September 12, 2017

Davis fastest in opening controlled practice

Jesse Davis has set the fastest time in the opening round of controlled practice at the 1:8 Onroad World championships in France.  The Infinity driver set the fastest 3-consecutive laps in difficult windy conditions ahead of team-mate Naoto Matsukura.  Continuing to be the main challenger to the Infinity team reigning champion Simon Kurzbuch would take his Shepherd to the third fastest time ahead of free practice pace setter Dario Balestri.  Two improvements for the round would be Francesco Tironi and Robert Pietsch who having been seeded in the second fastest group based on free practice times set the 5th & 6th times respectively.

‘I didn’t expect that’, was Davis reaction after topping the first of the days four controlled practice rounds which on points will determine the heat order for qualifying.  The Aussie continued, ‘I was struggling a little after we adjusted the brake set-up last night.  One click (on the radio) and I had too much break and it was locking up and one click the way I didn’t have enough so we will need to fix that for the next one’.  A driver who made his mark on the international stage at last year’s 1:10 World Championship with a number of strong showings in qualifying, when asked about the wind that has again picked up he said Infinity’s pre-event testing at the RC Circuit Jean Nougier had highlighted this as a potential issue.  Describing the wind as ‘more normal for us’ he added ‘a lot of drivers are struggling with the wind’.  In terms of his chassis set-up Davis said despite the winds he will leave it unchanged for CP2.

Maintaining his strong free practice pace, Matsukura said, ‘It is very difficult to drive with the wind but my car was OK’.  The 1:8 class newcomer continued, ‘My engine was my main problem because it is a new one and is still not fully broken in but it will get more speed as it gets more time on it’.  Asked if he would change his car set-up account of the wind, the multiple electric onroad World Champion said he would leave it the same for now.

Pleased to have closed the gap to Balestri in the 10th, quick 4-minute, round of free practice this morning, ending up second fastest, Kurzbuch said he struggled a little with the wind.  The Swiss ace said, ‘the wind started to get stronger and it caused the rear of the car to be loose.  Some laps it was ok but then other it would catch you especially at the 180 degree hairpin where the rear would just snap away’.  He added, ‘it was still good run because the time was there but now we will make some changes to make it more safe to drive in the wind’.  He said, ‘we need more grip in the rear which will be a bit slower than the perfect set-up but it will make it more safe for a 7-minute run’.

Having been the clear bench marker over the opening two days of free practice, Balestri was not too concerned about not topping the first controlled round.  The Italian said, ‘it was ok, just the wind is really dangerous’ joking ‘you need to have bolts to keep the car on the track’.  Suffering one mistake as a result of the wind, he concluded, ‘we will change something to make the car more stable for these conditions’.

‘That was good’, was Tironi’s reaction to making a step forward in his performance.  The Italian continued, ‘we brought all the set-up ideas we gathered over the previous days together and found a good compromise.  For sure this is the best set-up of the week’.  The Infinity driver added, ‘it slides a little in the rear, maybe too much, so we need to think about a solution for that’.

‘I would say medium’, was how Pietsch summed up his P6 time.  The Mugen designer continued, ‘we have had many problems.  We got a new servo for the race which is programmable so you can adjust the torque but I am not used to what setting to use and I find the setting too nervous so I will go back to my old servos. I need to test the new one back home and get used to it’.  Asked about his car set-up, the former World Champion said, ‘I think the servo has been effecting everything so far but I copied Takahata’s set-up yesterday because I was lost. It was better but doesn’t suit my driving but I am confident that the servo change will help us going forward’.

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September 11, 2017

Balestri leads strong Infinity practice showing at Worlds

After 2 days of practice it is Dario Balestri who is fastest at the 1:8 Onroad World Championships in France.  The Italian led a 1,2,3 for Infinity setting the fastest 3-consecutive laps around the RC Circuit Jean Nougier track which drivers have unanimously described as difficult.  With Balestri’s fastest time posted in yesterday’s fifth & final run, the main improvement of today came from reigning champion Simon Kurzbuch who would manage to break up the Infinity domination, them having held the Top 7 times for most of the day. Despite engine issues in the 9th round of free practice he would end his curtailed run with 3-laps that where good enough to put his Shepherd driver fourth fastest. The only other non Infinity drivers in the Top 10 would be new Mugen signing Shoki Takahata in 7th and Bruno Coelho who took his Xray to 9th.

