Robert Batlle is Top Qualifier at the 1:8 Offroad European Championships in Sweden, the Mugen driver producing a blistering final qualifier to leave his rivals stunned and deny World Champion David Ronnefalk a home TQ. Having started out yesterday unable to match Ronnefalk and reigning champion Elliott Boots, the 2-time former champion found his rhythm on Day 2 of qualifying topping both qualifiers to claim only his second ever Euros TQ, the last one being 10 years ago when he took his first title. With a TQ run in Q3, Ronnefalk would end up second to secure pole for the second of the Semi finals in which Boots, who took Q1, will start directly behind him. Fastest in the second qualifier, Davide Ongaro ended up 3rd overall and the Italian star will follow Batlle off the line in the first of the 20-min Semi finals. Former Champion Darren Bloomfield joins them while Riccardo Berton will complete the Top 3 starting line-up for the Semi B encounter.
‘I think that was the best that was possible’, was a very pleased looking Batlle’s reaction to his Q5 run – the 8 laps in 5:18.801 the big talking point among drivers as they queued for lunch at the track afterwards. He continued, ‘It felt super good, I had traction, I didn’t have too much side bite, I had everything. We worked all week through our plan and now we are ready for tomorrow’. Making his MBX6-R comfortable to drive in Q4 with a change to supersoft AKA Impact tyre, he would change to a soft for the final run describing them as ‘super nice’. Asked about his preparations for the Semi Final, drivers getting a 10-minute practice session before hand to reacclimatise with the track after the running of the lower finals, he said, ‘We will think about the tyres and test some things in the Semi practice but the car is super nice so I will keep it like this, if we do change anything it will not be big’. Giving Picco its first modern day Euros TQ, when asked about fuel run time he said, ‘everything is as planned. We had some issues at the start of the week but we fixed them’. Interestingly it has been six years since the Top Qualifier didn’t go on to become the Champion and on that occasion it was Batlle who took the 2011 win, Jerome Aigoin having taken the TQ.
Seeing out qualifying with a P3 run, Ronnefalk said, ‘the run was good and consistent but I had traffic at the end and changed my line coming onto the straight and caught the wall which sent the car fishtailing. Anyway even without this it was no where near to Robert’. Choosing JConcepts’ Metrix tyre, the HB Racing driver said it wasn’t the right tyre as he didn’t have enough traction and so he was missing some speed as a result. Asked about his Semi final, he replied, ‘We will make the car ready and use the Semi Warm-up to check what tyre works’. On fuel the Orion team driver said, ‘fuel is comfortable, in practice it was good so we will see again in the warm-up’. Asked if the track presented an opportunity to gain on fuel strategy he said, ‘I’m never going to take a risk again. Too many time before it didn’t work.’
‘To get 3rd overall I’m really happy’, was Ongaro’s reaction at the end of qualifying. The Team Associated driver continued, ‘I am happy with the car, we run it the same all day, and for tomorrow I will leave it the same’. In terms of the tyres, the 16-year-old Italian talent said, ‘I will try in the practice the same tyre as Robert and also the Catapult’. Chasing his third consecutive A-Main appearance since first making the A-Main at his family’s Ongaroring in 2015, he said his approach for the Semi was to drive ‘consistent and not crash’.
Looking to become only the second driver to ever do three in a row Euros title, Renaud Savoya doing it in 2010, Boots who was second fastest in Q5 said, ‘we finished on a high’. The Kyosho driver continued, ‘we got the car better, not as good as Robert’s car, but it feels pretty good. Unfortunately we ended up 4th overall on count back’ – himself and Ongaro finishing on the same points. He added, ‘Robert is fast but whether he can go like that for a long time we’ll have to see, maybe he can. In the last one I was driving a bit conservative and not really pushing the car so I’m actually pretty happy’. Asked about going into the Semi final the British driver said, ‘ We will change a few things for the Warm-up to try them and I want to run the same set of tyres to see how long they last. So far the don’t look to have any wear on them’ – his MP9 running on Pro-Line’s Big Block in X3 compound.
Posting another P6 run in the final qualifier which would count along with his impressive Q4 P2 and third in Q2, 2015 Finalist Berton said, ‘I didn’t have bad pace but the corner before the straight I had a bad mistake and it was a 44-second lap’. The 18-year-old Kyosho driver said having started the week good but struggled on Wednesday ‘now I’m happy again with the car, it is easy to drive and I can push it. For the Semi we will just make everything fresh and also continue to run on Bowtie X2’.
