Robert Batlle will lead away the 13 drivers that will battle it out in Sweden to become Champion of the 37th running of the 1:8 Offroad European Championships. The Top Qualifier won his Semi with the faster time of the two encounters with David Ronnefalk recovering from a bad start to win the other, just 1-second of a difference in their winning times after the 20-minute races. Keeping Batlle honest in the early part of the race and leading the Spaniard for a time before a costly mistake, Davide Ongaro would finish second to secure fourth on the grid. Behind Ronnefalk, reigning champion Elliott Boots having had a very comfortable lead early on over fellow Brit Darren Bloomfield would finish second with a difficult car to start his quest for a third title in a row from 3rd. Behind the Top 4, João Figueiredo will start 5th with former champion Bloomfield lining up 6th making it five different manufacturers in the top half of the grid.
Describing it as ‘a good semi’, Batlle said he had to push more than he needed as Ongaro was stuck on his rear wing and that resulted in 2-mistakes as he tried to get a gap on the young Italian. The Mugen driver continued, ‘apart from this the race went as we planned’. Asked about the main final the 2007 & 2011 Champion said, ‘It good that I am starting from No.1 but there are four drivers who are all within 10-seconds of each other so I am just going to try and be the one that is the most consistent’. He concluded, ‘I think the race will be about who makes the least mistakes’.
‘Its going to be an exciting final’, was Ronnefalk’s reaction to the grid for the final. Asked about his poor start, the HB Racing driver replied, ‘I just didn’t want to crash and told all the other drivers from Sweden not to but then I did it myself’. He continued, ‘Coming up the roller I hit a rut. It’s the worst place to crash and I lost at lot of spots there but it was nice to come back from that and get first’. Looking to the final, the Word Champion said, ‘Its a long main but I think the start position is important still. I didn’t know Robert’s time but with my crash I knew it would be hard to beat but in the end it was just a second’. Setting the fastest lap of the two Semis, only himself and Batlle posting 39-second lap times, he said, ‘I’m happy with the car so I’m ready’.
Boots described his Semi final result as ‘not too bad’. The Kyosho driver added, ‘I had a problem with my car near the end. I don’t know if it was a stone or something but it was binding up and switching the rear around but at the start it was pretty good’. Asked about the pending 45-minute final, he replied, ‘the tyres were a bit edgy (in the Semi) so I think we’re going to change compound’.
New for this year, the Last Chance Final would see 3-time Champion Renaud Savoya join as the 13th starter. A race between the 12 Semi Finalists to not make the Top 6 cutoff to progress to the Main Final, the TLR driver won the 15-minute shoot out from last year’s podium finisher Neil Cragg. For the first half of the race female racer Jessica Pålsson did an impressive job of leading the final but rejoining right behind Savoya after her fuel stop the Swede had a mistake which dropped her back to 6th.
The Semi Final line-up is complete for the 37th running of the 1:8 Offroad European Championships at the Gröndal Ring in Sweden. In the first of the 1/4 Finals it was French driver Rayan Medjoubi who took the win from pole sitter Hampus Berg. The Kyosho driver won the 20-minute encounter easily, going an extra lap, to book his first ever Semi Final appearance. The others to progress would be Jorge Soler and 2016 Finalists Bryan Baldo. The TLR driver started his day in the 1/16 Final and just made it through to the 1/8. Starting from the back, the Spaniard again claimed the last bump up spot to again carry the No.12 in the 1/4. Battling with Jürgen Trieb, he would jump down the inside of the Sworkz driver as they started the last lap to progress once again.
In the second of the 1/4 Final encounters, 2015 podium finisher Alex Zanchettin started on pole and lead throughout. The Tekno driver lead home Infinity driver Lee Martin, the newly crowned 1:10 2WD Offroad World Champion back in the Semi having missed the cut last year. Having bumped up from the 1/16, Kyosho driver James La Pavoux continued his good run to finish 3rd and progress for a 3rd time. Completing the Top 4 & becoming the final of the 24 drivers still in contention to become European Champion would be Marcel Paul, the German leading the most race mileage done award having qualified down in the 1/32nd final.
We caught up with Jason Ruona in the JConcepts cabin, where he introduced us to their newest tire called Kosmos. A “hefty medium pin tire”, as Jason described it, the Kosmos is a result of many recommendations by their Eeuropean drivers as well as the input from some Aussie drivers. Placing itself in between the Reflex and the Detox, the new tire is a great option for abrasive tracks where a heftier pin is needed. Also coming from the American company is a pre-production silicone parts tray that features holes to hold in place most buggy differentials.
Chassis – Mugen MBX-7R Engine – Picco V1 Team DLC Tyres – AKA Impact Soft Fuel – Runner Time Radio/Servos – Ko Propo/Highest Body – Bittydesign Force Remarks – Former 2-time European and World Champion Robert Batlle is top qualifier at the 2017 Euros driving a pretty standard version of the Japanese MBX-7R, only equipped with front & centre High Traction differentials. His Picco V1 Team DLC engine is fitted with the new 2099 pipe.
