Bruno Coelho has successfully defended his TITC title after a thrilling A3 at the Infinity Addict Circuit in Thailand with the Xray driver afterwards describing the victory as the ‘hardest win of (his) career’. Winning the opening final with ease, he would crash out of A2 while leading meaning the 15th running of Asia’s most famous race would be decided between him and A2 winner Nicolas Lee in the closing encounter. Securing the overall TQ on a tie breaker with Infinity’s Jilles Groskamp, it was the Dutch driver who despite no longer being in title contention would put him under the most pressure as he had done in A2. Running bumper to bumper, Groskamp would hit Coelho allowing Ronald Volker to go to the front but it was now the battle for second that got all the attention. Having the fastest winning time, second would still be enough for Coelho to give Xray its third consecutive TITC win but having waited following the contact, Groskamp wanted to get the pass on the ETS Champion. Applying intense pressure however he couldn’t get it done as Coelho, despite the Bangkok heat, kept his cool to get the all important P2 for a win even his great rival Volker said afterwards he didn’t get easy. While Lee would get 2nd, something he was guaranteed after A2, Volker would somehow pull off an unexpected podium with 3rd thanks to his A3 win leaving Groskamp to miss the podium at what is now his home race.
‘I never had pressure like this before. It was 5-minutes complete pressure and I have to say I don’t like the feeling’, was how a noticeably relieved Coelho summed up A3. Reflecting on the event he continued, ‘It was a super hard weekend. It was one of the hardest races going from being fastest in practice to struggling the first day of qualifying but we worked really hard to keep fighting for the win. I don’t believe it was set-up. We made changes and there was zero difference. Maybe it was the additive or cleaner we used but me & Alex had the same problem. We made one week of work preparing and when we switch to race tyres everything changed but we fight to the end and even with the problems we got the win. This is the hardest win of my career’.
‘I shouldn’t have backed off in A2’ was Lee’s reaction to finishing as the runner-up. His first time to podium at the TITC he continued, ‘Obviously I am still with second but I was too close to winning’. With the result decided by a tie-breaker, each driver having a win and a second and the fastest winning time the decider, Lee’s win was just 0.791 of a second slower. On A3, in which he finished 5th, he said, ‘I tried to pass Alex (Hagberg) but he made no mistakes and I was stuck behind him all the way’. Having led the Yokomo challenge all weekend, Lee said he was ‘happy’ to finish as the top Yokomo adding he hopes he can carry his momentum from the weekend into his next race which will be the first outdoor round of the current Euro Touring Series season which takes place in Spain in April.
The last non Xray driver to win at the TITC when he became champion in 2014, Volker said, ‘I have no idea how I should feel. I think I’m quite happy with 3rd after what happened on Friday but the whole weekend was crazy’. The World Champion went on to say, ‘I put on new tyres for A2 and was slowest of everybody’s lap time and then change to my A1 set and was totally on pace. I did benefit from mistakes ahead of me to get the win, admittedly I would have been better if Nicolas could get the win’. Set to go head to head next weekend in Germany with Coelho at the final carpet round of the ETS, he complimented his rival by saying ‘Congrats to Bruno as he didn’t have an easy weekend either’.
On a weekend when Infinity officially announced its EP program, Groskamp said, ‘I’m really happy, just with my performance. It’s disappointing to finish 4th as it would have been nice to be on the podium with everyone supporting me here but the car was amazing’. He continued, ‘I was all over Bruno but I just couldn’t get passed. I knew he was in for the win and didn’t want to crash him again but it’s good he wins and I’m all over him’. Having dominated the opening day of qualifying taking all three qualifiers, he said, ‘we were a bit unlucky here and there but I’m super happy with the cars performance and I think maybe I am the moral winner of this race’. Behind Groskamp, Infinity team-mate Andy Moore would complete the Top 5.
In the other classes Jan Ratheisky took the TQ and win in Open Brushless 13.5 class ahead of local Kittipong with the podium being completed by the Tamiya of former TRF team-manager Kono Takayuki. In Formula, the single 15-minute main having a mandatory tyre stop, it was Infinity driver Trin who took the win, thanks to a lightning quick pitstop, ahead of Serpent designer David Ehrbar and the Yokomo of Naoya Kitagawa with Top Qualifier Ratheisky fourth. In the Front Wheel drive class Hong Kong legeng Stick King took the win while Non Boost 17.5 went to Patchara S. with Philippine driver Axo A. victorious in Tamiya Super GT.
Chassis – Destiny RC-10S Motor – LRP X20 4.5T ESC – LRP Flow X TC Spec Battery – LRP 5600mAh Tires (handout) – Sweep Radio/Servo – KO Propo Body – Protoform LTC-R
Remarks – Young Japanese driver Jin Sawada was running the Destiny RC-10S in Thailand with a number of new, soon to be released, parts as well as some already available option parts. The main new items are the new suspension mounts that now using inserts instead of ball for better tuning possibilities, 1mm lower bulkheads , a motor mount that is 1.5mm closer to the centre line and smaller diff and spool pulleys. In terms of setup he started with his standard setup and just played with the shock package, finally settling on softer springs and harder oil.
