February 21, 2020

Sobue remains in control with another TQ run at TITC

Akio Sobue remains firmly in control at the TITC with the Infinity driver posting another TQ run for a perfect first day of qualifying at the Thai event.  Having taken the opening qualifier from team-mate Jilles Groskamp, the top seed was again quickest from the Dutch driver in the second of the day’s two qualifiers but this time with an even bigger margin of 3.1-seconds.  Having crashed out in the opening qualifier, Naoto Matsukura would complete the Top 3 after a mistake from team-mate Viktor Wilck on the final lap.  An all Infinity Top 6, the coronavirus having seen a lot of the race’s regular title contenders opting not to travel this year, Atsushi Hara took the top honours for the others setting the 7th fastest time with his HB Racing project car ahead of the Yokomo’s of Charlee Phutiyotin and Nicholas Lee.

‘The car is perfect I think’, was Sobue’s reaction after going 2-seconds quicker than he had in Q1. Having suffered with his car wanting to spin out on the opening lap of the first qualifier, he continued, ‘I had no problem this time on the opening lap but I was still a little careful at the same corner the first time but I had more steering and could go fast’.  With the time schedule meaning the remaining two qualifiers will be run in the afternoon/evening tomorrow, the opposite to today, Akio said, ‘Maybe the track conditions will change but in both the day time and the evening my car has good balance so I think I will keep it the same. I see no reason to change it’.

Describing his Q2 effort as ‘not bad’, Groskamp said, ‘I tried a little different saucing and it started off better than before and I could keep with Akio at the start but then it went off. I think maybe I used too much sauce’.  He continued, ‘Overall I am still happy because Akio is in a little different zone to everyone. He is trying some different stuff with his set-up and now that I have two good results I might try some of them in tomorrow’s qualifiers’.

Explaining his Q1 crash, Matsukura said, ‘I normally drive down the middle of the straight but this time I was on the outside and the car spun and I crashed. I think possibly some wind caused it’.  On his Q2 performance, the former Touring Car World Champion said, ‘the feeling was good but I had a little understeer so I could not catch Akio’.  Looking to Day 2 of qualifying and the change of timing of the runs, the Japanese driver was excited that it presented him with an opportunity to challenge his team-mate for the honour of Top Qualifier.  He said, ‘the first one should have the same traction as today but the 2nd one is in the best condition. It will be the rocket round so the TQ is still on. I just need to try find some more steering in the set-up but overall the new IF14-II is working very good. I am also happy with my ORCA Speedo, the power deliver is very smooth’.

Summing up his second run, Wilck said, ‘the first 1, 2-minutes was OK but then I think I overheated my tyres’.  He continued on the last lap I had a mistake and that let Naoto by.  With the tyres overheating I jumped the curb in the middle chicane’.  On his team-mate Akio’s advantage, the Swede said, ‘Akio is really good to the end because he don’t over heat his tyres.  In the beginning me, Jilles and Akio are almost the same’.

Despite improving his car between rounds Jin Sawada was again 5th fastest ahead of fellow countryman Ryosuke Yamamoto.  Having had an impressive opening qualifier in which he was fourth fastest, Yamamoto felt the pressure of that result saying he was ‘quite nervous’ during Q2.

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