Mugen/RB package works well here but the forecast wet conditions could make it a real lottery as the water can cause so much to go wrong with the cars. Asked who he felt would be his closest rival, the Worlds podium finisher said it would be all the usual candidates but singled out fellow Mugen/RB driver Elliot Boots as one to watch.
16 year old Boots, the defending European Junior Champion, has set himself the goal of making the Main final come Saturday but the English driver’s name is coming up in the predictions being made by many of the industries best known figures. The teenager was very fast here during the warm-up race and as he put it himself, ‘coming from England we are well used to racing in the rain’.
Drivers are still arriving at the track and once they have got their pit areas set up we will start to bring your their thoughts on the week ahead including that of the 2006 Champion and the Warm-up race winner here in Austria Yannick Aigoin. Our coverage of the 1:8 Off Road Euros is brought to you with the support from Team Orion, Mugen Seiki, LRP and Kyosho and will continue with regular daily updates right through till Saturday evening when one of the 180 entrants will be crowned 2009 Champion.
Massimo Fantini just missed out on the first 18 lap run as he took advantage of cooling temperatures in the final run of Day 4 of the 2008 EFRA European Championships. The Italian Serpent driver who has been quick from the start of the event completed 17 laps in 5:00.948 to top the time sheets from Robert Pietsch. Fantini was shown on the timing screens to be on target to do 18 laps but over the final lap his pace dropped and he just missed out.
Pietsch who ran out of fuel in his first run was very pleased to be second fastest and even happier with the amount of fuel left in the tank of his Novarossi powered Shepherd Velox. Michael Salven, who topped the time sheets first time round, improved his time but dropped to third. The German factory Serpent driver said his car felt much faster but he was dissappointed with the time as he thought it would be much better than the 9/10th of a second improvement he actually made.
Mark Green had the opposite to say when informed he was fourth replying with a rather shocked ‘Really’. The British Champion said the car felt slow but was easy to drive and he was surprised but really happy to set such a time.
Alberto Picco claimed the fifth fastest time but was critical of the heat structure which is resulting in much unnecessary car damage. Pointing to a very dejected Adrien Bertin, who collected another car in his run, the Italian said, ‘He is a World Champion and his car is broken not because he is a bad driver but because of the difference in speed between the drivers is too big. The practice runs should have been sorted based on EFRA’s Ranking for A drivers, that way we can concentrate on driving at 100% instead of having to avoid slower drivers. Its not fair on any of the drivers’. Dario Balestri also fell victim to the big differences between driver speeds and was quick to let race officials know his thoughts as his Motonica was lifted off the track less a front corner. Asked about his car former World Champion Picco said he was quite happy and while the lower temperatures had improved run time it was still very close.
Completing the Top 6 was Italy’s Nicola Marrone ahead of fellow countrymen Andrea Pirani, who failed to improve on his earlier time, while current World & European Champion Lamberto Collari apppears to have gotten his Kyosho working much better now.
Another racer failing to improve his time was Daniele Ielasi, saying his clutch was not set correctly but he was not worried as tomorrow is the race, referring to the first qualifying heat tomorrow evening.
Tomorrow will start off with two more timed practice runs, which are being seeded based on the two timed runs from today, before we get down to the serious business of qualifying with one round scheduled to start at 15:30 local time.
As a wrap up to our coverage from the European 1/8th scale buggy Championships, which was brought to you thanks to Kyosho and LRP, we have now added 70 new images to our events gallery. Newly added are photos from all the finalists, action from the main final and the prize ceremony celebrations as well as close ups of the winning Mugen MBX5R of newly crowned European Champion Renaud Savoya.