Bruno Coelho has ruled over the first day of qualifying at the TITC, the Xray driver having a perfect and dominant day at RC Addict to TQ all three qualifiers on the schedule. Q3 would see the reigning champion again top the times from Naoto Matsukura as he had done in the previous round but this time with double the time margin. Mixing up the order a little with Top 5 almost identical in Q1 & 2, Marc Rheinard would end the day with his first Top 3 run going faster than Alexander Hagberg would made it a hat trick of P4s for the day. While Coelho had a strong day, for the two drivers that joined him on last year’s podium it was day to forget. After posting he ninth fastest time in the opening two qualifiers, Ronald Volker would have a DNF in Q3 while Nicholas Lee, who lost out on the win on a tie break with Coelho last year, finds himself 33rd in the overnight qualification having DNF’d Q1 & 2. The Singapore driver did however finish on a more positive result with a P8 for the third qualifier.
‘It was a very good first day. The car works in all conditions, it was a little colder in the last one and it works still’, was how Coelho described his day’s performance. Three seconds faster than Matsukura in Q3, the ETS Champion added, ‘we will change nothing and just try to continue with no mistakes tomorrow’.
‘No mistakes but slow’, was Matsukura’s reaction after Q3. The Infinity driver, who crashed in the first two laps of opening two qualifiers, continued, ‘I had understeer, the set-up was no good’. Lowering the front upper arms he said ‘it was not so good so I will go back up’. With his team-mate Rheinard and Sobue going opposite directions in their diff oil choice and liking the changes, the Japanese driver will also make other changes for tomorrow but ruled out the diff as one of the changes.
Commenting on his third for the round, Rheinard said, ‘I got a little loose at the end of the straight which cost me a couple of tenths but for sure we are getting there’. Changing to a harder diff for the last of the day’s qualifiers he said, ‘a harder diff made the car feel a little better for me but I know my team-mates tried softer and also liked it so I will talk with them and see if I will make any other change for Q4 & 5 tomorrow’, the sixth & final qualifier due to run Sunday morning.’ He continued, ‘we are still 3-second away from Bruno so obviously they have found something that is better, still I’m in the A-Main at the end of the first day which is better than last year’. On his official debut for Infinity at the TITC last year the multiple World Champion found himself qualifying in the B-Main.
‘I lost too much time at the start and couldn’t make it up at the end’, was Hagberg’s thoughts on yet another P4 run. He continued, ‘I’m not sure why but we need to work on the first laps so I can be more aggressive with the car’. He concluded, ‘At least I have three decent runs so I can drive more with confidence tomorrow’.
Completing the Top 5, Bangkok’s very own Meen Vejrak said, ‘It has been a difficult day. The temperature is so high so its easy to make a mistake’. He continued, ‘If you push at the beginning the tyres overheat so that is why I have tried to drive safe to get good points’. With a 6th from Q1, a ‘little mistake’ in Q2 cost him 2 places and he ended up 7th, but the former 200mm World Champion, who won that title at RC Addict, said, ‘with these points I can now try stuff tomorrow’.
Losing almost 4-seconds on the last lap after ‘a big mistake’ that cost him a Top 2 run, Akio Sobue said changes to his Infinity for the round had made it ‘much better’. Catching the curb after the chicane which flipped his car, he added, ‘the car is ok but the driver was shit and I hope tomorrow I have no more mistakes but overall today was not so bad’. Changing to a softer diff he said while the steering had improved he still wants more steering and he has a few small changes he will try tomorrow.
Bruno Coelho claimed another straight forward TQ run in the second round of qualifying at this year’s TITC. Having opened his title defence with the fastest time in Q1, the Xray driver again had a similar time advantage only this time over Naoto Matsukura. In terms of the Top 5 times, the result was almost identical to Q1 with only Matsukura and Infinity team-mate Akio Sobue switching positions with Alexander Hagberg and Marc Rheinard repeating their Q1 positions. Naoki Akiyama would post the 6th fastest time to be the best Yokomo as Ronald Volker continues to struggle while Serpent’s Vitkor Wilck made up for a DNF in the first round to record a P7 ahead of Meen Vejrak and Volker.
‘It was a very good run as before, the track was much better’, was how Coelho summed up the second qualifier. He continued, ‘I forced from the beginning to get a gap but again Naoto made a mistake so then I was just controlling the run’. He concluded, ‘our car works very well here so I don’t know what else to say’.
Changing swaybar position and running the upper arms higher on his IF14, Matsukura said, ‘the feeling was better than before but again I made a mistake this time on the second lap’. The 1:12 World Champion added, ‘ with the changes I now have understeer so for the next one I need to find more steering and make no mistakes’. Almost matching Coelho’s fastest lap of Q2 with a 14.907 compared to the Portuguese driver’s 14.904, Matsukura concluded, ‘We are getting closer to being able to work on matching Bruno’s pace’.
Also making changes to his IF14, Sobue said they resulted in his car pushing even more than in Q1 but on a positive the car no longer felt loose. Confident he knows what further changes are needed now to get steering back into the car, the Japanese also feels he didn’t drive well in Q2. He said, ‘A few times I drive too much up on the curb which caused the car to slide so I need to stay off them in the next one’.
‘Another safe run’, was how Hagberg summed up his second qualifier. The Swede added, ‘I’m driving too carefully and need to push more’. Having suffered with his car being loose on the opening lap of Q1, when asked if he has solved that for Q2, the Xray driver said, ‘I was driving too cautious so I couldn’t tell’.
