There was an exciting close to the opening day of qualifying at the 1:8 Onroad World Championship in France with Dario Balestri taking a super close Q3 to earn a second TQ run which leaves him the provisional overnight TQ holder. The Infinity driver would lead a 1,2,3 for the Japanese manufacturer from team-mates Francesco Tironi and Naoto Matsukura, the trio separated by just 0.082 of a second. With Matsukura looking on target for his first TQ run, a slight bobble with 30-seconds to go was enough to let both Balestri and Simon Kurzbuch go ahead of the timing screens but posting his fastest lap of the race on his final lap Matsukura would beat Kurzbuch. Tironi’s impressive time from the second fastest heat would mean Kurzbuch would get fourth for the round, the Top 8 all stopping the clock with 7 minute 4 second times. The only driver to win the World Championships in both 1:8 and 1:10, Adrien Bertin showed there is still life in the veteran posting an impressive P5 on what is set to be his final World Championship appearance.
‘Really, really close. I am really, really happy. It was a lot of fun’, was the reaction of a rather happy looking Balestri. The Italian continued, ‘the heat before was super hot so my engine was rich at the start (of Q3) because of the cooler conditions and because of this I was just aiming to run without mistake and claim important points. But the engine started to get better and in the end I could push. I saw many drivers were super fast and knew it was going to be super close. And it was super super close. He concluded, ‘I am really happy to take this one and say a big thank you to all the guys who have worked so hard on the car’.
Only 15th fastest in each of the opening two qualifiers, Tironi said, ‘It was super close’. Only 6/100ths off Balestri, the friendly Italian said, ‘I am super happy with my car and engine. Heat by heat I am getting a better feeling with it. It is not safe, nothing is safe here on this track but I now have the confidence to be able to push and at the end it was a super good run’. With this performance, the former 1:10 World Championship podium finisher, is looking forward to tomorrow’s remaining three qualifiers.
‘I’m happy it was super close’ said Matsukura after Q3 but it was clear the Japanese driver was frustrated at missing out on the TQ. In the closing stage of registering his first TQ run, he said, ‘It was windy again and the wind unsettled the car just before the climb up the hill into the sweeper. It cost me to lose a second because I had to come off the throttle and didn’t have the speed to carry me up through the sweeper’. The reigning 1:12 World Champion, a title he has won 4-times, he said, ‘the result is not too bad buy I want to take the TQ so I will try again tomorrow’.
Summing up his run Kurzbuch said, ‘again a lot of traffic which puts you out of your rhythm a little bit but for all the top guys it was the same’. He added, ‘we were close but I lost it in the last lap’, his time a 16.279 compared to Balestri’s 16.189 and Naoto’s 15.835. The Shepherd driver continued, ‘overall the car, engine and mechanic are good and today we got one TQ point which is still the best time so it is still open. Everything is possible’.
‘My car was superb in the last one, I lost the TQ in the pits’ was the reaction of very happy Bertin, the HB Racing frontman getting great pleasure from having to end early a conservation with his 1:8 Offroad World Champion protege David Ronnefalk to tell us about his Q3 performance. He continued, ‘My pitman dropped the car but he was also made a good call on the setting for the car for Q3 so its all good’. Changing to a softer spring in the front he as well tweaking the droop he said this improved the rotation’. He added, ‘I really enjoyed that (Q3). I felt everything came together. In the first two I was super nervous and I drove like an old man but after this I feel much younger’. Two years since he last competitively raced 1:8, the Worlds in Brazil, he said, ‘I am so busy with my HB work normally this will be my last race so I want to go out properly by giving it my all. I hope to keep the good momentum tomorrow and get a Semi spot’.
Completing the Top 6 would be reigning 1:10 World Champion Dominic Greiner. The Serpent driver described it as, ‘the first good run today’. Suffering ‘2 or 3 little mistakes’, the German said ‘it was very close’ a fact that added to his frustration with traffic. ‘I was stuck behind a guy who would not let me pass him’. On his early two qualifying attempts, he said ‘an important screw came loose in the first one which made the car hard to drive and in the second I had bad tyres but lost it on dirt put on the track by another car and threw it off the track’. With a mistake by Bruno Coelho that required him to be marshalled in Q3 ending his chances, it was Alessio Mazzeo would was the top Xray finishing just behind Greiner and ahead of ARC’s Silvio Hachler.
Chassis – WRG GTX1.3 Engine – Novarossi Mito WC Tyres – Matrix (Handout) Fuel – Runner Time Radio/Servos – KO Propo Body – Blitz TS040 Remarks – WRC factory driver Toni Gruber is running the latest version of the GTX from the Italian manufacturer called 1.3. His car is equipped with a brass under LiPo weight, aluminium wheel axles and carbon aero wheel discs. The German is also using an optional chassis where the front cuts are more open in order to achieve more flex.
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’.