July 6, 2016

Bernabe Top Seed as pace proves genuine


Having surprised the entire paddock at RC Redovan when he was fastest in the opening timed practice, Daniel Bernabe quashed all question marks over his time by again topping the second & final practice at the 1:8 Offroad European Championships.  Improving on his earlier 3-consecutive laps by 1-second, the SOAR driver again topped the times in Spain from defending Champion Elliott Boots, the Kyosho driver also bettering his CP1 time by 8/10ths. Pretty much a repeat of CP1, David Ronnefalk would again post the third fastest time, the HB Racing driver finding a similar improvement in time to Boots.  Behind the former champion, Mugen’s Bryan Baldo will be seeded 4th for qualifying at his home race with Xray’s Martin Wollanka improving from 12th after the first practice to get P5 just ahead of Robert Batlle.


Admitting to being as surprised as everyone else competing at the 36th running of the European Championships, Bernabe said it as an ‘awesome feeling’ to be able to back up his opening performance with another P1 time.  Only making a front droop change to his OS powered 998, the 22-year-old said the track changed between rounds and ‘it took (him) a few laps to get used to it’. Asked about if he felt he could transfer his quick 3-lap pace into a good 5-minute qualifying time, the Spaniard replied he was ‘pretty confident’ adding he feels ‘the consistency is there for a good time over the 5-minutes’.  With SOAR boss Didian Ho doing all the work on Bernabe’s car, the Taiwanese car designer said the big call for the first qualifier will be on tyre compound and diffs. Running Pro-Line Fugitive tyres, he said the actual track temperature as opposed to the air temperature would decide what way they go with him considering going up 1K in the diff oils if it proves as hot as today.


Keen to find out more about Bernabe’s background, Boots said overall ‘we are looking good and for the last one I was trying to go for a longer run (rather than 3-laps)’.  Suffering ‘a few bobbles with the wind’, the British driver added in qualifying ‘you’re going to need a lot of luck with the wind’.  Focusing on consistency for qualifying he added, ‘we have the right set-up and tyres and we will go into to the first one as we are’.  Asked who he felt looked strong for qualifying, Boots replied ‘obviously this guy (Bernabe) but Robert (Batlle), David (Ronnefalk) and the Baldo brothers are going to be there’.


‘I felt the car was faster that time so it was pretty good’, was how Ronnefalk summed up CP2.  The former back to back champion said while there were ‘slightly too soft in the shocks’ on his D815 this wasn’t a big thing and depending on the temperature at the time of Q1 they will adjust that if needed.  Hampered by coming together twice with a backmarker in the final practice which ‘cost (him) a few laps’, the 20-year-old said ‘the speed is there and I feel very good with the car’.  Having been evaluating both AKA Enduro and Zipps tyres, he said he is ‘pretty sure to use Zipps’ adding while the times are the same ‘the feeling with (Zipps) is better for me’.


Not improving his CP2 time as much as his rivals, Bryan Baldo was slightly disappointed but together with his brother Oscar he said they are already working on a package for longer races namely the Semi Finals. Changing to a harder rear spring on his MBX7R he said this made for better stability in the long jumps with the wind.  Describing the car as ‘really good now’, on tyres he said he plans to run Procircuit’s new unnamed tyre through qualifying and into the finals.  Asked if they had enough of the prototype tyres available he said while they had limited numbers there was enough to see him through the rest of the event.


Wollanka said while his car felt ‘very good’ in the first practice a number of changes for CP2 had made it ‘near perfect’.  Changing his rear diff, switching from a lexan to a plastic wing, and mounting his tyres differently, the Austrian improved his time by over 2-seconds.  Running tyres from leading onroad foam tyre manufacturer and offroad newcomer Hot Race for the the Euros, the former podium finisher said mounting their medium compound Roma pattern the opposite way round had made his XB8 more aggressive.  Asked if he planned any changes for the first qualifier he hinted that he might try a different bodyshell saying he would run ‘almost the same’ set-up for Q1.


‘Not bad’ was how Batlle summed up his controlled practice pointing out that being 0.9 of a second off over three such long laps was ‘nothing’.  Mugen’s lead driver said a tyre and shock change for the last round had left his Ultimate powered MBX7R to ‘push a little in front’ but otherwise ‘the car feels good’ adding ‘its so easy to drive and consistent’. With a 5-minute shakedown practice in the morning he said he hoped to find a little steering in that and asked about going into the first qualifier he replied, ‘I’m happy’.


Continuing to lead the challenge of Italy’s young guns, Davide Ongaro would end seeding 7th.  The reigning European Junior Champion, having finished 4th overall at the Euros at his home track in Sicile last year, has run his car pretty much unchanged throughout practice. With the 15-year-old showing well on the time sheets, the Mugen driver said he doesn’t see a reason to change the set-up for Q1.  After Ongaro the next best Italian in seeding is Kyosho’s Riccardo Berton, last year’s 6th place finisher sits 11th ahead of former Champion Darren Bloomfield.


Working on getting his car ready for long run focusing on consistency rather than outright speed, Oscar Baldo was pleased with P8.  The 19-year-old said his MBX7R had good consistency and he was ‘happy now’ with his package although in CP2 they ran his engine on the rich side.  Behind Oscar, Serpent’s Joern Neumann improved in CP2 to claim ninth with Finland’s infamous Joseph Quagraine rounding out the Top 10.

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