His brother set the early pace here in Austria but now Yannick Aigion is the pace setter after posting a 5:25.227 on his way to a 7 lap run. 2003 Champion Miguel Matias from Portugal had briefly took control of the Practice 2 time sheets, with a 5:26.978, but drops to second following Yannick Aigoin’s time with Jerome Aigoin and his Kyosho being pushed back to third. In terms of outright pace it is still the defending champion Renaud Savoya and his Mugen that top the time sheets but Yannic Aigoin came close with a 45.473 lap.
The other big mover since this morning is Italian Losi/Sirio driver Ricardo Rabitti who holds the fifth fastest time just behind Savoya and ahead of Robert Batlle. Elsewhere Richi Gomez had got his Hong Nor X2 into the top 10 briefly. The 2008 podium finisher who is running Italian RCW tyres says the run was good but will try lighter shock oil for the third practice and switch from the B Fast to the B Cobra pattern.
One of the pre-event top tips Neil Cragg is just outside the Top 10. The Associated/Reedy driver tried Proline Bow ties on the rear and Crimefighters on the front of his RC8 but will switch most probably to Revolvers all around next time, along with a high centre diff oil.
Practice 2, which is being timed over 5 minutes is underway and it is French driver Jerome Aigoin with his Kyosho/Sirio combination who has set the early over defending Champion Renaud Savoya. Aigoin, who completed 7 laps in 5:29.506, said his Inferno MP9 was working well and other than changing from the soft compound AKA Cityblock tyre to the medium version he will leave the car as is for the next run.
In terms of lap times Savoya is fastest completing a best lap of 45.443. The Frenchman recorded 7 laps in 5:29.692 and is pleased with his Mugen MBX6 but admited to a mistake that lost him around 5 seconds. The factory Mugen driver will try heavier shock oil for the final free practice and depending on the temperature may also switch from the Proline Caliper M3 to the M2 compound. We are now starting to the sun appear through the early morning clouds and the temperatures are rising fast.
Third fastest is Robert Batlle who said things were better than yesterday but the former Champion is reporting that the rear of his Associated RC8 is very nervous on throttle but he will remain on the same set-up as the Warm Up race as the grip should be well up come his next round of practice. The Spaniard was running GRP’s new Cayman tyre. Next up with the fourth fastest run time, after the first four of the 15 groups practice had done there run, was former World and European Champion, Alex Laffranci with his Max powered Xray 808.
It was like a scene from a past Wimbledon as club staff ran across the track with huge covers here in Austria as the forecast rain arrived early causing race officials to postone practice for groups 13, 14 and 15 until the morning. Some of the big names in the postponed groups included 2004 World Champion Guillaume Vray, quick Czech Martin Bayer, Italian Riccardo Perin, Bergonzoni factory driver Raul Peris and reigning European Junior Champion Elliot Boots.
Just getting in a run before the rain was one of the pre-event favourites and Warm Up race winner Yannick Aigoin but like the rest of the front runners he found track conditions totally different to those experienced back in May.
The rain is falling very heavily now but according to EFRA 1:8 Off Road chief Carlos Gomez tomorrow is to be a dry day. Our coverage, which is supported by Team Orion, Mugen Seiki, LRP and Kyosho continues in the morning when official timing will be released and we can start to get an idea of who is fast and who has work to do.
The 2009 EFRA 1:8 Off Road European Championships is underway with cars now on track for today’s single round of free practice. Among the first group of cars on track was defending Champion Renaud Savoya who was faced with a very different track to that of the Warm-up race. Organisers were forced to cover the track with saw dust prior to the event to try protect the dirt surface from the rain leaving the first group of drivers with the role of acting as track sweepers. Savoya said the run proved little other than to warm up his thumbs for the days ahead.
Another early runner was Robert Batlle who was in group 2 and found the conditions terrible with his GRP powered RC8 just sliding around on the saw dust. The Spanish ace is unsure what to do in terms of set up because while the track is drying out now the overnight forecast is for heavy rain.
