In a showdown between the reigning World Champion and the one driver probably most deserving of the sport’s great title, it was the latter, Dario Balestri, who delivered in a thrilling qualifying showdown at the 1:8 Onroad World Championships in France.Having made his mark on the first day of qualifying with two TQs and a P2 run, the Infinity driver came under pressure today from defending Champion Simon Kurzbuch as the Shepherd driver took the opening two qualifiers of the second day.Setting up a winner-takes-all situation between the two great rivals, the rescheduled rain interrupted fifth round of qualifying would go down to the wire, Balestri and Kurzbuch throwing everything at it with Balestri coming out the victor.In the end a late mistake from Kurzbuch would leave him with a P3, a great 27-lap run from reigning 1:10 World Champion Dominic Greiner netting him a P2 but just not enough to make the Super Pole as he secured 6th in the final ranking.With Kurzbuch now aiming to secure his direct place in the final through tomorrow’s Super Pole his opposition will come from Naoto Matsukura, Bruno Coelho and Jesse Davis.
‘As they say in life nothing is easy but when you go up against Simon and his Dad it is even more hard’, was how Balestri summed up his TQ achievement.He continued, ‘You need more than 100% going up against them and in this I made 110%, the car and engine were amazing. I am super happy’.Completing the set of World Championship TQs having taking the top spot in 1:10 in Italy last year, the 2017 Infinity signing said, ‘I want to thank all the team and the boss, I made the promise to give all of myself for this race.I thank Nikiado san for the car, Massimo for the engine and my mechanic. For Antonio it is a big responsibility to fight with the best pitman in the world’.Asked about Saturday’s 1-hour final, Balestri feels tyre strategy will be the same for all drivers, the track having little wear but he thinks tyre stop could influence the race. ’The rims are very hard to put on so the race could be decided in the pitlane. So we must look at this but for now I just want to get some rest.’
Summing up the final qualifier Kurzbuch said, ‘It was a real fight to the end. My car and engine were perfect, I had a clean track and I could show what we can do. I was 4/10ths behind Dario so I had to risk all but had a small mistake’.Not dwelling on his defeat, the Swiss driver continued, “I am really confident for Super Pole tomorrow.We will take on the challenge we are given and try our best as always.Making the Super Pole at the 1:10 World last year, his only Super Pole experience, he concluded I am not afraid of it, I am really confident we can do it’.
With this is 1:8 World Championship debut, Matsukura said, ‘It is not so bad for first Worlds’.He continued, ‘I am happy to be in the Super Pole and I will try to make it directly to the final’.Only 15th fastest in the final qualifier, the multiple EP onroad World Champion said, ‘in the last one my car was pretty good but the engine was so so. It had no punch’. A tweak to the Super Pole, originally scheduled for today but moved to midday tomorrow follow today’s rain, will see drivers now get 5-minutes of track time together to ensure equal track conditions and a further 2-minute individual warm-up followed by their 6-timed laps, the fastest single lap time to count.
Ending up fourth overall Coelho said, ‘we will see tomorrow. I am confident in the car but everything can happen’.The Xray driver has one previous experience of Super Pole at the 1:10 European Championships in Turkey an event he went on to win. It was not a strong finish to qualifying today for the Xray driver after a strong Day 1 when he registered a P2 and P3. In Q6, which was the penultimate qualifier for the top drivers due to the weather rescheduling, the Portuguese driver had engine issues failing to make the start.With a different engine fitted for the final round he said the 3-minute warm-up time wasn’t enough to get the engine set and it was ‘too rich all the qualifier’.
‘For sure I’m happy as our aim was to make Super Pole’, was how Jesse Davis summed up claiming 5th in the final classification and the final Super Pole position.The Australian continued, ‘It is only one of six (laps) to count so anything can happen. I’ll go full for it’.Asked about his final qualifier which lasted just under 2-laps, the Infinity driver said, ‘I hit the Picco banner, it was a stupid mistake.The car felt good but I didn’t get to run. Hopefully tomorrow I won’t be hitting the Picco banner’.
