Track Name – Gröndal Ring Host Club – MK Eskil Country – Sweden Location – Eskilstuna (110km drive East of Stockholm) Direction – Anti-clockwise Surface – Dirt/Astro/Brick section Previous events hosted – 2016 1:8 Onroad European Championships
The 37th running of the EFRA 1:8 Offroad European Championship takes place in Eskilstuna in Sweden with the country’s third hosting of the championships taking place at the huge Gröndal Ring. Run by the MK Eskil which was established in 1997, the club of around a 100 members moved to its new bigger facility in 2014. Previously having a much smaller track on the outside of the local city of Eskilstuna, the local government sold the land with the promise of relocating the club. Delivering on that promise the club was given a new home at the Gröndals Motorsport Arena around 10km from the city centre. A facility that is home to a speedway track, a drifting course and motorcycle race track, r/c was given a 13,000 square metre site on which you have both an oroad and offroad track either side of a very impressive and large wooden driver stand – you could easily build a large Mini-Z track on it. While the club’s first Offroad Euros it not its first European Championships, the 548 metre asphalt track, which features some cool looking Daytona style banking, hosted the 1:8 Onroad European Championship last year.
On the 463 metre long offroad track, the main focus of drivers has been on the surface, the local dirt more a gravel than a clay. Featuring astro turf covered jumps and a brick section, the club have prepared the track with Dustex following May’s Warm-up Race when drivers faced a very bumpy track for the finals. Sweden’s World Champion David Ronnefalk, who lives a 5-hour drive away, said ‘I think the layout is good, its a fun layout. The challenge is the surface with how it is but its the same for everyone and its part of the game this year’. He continued, ‘I think the club have done a good job with the track since the warm-up but were unlucky because normally they needed a lot of rain before the race but had no luck there, so it was not the best for the preparation of the surface. The track is going to get a lot of character over the week. It will not get as bad as the Warm-up but for sure it will be bumpy’. Asked about the main elements of the track, he replied, ‘All the jumps are key especially in the middle section to keep your rhythm. At the triple double there is super high bite because the dirt in that section has more clay in it. Set-up is going to be about getting corner speed.’
Defending champion Elliott Boots had a different view saying, ‘I think it will end the same as the warm-up by Wednesday. You can see bumps appearing already (after the first round of practice). They put a binding agent down on a few sections but that’s almost gone now’. In terms of the layout, he said, ‘its very similar to the Warm-up which is a good thing but they have improved some of the up ramps’. He added, ‘it quite a fast track which I prefer to slower tracks. It’s not too technical’. Asked about track features the British driver said, ‘I’m not a fan of the step up step down on the left side because the binding agent hooks you in on the landing’. Chasing a third consecutive title he concluded, ‘I don’t think fast laps are important here. You can have a car half to 1 second a lap slower but if its consistent you’ll be right up there’.
Outgoing champion Ronald Volker and Viktor Wilck joined newly crowned 6-time Reedy Race Champion Marc Rheinard on the podium at Tamiya Raceway as the 12th & final round of racing at the legendary event determined Volker won the battle for second overall. With Rheinard putting the title to bed early with his 7th win of the weekend in the penultimate round of racing, the interest of the concluding three races was on the podium battle between Volker, Wilck and Nicholas Lee. Running in the first heat Lee, a winner of 3-races, would finish second behind Naoki Akiyama, with him having to wait to see if that was enough for him to make the Top 3. Next up it was Wilck’s turn to see what he could do, the Swede claiming a 3rd from 6th on the grid with Jan Ratheisky taking the win. Getting to go last, running in the last of the weekends 36 races, Volker had the advantage of knowing what he needed to do and duly brought home a P2 behind Ryan Cavalieri to secure second overall. For Wilck and Lee it would come down to the tie breaker with Wilck’s extra win giving him the final step on the podium. With Lee fourth, Day 1 overnight leader Meen Vejrak would finish 5th ahead of Akio Sobue, Sobue’s result combined with team-mate Rheinard’s win claiming the title of Manufacturers Champion for event debutants Infinity. Having completely forgotten about the Manufacturers title despite winning it for Tamiya last year, Rheinard said, ‘this is a crazy achievement. I didn’t even think about until they announced we had won. It further shows we are on the right direction. Even though Akio was super unlucky today we still managed to become Manufacturers Champions, it caps off an great weekend for the team’.
Commenting on finishing runner-up, Volker said, ‘I knew I needed a P4 to secure second overall and off the line everything went well. I was chasing Cav but could attack as he was just too quick’, the World Champion adding, ‘he should do more touring car’. A 3-time Reedy Race Champion, the Yokomo driver said, ‘P2 overall was the maximum I could get this time because we struggled for pace in a few runs. Aside from Round 11 I did good runs but Marc was fast all the time and didn’t have back luck so he is deserved to win’. With his team-mate Lee missing out on the podium, he said, ‘In my opinion Viktor got a bit too lucky to finish on the podium as the referee didn’t see a couple things like his Round 12 corner cut. I’m sorry for Nicholas that he got P4’. Summing up the 20th Reedy Race of Champions, this its best entry of the current decade, he said, ‘this is the best racing we have in the year and maybe it is time to change the format of other events. The amount of action and fun we have here is amazing’.
Reacting to making the podium, Wilck said, ‘my thinking before the race was a Top 10 if all goes well. We were actually surprised by the performance of the car here and it was fun racing for the title’. The Serpent driver continued, ‘a couple of races I had issues with others and my own driving and without this for sure it could have been close with Marc. He still would have won because he had perfect races and was also the fastest on the track. Still it was good to finish on the podium’.
With one of the 24 spots for the Invitational Reedy Race of Champions going to the winner of the supporting Open Modified Class, Jin Sawada booked his place on the 2017 entry with victory over Offroad World Champion Spencer Rivikin. With Sawada taking the TQ, the Destiny driver won the opening A-Main but Rivkin took A2 to force the fight to A3. While Rivkin would pressure the Japanese driver for the entire race he would hold on for the win much to the absolute delight of mentor Terutaka Hanaumi. Joining him & Rivkin the podium would be Singapore driver Dominic Quek.