April 29, 2023

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.

April 29, 2023

Batlle denied again as Ongaro goes 2 from 2

Still the fastest driver on track, Robert Batlle was once again denied at TQ run at the Philippine Masters with Davide Ongaro there to collect the top spot to make it 2 from 2.  With Saturday’s action kicking off with Round 2 of qualifying, Batlle looked set to deliver on yesterday’s speed but this time rather than lose out due to his own error, the Mayako driver had traffic issues on the penultimate lap.  The contact resulted in a 40-second lap time allowing Ongaro to take it by 6/10ths of a second.  Behind, a great run from Jackson Beale saw him secure the third fastest time ahead Daniel Miranda, Dino Jacinto and Harry Simms.  After a strong Q1 performance, 13-year-old Jak Parsey would suffer two flame outs while Sworkz’ Micha Widmaier, P2 in yesterday’s opening round, had ‘a bad run’ which left him only 9th fastest.

‘Better’ was how Ongaro summed up his second qualifying attempt, the Team Associated driver adding, ‘now the lap times are going down and we are more close to Robert’.  Putting the improvement down to few changes made to his buggy, he said the biggest of these was with the shocks.  Having come here with the same pistons he used at the Euros, he said changing to different piston this morning had made the landings off the jumps better.  Pleased with his own driving over the 5-minutes, he did have problems with traffic ‘but not like Robert’ adding ‘it is difficult to overtake here’.

Again the only driver to post a 38-second lap this morning, Batlle summed up his lack of luck with a positive saying, ‘this time I didn’t fail’.  Having crashed himself in Q1 on the last lap, he explained Q2 with, ‘I thought he was letting me passed but then he closed the door and I crashed into him’.  Although he didn’t need to be marshalled, the incident still cost the Spaniard around a second.  Working with JQ as his pitman this weekend, he joked, ‘we are two old guys just trying to beat the best in the world’.  Describing his car as ‘good’, he plans to go with a little harder of a set-up for Q3 after finding the track grippier today.  Still very hot there is no sun shinning today.

Clearly pleased with his performance having got a P8 in the opening round, Beale described his Tekno as ‘super fast’ but added while it is easier than before it was ‘still hard to drive’.  Planning to make it easier for the next one by going up in sway bars, he hopes this should take some of the grip out of the buggy.  Asked about traffic, the Australian said he was able to stay out of trouble and apart from a few bobbles that totalled around 2-seconds in lost time, ‘it was a pretty good run’ for the 17-year-old.

Leading the local charge, Miranda described Q2 as ‘a lot better than yesterday’.  Taking up RC in 2019 as a result of Covid lockdowns putting a stop to his full size touring car racing campaign, he said he felt ‘too much pressure yesterday’ but he is ‘a lot more relaxed today’.  Suffering one mistake that cost 2-3 seconds, which he was quick to claim as his ‘own fault’, asked if he planned any changes to his HB Racing buggy, he reply, ‘I will leave it the same, this track is all about the driver’.

Follow Saturday’s qualifying livestream here

April 28, 2023

Ongaro takes Q1 after late Batlle mistake

Davide Ongaro has taken the opening round of qualifying at the Philippine Masters but only after a late mistake from top seed Robert Batlle.  The last lap error would not only cost Batlle the TQ but also allow Micha Widmaier to jump him on the timing screen at the end of the 5-minute qualifier.  The only driver to lay down a 38-second lap time in the first of the four scheduled rounds of qualifying, Batlle had a comfortable gap over his rivals and was taking a cautious approach to his final lap when he caught some dirt on the track causing the first of two mistakes that left him with a 49-second final lap!  Behind the Top 3, Aaron Dexter, who is running in the second fastest heat, would post the fourth fastest time ahead of local Manila driver Dino Jacinto with young Aussie Jak Parsey completing the Top 6.

Reacting to his TQ in the opening qualifier, it was clear Ongaro knows he has work to do to match the pace of his main rival Batlle.  Suffering an unintentional crash when he hit a buggy that had braked in front of him, with his best lap over 3/10ths off Batlle, the back to back World Champion reiterated that he is just lacking the track time of his rival.  Happy the set-up on his Team Associated has the pace he needs, he said his issue is he has still yet to master certain sections of the track and it is these little fractions of time that are leaving him trailing in terms of outright pace.  Planning to leave his car unchanged for Q2, he said mastering the track will eventually come with more laps.

Commenting on his first qualifying attempt, Widmaier said, ‘I had one or 2 laps with slight mistakes but no marshals.  I tried to go the full 5-minute with no mistakes because they are so costly around here’.  The factory Sworkz driver continued, ‘my whole package looks really great so I couldn’t be more happy at the moment and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’.

