April 20, 2024

Ongaro TQs Philippine Masters as AE line-up 1-2

Davide Ongaro is the Top Qualifier at the Philippine Masters with Alex Bernadzik making it a 1-2 for Team Associated at the conclusion of the four round of qualifying.  As the defending Champion of Asia’s biggest annual 1:8 Offroad, it was a slow start to qualifying for Ongaro but finding his way in the penultimate round he went even stronger in the final round for another TQ run.  This time it was ahead of Bernadzik to secure the overall TQ honours.  Having made a dream start to his Philippine Masters debut by topping the opening qualifier on Friday, Bernadzik will line-up in between two of the greats of the sport, multiple World Champions Ongaro and Atsushi Hara.  Hara is enjoying a great resurgence in form this weekend, the Japanese driver reliving his racing youth in Manila.  Delighted with his P3 starting position, he is most excited for the opportunity to run the 1-hour final tomorrow at the Circulo Verde track.  Another of the race’s rookies this year, Joern Neumann TQ’d the 2nd qualifier this morning but issues in the following two means he will start P4 right ahead of Ryan Lutz who makes it five difference countries represented at the front end of the grid, this year’s race having drivers attend from 16 different countries.

First summing up the final qualifier, Ongaro said, ‘I had some traffic in the beginning but then I was closing the gap on Hara before he let me go.  It was fun to drive with him but once I got in the front I started to drive safe to the end.’  Using the qualifier to try a small change to his set-up he said the plan for tomorrow is to go back to the same set-up as yesterday because many of the changes they made to the set-up since then were to try and compensate for what turned out to be a wheel problem.’  While a regular here at the Philippine Masters, and having shown twice to the World that 1-hour finals are his forte, looking to the main event tomorrow he said, ‘for sure it will be difficult on the car, engine, tyres and us’, joking to Bernadzik, ‘maybe it will be more difficult for Alex.’  Also racing here in eBuggy, Ongaro also took the overall TQ in the category ahead of Neumann, Bernadzik Lutz, Ryan Pavidis and Hara.

Describing his first qualifying attempt as ‘a good clean run’, Bernadzik added, ‘I was a little slow starting off as I was on new tyres because I wanted to scrub them in for the eBuggy mains.  Once they started to come in the car was really good.’   Setting the fastest lap again in Q4, looking to the final he said, ‘I’ve definitely got the pace but I have got to try match his (Ongaro) consistency going into the final.’   Asked about the 1-hour long final, the 2023 Australian National Champion said he had no concerns as this was common race distance at his National Championship.  He added there will be lots of hydration going on between now and tomorrow but he is ‘looking forward to it’, this being his first time to the Philippine Masters.

‘P3 is not bad’, was Hara reaction on the conclusion of qualifying.  Running an Sworkz for his return to 1:8 Offroad competition he said, ‘again the car is just great, and this was my first time to race close with Ongaro.  People say Ongaro is the best in the World and now I feel yes he is’.  Chased down by the Italian in Q4, Hara enjoyed the experience saying, ‘at least it took him 3-laps to pass me so I am happy with that.’  As it was a qualifier, once Ongaro did get within striking distance Hara let him through.  Having been excited about the 1-hour final since his strong opening qualifier he said, ‘I am pretty confident about the final.  Everything is safe, the engine is stable, the tyres work well.  If I drive well I think I can make the podium and that’s would be a win for me.  I have chance to win too if I have luck, its a long race.’

One of the drivers in to hunt for a debut TQ at the race, Joern Neumann said his Q4 effort ‘was not so good because I crashed on the opening lap.  After that I push too hard which maybe was not the best way.’  With no one expected to change tyres just the final, just stopping for fuel,  the factory Sworkz driver said while ‘everything can still happen’ the likely hood of issues in the pits with no tyre changes was much lower so trying to put in a clean 1-hour of racing was going to be key.

‘Smedium’ was how Lutz described his final nitro buggy qualifier.  The Kyosho star tried his clay set of tyres he intends to run in the final.  He didn’t sauce the tyres but said to be on pace for a qualifier that’s what they need.  Asked if he had a strategy for final given tyres appear they won’t be an issue with no stop required, he said it would be nice to have strategy as a strategy but for him it was going to be a strategy out of necessity due to him being ‘harder on the throttle’ so his run time needs managing.


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