Ongaro locks in overall TQ at Philippine Masters
Davide Ongaro is the Top Qualifier at the Philippine Masters, the Team Associated driver making it three TQ runs in a row in the third and penultimate round of qualifying in Manila. With 2023 marking the return of Asia’s premiere 1:8 Offroad race, the former champion looked his strongest in Q3 playing a tactical game of taking the rolling heat start just behind main rival Batlle. Pushing the Mayako driver, Batlle would have a bobble but worse was to come. Coming up on the same buggy that cost him the TQ run in the previous round, this time the driver opened but as Batlle went by he raced him and ran into the former World Champion causing him to end up on his roof and rob the event of a potential TQ showdown in the fourth & final round. After the on lookers got over the disappointment of the incident, their attention turned to Ongaro who suddenly looked to be having issues with his buggy but everyone was looking to be in same trouble, the track turning to an ice rink as an almost unnoticeable light rain shower very briefly fell. This played into the hands of the driver at the sharp end of the second fastest heat with Jason Nugroho ending up with a P2 for the round in between Ongaro and Batlle with up & coming Australian talent Jak Parsey fourth.
Finally breaking into the 38-second laps, Batlle the only driver managing that pace in Q1 & 2, Ongaro summed up his Q3 effort with, ‘we were close to each other that one. I had a much better feeling’. Asked about the improvement, he said, ‘I stayed behind Robert in the warm-up to see where to find the time so then I know what I need to do’. With mechanics and drivers in a panic at the end of the qualifier thinking they had an issue with their buggy, when it was in fact a super light rain shower, Ongaro explained, ‘I thought the car was broken. The lap was 10-seconds slower, it was like complete ice’. With Q4 effectively a practice session for the World Champion now the overall TQ is sown up, the Italian will use it to test a different tyre thread option from his sponsor and offroad market newcomer Matrix Tires. After running their Black Hole clay compound tyre he will give the Nova tyre a run having not had the time to do so in practice due to only arrive Thursday night after his rival had all spent a day on the track.
Asked about his P2 run, Nugroho replied, ‘I got lucky with the rain’. The Indonesian Sworkz driver said his first two laps were effected by traffic but the rest of the run was good. Previously attending the Philippine Masters in 2018, the 22-year-old said switching from a Jetko Red Devil tyre to TPro’s Matrix had given him more forward traction and better rotation. Planning to leave his car unchanged for the final round and with a 19th & 15th from the opening two qualifiers, he will be looking for a Top 10 run to try and lock himself directly into the A-Main.
Batlle, who wasn’t dwelling too much on his lack of luck in qualifying, said, ‘Davide started behind me so there was a little more pressure but it was also good to see how we compared to each other. When he closed on me I could push a pull out the gap again. I think we have quite a good car we have more in it’. For the last round he plans to make a change to give the car ‘more easy steering’ adding, ‘the main thing is not to find the unlucky guys like this guy’. Explaining what happened he said, ‘when he opened for me I thought ok he did it right this time but I didn’t expect him to race me when I had already passed him’.
Summing up his P4 for the round, Parsey said, ‘it started great but the rain was a shock. I radioed to my dad that I had lost steering. Once we realised what was happening I just got it around’. Targeting the A-Main before making the trip from Brisbane to Manila, the 13-year-old Mayako driver said if he can get one more good round it should keep him in there. In terms of car and set-up he declared himself happy, with the two engine flame outs in Q2 not an issue since.