A very pleased Balestri said his car was in race set-up when he posted his time yesterday and content with how his car is working he opted to use today’s four 9-minute runs to test some new set-up changes, different engines and also different body positions. Top Qualifier at last year’s 1:10 World Championships in Italy but suffering a diff failure just 7-laps in, he is a fan of the track describing it as really fun to drive but added its very hard on engines.  He said with the sweeper taken at almost full throttle the temperature goes up making tuning very important.  He added, ‘running 16% nitro doesn’t help and I think they should check this rule for the future.  In my opinion 25% would be much better and more safe for the engines’.

Making his 1:8 Onroad Worlds debut, former Electric Touring Car World Champion and reigning multiple 1:12 World Champion Matsukura said, ‘so far it is not a bad start for my first Worlds’.  The Japanese driver, who only made his first and originally unplanned competitive 1:8 race debut at the opening round of the Euro Nitro Series n France qualifying 4th, posted his quickest time in the 8th round.  He said the improvement came after they made his car easier to drive and he hopes the can make it even more easy to drive for tomorrow when after a quick 4-minute final free practice the four rounds of controlled practice will commence. Describing the track as ‘super difficult’ he said it is also ‘very tight’ with ‘no room for error’ and so an easy to drive car is important especially if the wind, which caused drivers a lot of trouble yesterday, picks up again as it started to do during today’s final practice heats.  Behind Matsukura, 2013 Finalist Carmine Raiola would complete the Infinity Top 3 declaring his performance as ‘not bad’ but for tomorrow he plans to try a shock oil change to try get more steering.

Kurzbuch said ‘today we made some good steps in the right direction’.  The Swiss driver said, ‘the car is there and I am now getting the right line as a driver so we just need to improve some small details to get on top’.  On his final and fastest run, he said, ‘we tried something different with the engine but broke a plug and we lost some minutes with two flame-outs but at the end I just wanted to push and get some hot laps because I didn’t want an Infinity 1 to 7 again’.  Happy to do that despite his time almost 4/10th quicker than that of the next fastest driver, he concluded, ‘nothing is decided yet, we still have 1 more practice and 4 controlled practice tomorrow to get were we want to be’.

One of the Infinity’s drivers to not travel to Monteux for pre-event testing, opting instead to use ENS Austria to prepare for the race, Jilles Groskamp said ‘only the first run this morning everything works’.  Posting the 5th fastest time, he said he ran a new engine and with this his car was ‘really nice to drive’.  Changing to a different but slower engine to save this good one, he said the track temperatures also went up making for slower conditions. Using the rest of the day to test set-up changes he said they know what to do and what not to do in terms of the car but added a good engine is really important. With an uphill section to the sweeper he said with a good engine you can go through it in one flow where as a slower engine its not possible so you ‘lose a lot of time’.  The former Electric Touring Car World Champion says he feels ‘confident for the up coming days’. He added ‘our car is good here and all our guys are competitive.  I’m surprised it is going so well but the week of testing the rest of the team did here has really helped and we are all running pretty much the same set-up to which I have just made a few changes to suit my own driving’.

Making a rear shock adjustment for the final run of the day, Jesse Davis said afterwards ‘that one went pretty good’.  While he fastest time was in FP5 yesterday, the Australian was the closest to Kurzbuch’s final practice topping time. He said the shock change made his car more settled leading to better consistency and he feels the consistency is there for 7-minutes, the new length of the qualifiers for the 21st running of IFMAR original World Championship.  Asked his thoughts on the track he said, ‘I like it with no wind but with wind it is really bad’.  According to one French racer who knows the track and area well the wind is going to be a factor throughout the event making for very unpredictable driving conditions.

