Jilles Groskamp took the opening round of qualifying at the TITC in Bangkok this morning, the Infinity driver putting in the only 20-lap run at Infinity Addict Circuit. Sixth fastest in yesterday’s seeding practice, Groskamp opened with a blistering 14.9 second lap to take control of the qualifier to TQ the round from the Xray’s of Alexander Hagberg and Bruno Coelho. While Nicolas Lee would finish as the fastest Yokomo with a P4 for the round it was the lack of pace of his team-mate Ronald Volker that was one of the biggest surprises of the qualifier with the World Champion only 13th fastest.
‘Surprising’ was Groskamp’s reaction to the opening qualifier which even left the race announcer using some colourful language to express how impressed he was by the Dutch driver’s run. Groskamp continued, ‘from practice I knew I had a good set-up for the warm conditions and knew my car was pretty good but I didn’t know it was that fast’. Running a prototype SMJ chassis, Infinity’s leading electric touring car drivers each using different parts on their cars, the 2012 World Champion said, ‘while others struggled with understeer my car was on another level compared to the rest. I had so much traction’. The only driver to get below a 15-second lap time, he said ‘the car was spot on from the start and that was how I was able to do the 14.9 which I never managed before’. Looking to Q2, he said ‘I focused on a set-up for the day time and it is really really good. I just hope the other sets of tyres are the same because I hear some complaints from others about their sets’.
Commenting on his run, Hagberg said, ‘the track was better than expected. Normally its dusty but there was good traction’. The 2015 TITC Champion said he planned to make a ‘tiny change to try and get more pace’ but added, ‘tyre strategy is going to be the big thing’. The Swede continued, ‘I have to decide when is best to run new or used’ and ‘we need to work on this (the strategy) together as a team’.
‘Was not so good’ was how an unimpressed Coelho summed up Q1 after finishing 1.7-seconds off his tam-mate Hagberg. The defending champion continued, ‘we didn’t change anything. I had a very good pace before and now I have zero traction. I must have got a set of tyres that are not good’. Adding, ‘the car was undriveable’, the ETS Champion said, ‘we had some sets that where not so good in practice so we will leave the car the same and see if a different set of tyres is better’.
Matching his seeding position with P4, Lee was another driver who was disappointed with his Q1 performance. The Singapore driver said, ‘the car was pushing from the start. I didn’t change anything so I’m putting it down to the track changed’. Expecting grip to be higher for Q2 he said, ‘we will change something for the next one’. Team-mate Volker summed up his opening run with ‘I have no idea what happened’. He added, ‘the car is not that bad that I am 7-seconds off. We’ll change the car plus we’ll make sure that set of tyres wont be used again’.
Setting the 5th fastest time despite running in the 3rd fastest heat, Infinity driver Chavit Saligupta summed up his performance as ‘OK’. The 22-year-old from Bangkok described his car as being ‘a little difficult for the 1st minute’ which forced him to ‘take it easy’. Asked what he felt the issue was he replied ‘for me the grip felt lower than yesterday’. For Q2 he plans to leave the car unchanged and on the same set of tyres feeling the track for the second run should have better traction.
Completing the Top 6, Yokomo protege Naoki Akiyama said his BD8 was ‘super loose after the 1st minute’. Despite ending up 4-seconds off the TQ pace, the 17-year-old plans to leave his car unchanged for Q2 and like Saligupta will run the same set of tyres for a second time, drivers getting four sets of the controlled Sweep tyres for the 6 rounds of qualifying.
Chassis – Yokomo BD8 Motor – Racing Performer 4.5T ESC – Yokomo BL4 Battery – Racing Performer 5000mAh Tires (handout) – Sweep Radio/Servo – Sanwa Body – Protoform LTC-R
Remarks – Newly signed Yokomo driver Christopher Krapp is using the latest BD8 from the Japanese company with a prototype motor mount that is longer than the previous version and which also connects to the servo mount using a tie rod. Arriving in Thailand with his base setup he has settled on a hybrid setup combing the best parts from team mates Ronald Volker and Meen Vejrak. The German’s only other change to the base car is a set of titanium screws.
Bruno Coelho is the top seed for tomorrow’s qualifying at the TITC at Infinity Addict Circuit, the reigning champion making the most of the cooler conditions of the second & final timed practice to head an Xray 1-2. Improving on his opening time by over 6/10ths of a second, Coelho would end the session 2/10ths up on team-mate Alexander Hagberg who had set the fastest 3-consecutive laps of the first session. Behind the champions of the passed two years, Nicholas Lee would complete the Top 3 for Yokomo ahead of team-mate Ronald Volker. Setting the fifth fastest time, Marc Rheinard would end his first official day as an Infinity driver as the Japanese manufacturer’s quickest driver with P5 ahead of team-mates Jilles Groskamp and Aki Sobue.
