Akio Sobue is the Top Qualifier at the 2020 TITC, the Infinity driver locking up pole position at the 18th running of Asia’s premiere touring car event when he opened Day 2 of qualifying with yet another TQ run. The 2018 Champion, who took that victory from 4th on the grid, made it three from three in the penultimate round of qualifying at the Infinity Addict Circuit, this time ahead of team-mate Naoto Matsukura. The only other driver to complete 20-laps in the much hotter afternoon conditions, the former World Champion was over 3-seconds back despite a less than perfect 5-minutes from Sobue. Viktor Wilck completed the Top 3 for the round by just 2/10ths of a second from Jilles Groskamp while Yokomo’s Meen Vejrak enjoyed his best qualifying result so far to breaking up an all Infinity Top 6 with P5. Behind the Thai driver TITC debutant Ryosuke Yamamoto set the sixth fastest time ahead of the Yokomo’s of Nicholas Lee and Hayato Ishioka.
Reacting to his first TITC TQ, Akio said, ‘I’m really happy that on our first race with the IF14-II we are putting in a good showing for the new car’. He continued, ‘the conditions (for Q3) meant lower traction but the balance of my car was still good. After 3-minutes again everyone dropped off but my car was good for 5-minutes. The only problem I had was that I had an overshoot a few times’. Asked about the fourth & final qualifier, the Japanese driver said, ‘I will freshen up the car for Q4 and make a small set-up change, it will be a really small change I want to try’.
Summing up his latest qualifying attempt, Matsukura said, ‘I changed a little the set-up because today the traction is not so good and it is a little windy but I still found my car a little loose to drive’. With the chance to TQ gone, last year’s runner-up behind the absent Alexander Hagberg continued, ‘I will now chase P2 on the grid. In the points I am showing 3rd but if I can get a second with a faster time then I can take second from Jilles. The next qualifying is at five forty something so for sure there will be more traction and it will be rocket round. I will make a set-up change to suit the conditions’.
‘I changed the set-up but it was too stable’, was Wilck’s view of his Q3 time. The Swede continued, ‘the change meant the drop off was not so bad now but overall I didn’t have enough speed. At the beginning it was too slow’. Currently holding P4 on the grid, for the final qualifying round he will ‘try something more with the set-up’ concluding, ‘Akio is out in front but me, Jilles and Naoto are very close so there is plenty to fight for’.
Groskamp explained, ‘I changed a lot on the set-up because I had a 2nd in the first one and another 2nd in the second one’. He continued, ‘today is a similar time to when the finals will run so I tried harder suspension arms that are optionals for the car and a stiffer top deck. It made the car stable but also created too much push. This is the same as Akio is running but his set-up is different. I will stay with the harder arms as they suit hotter conditions but I think I will go with the softer top deck to get more steering. I know the last round will be cooler but I still want to test this set-up. I hope Akio TQ’s all four so I can hold my second. Akio has the set-up and is driving very good this week but Viktor, Naoto and me are all together’.
Commenting on his marked improvement today, Vejrak said, ‘I think we made a good start today and this result will get me into the A-Main’. The same track where he won his Nitro Touring World Championship title in 2012, he said, ‘today the grip is quite low but the car works better today. It was going good until I made a mistake and lost 1-second. This cost me 2nd or 3rd position for the round’. Asked what changes he had made to his BD10, the 2018 podium finisher said, ‘I didn’t change anything. I just freshened up the car and today it had more steering. I’m not sure if it just the conditions suit the car more or if the car is better’. Hoping to improve the P7 on the grid he currently holds, asked about the remaining qualifier he said, ‘I need to try something with the car. I don’t have a feeling of good speed and I want to make less heat in the tyres’.