Takahata is one of the few drivers who is openly not a fan of the track. Describing his practice performance as ‘so so’, the Japanese driver said the track is something completely new for him as ‘there is nothing like this in Japan’, the big difference being the banking.  Making many changes to his Mugen set-up, ‘some good, some bad’, he said today they were mostly good and now his car is ‘much better’ with his P7 time coming in today’s penultimate run.

Looking to achieve his 10th World Championship title here in France, a country where Adrien Bertin, sitting P11, ended his first run of world titles in 1999, Lamberto Collari declared himself ‘happy for now’ adding ‘the base is good’.  Another who set his best time in the final run yesterday, which leaves him eighth fastest he said, ‘the track is difficult but exciting to drive’.  Overall the Italian said the biggest problem so far has been the wind as ‘you try stuff for a run but the wind makes it difficult to drive and you don’t get the full feel of what the change did’.

The man to cause the biggest surprise of the 1:8 Onroad scene this year as he takes the ENS title challenge to the championship’s reigning champion Kurzbuch, Coelho summed up Day 2 of practice as ‘very good’ adding ‘it was better than yesterday, it was strange with the wind’.  The Portuguese driver continued, ‘we improved the car a lot today, the track is super particular.  We are changing all the time but we need time to learn how to adapt for the condition and I think everything is looking good.  Asked about the track he replied, ‘it is good but difficult.  Its super fast so it is easy to make mistakes. Qualifying is going to be interesting’.

‘Up & down, sometimes good, sometimes not but we are trying something different every time’ was how Teemu Leino summed up his practice as he completed the Top 10.  The Finn continued, ‘the car is easy to drive which is the most important thing’. He added, ‘I like the track and its a good track to hold the Worlds. You can make time in sections and it nice that it goes up and down’. Despite his fastest time coming in FP5, he plans for tomorrow to go back to a set-up he ran earlier today saying ‘it was really good that time’.

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September 11, 2017

Track Focus – RC Circuit Jean Nougier

Track Name – RC Circuit Jean Nougier
Club – Association Monte Automodelisme Club
Country – France
Location – Monteux
Direction – Anti-clockwise
Surface – Asphalt

Monteux, France is the location for the 21st running of the IFMAR 1:8 Onroad World Championship. The third time the French have put on the sport’s original World Championship, the track is located in the south of the country and is named after the grandfather of the man responsible for its creation. Built in 1999, the Association Monte Automodelisme Club (AMAC) run facility came about from a childhood passion for cars of former club president Eric Nougier. Eric’s grand father specialised in building motor bikes and after his father took that over they also added rc products to their shop. While Eric’s initial interest was in RC planes he soon discovered cars and as they say the rest is history. Expanding to two shops, the second of which was opened in the nearby city of Avignon, they added a location for control line flying and also a small track for cars. Built next to a river however after it was flooded several times the search began for a new location.

Approaching a local kart track it was agreed that rc racing would run perfectly alongside and on land given to them by local government the track was born. Also the location for Motoball, football with the players riding on specially built motorbikes and trying to score goals with an oversized ball. A sport close to the Nougier family, the grandfather having built over 300 of these bikes, it was appropriate that the rc track be named after him, hence it being called RC Circuit Jean Nougier.

As a track it covers a total length of 327 metres. A regular stop on the French National Championship calendar, prior to the Worlds the biggest event it has hosted was an EFRA GP in 2013. With a club membership of around 100 with a 50/50 split of nitro and electric racers, in preparation for the 2017 Worlds the track was completed resurfaced in February. While the layout wasn’t changed putting down new asphalt allowed them to increase the level of banking on the track. During the work the old, rather high and ‘dangerous’ curbing was removed and replaced with new flatter curbs.

