April 19, 2024

Bernadzik takes opening qualifier at Philippine Masters

Alex Bernadzik got his Philippine Masters debut off to the dream start, the Australian Team Associated driver TQ’ing the opening qualifier at Asia’s biggest annual 1:8 Offroad race.  The 2023 Australian National Champion claimed the first of the four scheduled qualifiers as the only driver to record 9-laps of the challenging Manila track despite a late driver error.  Behind it would be Atsushi Hara who set the second fastest time as he makes his return to 1:8 Buggy competition at the event he has won on previous occasions.  With the 12th edition of the Philippine Masters counting as the second round of the Asian Buggy Championships which kicked off in New Zealand in February, it was Round 1 winner Ryan Lutz who complete the top 3 for Q1 ahead Davide Ongaro and Philippine Masters’ rookies Ryan Pavidis and Joern Neumann.

Second fastest in yesterday’s seeding behind Neuman’s Sworkz, summing up his first qualifying attempt Bernadzik said, ‘It was a really good consistent run up until the second last lap’.  Suffering a roll over on the back double, that mistake would cost him around 4-seconds but such was his advantage he could still hold on for the TQ.  Having changed his car for this morning’s free practice, he said he didn’t really like how the buggy felt and so he reverted back to yesterday’s set-up for Q1 and right now he has his plan wouldn’t be to change too much in the buggy.  Instead he said he will keep with his tyre program, his TQ run achieved using with JConcepts Silver Ellipse tyre.  Asked his thoughts on the much hyped Circulo Verde track he replied with a grin saying, ‘It is really  good.  The photos don’t do it justice’.

A guy who is really enjoying life at the moment having returned to competitive touring car action at the World famous TITC last month and now 1:8 Buggy here at the Philippine Masters, Hara said his Sworkz was ‘really really good’. The former World Champion did however say he drove a little nervous adding ‘I’ve not been there (major international race) in a long time’. One of the first drivers to arrive in the Philippines for the race and able to just a few extra miles under his belt before the majority of drivers arrived, he feels this helped a little with his set-up data. Coming with a variety of different tyre options from his sponsor VP Pro he said the harder M1 compound is proving really good but admit he doesn’t have a huge amount of them with him. Asked if this could present a problem he said he wasn’t too concerned about qualifying other than making the A-Main as he said the prospect of running the 1-hour main is his goal for the event adding ‘I don’t remember the last time I raced for 1-hour so I really excited to have have the chance again cause not many races outside the Worlds are an hour final.’

Lutz summed up his opening qualifier with ‘it was OK’. The Kyosho driver went on to explain, ‘the rear didn’t feel settled and we realised after the rear shocks were over pressurised.’ The American added he plans to change his rear shock set-up feeling ‘the oil was a little light to start with’. After making years of trying to make the Philippine Masters fit his schedule, having final got the chance to drive the track Lutz said, ‘it’s an awesome track and a lot of fun to drive’. Asked if he felt he had it mastered yet he replied, ‘I’m not carrying the right speed in the centre back section so that’s something I can work on improving.’

No stranger to the Philippine Masters, winning the race last year on his return following the world pandemic, Ongaro was a little frustrated by the incident that denied him a buggy double in Q1. Only arriving in the country last night from Italy, Ongaro missed seeding only getting to his the new track design this morning in free practice. Placed in the top heat given his back to back World Championship status, having taken the opening eBuggy qualifier ahead of Neumann and Hara, he started out looking like doing the same in Nitro Buggy. That was until lap 3 when he collected a car which rolled in front of him at the start of the main straight. Recovering with the fastest lap of Q1 he would finish just 25/1000th off Lutz. Asked about this year’s track layout he replied, ‘I prefer last year’s because it had more jumps so there are now less places to make a difference but overall it is still a great track’. For Day 2 of qualifying, the Italian set to be more rested, he said he only plans ‘just a new set of tyres’ having used the same set for all of todays free practice and the opening qualifier.

Enjoying his first experience of racing in Asia, this only his second race outside of the US, Pavidis said Q1 ‘was good but I made a mistake.  Without that I would have been up there’, but added, ‘it’s easy to get in a wreck here’.  For Day 2 of qualifying the 22-year-old Sparko driver said he will work on trying find a little more pace.  Asked how he planned to achieve this, the son of former World Champion Mark Pavidis said ‘I’ll free up the rear of the car the car a bit so it can rotate better’.  Finding he had less grip for Q1, he said he has learned that the morning has the best traction and once you get to noon the traction falls off.


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