With the Bruno Coelho domination at the TITC showing no signs of abating, the Portuguese driver notching up his fastest TQ run in the penultimate qualifier even with getting out of shape, it was team-mate Alexander Hagberg who came out best of the rest. Posting a time 1.6-seconds off Coelho’s 5th TQ run, the result puts the Swede in contention to make it an Xray 1-2 on the grid that will decide the champion at the 16th running of Asia’s most famous race. Akio Sobue would complete the Top 3, with the Infinity driver together with team-mate Naoto Matsukura and, with an outside chance, Marc Rheinard all vying to start second with one final qualifier left to run on Sunday morning.
‘Finally I was fairly competitive in the first laps and I could get a second place’, said Hagberg afterwards. He continued, ‘I will try to do the same again tomorrow morning but it is gong to be pretty dusty as we are out first’. Not sure if he will change his car for Q6, he said, ‘2nd (on the grid) is still open so anything can happen in the last one. I will try my best to repeat what I just did. The car is definitely better than yesterday’.
One of only 3-drivers to run 14-second laps, Coelho and Matsukura the other two, Sobue said track conditions were not as cool as expected but added they were better than the previous round. Describing his car as ‘a little loose’, the Japanese National Champion goes into the final round of qualifying holding third on the grid but with a good final qualifier has the chance to overtake Matsukura. He said, ‘I will try to fight for second but I need a 20 lap run in 5:10 and in the morning the track will be dusty so it is going to be hard’.
Needing a TQ in the morning to get P2 on the grid, Rheinard, who found himself in the B-Main last year, was pleased to get a 4th as it almost certainly secures him 5th on the grid. The German said, ‘the starting order (for Q5) was based on the order of Q4 so I started 3rd last and it was hard to judge my pace compared the others. One time the car spun out at the chicane but the rest was ok’. He added, ‘we are still missing something. Bruno is on one level, then it is Akio, Naoto, Hagberg and me. Maybe tomorrow it will be a different game because the organisers will give us all new tyres for the final but I am sure Bruno will still be fastest.
With Q5 proving his worst round, Matsukura said, ‘my car was pretty good for the first minute but after that it started to understeer. It was not very stable’. Crashing on lap 12 of 20 at the end of the straight, the Japanese driver took full responsibility for the impact saying, ‘that was my mistake’. Sitting second overnight in the provisional qualification ranking, the former touring car & reigning 1:12 World Champion said, ‘it will be an important run in the morning to hold onto second’. Asked is he was to hold on to 2nd if he believes he can mount a challenge on Coelho he replied, ‘Bruno still has the advantage and don’t think that will change tomorrow’. Behind Matsukura, a good run from Charlee P would see him post his first Top 6 run as the lead Yokomo driver followed by the Infinity of 2017 second place qualifier Jilles Groskamp.
Seven years on from when he made a name for himself as one of Offroad’s top drivers by winning the 2011 Reedy Race of Champions, Dustin Evans has claimed victory at the unique event for a second time. The Associated driver becomes only the 5th driver in the race’s 24 year history to have achieved multiple victories in one of the World’s most difficult races to win given its unique multiple heads up race format. A contender throughout this year’s encounter, which was hosted again at the World famous OCRC Raceway in Huntington Beach, California, Evans went to the top of the points after a dramatic penultimate round of 2WD action and then sealed the deal with his 6th win of the event in the last round. This left a stacked closing heat to determine who would stand each side of Evans on the podium, 5 drivers vying for the 2 places. An action packed affair Tessmann came out the winner to give him a perfect 2WD score which together with a less successful 4WD part of the event pulled the Xray driver up to 2nd overall. Having looked like he was going to clean up a 5th Reedy Race title, Ryan Cavalieri would get third behind Joona Hataanen to secure the final podium placing getting the tie break from World Champion Ryan Maifield. Going into the final round in 2nd position in the points, Maifield would break after 5 laps while leading. Also having a tough final race, Spencer Rivkin, who shared the lead with Cavalieri over a number of rounds, would end the event with his worst race and while a throw-out it meant he had to count the 5 from the previous round leaving him 5th overall.