‘I crashed on the last f##king lap’, was Batlle reaction to having thrown away a pretty convincing looking TQ run.  The Mayako driver continued, ‘my pace is super good and I wanted to be safe on the last lap so I went super close on the inside but there must have been dirt there from some else and I crashed.  Then the marshal got hit by another car, and then I crashed again’.  Feeling he improved the car a lot for qualifying having made the rear end softer overall, he said he needs now to ‘calm down’ his driving ‘a lot’ and find the right balance.

Having made the wrong call on tyre compound in seeding, 2018 Philippine Masters finalist Dexter said his run to the fourth fastest time was ‘quite comfortable’.  With his Team Associated running ‘really good’, the only issue was the driver being a ‘little bit nervy’ for the first round.  The WA State Champion, Australian Nationals podium finisher and winner of the New Zealand National title in 2020, the driver from near Perth ran JConcepts Detox Blue Compound tyres and comfortable with his tyre choice the 21-year-old plans to run them again in Q2.  He does however intend to make a few small changes to his buggy set-up.  With a reseeding of the heats planned at the conclusion of Q2, another strong run should promote him to the top heat for the second half of qualifying.

Commenting on his P5 run, Jacinto said ‘luckily it went good’.  Just making the top heat after setting the 11th fastest time in seeding, he was happier with his Mugen for qualifying after making a few minor engine changes.  Also switching from a Jetko tyre to Procircuit’s Kamikaze in anticipation of the cooler evening track conditions, he was pleased with how they performed.  Suffering two crashes on his run, the first a costly one on the opening lap, he will try to put in a cleaner run tomorrow.

Only 13-years old, Parsey declared himself ‘happy enough’ with his P6 performance but feels he has better to come.  His first time to the Philippine Masters,  the return of Asia’s premiere 1:8 Offroad race attracting a large contingent of drivers from Brisbane,  he described his Ultimate Racing powered Mayako as working to his liking.  Switching from a Matrix to a Proline tyre for Q1, he plans to continue with this choice as well as leaving his car set-up unchanged.  With a couple of mistakes over the 5-minutes, this is something he will work on trying to improve in Q2.

April 28, 2023

Batlle sets pace at Philippine Masters

Robert Batlle is the top seed for the Philippine Masters, the factory Mayako driver topping the single round of controlled practice from Davide Ongaro on the challenging Manila track.  With Race Director Scotty Ernst making the call to reduce the counting consecutive laps from the traditional 3 to 2 given the challenge of putting together 3 clean laps, Batlle’s best effort was 1:57.225 compared to the 1:58.176 of the race’s former Champion Ongaro.   Sworkz Micha Widmaier made it an all European Top 3 followed by local driver Daniel Miranda with Australian Jackson Beale completing the Top 5 from fellow countryman Jak Parsey.

While happy to kick off the start of official business at the top of the time sheets, Batlle said they ‘still have work to do’.  Supported at the race by the car’s design Joesph Quagraine, who is acting as his pitman, the former World Champion said some words of wisdom from JQ to settle down had helped with his clear run of laps.  The Spaniard said a change of tyre from open practice had also improved his buggy, the Hotrace’s Sahara Clay compound giving him better grip and traction and an overall better feeling with the buggy.  Landing on his roof during the run, asked how he felt he was on pace over 5-minutes, the first round of qualifying concluding today’s action, he replied it is difficult to be super consistent but towards the end of the run I was able to run four good laps’.

Having only arrived in Manila last night in time for dinner,  Ongaro is a day in deficit to his rivals in track time.  Describing his seeding pace as ‘overall good’, he added, ‘I need more track time, I am one day behind’.  The reigning World Champion said while the car is good their focus is already on getting the car set-up for the Main in 2-days time, he said the biggest improvements are to come from the driver.  Having to go up in his Team Associated buggy’s diff and shock oils for the 30 degree plus heat,  the Italian is running Matrix’s Block Hole tyre in clay compound.

‘So far so good’ was how Widmaier summed up his early performance.  The German came here with base set-up from team-mate Carlos Canas and described his car as working ‘great’.  The 21-year-old said his biggest focus for now is on his driving given that all his racing lately has been in 1:10 so he is still adjusting himself to the bigger buggy and track.  Building up his consistency with every run he is running TPro’s clay compound Matrix tyre.

Only taking up racing in 2019, this is Miranda’s first Philippine Masters and he is off to a solid start.  Running a HB Racing chassis, the 26-year-old said he is happy with the car and any improvements were going to come from his driving.  Choosing to run Procircuit’s Kamikaze tyre, he said ‘it is hard to be consistent on a track like this’ but the focus for now was on finding time in his driving.