‘So so’ was the reaction of a somewhat underwhelmed Coelho who continued, ‘OK I was fastest but my cars were pushing a lot at the end’. Top Qualifier last year he added, ‘the race is not 3-laps but 5-minutes so we need to work on that for tomorrow’ when 3 of the 6-scheduled qualifiers will take place. Again running 2-cars, he said his Hobbywing powered T4 was ‘super stable and had huge steering which was the opposite to how it was a lunch time’ adding ‘the track are like a lottery and we have to find a way to adapt the car for each part of the day’.
Hagberg said, ‘the track was a lot different but my car still pretty good’. Running two cars, the 2015 Champion added, ‘the car that was not so good when the track was hot was now good and I think based on the two set-ups of both cars I have a good idea where I need to be with my set-up over the day’. Looking to the first qualifier, the Swede said, ‘Its going to be really close I guess but I’m pretty confident we’ll be there’.
‘It was really good, we found a god set-up for the night time’, said a rather pleased looking Lee. Feeling they now have ‘a pretty good set-up for all times of the day’, something highlighted by his P4 in the opening practice, the World Champion finalist added, ‘running two cars I still haven’t run 5-minutes and over 3-laps you can’t really tell how it will go’. One thing the Singapore driver pointed out was the handout tyres saying, ‘the Sweep tyres has a lot of drop off making the car push more’ and that is something ‘you need to adjust your driving for’.
Summing up the final practice, Volker said, ‘I was happy with the session, both cars were very good’. He added, ‘even though I am not in the Top 3 for 3-laps I felt I was fastest over longer runs compared to the drivers ahead of me’. Saying he is ‘pretty confident in the colder conditions’, the 2014 TITC Champion continued, ‘we need to rethink set-up for the hotter day time conditions’.
‘Overall not a bad start with the new team’ was Rheinard’s reaction at the end of the time practice day. With a misunderstanding in the first practice meaning he ran just one car, with clarification that seeding was based on 3-laps and not 5-minutes he used the second session to run one of his prototype SMJ chassis’ on new tyres with the other on used. Having ‘messed up the start with both cars’ he said, ‘I was not on point for the first lap each time’. Expecting tyres to be key to qualifying depending on how severe the drop off in performance is with each set, he highlighted Groskamp was the only one to run a single car over the 5-minutes and so no one knows how much it will effect the 5-minute pace.
The only driver in the Top 23 to not produce better time in the cooler conditions of the final practice. Groskamp said, ‘I knew on super high bite, happy hour, track my car was too edgy so I was not crazy fast at the start as I didn’t want to risk smashing into the wall’. He continued, ‘While the time before was faster my 5-minutes was not so bad even though these conditions don’t suit my set-up’. He added, ‘it was on the limit in the last one and a big cause of that is the carbon chassis has more flex’. With only one of the six qualifiers to run in the late evening, the 2012 World Champion said, ‘I’m confident the car will be ok in the day time’.
Alexander Hagberg has topped the first round of seeding practice at the TITC in Bangkok, the Xray driver setting the fastest 3-consecutive laps just ahead of Infinity’s Jilles Groskamp and reigning champion Bruno Coelho. With the majority of the international drivers having already spent almost a week testing at the Infinity Addict Circuit, the first of the two scheduled seeding rounds finally gave the first official opportunity to gauge where everyone is at with Hagberg and Groskamp running almost identical times, the separation just 5/1000ths of a second. Aside from the times, the first seeding practice would be of extra interest as it marked the debut of Marc Rheinard as an Infinity driver, the Japanese manufacturer finally confirming the signing of the former Tamiya star this afternoon at Asia’s most famous touring car event. As an opening run Rheinard would post the 8th fastest time behind Atsushi Hara, who after concluding a deal with the local distributor is ironically racing the TITC for Tamiya.
‘Not too bad’ was Hagberg’s reaction to topping the times the Swede adding ‘over 3-laps it was really fast’. Running two cars over the 5-minute run, he continued ‘we’ll have to wait to see how it works over a full 5-minute run but the set-up for now feels very good’. Top Qualifier and winner of the TITC 2-years ago, he said, ‘the challenge is going to be to try to keep up with the changing track’ with the local weather meaning the track changes significantly from the morning to the afternoon and again to late afternoon.
