January 24, 2020

Haatanen goes fastest in 2WD as Phend maintains 4WD pace

Day 1 of the Reedy Offroad Race of Champions is complete with Joona Haatanen mixing things up in the final run of the day to go fastest in 2WD while early pace setter Dakotah Phend maintain his status as the quickest driver in 4WD when he topped the third of the day’s three practice rounds. Behind Haatanen, Dustin Evans made it a 1-2 for Team Associated as both managed for the first time to outpace Phend who had set the early pace for both classes.  In 4WD, which will open the racing action tomorrow at OCRC Raceway, the closest on pace to Phend was Ty Tessmann with Yusuke Sugiura making it three different manufacturers in the Top 3 ahead of his Yokomo team-mate Ryan Maifield.  While the Reedy Race’s unique heads up race format means not too much should be read into the practice times, for defending Champion Jared Tebo the day ended with him setting the 7th fastest 2WD time and 8th fastest 4WD time.

Leading this year’s European challenge for Reedy Race glory, the race having only been won once before in its 25 year history by a European driver when Joern Neumann won the title in 2012, Haatanen was happy with improvements to his car for the final practice.  Improving from fourth fastest in the second practice, he said, ‘We went higher with the rear hinge pin and it gave more steering.  We were working to improve the car for when the grip comes in and the tyres get better so it looks good for when 2WD racing comes around.  The car feels balanced and easy to drive’.  Asked about his 4WD, ending up 22nd fastest of the 24 Invitational Class entries, the Finnish driver replied, ‘we need to find sometime with the 4WD but at least I’m happy with 2WD’.

Evans summed up the day by saying, ‘I’m fast in 2WD and need a little more in 4WD, but it’s not about being the fastest at the Reedy Race’.  The 2018 Champion continued, ‘Myself and Joona are the same, good in 2WD and struggling in 4WD.  I need to get more comfortable with my 4WD.  In that last practice round I tried a little too hard but I’m still confident going into tomorrow.  I am thinking of changing the flex for the (4WD) free practice we have in the morning’.

Despite being knocked off the top spot in 2WD, Phend declared, ‘everything is working great. I have been working on making no mistakes and hitting my lines on the track’.  TLR’s sole contender for the 2020 Reedy Race title, on his 2WD performance in the final practice he said, ‘it took me a little bit to get going in the last practice.  We will see how the track is when we get back out on Saturday but I think it should be very close’.  With drivers given a practice grid start at the end of the final practice, asked what he thought of the track for racing, Phend replied, ‘it should be solid’.

Commenting on his pace Tessmann said, ‘4WD is still good. We made a small change and it was better but in 2WD while we made the car slightly better we are struggling’.  The Xray driver explained, ‘I have no rear grip and we are trying to figure out why this is.  I have never experienced the car acting like this before’.

Sugiura was pleased with his Top 3 in 4WD, saying he was able to improve his 4WD each run.  Describing it as ‘very good’ after the final run, the Japanese driver is planning some more changes for tomorrow feeling he needs a little more steering.  On his 2WD, the World Championship podium finisher described it as ‘really slippy’ adding he was ‘trying to cure some issues’.  A fan of the Nick Black designed layout, he said with the surface getting better each run he was looking forward to having higher grip when the switch to 2WD racing happens on Saturday afternoon.

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