While facilities around the track are not on a par with those of last year’s 1:10 Onroad Nitro World Championship held at Gubbio, the most important thing, the track, is proving popular with drivers. Reigning champion Simon Kurzbuch said while it is ‘a very difficult track’ it is a track that is ‘worthy of a World Championship’. The Swiss driver said the layout allows and rewards risk. The back sweeper seems to be one key area in which time can be made or lost. Adding to the difficulty of the layout are the conditions drivers have faced so far. Kurzbuch said, ‘everyday is different’ with wind causing drivers a lot of difficulty yesterday as it carried a lot of dust from the surrounding countryside onto the track. Former Champion Robert Pietsch said while the day yesterday, the first day of official practice for all drivers, ‘was for nothing’ because the wind changed how the car felt every lap he said, ‘I like the track, it is a very good 1:8 track’. Describing it as technical he said the sweeper is not a regular corner in shape and as a result it is not easy to place the car in the right line but like Kurzbuch he likes the fact you need to take risks to find speed.

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August 5, 2017

10 years at the top – Batlle wins in Sweden 10-years on from 1st Euro title

Robert Batlle is the 2017 1:8 Offroad European Champion.  Ten year after winning his first title, the Mugen driver delivered a dominant race performance at the Gröndal Ring in Sweden to claim his third & most important Euros win.  Top Qualifier for the race Batlle would win his Semi to start from pole and after some early errors in the 45-minute final, returned to the front from where he pulled away from a thrilling second place battle.  Having taken the early lead until a mistake, Swedish hero David Ronnefalk would duel it out with defending champion Elliott Boots and rising star Davide Ongaro.  A hard fought battle, Ongaro would come out on top to claim his first Euros podium finish with 2nd.  With high expectations for his home race, Ronnefalk would take some consolation from completing the podium in Eskilstuna having to work hard to stay ahead of Boots.  Setting the fastest lap of the race, Boots’ quest for a third title in a row would disappear in the pits with the British driver suffering flameouts on two of his fuel stops.

‘Amazing’ was the word Batlle used to sum up winning the 37th running of the European Championships.  A driver who since winning his first title in 2007 in France has always been a title contender, the Spaniard added, ‘Each title is always special but this one is important.  After the last three or four years when we always have mechanical problems finally we did it. This is David’s home so to beat him here is super amazing’.  Commenting on the race, he said, ‘we knew at the start we would all be close together on the track. I made a good start but then had two errors, the one on the right side cost me a lot. After that I talked to myself and said it was ok to drive 2 or 3 tenths slower because I saw the others were crashing a lot also. I started to drive the most comfortable I could and finally we got the win’. Reminded its ten years since his first win he said, ‘this is a nice way to mark it’.

Receiving congratulations from his very pleased team boss Craig Drescher, Ongaro said, ‘I’m really really happy’.  Making only his third Euros Main start,  the 16-year-old Team Associated driver added, ‘It was very difficult race because of the track. It was very rough’.  Changing to the same tyres for the final as Batlle, both drivers running AKA’s soft compound long wear Impact tyre, the Italian said, ‘all the package worked and I just tried to drive without mistake’.  He continued, ‘I had big battles with David and Elliott but this fighting cost too much time & the chance to fight with Robert for 1st position but I’m happy to get my first podium’.

‘In the end it was a podium which isn’t bad considering how hard I worked out there’, was how a clearly disappointed Ronnefalk summed up his third place.  The HB Racing driver continued, ‘the car was too edgy for me, we need to check it over but I think maybe the temperature drop because of the clouds was the problem. It felt to drive like a spring cup had come off.  I had to fight really hard with Ongaro and Boots and this let Robert get away and take control of the race’.  The World Champion concluded, ‘I wanted to win here because its my home country but next time’.

Asked to sum up his final Boots replied, ‘shit pretty much’.  The Kyosho driver said, ‘the car was really good in the end and was getting better and better.  At the start I got stuck behind a few people and when they crashed it stopped me.  I ended up making a couple of mistake because I was pushing hard to get back to the front and we also had a couple of problems on the pit stops. I caught up to the lead almost’.  Suffering two flame outs, on his 1st and 3rd fuel stops, he said, ‘If I had no problems in the pits I feel 100% I would have won it. Sometimes that’s what happens’.  Behind Boots, Kyosho team-mate Riccardo Berton would claim his best finish with P6 ahead of young Spanish talent Juan Carlos Canas.

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