Groskamp was pleased with his pace despite not knowing he could have run both his cars. He said, ‘I ran the whole race without changing car because I thought the seeding was over 5-minutes and not 3-laps, that is how it was before’. The former World Champion continued, ‘all week we’ve been able to try everything with the car which was really helpful and we have arrived with a set-up that feels really nice and is really consistent. The car has good steering and good traction so its not a bad start’.
Coelho was not too happy with his P3 pace, the ETS Champion feeling he had more speed but didn’t get to show it. With the first car he ran, the Xray driver would flip on his 3rd lap and then changing to his second car he struggled with a lack of steering something he said was most likely due to him pushing it too much. Once he settled into the run with his second car he said it felt ‘super good’. Describing the set-up of the two cars he ran as ‘similar (with) only small differences’, he plans to run both again for the final seeding round which will run in much cooler conditions just before the sun sets in Bangkok.
Heading the Yokomo challenge would be Nicolas Lee, the Singapore driver out pacing his team-mates Meen Vejrak and Ronald Volker who completed the Top 6 times. Running two BD8’s, one fitted with a copy of Vejrak’s set-up, he said he preferred the first car which ran his own set-up and it was with this car he posted his best 3-laps. Describing the car as ‘pretty good for these conditions’ he said it was ‘just up to the driver to drive it’ but added for the end of day run they needed to work on set-up. In open practice yesterday when the conditions where cooler the car suffered from traction roll.
Almost 2/10ths off Lee, Vejrak said he started off safe to get 3-laps reporting his car had a ‘little understeer’. With the car coming to a halt on the track the Bangkok driver, who lifted his 200mm Nitro Touring Car World title at this track, he said he initially thought he had stripped a spur gear which on further inspection it turned out to be a motor issue. Hoping for a trouble free final practice, he said hopefully he can adapt the car set-up to match the cooler track conditions.
Reigning World Champion Volker said ‘we are struggling for a day time set-up’. Aiming for a good average 5-minutes rather than setting the top seeding time, the German said the issue when the track is hot is that he has too much understeer. Running two cars he said both cars suffered from the same issue. Expecting the car to be better in the second seeding round he said only one of the qualifiers will run at this time of the day so their focus is on getting a set-up for the day time heat.
Track Name – Infinity Addict Circuit Owner – Pumin Songpaiboon Country – Thailand Location – Bangkok Direction – Clockwise Surface – Asphalt
Infinity Addict Circuit, formerly RC Addict, is one of a number of international tracks in the Thai capital of Bangkok but it is the best known thanks mainly to it having become the home of the TITC, Asia’s biggest electric touring event. Built in 2009 by RC Addict shop owner Pumin Songpaiboon, the track hosted its first Thailand International Touring Car Championship the following year and while the event would be hosted by two of the city’s other tracks in 2011 and 2014, 2017 marks Addict’s sixth time to host the world’s best drivers as they battle it out for the title of the 15th running of the TITC. In addition to the TITC, the track has been a World Championship venue hosting the 2012 200mm Nitro Worlds which was won by former TITC Champion & Bangkok resident Meen Vejrak. Winner of the first TITC to be held at Addicit, winning it again in 2013, Atsushi Hara has made the track his home. The legendary racer has his own workshop at the track within the headquarters of well known tyre brand RIDE who also occupy one of the three permanent shops at the circuit. The change of name from RC Addict to Infinity Addict Circuit since last year’s TITC is a reflection of the support industry newcomers Infinity offered when it was announced at the end of last year’s race that they aimed to improve the bumpy track by completely resurfacing it for the first time. With Infinity team principal Kenji Taira offering financial support towards the new asphalt, as an appreciation of the gesture the track owner renamed the track Infinity Addict.
Built in an area 55m wide by 27m deep, the track resurface involved the input of Hara, fellow Bangkok racers Jilles Groskamp & Meen Vejrak and regular Bangkok visitor Andy Moore. Hara said while the general positioning of the islands were maintained they where reduced in size to maximise track surface as a result while the track looks similar it is quite different to drive. Using a much finer asphalt Hara said the track is now much better with 2015 Champion Alexander Hagberg agreeing the surface is a big improvement. Reigning Champion Bruno Coelho, who is making his third TITC outing, was slightly less impressed by the resurfacing saying, ‘to be honest if you don’t tell me they changed it I won’t have know but it did feel like they changed the layout of the bumps’. Describing the layout as ‘pretty easy’, he added it was a pity they didn’t try to make it ‘more technical & more challenging’.