Boots retains Euro title as rivals crumble in the heat
Elliott Boots has successfully defended his 1:8 Offroad European Championship title. Racing under the beating Spanish sun, the 45-minute final would take a dramatic turn with just 7-minute to go as David Ronnefalk and Robert Batlle looked set to duel it out for the win. Having just relinquished the lead to Ronnefalk, Battle would suddenly slow but before the gasping onlookers could get their breath back Ronnefalk would also come to a stop. With both drivers suffering from overheating throttle servos, it was Top Qualifier Boots who was there to pick up the pieces, the British driver having made a somewhat slow start to the race. With the demise of both Ronnefalk and Battle, the attention of the race was on who would make up the rest of the podium, former champion Yannick Aigoin as surprised as anyone to finish runner-up for Xray ahead of an equally happy Neil Cragg, the Associated driver describing it as the ‘best 45-minute final I’ve ever had’.
Only the 7th driver to win back to back titles in the 36 years the championships has been running, Boots said, ‘It all just happened in a heart beat. I can’t really explain it’. Changing from Pro-Line’s Fugitive light tyre to the standard tyre for the final, the British ace said, ‘I was probably lacking pace to begin with but I knew the tyre would get better as the race went on’.Following behind Ronnefalk and making their first fuel stop together, Boots would be slow due to a problem with getting the fuel gun into the tank giving Ronnefalk some breathing space. With a mistake later on allowing Battle through, Boots said when the pair starting battling he ‘slowly started catching up’. Going to the front just before the final stop, mastermind of Boots success Mick Craddock would conduct an extra safe refuelling letting his driver rev out his Reds Racing engine before releasing it with Boots knowing he just had to bring it to the finish such was the gap over 2nd place. An important win to register in this World Championship year, the former Worlds Top Qualifier concluded, ‘hopefully we can win the next now’, the next one being the WC in Vegas in October.
‘My goal coming here was to make the main for my sponsors but I couldn’t have expected this, I’m super happy’, was Aigoin’s reaction to finishing runner-up from 8th on the grid. One of the great ambassador’s of the sport, the French driver said, ‘The Top 3 were super fast but we were close all week to the pace of the others and I kept working on getting a set-up for my own speed’. For the Semi Final ‘we brought everything together that we learned over the week and the car was very good’. ‘I had maybe 1 mistake in the final and even if the others didn’t go out I should probably have been 4th or 5th which would have been a great result’.
‘The race of my life really to be honest’, was a very happy looking Cragg’s reaction to completing the podium. The long time Associated driver continued, ‘we loaded the gun for the final and changed a lot on the car. I knew in the warm-up this is good’. Running the RC8B, the former electric offroad World Champion said ‘I was having a good battle with Yannick and Darren (Bloomfield) and when the others started dropping out I thought, I could win this’. He concluded, ‘2nd would have been nice but I really enjoyed it’.
Having just scrapped into the main with sixth in the Semi he started on pole, Darren Bloomfield would finish 4th. Starting the final from last on the 12-car grid, the Agama driver said, ‘I did what I should have done a few days ago’. Struggling in the semi as he ‘ran out of diff and tyre’, they ‘threw a curve ball’ going up in the diffs, shocks and switching to a hard compound Beta Freeride tyre. A big improvement to his A215 he said he ‘was too far back’ to battle for a podium but the former champion added ‘I’m really happy with fourth’.
Looking like he had the race under control before a few errors appeared, Ronnefalk explained his retirement was caused after ‘the throttle servo overheated’. Asked about the race the 20-year-old factory HB Racing driver said, ‘I had a fast stop which gave me a gap but then made a few mistakes but I knew the speed was there and I just needed to put it together. After Robert got by I could see he was super slow out of the corners so I was just waiting for a mistake’. He continued ‘when I did (get passed) I was just driving to the end’. The Swede concluded, ‘when this shit happens it sucks’.
Asked about his race Batlle said, ‘I felt super good. my car and tyres were good and I was just fighting with David. For sure it was me or him for the win’. The Mugen driver continued, ‘It’s a shame we both didn’t finish and to have the same problem on the same lap is crazy but there was nothing else we could do. With Batlle’s retirement Juan Carlos Canas would be the top home finisher in 5th. Having a great battle with the other under 17-year-old driver in the final Davide Ongaro, the reigning Euro B Champion was to add the Junior European crown to his CV with outgoing champion Ongaro completing the Top 6.
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