Dario Balestri has taken the second round of qualifying at the 1:8 Onroad World Championships in France, the Italian coming good on his free practice pace from 2 days earlier. The Infinity driver topped the round from Bruno Coelho as Q1 pace setter Simon Kurzbuch threw away a potential TQ run when he put his Shepherd on the grass. With marshalling assistance required to rejoin, the error would leave the reigning champion 17th. Again the track showed it deserves respect with Top seed Naoto Matsukura again crashing out, only this time it ended his run less than 1-minute in. Behind Coelho, who also had a excursion, Jessie Davis completed the Top 3 making up for an error filled Q1 in which he ended up P29. Backing up his strong Q1 P6 run, Lars Hoppe would set the fourth fastest time ahead of Lamberto Collari and Teemu Leino.
Summing up his TQ run Balestri said, ‘I’m super happy because the car was really easy to drive and safe which was my objective’. He continued, ‘this track is really hard so you must have a car that is consistent and calm. I’m really happy’. With temperatures rising for the second qualifier, last year’s 1:10 Worlds Top Qualifier said ‘we changed something for this and it was really good’. Set to run the day’s third & final qualifier after 18:00 local time he said, ‘If the temperature changes then I just go back to (the set-up from) before’.
‘It was very good until I exited the track’, said Coelho. The Xray driver would go off at the sweeper saying he wasn’t sure why he had gone off there. ‘I think I hit a stone and it caused the car to jump so I arrived wide in the corner and went off. I was leading (at the time) with some space on the others I think’. He continued, ‘we are not lucky but we will work on this for sure’. In terms of his car, setting an identical fastest lap for the round to Francesco Tironi, he said, ‘I think our car is better in this temperature than when it is cooler but we will see later in Q3’.
Suffering two mistakes in Q1, Davis summed up his second qualifying attempt as ‘better’. The Australian said his pace was good in the first one and had a Top 5 run in it but he was too fast in the pitlane and crashed while exiting after his fuel stop. Changing his shock position for the extra high temperature of Q2 this gave him a car that was ‘safe and easy to drive’ and he also ‘made sure to go slow in the pitlane’. Referring to Q3 as the ‘rocket round’, he said the track will be cooler but not sure of how much of a temperature drop there will be he will for now ‘play it by ear’ regarding any set-up changes.
On finding out he had got a fourth for the round, Hoppe called it ‘perfect’. Describing his Shepherd as ‘a little more difficult’ he said with conditions ‘very hot’ the traction was ‘not so good’. The German said he started the run with understeer which turned to oversteer especially on throttle. Happy it was a cleaner run from him having had a mistake in Q1, he did have to check up from a mistake by Teemu Leino saying it was better to ‘choose to be safe’. He added, ‘my pitstop was awesome this time’.
While he would get a P5 after a DNF in Q1, Collari was clearly not happy with his car. The 9-time World Champion said, ‘the feeling is not so good’ and with an ‘overall lack of grip’ he can’t use the full power of his engine. Describing his run as ‘cruising’, the Italian said he just ‘tried to finish the heat in the best way possible’.
Completing the Top 6 ahead of Hot Race tyres boss Nicola Marrone, Leino described the run as ‘much better’. With a DNF in Q1, the Finn said, ‘I went from my own set-up to something similar to what everyone else (in the Infinity team) is using and I had more overall corner speed. For the next one I will completely copy the set-up’. Losing ‘a little time’ on his fuel stop and also in traffic, the former 1:10 Worlds Top Qualifier said ‘without this I think I could have got second so its looking good’.
Rueing the missed opportunity to back up his Q1 TQ with another top run, his off coming 3-laps from the finish, Kurzbuch said, ‘A completely messy run I would say’. He continued, ‘At the end of the warm-up I touched a little bit the curbing and went on the grass and hit a monster stone and destroyed the front of the body so the first few laps were not so fast. I could start to close the gap but was sitting behind a car I couldn’t get passed. I don’t know here if it is normal for the faster car to be let through’. Frustrated that no call was made for the offending car to open, he continued, ‘I heard it was close with Dario so I had to push and made a mistake. These things happen but we will bounce back in the next one’.
Chassis – Xray RX8 Engine – Max Power RP9.S Tyres – Matrix (Handout) Fuel – Runner Time Radio/Servos – Sanwa/Savox Body – SRC Remarks – Xray’s top driver Bruno Coelho is running an RX8 equipped with a number of option parts. His chassis is fitted with an 80g tungsten under LiPo weight and an additional 30g cylindrical weight, while the transmission features a 30T centre front pulley. The Portuguese ace is also using aluminium wheel axles and servo saver, and a set of graphite hard suspension arms.