Running in Group 3 and on a much cleaner track, Factory GS Racing driver Borja Hernandez from Spain was pleased with his outing despite the slippy conditions. The 2008 finalist is running a CLX chassis fitted with the older CL1 front end and is happy with the resulting feel of the car. He felt his new RB9 engine used in the run was still to tight and so will switch to another unit for tomorrow’s second practice.
Neil Cragg said that the track got better throughout the run but will ‘ask the boss’, referring to Team Associated’s Richard saxton who is over from the US to support the team, about what changes if any they will make for tomorrow morning. Cragg suffered an engine cut during his practice but put this down to it being a brand new Reedy unit. After a quick adjustment of the idle screw it ran fine for the remainder of the run.
1999 Champion Daniel Vega said he made the wrong tyre choice for his first run having went for JConcepts Sevens. The Mugen/Ninja ace said the track was completely different to the Warm Up race but the set-up on his MBX-6 still felt good. He plans only to change tyres for Practice 2 and will make the choice between JConcepts Crossbow, Crossbar or Hit Men in the morning. Also in the same group was Darren Bloomfield who described the run as a ‘good start’. The British ace said his Associated RC8 has a really good balance and he plans just a few roll bar changes for the morning.
Right now the skies over the track are getting dark very quickly with the forecast rain looking set to start falling any minute now.
The sun is still shining here in Austria but the big question on all the top drivers minds is, what will track conditions be like following the beating it has taken from the weather since the Warm-up race back in May. The winner of that dry race was Yannick Aigoin whose Losi/Novarossi combination worked perfectly on that occassion but the 2006 European Champion admits that the track will be a very different challenge today. Predicting a close run race, Aigoin is tipping Savoya, 2007 Champion Robert Batlle and British duo Darren Bloomfield & Neil Cragg as his main challengers. Asked for views on the track layout the Frenchman said it is difficult and that it is also very hard to make time over your rivals.
Having endured a difficult final at the Warm Up race after trying something on his Associated that did not work, Batlle stayed on on the Monday for extra testing which he said went really well. However that was on a very dry track and the Spanish ace, who has already wrapped up the 2009 National Championship, says the difference is too much for that set-up to work. Although not used to racing in the wet the GRP backed driver, who is still running both GRP engines and tyres, says he actually likes the conditions but would still rather a dry event.
Current British Champion Cragg was on the podium at the Warm-up and the Associated team driver is being tipped by many of his rivals to be in the hunt come Saturday. Cragg was very happy with his car here back in May and feels if the rain holds off he will be in good shape. Fellow countryman Bloomfield, who was very complimentary of the hard work of the local club to protect the track from the elements, is concerned about changing track conditions and feels the early practice groups will be cleaning the track giving those who run later today a distinct advantage especially if conditions remain dry overnight. Drivers have just one 15-minute practice run today.
We could not let today pass without mentioning that former World and European Champion Daniel Reckward ends a successful 12 year stint of European Championships with Team Kyosho when he makes his first Euro appearance with Mugen Seiki. The German is full of phrase for his new team, who he made a surprise switch to at end of last year, and is really pleased with the close working relationship between the team’s drivers. Reckward, who is well known for his own range of tuning parts, last won the Euros back in 2002 on home soil when he successfully defended his 2001 title.
Wandering around the pit area we came across a number of new items on show starting with this modified LRP S8 BX. Spotted immediately is the new shape bodyshell that mounts the cockpit further forward for better airflow around the engine and rear wing and gives more space around the airfilter. This body will be released soon, but the car also features a number of new prototype parts that the LRP team are testing.
The biggest change being the new rear lower wishbones that, combined with the new lower bracket, gives the car less active caster than the standard kit version. The car also sports a new braking system that they are trying out, which has a larger brake piston for better braking. Finally they have mounted the RX battery to the outside front of the car for a change to the overall chassis balance. Track time will show whether these changes will have a positive effect on the car’s handling around this track.
Other new items include the previously mentioned Tourex X500 tires, which have been specially designed for this track and will take to the track for the first time later today. For team drivers only, RB Products have their new 45% nitro mix here and will be running it with a view to releasing the blend in the near future. More new products later.