Nicholas Lee has won the second A-Main of the TITC, the Yokomo driver benefiting from errors from race leaders Bruno Coelho and Alexander Hagberg, both incidents delaying a very unlucky Jilles Groskamp. From the start Groskamp had Coelho under intense pressure and on the fourth lap the Xray driver would roll trying to keep the door closed on the Infinity driver. Trying to avoid the Top Qualifier, Groskamp would have to take to the infield allowing third place starter Hagberg into the lead but four laps later he would do almost a carbon copy of his team-mates error. With Groskamp all over the 2015 Champion, on the exact same corner Hagberg was also to roll again, Groskamp having to take evasive action only this time it would end his challenge for both the leg win and that ‘dream’ TITC victory that eludes him. With Lee going to the front after the second incident he would pull clear to add a win to his A1 second place with Andy Moore, from 9th on the grid, finishing 2nd ahead of Infinity team-mate Chavit Sirigupta and Hagberg.
Guaranteed at least second overall with his A2 win, Lee said, ‘I just tried to be patient and show how I got to the front’. Going into the deciding round as one of three drivers who can win the 15th running of the famed Asia race, he continued, ‘my car has been good all weekend but I think it will be difficult starting from 4th’. With Coelho having the faster race winning time, the defending champion only needs a second once Lee must get the win. The other potential winner, Moore, has already ruled himself out for the overall win describing his second place as ‘very lucky’.
Commenting on his error, Coelho said, ‘I don’t know if the track was slower or my set of tyres was from a bad batch but I came under a lot of pressure from Jilles and trying to keep a tight line I flipped on the curb on the fourth lap’. Hagberg said he ‘struggled again with understeer’ adding, ‘I don’t have a good set-up now. It was worse than expected and I don’t know how to fix it’. Groskamp kept his summary of the race short saying ‘I was super unlucky’, the Thai based Dutch driver adding, ‘It’s a real pity I have no chance to win now but everyone could see I was fast enough’.
Bruno Coelho took an easy win in the opening A-Main of the TITC, the Top Qualifier able to fend off an early challenge from Jilles Groskamp to cruise home to a winning margin of over 6-seconds from Nicholas Lee. While the leader had a straight forward race the battle for second would end more spectacular fashion as Yokomo team-mates Nicolas Lee and Ronald Volker reeled in a slowing Groskamp. With a lack of race announcements creating confusion as what stage the race was at, Lee, thinking it was the last lap, would attempt a pass on Groskamp into the final corner. Hitting the Infinity driver, causing the Dutchman a body tuck, then Volker, trying to capitalise on the incident, would hit his team-mate but the impact stripped his spur gear. Unfortunately for Volker, the race still had another lap to go. With Lee thinking that the race was finished he initially stopped after his contact with Groskamp who continued but on hearing the crowd reaction continued on the lap but Groskamp would spin out allowing him to go by for second. With the incident causing Groskamp’s last lap not to count the result would initially show Volker, with a 4:59.563, third but bringing the error to the attention of race control he was given back the lap demoting Volker a lap down to fourth.
‘As expected Jilles attacked at the beginning but I was able to keep the door closed and after 1-minute I was able to pull away’. The ETS Champion continued, ‘I have not so much to say, I pulled away and then just tried to stay in front and I will try to do the same in the next one’. In contrast team-mate Alexander Hagberg, who started third but finished last, was very frustrated by his race saying, ‘the car was completely un-drivable. I could even turn and people could pass me around the outside’.
Summing up his race, which started from 4th on the grid, Lee said ‘it went well’. He continued, ‘Hagberg went wide and we got side by side and he was unlucky and went off. Then I caught Jilles towards the end and I thought it was the last lap so I tried a move on Jilles and hit him but as we both crossed the line I thought the race was over. Then I realised it wasn’t and went again. That aside I am happy with the pace I had for the race and to get second was good’.
Groskamp said, ‘I had a good start and could easily follow Bruno but half way through I lost a lot of pace and the car started to push, it was the same as the last qualifier’. He continued, ‘I decided to settle for second but the drop off got worse and Nico & Ronald could catch me’. On the hectic finish, he said, ‘I was slower but it was not super nice from Nicolas and I hope the second one is not so rough’. Also hoping he doesn’t ‘not have so much drop off’, he added, ‘shame I cant have the pace from Friday but still we will fight for the podium’.
‘The starting grid is crazy to avoid other cars’ said Volker, the 10 car grid lined up extremely close to one another given the size of the Infinity Addict Circuit straight. He said going into the first corner with cars either side of him he ‘came out the best to go to the front with Nico (Nicolas Lee). We caught Jilles and Nico tried a move and I tried to benefit but hit someone and broke my spur gear’. He concluded, ‘I could have been Top 3. With my grid position it isn’t easy but I am very happy with my performance’. Behind Volker, Akiyama would finish fourth.