Reigning 1:8 Onroad World Champion Simon Kurzbuch has got his title defence off to the perfect start by TQ’ing the opening round of qualifying this morning in Monteux, France.The Shepherd driver put in an error free round, capitalising on mistakes from both top seed Naoto Matsukura and Bruno Coelho to top the times from free practice pace setter Dario Balestri. Having put his Xray on the grass while in pursuit of Matsukura’s Infinity, Coelho would recover to get a third while Matsukura stopped the clocks with the fourth fastest time despite his heavy impact with the fencing at the start of the straight.
‘Perfect’ was Kurzbuch’s reaction to his TQ run. He added, ‘Our goal was to just try and have a clean run and have a look where we end up. Some crashed and we won this one. It is the best start we could wish for and now we can improve the details and try to take the (overall) TQ’. Second fastest in seeding, when asked why he took the start behind third seed Coelho, he said, ‘In the warm-up laps Bruno was a little faster so I decided to let him go rather than have to open up after a few laps to let him by but actually once the tyres came in my car was really good’ – as was confirmed by him posting the fastest lap of Q1. The Swiss driver expressed him concerns over the ‘short’ 2-minute warm-up time saying it was the absolute minimum amount of time needed to get the engines tuned for the qualifier describing the amount of time available to adjust the engine as ‘on the limit’.
‘Safe but I did push’, was how Balestri summed up the opening qualifier. After a troubled day yesterday in controlled practice with him ending up 9th in seeding having been the benchmark over the two days of free practice, the Infinity driver added ‘we come back today’. An error free 7-minute run, the Italian said his only issue was in the pits with there some confusion over positioning between his pitman and that of Robert Pietsch which lost him around 1-second. While also having to deal with traffic, impressively carving his way through a group of four cars, he said for sure it would have been better to not have to pass other cars but the time lost was negligible. Pleased with his car he will leave it unchanged for the second of today’s 3 schedule qualifiers.
Reacting to his opening qualifying performance, Coelho said, ‘It was almost perfect’. The Portuguese driver said, ‘I was pulling away from Simon and was close to Naoto but touched the curb and went into the grass. I had to force a lot to get the car back onto the track and for the next lap I had dirt on the tyres. It was a stupid mistake I was not even forcing just trying to get the points’. He continued, ‘I end up 3rd but without the mistake I think it would have been first. We improved a lot my lap times’.
‘Big mistake’, that was Matsukura’s choice of words to describing his costly error. He said, ‘my car was pretty good but I went inside the corner too much coming onto the straight and it launched the car and I hit the wall. I lost around 5-seconds but still finished 4th which is not too bad a start’. Looking to Q2, the Japanese driver said, ‘the only thing I must do is try is make to make no mistake. I have a good car so no need to change anything’.
The surprise of Q1 would come courtesy of French driver Romain Picard who would post the 5th fastest time. The Mugen driver was 10th fastest in controlled practice but found himself seeded in the second fastest heat having been replaced in Heat 15 by German Toni Gruber. Asked why the switch he replied, ‘I don’t know. I think it was something to do with a better total time for Toni’. Having the advantage of leading out the heat rather than being at the back in the top heat, Picard said, ‘I think I can drive better but I’m really happy. It was more than expected’. A previous French Cup race winner here at the RC Circuit Jean Nougier, the Parisienne had ‘just one little mistake’ but concluded, ‘the car is really easy and nice to drive’ and he will leave it unchanged as he did throughout controlled practice yesterday.
Completing the Top 6 would be new 2017 Shepherd signing Lars Hoppe. The ENS podium finisher said, ‘I’m very happy. 6th place is a perfect start’. Only 27th in seeding he added, ‘each practice we improved the car. It might not be so good for three laps but we knew it was good for longs runs’. Running in the third fastest heat as a result of his seeding, he suffered one mistake over the qualifier which cost him ‘around 1 second’. Feeling his car his better in hotter conditions he will leave his Velox V8 unchanged for Q2.