The only driver along with Balestri and Kurzbuch to make 27 laps of RC Circuit Jean Nougier, Greiner said, ‘I think we found the problem in the set-up. Our car was much easier and much faster now. Also for long runs the car is very stable’.The German continued, ‘We were only 1-point from Super Pole but my goal coming here was the 1/4 but I am in the Semi so I’m happy’.Asked about the improved set-up, the German said, ‘we changed 3 small things but I think we had been running too much caster. In Q6 the car was horrible to drive so we changed the set-up and I think what we found is really good for long races’.Behind Greiner, Jilles Groskamp would secure 7th ahead of Shoki Takahata and Francesco Tironi with Lars Hoppe completing the Top 10.
It is game on at the 1:8 Onroad World Championships in France as Simon Kurzbuch delivered a second TQ meaning the overall TQ will be decided in the final rescheduled 5th qualifier. During the fifth round of qualifying a short but torrential rain shower halted proceedings leaving drivers to wait for the track to dry. With IFMAR rules permitting a round of qualifying to resume after rain once the track returns to the same condition, the call was made to run Q6 first and afterwards finish out Q5. With reigning champion Kurzbuch clearly fired up it would be his lighting fast pit stop that would force the battle between himself and Dario Balestri to be decided in the final qualifier of the 21st running of the World Championships.
With drivers having little time to prepare their cars for what is officially Q5, with 3 from 6 to count, Kurzbuch reaction on crossing the line summed up the Swiss desire to start his title defence from pole position. In full battle mode the Shepherd driver summed up his Q6 TQ, the first to see 27-laps, with ‘I’m back’. He added, ‘Now I had my run, it was clean and we put in the fastest pitstop of the event. This is how we plan to do it again in the next one’.
Balestri also wasn’t in talkative mood after losing out to Kurzbuch. The Italian said, ‘I have nothing. His pitstop was 19.8’. Also with two TQ’s, both of which he registered on yesterday’s opening day of qualifying, it is only him and Kurzbuch left in contention to be the Top Qualifier, the Infinity driver having looked at one stage as if he would take that honour early when he topped Q4 only for Serpent Yuya Sahashi to post a surprise fastest time from the fourth fastest heat.
Completing the Top 3 for the round but failing to go 27-laps would be Naoto Matsukura. The Top seed said his car was a little nervous and described the run as ‘a safety drive’ because he needed the points. Planning to revert to a set-up from earlier in the event for his final qualifying attempt, the Infinity driver said he will again go for a safe run to improve his points and final ranking. Behind Matsukura, former World Champion Robert Pietsch had his best run setting the fourth fastest time ahead of Jesse Davis, Shoki Takahata and Silvio Hachler. With engine trouble preventing Bruno Coelho from starting the qualifier, there was also bad luck for reigning European 1/10th Champion Toni Gruber as he looked set for a Top 3 run until his WRC flamed out with 30-seconds to go.
We sat with former World Champion Rody Roem from VS engines, who talked us through the latest version of his on-road engine called the R02. Although based off an OS unit, the engine features a unique combustion chamber specifically designed by Roem himself. With the main focus of the brand remaining providing the highest possible level of quality, the other distinctive item is the crankshaft, where the flow of fuel and the timing have been optimised for a better response.
Chassis – Serpent 988 Viper Engine – OS Speed R2103 Tyres – Matrix (Handout) Fuel – Runner Time Radio/Servos – Sanwa Body – Xtreme Aerodynamics R18 Strong Remarks – Having received his car shortly before the start of the race, Japanese Serpent driver Yuya Sahashi is running the latest Viper 988 in a pretty standard version, only equipped with a set of titanium upper screws.
Chassis – Capricorn C803 Engine – Tesla T21 Tyres – Matrix (Handout) Fuel – Energy Radio/Servos – Sanwa Body – Protoform R19 Remarks – Capricorn factory driver Robin D’Hondt is running a C803 from the Italian factory equipped with an Evo chassis. The Belgian is also using a pair of separate gearbox shaft mounts in order to increase the flex of the rear end, a 6mm lightweight transmission axle, front and rear cvd’s with aluminium wheel axles and a new bumper, which is stiffer and holds the body posts directly.