‘I drove like a cock, I definitely had the car for it but blew myself out of the water’, was how Bloomfield summed up Q5. The Agama driver added, ‘I ruined it for myself but the job was already done to get me into the Semis’. Fourth at last year’s Euros in Spain, in terms of his car he said, ‘I’m going to stick with what I have and just learn to drive it. I need to stiffen the shocks a touch for the practice and just drive a clean fun 10-minutes to check everything for the Semi.’ Asked if tyre wear or fuel would be an issue, the Brit replied, ‘nothing stands out. We all thought wear was going to be an issue but it turned out not to be’.
Robert Batlle has opened the final day of qualifying at the European Championship with a TQ run, the Mugen driver becoming the fourth different driver to top the times to set the stage for a four way shoot out for the overall TQ in Sweden in the fifth & final round of qualifying. After overnight rain, it was Ronnefalk who looked on target to set down the early benchmark but a near perfect run from the Swede would come undone on his last lap as he suffered a broken screw in his steering, handing Juan Carlos Canas the provisional TQ time after the first heat. Riccardo Berton would better that time in Heat 2 but Batlle, even with a 44 second lap, would finally hit the top of the times for the first time at the Gröndal Ring. Just 3/10ths behind the Spaniard, Berton would end up second with reigning champion Elliott Boots completing the Top 3 ahead of Canas, Darren Bloomfield and Martin Wollanka.
‘Super nice’ was Batlle’s reaction to his TQ run. The two time former champion, the most recent of those titles coming in 2011 in Germany, continued, ‘Looking from the outside the track had less grip after the rain so I chose Impact Supersoft and the car was really good. It was easier to drive than yesterday’. What made the former World Champion even more happy was that his TQ time came even with him having a mistake. He said, ‘I saw another car crash and tried to avoid it but ended up crashing myself at the double double and lost 4-seconds’. Describing himself as ‘quite comfortable with the car’ he plans to ‘leave it like it is but maybe use a harder compound (tyre)’ but with some dark clouds hanging around he concluded, ‘we’ll see what happens with the weather’.
Berton was very happy with his fourth qualifier calling it ‘a very good run’. Switching to Pro-Line’s X2 Bow-tie tyre, the Kyosho driver said they were ‘better on the bumps and the car is now more easy to drive.’ On the track conditions the 18-year-old said ‘some parts it’s loose but it is not much different to yesterday.’ Running a 43/13 drive ratio, he will go to a 47/13 for the final qualifier looking to get more low down power. With the former European B Champion safely locked into a good Semi starting position he plans to use Q5 to work on his lines for tomorrow.
‘Not too bad. I had a mistake and a couple of rough laps’, was how Boots summed up his latest qualifier. The Kyosho driver added, ‘it’s a bit better now the track, it’s not so edgy but we still need to improve the car and I need to improve too’. Getting some racing practice in when he caught João Figueiredo in the run, he said, ‘What was João doing. It took him half a lap to let me by and then he was on my rear gearbox pushing me around the track. I lost my rhythm a bit’. On tyres Boots would switch to X3 Big Blocks saying they were ‘a bit easier to drive on’ and he will run them again in the last round.
Canas said after two bad runs yesterday, a Stop & Go penalty in Q2 and loss of electrics in Q3, and the overnight rain, he was a ‘little nervous’ for Q4. The Spaniard left his Mugen unchanged only switching to a softer compound tyre describing it afterwards as a little more loose on throttle. With two P4 runs but needing a third good result to get into the Semis, the 2016 Finalist said, ‘I need to get something good in the last one so I will drive safe’.
‘I just wanted to make the Semi, I wish I’d got that result last night’, was Bloomfield’s reaction to posting the fifth fastest time. The Agama driver continued, ‘I was leading my heat last night for 5 laps and was on for a Top 3 run but at the step up it exploded. I landed in the middle of the step-up and had to be marshalled but he had to wait for cars to go by so I lost something like 8-seconds. I’m glad I hit a run and that I don’t need to do it in the last one’. For Q5, the former Champion will take off some anti-squat as well as switch from Beta’s Freeride tyre to the V-Max.