Running in the heat before Hoppe, multiple Worlds Finalist Jilles Groskamp would post the 7th fastest time but afterwards came close to his event coming to a premature end. Out to marshal the next heat, he was attending to Infinity team-mate Teemu Leino who had run off the track at the end of the straight. At the corner after Leino had gone off, Lamberto Collari would hit the curbing launching his car back across the track with it crashing into Groskamp’s hand as he placed Leino’s car back onto the track. Thankfully while cut and bruised, the former EP Touring Car World Champion stick radio user said both his thumbs are functional so he is good to continue although we suspect he might feel a bit uncomfortable as the day goes on. In terms of his run, the Dutch driver said, ‘Running in a lower heat you just have to go flat out because you don’t know the pace. My engine was a little too lean and I lost a bit of bottom end power but we changed the set-up from practice and the car was more easy to drive. In the uphill left left section it was super good. I’m really happy how the car is. It is super consistent’.
Not a name instantly associated with 1:8 Onroad racing, Infinity driver Naoto Matsukura has topped seeding on his debut in the sport’s original World Championship. The reigning 1:12 World Champion capped off an impressive day of controlled practice to top the times for a second time as he set the fastest time of the day in CP4 ahead of reigning World Champion Simon Kurzbuch. Fastest in CP2, the P2 in the fourth and final practice will see Kurzbuch seeded number 2 for qualifying tomorrow. Putting in a surprise fastest time in the opening controlled practice, Jesse Davis would secure 3rd overall in the seeding ahead of Bruno Coelho and Shoki Takahata. Davis will be joined in the top heat by fellow Aussie Jeff Hamon who the made most of the cooler night time conditions to set an even more surprising third fastest time ahead of Carmine Raiola, the Italian completing the overall Top 6 seeding ranking.
Summing up his CP4 time, Matsukura said, ‘My car was pretty good and easy to drive and this time I had no mistakes. I didn’t drive at 100% but maybe 80%.’ Having changed to a different engine to save the previous OS unit he used to top CP3, he added, ‘I changed engine and this one was actually better’. Declaring himself ‘happy to be top seed’, asked his approach for tomorrow’s qualifying he replied, ‘I need to make clean 7-minutes with all the same lap times. Even (driving) at 80% the lap times are good and there is less chance of mistakes. I hope (with this approach) I can TQ’.
‘It was a very good day’, was how Kurzbuch summed up Day 3. The Shepherd driver added, ‘free practice was good and three of the controlled practices were good so I’m happy’. He continued, ‘I am (seeded) second behind Naoto so I will follow him and see what he is doing and match his speed. Our strategy for the first one is to be on the safe side and get a result and then react to what we need to do after that’.
‘So so’ was Davis’ response when asked his thoughts on seeding third. The Infinity driver added, ‘tomorrow I will go back to my white body’. Having ran the opening two rounds of controlled practice with a white shell he switched to his race painted body for CP3 & 4 but said it didn’t feel the same. While the bodies are mounted slightly differently he said, ‘I think the weight of the paint is also making a difference. I gave it 2 shots but I didn’t like it’. Feeling he has a good car for a consistent 7-minute run, he will change back to his ‘race engine’ for Q1, this being the OS Speed engine he had in when he topped CP1.
Only 10th quickest in the final practice, going off the track a number of times, Coelho said, ‘we tried different things on the car expecting it to be easier to drive but still fast but it was just slower, it was not so good’. He continued, the car before was very good but we will always try to go faster and try things but we know we have a good set-up to go back to’. The Xray driver concluded, ‘the car is very easy to drive so it is looking good for 7-minutes so I’m confident for tomorrow’.
Mugen’s leading challenger so far, Takahata was pleased to put his MRX6 in the top heat for qualifying. The former KM Racing driver who only joined Mugen this year said having made no changes to his car between CP3 and 4 he was happy with how the car worked in the different conditions. Unlike many drivers going into Q1 who are looking to post a result on the board, the 23-year-old said his approach will be to push for a TQ run. Having taken a surprise TQ in the fourth round of qualifying at last year’s 1:10 World Championships in Italy, he is confident he has a car he can push for the entire 7-minutes.
‘I’m in the Top 10 so tomorrow we compete with the best guys’, was former World Finalist Raiola’s reaction to his 6th place seeding. The Infinity driver used the last practice to complete the break-in of a new engine saying he used up a lot of time visiting the pitlane as a result of tuning the engine so fourth for the round was a decent result. Planning no set-up changes for Q1 he concluded, ‘I think I have a good car for the 7-minutes so there is no need to change anything’. Behind Raiola, Robert Pietsch will carry the No. 7 with fellow Mugen driver Hamon 8th. The line-up for the top heat is completed by Free Practice pace setter Dario Balestri and French driver Romain Picard.