March 2, 2024

Volker is TITC Top Qualifier

Having found himself lining up for the B-Main 12-months ago, Mugen Seiki’s Ronald Volker has bounced in style to become the Top Qualifier at the 20th edition of the legendary TITC in Thailand.  Opening Day 2 of qualifying in Bangkok with a TQ run after a mistake from defending Champion Bruno Coelho, Volker added a second TQ in the slower than expected fourth & final ‘Rocket Round’ on Saturday evening.  With the huge entry of drivers from around the world watching on in anticipation of a thrilling conclusion to qualifying from the top heat, the showdown between Coelho and Volker would all be over in a matter of seconds.  As Volker led out Q4, Coelho would make a false start going off at the same time as team-mate Alexander Hagberg.  Backing off the throttle after realising his error, getting back on the power he traction rolled his Xray in the first corner.  With the Portuguese driver who took both of yesterday’s qualifiers now out of contention for Q4, the pressure was still on Volker to TQ the round in order to deny his rival pole for tomorrow.  With Infinity driver Kouki Kato putting in an impressive run in the fourth fastest of the five Modified heat group, Volker couldn’t let up and in the end delivered a second TQ run followed by Kato with Hagberg third from the Awesomatix pairing of Marc Rheinard and Lucas Urbain.  That finishing order his how they line up on the grid behind Volker and Bruno with Kato, a C finalist on his TITC debut last year, completing the Top 6.

‘It is almost surreal to TQ after last year at this event’ was Volker reaction to giving Mugen their first TITC TQ.  He continued, ‘the conditions were very tricky as we could see from Bruno early on.  After he went out it still wasn’t any easier as my car was on two wheels a few times.  It was a difficult 5-minutes but I am delighted with the TQ.  Credit to Mugen and especially Robert (Pietsch) for the insane work they have done to get us to where we are now.’  Knowing how difficult an event the TITC is, an example being Coelho taking the TQ in 2018 but ending up P8 in the finals, Volker added, ‘nothing is done yet.  I’m on pole, but with Bruno behind me, so it won’t be a walk in the park.  It is the best possible position to be in so I’ll try to make the most of it.’

Asked about his start to Q4, Coelho said, ‘I had a false start.  And went the same time as Alex so I had to let him go.  I then knew the corner was going to be difficult and I flipped.  The run was done.’   The back to back World Champion continued, ‘we tried a car set-up change for the last one and while my run was done I just did some laps to get a feeling for the changes.  We tried something not to flip.  It was very fast but (the car) still wants to flip so we need to find a better solution for that’.  Asked if the track layout offers any overtaking opportunities, he said, ‘racing on asphalt is easier than carpet but the bumps here could cause problems if you try to overtake.  We have 3 finals so 3 chances and if the opportunity is there I will go for it.’

‘I thought it was a pretty good run’, was Hagberg’s reaction to his final qualifying attempt.  A two time winner of the race, he added, ‘I used my tyres from controlled practice which only had 4-laps on them and the balance was good’.  Preparing a brand new bodyshell after the run for his X4 saying, ‘It’s a back up just incase of a crash’, on his starting position for tomorrow’s finals the Swede said, ‘I start 3rd so anything is possible.  I will try my best to fight for the win.’

Rheinard was more upbeat about his finish to qualifying saying, ‘the car for the last one was fast, I just made too many mistakes.  I think I was leading at the beginning’.  The multiple World Champion said, ‘with the humidity today it’s difficult. I don’t have a feeling for the track but the car is not bad.  We made good progress that last round which is good for tomorrow.’  18-years since his one & only TITC win, the German feels ‘the race is wide open’ and he is confident he can run with the drivers lining up ahead of him in the A-Main.

‘It’s done.  I’m happy with that’, was Urbain’s thoughts on Q4.  He continued, ‘Q4 was horrible.  I am not sure if I overdid it with glue on the tyres.  Sometimes I had grip, sometimes I had understeer.  I couldn’t tell what the front end was doing.  I was just trying to stay on the black stuff.  It was super close and I lost out to Marc at the end but I think I prefer Marc in front of me than behind me.  More could have been possible but we reached our goal of making the A-Main.’  On tomorrow’s finals, this his first A-Main having made the B-Main on his TITC debut 8-years ago, he said, ‘It is already a challenge to keep the car on track for 5-minutes on your own so racing in a group is going to be something else.’

One of the stars of last year’s 1:8 Onroad World Championships in Japan, making the final on his category debut, Kato said the conditions for Q4 suited his IF14-2 and with a very stable car and he was able to push hard.  The Japanese Offroad Champion is confident for the finals with the 17-year-old feeling their is ‘more to come’ and he plans to move forward in the finals.

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