Robert Batlle is Top Qualifier at the 1:8 Offroad European Championships in Sweden, the Mugen driver producing a blistering final qualifier to leave his rivals stunned and deny World Champion David Ronnefalk a home TQ. Having started out yesterday unable to match Ronnefalk and reigning champion Elliott Boots, the 2-time former champion found his rhythm on Day 2 of qualifying topping both qualifiers to claim only his second ever Euros TQ, the last one being 10 years ago when he took his first title. With a TQ run in Q3, Ronnefalk would end up second to secure pole for the second of the Semi finals in which Boots, who took Q1, will start directly behind him. Fastest in the second qualifier, Davide Ongaro ended up 3rd overall and the Italian star will follow Batlle off the line in the first of the 20-min Semi finals. Former Champion Darren Bloomfield joins them while Riccardo Berton will complete the Top 3 starting line-up for the Semi B encounter.
‘I think that was the best that was possible’, was a very pleased looking Batlle’s reaction to his Q5 run – the 8 laps in 5:18.801 the big talking point among drivers as they queued for lunch at the track afterwards. He continued, ‘It felt super good, I had traction, I didn’t have too much side bite, I had everything. We worked all week through our plan and now we are ready for tomorrow’. Making his MBX6-R comfortable to drive in Q4 with a change to supersoft AKA Impact tyre, he would change to a soft for the final run describing them as ‘super nice’. Asked about his preparations for the Semi Final, drivers getting a 10-minute practice session before hand to reacclimatise with the track after the running of the lower finals, he said, ‘We will think about the tyres and test some things in the Semi practice but the car is super nice so I will keep it like this, if we do change anything it will not be big’. Giving Picco its first modern day Euros TQ, when asked about fuel run time he said, ‘everything is as planned. We had some issues at the start of the week but we fixed them’. Interestingly it has been six years since the Top Qualifier didn’t go on to become the Champion and on that occasion it was Batlle who took the 2011 win, Jerome Aigoin having taken the TQ.
Seeing out qualifying with a P3 run, Ronnefalk said, ‘the run was good and consistent but I had traffic at the end and changed my line coming onto the straight and caught the wall which sent the car fishtailing. Anyway even without this it was no where near to Robert’. Choosing JConcepts’ Metrix tyre, the HB Racing driver said it wasn’t the right tyre as he didn’t have enough traction and so he was missing some speed as a result. Asked about his Semi final, he replied, ‘We will make the car ready and use the Semi Warm-up to check what tyre works’. On fuel the Orion team driver said, ‘fuel is comfortable, in practice it was good so we will see again in the warm-up’. Asked if the track presented an opportunity to gain on fuel strategy he said, ‘I’m never going to take a risk again. Too many time before it didn’t work.’
‘To get 3rd overall I’m really happy’, was Ongaro’s reaction at the end of qualifying. The Team Associated driver continued, ‘I am happy with the car, we run it the same all day, and for tomorrow I will leave it the same’. In terms of the tyres, the 16-year-old Italian talent said, ‘I will try in the practice the same tyre as Robert and also the Catapult’. Chasing his third consecutive A-Main appearance since first making the A-Main at his family’s Ongaroring in 2015, he said his approach for the Semi was to drive ‘consistent and not crash’.
Looking to become only the second driver to ever do three in a row Euros title, Renaud Savoya doing it in 2010, Boots who was second fastest in Q5 said, ‘we finished on a high’. The Kyosho driver continued, ‘we got the car better, not as good as Robert’s car, but it feels pretty good. Unfortunately we ended up 4th overall on count back’ – himself and Ongaro finishing on the same points. He added, ‘Robert is fast but whether he can go like that for a long time we’ll have to see, maybe he can. In the last one I was driving a bit conservative and not really pushing the car so I’m actually pretty happy’. Asked about going into the Semi final the British driver said, ‘ We will change a few things for the Warm-up to try them and I want to run the same set of tyres to see how long they last. So far the don’t look to have any wear on them’ – his MP9 running on Pro-Line’s Big Block in X3 compound.
Posting another P6 run in the final qualifier which would count along with his impressive Q4 P2 and third in Q2, 2015 Finalist Berton said, ‘I didn’t have bad pace but the corner before the straight I had a bad mistake and it was a 44-second lap’. The 18-year-old Kyosho driver said having started the week good but struggled on Wednesday ‘now I’m happy again with the car, it is easy to drive and I can push it. For the Semi we will just make everything fresh and also continue to run on Bowtie X2’.
‘I drove like a cock, I definitely had the car for it but blew myself out of the water’, was how Bloomfield summed up Q5. The Agama driver added, ‘I ruined it for myself but the job was already done to get me into the Semis’. Fourth at last year’s Euros in Spain, in terms of his car he said, ‘I’m going to stick with what I have and just learn to drive it. I need to stiffen the shocks a touch for the practice and just drive a clean fun 10-minutes to check everything for the Semi.’ Asked if tyre wear or fuel would be an issue, the Brit replied, ‘nothing stands out. We all thought wear was going to be an issue but it turned out not to be’.