Bruno Coelho is the Top Qualifier at the TITC after an exciting final qualifier at Infinity Addict Circuit. After taking both of yesterday’s qualifiers, Coelho was the only driver who could deny Jilles Groskamp his first overall TQ at the famous Asia race and initially it looked like the Infinity driver was about fill that void. With Coelho’s Xray coming good from the mid race, the Portuguese driver would start to close the gap and as the heat entered the final minute it was apparent Groskamp was starting to struggle. With Coelho already ahead on the timing screens, Groskamp’s would attempt to keep his dream alive running a tight line off the straight but clipping the curb flipped off the track. While all the attention was on Groskamp and Coelho, Alexander Hagberg was all the time closing on his team-mate but in the end came up 3/10ths short. With Coelho and Groskamp sharing TQ runs each it was Coelho’s time from last night’s Q5 rocket round which would secure the defending champion his second consecutive TITC TQ. With Groskamp second and Hagberg third, Nicolas Lee starts fourth as the best Yokomo ahead of Akio Sobue, whose attempt to try to take third on the grid from Hagberg didn’t materialise. World Champion Ronald Volker would complete the Top 6 on the grid, the 2014 TITC winner very critical of the track conditions drivers faced in the final qualifier.
Reacting to taking the TQ Coelho said, ‘It was very good. At the beginning Jilles pulled away a lot but as we knew from yesterday my car works better from the middle to the end. It was double fast compared to the others and I could catch Jilles. He then made a mistake maybe because of the pressure I don’t know but for sure it is great to get the TQ again.’ Asked about the finals, the World Championship Top Qualifier replied, ‘It’s difficult to know because we have a new set of tyres and we don’t know what is waiting for us, it’s a lottery, each set is different’. He continued, ‘I am not confident. I’m confident in myself and my car, we will see what happens’.
‘A good job from Bruno but my tyres just switched off after 4-minutes’ was how Groskamp summed up the final qualifier. Using the same set of tyres he used to TQ the opening two qualifiers, the 2012 World Champion said, ‘I was surprised at the beginning by my pace but suddenly I had not traction. I think Xray have something better with their tyre preparation and that I was too heavy, too long with mine’. He added that ‘running the tyres for a third time may also have added to how much they dropped off’. Saying it was a ‘dream to TQ the TITC’ he added ‘2nd is OK because the outside is a good starting position (on this track)’ and ‘it’s a new game because we are all on new tyres so there are no strategies’.
Returning to the Xray cabin, Hagberg understandably looked pleased with his final qualifying performance.The 2015 Champion said, ‘At the start it pushed a lot but then came in at the end. I was closing at the end but it was not enough but I have a good starting position for the final’. Describing the track as ‘pretty open’ and feeling ‘you can overtake in a few spots’, the Swede said, ‘It will be interesting to see how it goes with everyone on the same tyres. We all start from zero’. Runner-up to team-mate Coelho last year he concluded, ‘I think I have a good car for the final and it was always good on new tyres’.
Lee felt he ‘drove better today’ but added ‘I needed 2nd for the round to start higher and couldn’t make it. This was the best I could do because the track changes so much’. Asked about his expectations for the race, the Singapore driver said, ‘I have no idea, I think there is no space to overtake. I raced the Ride Cup race here 2-weeks ago ad there was no space to overtake’.
Changing his car from an aluminium chassis to a carbon chassis in an attempt to TQ the round to get 3rd on the grid, Sobue said he had too much understeer to challenge for the round. Another driver who feels it will be ‘difficult to overtake’ in the final, the Infinity driver plans to remain on the carbon chassis but change how the car is set-up.