‘Pretty crazy, 7-years between wins’, was how Evans summed up his victory. The Colorado driver added, ‘I was fast all week and I had a few things go my way but that’s the Reedy Race. A Reedy sponsored driver this time round, he continued, ‘winning it under he Reedy name is pretty special’. Asked about his final race, he said, ‘I didn’t know exactly what I had to do, I didn’t want to know’. Starting from 9th on the grid, he said, ‘Any time I am super patient it works out for me so that’s how I took the start and then at the triple there was a big pile and it worked out good for me. I didn’t want to get too conservative and crash like the last one but everything went right this weekend. I’m super happy’.
Reacting to his comeback podium finish, going one better than last year, Tessmann said, ‘It was looking bad after 4WD so to comeback so good I’m pretty happy. It’s not the win but 2nd is the next best time’. Taking 5 wins from the 6 rounds of 2WD action, the Canadian said, ‘My 2WD car was good and for the last two it worked really good. I’m really happy with that’.
‘That was the hardest my car was ever to drive, it was one of my worst races. I was lucky to get a podium out of it’, said Cavalieri after the final race. The Associated driver continued, ‘I experienced everything this weekend. One round I’m in the lead, then I break and next I have my hardest race. That’s the joy of this race’.
In the Open class, booking their places with the Worlds best drivers in next years Invitational class of the Reedy Race of Champions, Associated driver Brad Shearer won 2WD from Tommy Hinz while in 4WD Xray driver CJ Jelin took the win over Aydin Horne.
A dramatic conclusion to the penultimate round of racing at the Reedy Race of Champions turned the 24th running of the event on its head with Dustin Evans jumping into a 2-point lead going into the deciding round. With Tessmann putting himself in with an outside chance of the title with a 3rd win of the day when he won the opening heat. The second heat saw Ryan Maifield take his second 2WD win also putting the former champion in with a mathematical chance of a second title but all the attention was on heat three. With joint points leaders Ryan Cavalieri and Spencer Rivkin together with Dustin Evans, who was just a point behind, on the grid, the race couldn’t have been scripted to be more dramatic. Starting up front, Evans lead the way and looked to be pulling a gap as mid pack starting Rivkin and Cavalieri came through before Evans two laps in succession got it wrong in the whoops creating showdown of the title contenders with Cavalieri, who dropped back earlier due to a rare mistake, going to the front. With the win certain to secure Cavalieri his 5th Reedy Race title the Associated driver would land the triple in front of the drivers stand on the pipe breaking a rear arm. Getting around the corner, his car stranded in the middle of the track would get collected by Rivkin who on getting over Cavalieri’s car would then get stuck head to head with Joona Haatanen’s car allowing Evans to go clear for a 3-second win over Rob Gillespie. With Cavalieri getting 9 points, the heat having only 9 cars, Rivkin would collect 5 points for 5th, turning the points table on its head with Evans the new leader from Maifield by a point with Rivkin third, Tessmann fourth and Cavalieri 5th before drops are taken into account. With drops counted Evans holds a 2-point lead over Cavalieri and Rivkin. Going first Evans has the advantage of an easier heat albeit from the back row of the grid, while all the other contenders line up together in the final race of the event.
‘I knew it was going to be a gnarly race’, said Evans. Starting on the front row alongside pole sitter Joseph Quagraine, the 2011 Champion continued, ‘JQ told me straight up he was going for it at the start so I went for it too and kept my line around the outside. I drove awesome for 4-minutes. I was telling myself to keep going and don’t let up but then I backed it off and had mistakes two times in the whoop and had to race it with Cav. When he broke I managed to get around him while the others hit his car. I had it under control, blew it and then won it. Thats the Reedy Race’. Asked about the final round he said, ‘I don’t want to know the scenarios. I want to chill out for a bit and go out and do what I can. The last heat is super stacked and I’m not in it but I’ve still got to go out and drive my own race’.