Completing the Top 6, Xray’s Martin Wollanka said, ‘that was the best the car has been, it was really really good’. The Austrian had some bad luck on his last lap when he collected another car that was on its roof, the incident costing him around 2-seconds. Finding that the car, ‘sometimes slides on the rear’, the former Euros podium finisher will test a different anti rollbar in his final heat.
‘Better today than tomorrow’, was how Ronnefalk summed up his problem in Q4. With the screw in the steering knuckle breaking, the World Champion continued, ‘the screw just broke, if it had been loose I would have felt it the lap before’. Describing his heat as having been going ‘super good’, he concluded, ‘Anyway the TQ is still possible and 4 guys can take it so let’s see’.
Having thrown away potential TQ runs in the opening qualifiers, top seed David Ronnefalk finally delivered on his third attempt as Day 3 of the European Championship in Sweden comes to a close. Second fastest in Q1 & 2, the HB Racing driver would run the fastest time of the day in his third qualifier finishing 3-seconds up on Q2 pace setter Davide Ongaro. A further 2-seconds off, Mugen’s Robert Batlle would break into the Top 3 for the first time having thrown away competitive runs with mistakes on the last lap of both previous qualifiers. Unable to translate his strong showing in controlled practice yesterday into a competitive time in the first two qualifiers, Carlos Durães came good for the end of day run setting the 4th fastest time ahead Q1 top qualifier Elliott Boots.
‘I’m super happy with Day 1 of qualifying. Sure I was bummed to not TQ the first 2 but we got it done in the last one and we’ll build on that tomorrow and the rest of the week’, was Ronnefalk’s view of things at the end of the first day of qualifying with two more rounds left to run tomorrow. Having struggled with his car in Q2, the World Champion continued, ‘we changed a few things in the shock package and it was much better and we also changed the tyre. I went to a softer compound, the harder (tyre) was faster outright but the softer was more forgiving and that helped bring good lap times’. Holding the overnight TQ, he continued, ‘I had a mistake on my second lap and got pissed with myself but told myself I need to get my shit together. Ongaro was running ahead of me on the track so I knew I had to close on him to get 1st for the heat. I am really happy I could do 39-seconds on my last two laps and apart from my mistake the run was super consistent. I was marshalling Elliott’s heat and when I saw him crash I knew it would be hard for him to beat my time’.
Ongaro also declared himself ‘really happy’ with the first day of qualifying. The Team Associated driver said, ‘I had two mistakes. The track now is not so good, there are a lot of bumps.’ Having planned to run a new set of AKA’s Moto tyre, the Italian said they decided against this, sticking with the same set he has used throughout the day including in the morning shakedown but he said the tyres where done and he struggled as a result. With the tyres not coming in until they have had a run on them he will now have to use the first of tomorrow’s final two qualifiers to break in his unusual choice of tyre.
‘The last one was quite good but I had a mistake just before the cement’, was Batlle’s reaction to his P3 result in Q3. The former World Champion continued, ‘I had two mistakes on the last lap of both other qualifiers so I wanted to drive comfortable. I didn’t expect to crash there but I lost 4-seconds’. The Spaniard added, ‘I can do 40-second laps so we have the pace needed so I’m happy to drive safer and be more comfortable and consistent’. Asked if he planned any changes for Q4, he replied, ‘we need to wait now on the weather because so many people tell me it will rain tonight but we are already working the set-up for the finals because I have 3 Top 10 results and the TQ is already gone for me’.
Serpent driver Durães said, ‘we made changes and the car worked better. I’m happy with how it was that time’. The Portuguese driver added, ‘For Q1 we decided on the wrong tyre so for the second one we changed the compound and it was a little better’. Switching to a soft AKA Impact tyre, he remained on that for his third qualifier, getting improvement from the set-up with the plan to continue in the same direction of those changes tomorrow but ‘it depends on the weather because I heard it will rain’.
‘Just a bit’ was Boots response when asked if it had been a rough round for him. The Kyosho driver added, ‘I had a good first couple of laps but then had a mistake on the concrete after hitting a random bump and more mistakes followed from there really’. The reigning champion said, ‘I’m still comfortable with the car, it was a bit better that time but it’s still not right’. He concluded, ‘we’ve got to work on the set-up for tomorrow’. Describing the track as ‘very difficult’, he said the combination of the ‘bumps and high traction’ mean you have to be very careful in your driving.