Yuya Sahashi caught everyone by surprise on the second day of qualifying as he posted a TQ run in the first of the day’s three scheduled rounds of qualifying. A cloudy morning in Monteux, the Serpent driver set the time in Group 12 of 15, topping his heat ahead of Jilles Groskamp who would get a P3 for the round. With the attention on the top heat, it looked as overnight provisional TQ holder Dario Balestri had sealed the deal as he crossed the line on the top of the scoreboard ahead of Simon Kurzbuch but rather than a finishing 1-2, their times left them P2 and P4 respectively. Top seed Naoto Matsukura would see his chances of taking the overall TQ on his 1:8 World Championship debut end with an off. Other front runners to have issues included Bruno Coelho who finished 7th after heavy contact with the pitwall during his refuelling, him reporting afterwards his car was tweaked as a result. With a P3 run in Q2 yesterday, Jesse Davis was another to make an error going off track and ending up with a P9.
‘So good’ was how Sahashi summed up Q4. With his best run a P8 in Q2 yesterday, the older brother of 2013 World Campion Tadahiko, said a better clutch and gearbox set-up as well as changes to the rear body support position had made for a more stable car. The former 1:8 and 1:10 World finalist driver continued that due to commitments with his hobby shop in Japan he had no time to test the new car before coming to France and so yesterday they were still searching for the right set-up. Happy with his 988 Viper now, setting the fastest lap from Kurzbuch by almost 1/10th of a second, he said the next thing to work on is his ‘mind’ as he feels there is more to come from better driving.
Asked about his run, Balestri said, ‘I had a small mistake on lap 18 which gave me a 16.6 (seconds lap) and I lost the TQ but it is all ok’. The Infinity driver said the overcast conditions worked in his car’s favour saying, ‘the cooler conditions are better for me’. A clean run, the Italian said, ‘traffic as always was a problem’ adding ‘maybe the referee needs to pay more attention’.
Balestri’s team-mate Groskamp described his latest qualifying run as ‘perfect’. Unlike driver feedback from the top heat, the Dutch driver continued, ‘Our heat is so nice, everyone always gives you room’. Running in the 4th fastest grouping, he said Patrick Schafer was behind him in the run and going fast and having him so close behind ‘maybe cost me a couple of tenth’ – him finishing less than 2/10th shy of Balestri’s time. Changing his refuelling to come for an early pitstop he said ‘everything was perfect’ adding ‘our car is really good in the morning’. Asked about Q5, he said, ‘I am now safe in the Semis so we are already thinking about Saturday (Finals day). I’m super happy.’
‘It was a good run but we didn’t win’, was reigning Champion Kurzbuch’s reaction to Q3. The Shepherd driver, ‘I thought I got 2nd and when I saw others had gone fastest I was a little surprise but it was a good thing because Dario couldn’t complete 3 TQs. So it is still open’. The Swiss driver added, ‘we definitely need to risk more. We have good results in the bag but I want to get another zero in there’.
Heading the Mugen charge at RC Circuit Jean Nougier, Syoki Takahata said would post the 5th fastest time. The Japanese driver said ‘this time I have a very good feeling with the car, it was better than yesterday’. Making no changes to his OS Speed powered MRX6, he said while the track is different each run this morning’s cooler conditions really suit his car. While pleased with his own driving he said he lost time with a bad pitstop as his mechanic dropped his car, his pitstop about 2-seconds slower than his rivals.
Former 1:10 World Champion Meen Vejrak would complete the Top 6 with a much improved performance. The Maxima engines backed driver said, ‘every day we improve the car but because of the rain we are one day behind’. Not coming to the track prior to the event, the Thai driver was able to take part in IDP (International Driver Practice) but rain curtailed the second day. He added, ‘it is a bit like Gubbio (last year’s 1:10 Worlds), we were slow for the first 3-days but we were able to improve’, those improvements seeing him make the Main Final. Running a Capricorn chassis he said, ‘each time we have made a little step forward and I hope we can continue with that pace in the last two qualifiers’.