Getting a P6 for the final qualifier to improve his overnight P8 position in the ranking, Volker wanted to voice his opinions on the final qualifier in particular how it cost Thailand’s top international driver Meen Vejrak a spot in the A-Main. The German said, ‘I’m pretty upset with how things went for Q6. It was wrong to have no free practice to clean the track before the qualifier started and it meant the conditions were unfair as the qualifying round was the track cleaning and it was of course going to get faster every heat’. Running in the second fastest heat after Day 1 tyre issues saw him reseeded out of the top heat, he said, ‘I can complain even more today about being in the second heat but I feel sorry for Meen as the track was way worse than the top two heats’. Running in the third fastest heat, Vejrak who has been on the podium at his home race for the last three years, would top his heat but would end up 15th fastest, compared to a P5 yesterday in Q5, a result that puts him 2nd on the B-Main grid. On his own performance, Volker said, ‘I couldn’t do much to get Top 5 (on the grid), my car & tyres actually fell alright. As I expected yesterday I am mid pack and I can’t do much but like anyone starting 5th or 6th I can just hope there is some incidents ahead of me’.
Chassis – Spice BD7 Single Belt Conversion Motor – Scorpion 17.5T ESC – Hobbywing Battery – G Style 6000mAh Tires (handout) – Ride Radio/Servo – Sanwa Body – Tamiya
Remarks – Spice designer Yukinori Kagayama is running his own designed single belt conversion for the Yokomo BD7. Suitable for up to 10.5 turn non boost or 13.5 turn boost touring car, the single belt design, which replaces the original 2 belt configuration, gives the car a more linear feel on both throttle and brake due to the lack of slack in the belts. The conversion itself comprises of the single piece motor mount and belt tensioner, the tope deck and the single belt. An updated version soon to be released will allow the motor mount position to be adjusted and with a single belt design there is no need to different belts for each motor position.
Day 2 of qualifying at the TITC in Bangkok would turn out to be Bruno Coelho’s day with the Xray driver backing up his TQ run in Q4 to take the penultimate round of qualifying over team-mate Alexander Hagberg. A day that consisted of just two qualifiers, the result means it will be the morning before the Top Qualifier of the 15th running of Asia’s biggest race is decided in the sixth and final round, that set to be a shootout behind the defending champion and Day 1 dominator Jilles Groskamp. While Groskamp has three TQ runs compared to Coelho’s two, the Portuguese driver goes into the final round knowing he has the upper hand should it go to a tie break having just posted the fastest qualifying time so far. With Modified first on track in the morning for Q6, the Infinity Addict Circuit is expected to be much slower. After his bearing failure off the start of Q4, Groskamp’s day didn’t get much better with him struggling with a big drop off in pace, the Dutchman deciding not to complete the full 5-minutes. It would be Akio Sobue who would set the early TQ pace but the Infinity driver would also suffer a drop off, falling back behind the two Xrays but holding onto P3 just ahead of Ronald Volker.
Commenting on his latest qualifier Coelho said, ‘For sure the result is very good. The car was a little better now but for sure it is still not the same as before because it is still 7-seconds slower’. He continued, ‘It was not the fastest at the beginning but midway to the end it was impressive’ adding ‘conditions changed a lot for the round and this helped for the quality of the tyres’. Asked for his thoughts on the deciding qualifier, the World Championship Top Qualifier replied, ‘it’s all open for the TQ so we will see what happens’.
Finishing 2/10ths off Coelho, making it the closest round of qualifying, Hagberg who struggled in the previous round said, ‘I just put on fresh tyres’. The Swede added, ‘I knew I had a good car for the colder conditions and it was as good as expected but I made a slow start and then when I went to overtake a guy he hit me’. Disappointed to lose out on the chance to line-up second overall due to missing the TQ for the round, he said, ‘trying to secure third on the grid now is all I can do’. A driver normally reserved in voicing his opinion about races, the recent Snowbirds winner while not going as far as to call out the tyre issue said, ‘this is the weirdest race, results wise. I went from being off the pace in the last round to fighting for the TQ and it’s the same for others. I suppose one positive is that its exciting in a way.’