Completing the Top 6 Riccardo Berton didn’t like the change of bodyshell he made for Q3, the Kyosho driver saying it didn’t have good corner speed. Pleased with his own driving saying, ‘I think I drive good again’, the Italian also switched tyres to a Pro-Line’s Suppressor but he didn’t like the feeling and will go for X2 Bowties for the penultimate round of qualifying. Behind Berton, Joseph Quagraine could post the 7th fastest time followed by Martin Wollanka, Neil Cragg and Jürgen Trieb.
Davide Ongaro delivered a TQ run in the second round of qualifying at the Euros in Sweden, the Team Associated driver going fastest from top seed David Ronnefalk. Third fastest in the opening qualifier, the Italian would have a 1.5 second advantage over Ronnefalk, the HB Racing star again suffering costly mistakes over the 5-minutes. After almost a 5-hour wait between Q1 and the second of the day’s three qualifiers, Kyosho’s Riccardo Berton would complete the Top 3 as team-mate Elliott Boots had a tough round. The reigning champion would end up 13th fastest after ‘loads of crashes’ with the Q1 Top Qualifier putting part of his struggle down to tyres saying, ‘they worked this morning but not now’. Having opened qualifier with a P4, Mugen’s Juan Carlos Canas wouldn’t have a good Q2 getting a drive through penalty for stopping on track as he tried to allow a gap between himself and Ronnefalk at the start.
‘I’m really happy’ was Ongaro’s reaction to his TQ run, the Las Vegas Worlds star adding, ‘the car now works better than the first one after we changed the rear roll bar’. The 15-year-old continued, ‘I just want to drive smooth and get to the finish without mistakes and in the end it was fast’. Describing the track as ‘worse than before’ he said it wasn’t too much of an issue yet and for the last of the day’s qualifiers he will just change tyres. Opting for the unusual choice of AKA’s Moto tyre, he will stick with it for Q3 but use a brand new set and use the track time to break in the tyre for tomorrow, the tyre proving quicker on its second run.
‘Another OK run I would say’, was how Ronnefalk summed up Q2. The World Champion continued, ‘the car didn’t feel good in the warm-up laps and I crashed loads of time so I told myself to do the best I could, but after a couple of laps I crashed. I knew the speed was there so I just tried to keep it on the wheels but I rolled in a second crash an lost the TQ. With 2 crashes 2nd is not bad’. Asked about what he felt he needs to do to improve his car for his third attempt, the 20-year-old said, “me and Adrien and the rest of the team will have a chat about what to change for the last one because it is too difficult to drive right now’.
Improving on his P6 in Q1, Berton said, ‘That was a good run’. Changing from X2 to X1 Lockdown tyres on his MP9, the 18-year-old said these ‘feel much much better’ allowing him to push more in the corner. Also feeling the addition of anti squat improved the car, for the final qualifier of the day he plans to try a lower Kyosho body to try further improve corner speed.
Setting the fourth fastest time João Figueiredo was pleased after struggling in Q1. The Kyosho driver said, ‘the car was really bad in the first one, the changes were not so good, but we went back to normal shocks and its better. It is still edgy but I think that’s now down to tyre choice’. Having been running big shocks with emulsion caps he removed them for Q1 but didn’t like the feeling and now has reverted back to the standard shocks and towers. Having run a medium compound Amazzonia tyre from Hotrace he will switch to a hard compound for the next one. The Portuguese driver concluded, ‘the track has a lot of grip now so it is getting tricky out there’.
‘Definitely going better today’, was Bayer’s reaction to setting the fifth fastest time. The Xray designer said, ‘I tested many things but have gone back to what I arrived here with on Tuesday’. The Czech driver added he felt ‘the track is better today’ describing it as more clean and having less bumps after overnight work on it. A former podium finisher, his focus now is on his shocks saying, ‘I still need to work on the shocks, the balance of the car is good but I’m not happy with my shock set-up’. On tyre choice, having tried different options yesterday, he has returned to Pro-Line’s new Buck Shot tyre which he ran on Tuesday saying ‘they are really good’.
Bayer’s Xray team-mate Martin Wollanka would complete the Top 6 for the round. Also a Euros podium finisher, the Austrian said his car is ‘working better and better each run’ but he was ‘not expecting such a result’. Trying to give himself room to the car in front of him at the start of the heat, he didn’t realise the clock had already started and the waiting had left him with a 43 second first lap costing himself around 2-seconds. For Q3 he plans to go up in the front diff oil.