Rheinard said, ‘I was one time on two wheels coming onto the straight which cost me some time’. Much closer to the three drivers ahead of him this time round, the Infinity driver said, ‘it got loose and started to push at the end of the run but Akio and Hagberg were still within reach and the car is not that bad’. Changing his shock set-up for the round he said he ‘didn’t really notice any difference but I will change them again and maybe go stiffer in the rear’.
Describing both his qualifiers as ‘good clean runs’, having got a P7 in the first qualifying, Akiyama said, ‘I am driving easy for the tyres to make sure I don’t overheat them’. Yokomo team-mate Volker, who again was only 9th quickest said the track’s bumps are the main issue for him adding, ‘I’m struggling with the balance and I am surprised I have two Top 9 based on how the car feels out on the track’.
Commenting on his P7, Wilck said, ‘It’s ok for 5-minutes but I cant go fast in the beginning’. The Swede continued, ‘the car is too stable and I need to find more steering. I will change the flex but I think the problem is the chassis is too hard’.
Chasing his third consecutive victory at Asia’s most famous event, Bruno Coelho has got TITC 2018 off to the best possible start backing up his huge practice pace advantage with a TQ this morning in the opening round of qualifying. In Bangkok for the past week in preparations for the 16th running of the race, the Xray driver was quickest from Japanese Infinity pairing Akio Sobue and Naoto Matsukura, his advantage over Sobue just shy of 1.8-seconds. Coelho’s team-mare Alexander Hagberg would opening the 5 rounds of qualifying with the fourth fastest time ahead of fellow European Marc Rheinard while local hero Meen Vejrak led the Yokomo challenge completing the Top 6. Finding himself in the second fastest heat after seeding World Champion and former TITC winner Ronald Volker would get only a 9th for Q1.
‘It was a very good run for me’, was how Coelho summed up Q1. He continued, ‘I think the track was a little dusty and it was windy so my car was doing some weird things, it wasn’t a problem with the car but just the conditions’. Top Qualifier last year, he said, ‘Naoto made a mistake on the first lap which gave me space to breath and from then I just tried to control my pace and tried to not over heat my tyres. It was very good’.
Closest to Coelho both on overall time and outright speed, his fastest lap just 1/10th off Coelho’s quickest, Sobue described his first qualifying attempt as ‘quite good’. The Infinity driver suffered ‘one spin’ saying his car ‘started out good’ but as the run went on his car began to ‘get loose and push’. Overall pleased with the set-up on his IF14 he will make some ‘small changes’ for Q2 to try and increase the car’s steering.
Losing over 1.5-seconds to Coelho over the opening two laps, second seed Matsukura said, ‘the first two laps my car was a little loose and I spun out on the first lap’. Running Infinity’s new alu chassis on his car, he said, ‘my car has good corner speed but after 2-minutes the track gets really loose so I need to change the set-up to make the car more stable and easier to drive. From 3-minutes I have almost same lap times as Bruno.’
Summing up his run to the fourth fastest time, Hagberg said, ‘It was OK. I struggled the first lap, I was lacking traction. After that it was good so maybe I needed to do more warm-up laps’. The Swede continued, ‘I am pleased with my car but every time the track keeps changing so it is hard to predict how it will be but it is always like this at this race’.
Fifth fastest Rheinard said, ‘I have no feeling. The car gets loose at one point and then its twitchy. It’s not easy to drive but I’m still happy to get a Top 5’. Asked about a set-up change for Q2, the German replied, ‘I changed the set-up completely from yesterday but it still drives the same’. For team-mate Jilles Groskamp, who TQ’d all three qualifiers on the opening day last year, a clash with race runner-up Nicolas Lee, left the former World Champion with an 11th for the round.
The final driver to complete 20-laps in Q1, Vejrak described his P6 as ‘a good first run’. The Thai driver continued, ‘my plan was to drive safe and smooth. The traction always changes between runs. Last night was super high and and made a set-up change for that but it is now lower today and I could not push it or I would spin out but I’m happy to get some good points for the first one’.
Track Name – Infinity Addict Circuit Owner – Pumin Songpaiboon Country – Thailand Location – Bangkok Direction – Clockwise Surface – Asphalt
Infinity Addict Circuit, better know simply as RC Addict, is one of a number of RC tracks the city of Bangkok boasts and for the 7th time it hosts Asia’s best known race – the TITC or Thailand International Touring Car Championship to give it its full title. Now in its 16th year, the 2018 edition of the TITC has once again attracted the world’s best touring car drivers with reigning champion Bruno Coelho the man they are all out to beat. Having undergone a complete resurfacing ahead of last year’s event, the main change this year is a revised layout within the 55m wide by 27m deep track space. Another less obvious change until you drive the track is the fact a number of bumps have developed in the asphalt over the last 12-months. One big visual difference on arriving at the track is that the street based containers which housed a number of air conditioned pit areas for drivers have been removed leaving the former 200mm World Championship circuit more open looking.
Having been in Thailand for almost a week in preparation to attempt a claim a third consecutive TITC title, Coelho described the revised layout as ‘a little more technical than last year’ saying ‘the layout is very good, I like it and there is a lot of traction which I like too’. Comfortably quickest in the seeding practice, the Xray driver did however say that while there was ‘one main bump which you could avoid’ last year, ‘now there are bumps everywhere’. Not causing him any major issue he said the bumps did mean they had to do a lot of work in early practice on finding a good suspension set-up.