Asked about his lack of pace in Q5 Groskamp replied, ‘this set-up is not suited to these conditions but still there was way more drop off than normal’. The Dutchman said, ‘I didn’t want to change anything on the car because it works so well in the day time conditions and thats when the racing is’. Even with sticking with that set-up he said he ‘I was surprised it pushed so much because I expected it to be edgy and it wasn’t’. Regarding the overall TQ he said, ‘It was a shame Akio did not take that one but no worries for tomorrow. In the morning it will be super low grip so I think it will be harder for Bruno’.
‘It started very good but after it understeered a lot’, was how Sobue reacted to Q5. With a new set of tyres for the heat, he said they were a good set and he put the drop off down to a shock set-up change for the cooler conditions, but a harder spring made the tyres work too much inducing the understeer. Hoping to have been able to seal the deal for team-mate Groskamp to get the overall TQ and to put himself in contention for an Infinity 1-2 by taking the round, the 22-year-old said his aim now is to secure third ahead of Hagberg, both drivers currently on the same points but Hagberg having two P2 and one P4 compared to his one P2 and two P3 results.
Continuing to turn around a disastrous first day of qualifying, backing up his Q4 P3 with fourth, Ronald Volker said, ‘I’m happy to take a 3rd & 4th after being 7-seconds off yesterday’. Running the last two heats with the same white bodyshell he used in practice as they tried to eliminate every possibility for his drop off in pace once qualifying started, the World Champion said today’s improvement was ‘definitely down to tyres’, him using a different set today. Having dropped into the second fastest heat the German said this added another slight disadvantage in term of the track conditions which he felt were better for the top heat. With only seven heats of Modified, he feels the disadvantage in the morning could be even bigger as each heat cleans the track. Currently sitting P8 on the grid he said a TQ would put him third but with no reseeding of the heat tonight this will be very difficult to achieve and he may have to settle for a mid pack grid position.
Completing the Top 5 for the round, Thailand’s top international driver Meen Vejrak would be very relieved by the result. A podium finisher at his home race for the last three years, the former Nitro Touring Car World Champion said, ‘Yesterday I cannot drive the car. It was a really shit day but today it is so much faster’. The Yokomo driver continued that his BD8 was ‘totally different to practice (yesterday) but now it is back to normal’. Asked if the turn around in form was to do with tyres, he replied, ‘I don’t want to say anything but I didn’t lose 5-seconds in the set-up’.
Behind Vejrak, fellow nitro racer Dario Balestri put in an impressive run to set the sixth fastest time. The new Infinity signing, who is a nitro onroad specialist and has little electric touring car experience, is only racing at the TITC before making an onward journey to Singapore on Monday for 1:8 testing as the Japanese brand makes preparations for this 1:8 World Championship year.
Remarks – Infinity team driver and Bangkok resident Jilles Groskamp is using the Infinity SMJ Prototype to take the first 3 qualifiers here at the TITC. Using the same car he received at the Sunpadow GP in China late last year he has since worked on making the car lighter so that he can better strategically place weight. Since testing for the TITC began he has tried both different flex top decks as well as an aluminium chassis but has reverted back to the configuration he used to win the Ride Cup some weeks ago. Deciding to stick with a carbon chassis while others have gone for aluminium he believes it to have a wider range of traction for the changing conditions while the metal version only really suits the higher traction.
Chassis – Tamiya TRF419X Motor – Racing Performer 4.5T ESC – Yokomo BL Pro 4 Battery – Racing Performer 5000mAh Tires (handout) – Sweep Radio/Servo – Futaba Body – Protoform LTC-R
Remarks – Former World Champion Atsushi Hara is running a Tamiya chassis for the first time here at the TITC, helping event organiser and local Tamiya distributor to showcase the TRF419X. Running basically a stock car but with Axon shocks, the car was good in practice but has since fallen off once the racing has started, the conditions at Infinity Addict unique only to this one time a year during this particular race. Looking to the final qualifier and the finals, the Japanese driver will play with shock setup to find some improvement.