From Brisbane, 17-year-old Beale described the track as ‘really challenging’ but added ‘it’s lots of fun’.  The Tekno driver’s first time here, he said he had to make quite a lot of changes to the buggy when he first got here but is pleased they now have a good ‘base’ to work from.  Using Jetko’s Red Devil tyre in ultra soft, he feels he could have pushed a little harder on his two laps and believes he has good consistency over 5-minutes.  Originally scheduled to be three rounds of 7-minute qualifiers, the sold out entry will now enjoy four rounds of 5-minute qualifying.

April 28, 2023

Philippine Masters – Track Focus

The Philippine Masters is back and is live in Manila today with a track best described as ‘challenging’.  Located in the capital city, the very 3D looking track is the creation of top Philippines driver Edward Sio, one of the people behind the Philippine Masters since its inception in 2015.  Having to move the track location a few hundred metres from its previous home, one of the stand out features of the move is the massive three story driver stand.  With the new track built during Covid restrictions, the reason for the massive structure was to meet the then guidelines on the spacing of people so each floor was used as pit area to ensure everyone was spaced apart.  Made from the same dirt of the original track, the build took 45-days.  Building the track to how Edward wanted it and rolling it to a flat surface, they then dug up around a foot into the top layer to allow for the all important bonding of final race surface.  Giving the 30 degree plus temperatures in Manila, just spraying the top layer would not last as the top layer would eventually break and reveal a dusty dry dirt.  Instead they soaked the loose 1-foot deep top layer with a mixture of molasses and glue before rolling to the finish they wanted.

As his inspiration for the track, Sio explained that Philippine drivers don’t travel internationally to races but they are keen to learn and try improve their driving so they brought that challenge to them with this busy lap.  Starting with a very simple track in 2015, he added ‘we have tried to make the track a little more difficult each year’ adding ‘the locals like it and are happy to be learning from it’.  He definitely delivered on the difficulty with this the most challenging yet as official confirmed by back to back reigning World Champion Davide Ongaro.  This is the Italian’s third visit to the track.  Approximately 60 metres at its widest point, the track is built on a plot of land which Sio describes as being shaped like a baseball field.  With a lot of elevation change over the lap, this presented its own challenges during the build with the equipment struggling in sections.  As part of the facilities the track has a hobby shop located in the lower level of the drivers stand and for this weekend the race has hired marshalled meaning drivers are spared standing in the hot sunny conditions between racing.

Asked his thoughts on the track, Ongaro replied, ‘The most difficult (track) so far. It’s fun and difficult.’  He added, ‘It’s a busy lap so you can’t relax’, pointing out the back section as the most difficult element of the lap.   He explained it was challenging to get the timing correct for the sequence of jumps.  Another World Champion contesting the 2023 Philippine Masters, Robert Batlle described the track as ‘super hard’.  Adding ‘it’s so difficult’, he said, ‘for the medium level driver maybe it’s too much, the 1-hour final is going to be very difficult’.  Asked what was making the track so challenging, he said, ‘it’s the angle of the jumps from the driver stand. They are really hard to judge’.  That said the Spaniard did go onto pay the track the biggest compliment possible by saying, ‘it would be nice to have a Worlds on this type of track’.  Highly experienced and well known Asian driver Ryan Lee called the track a ‘smaller version of C-Netic’ adding ‘I like this type of track, the surface is very smooth so you can get a good rhythm.’

Track Name – Circulo Verde Offroad Track
Host – Quezon City RC Car Club
Country – Philippines
Location – Manila
Direction – Anti-clockwise
Surface – Dirt treated with molasses & glue mixture

March 5, 2023

Volker crowned inaugural MIBO International Champion

Ronald Volker has been crowned the inaugural MIBO International Race Champion, the Mugen driver turning around his form for the Mains to dominate the final day in the Czech Republic.  Having had a difficult Saturday, the former World Champion opened Sunday’s action with the fastest time of the weekend in the final qualifier to become Top Qualifier.  Having denied Xray’s Antoine Brunet pole position, Volker would pull clear of the French driver in A1 as he took his first step towards the overall crown.  A2 would be a repeat, with no one able to chase down Volker.  With the title in the bag, Volker wasn’t done completing the perfect day to put his car at the top of the results sheets for a fourth time. Behind, Brunet would be rewarded for a great effort in Hrotovice with second overall ahead of Xray team-mate Oliver Havranek. Showing good pace Eric Daniel would finish 4th in front of Christopher Krapp, the Yokomo driver having a character building few days.

‘A transformation’ was how Volker summed up his win.  The German, who ended up takin the TQ on tie break with Brunet, continued, ‘Yesterday I struggled a lot and today the car was always easy to drive. This gave me good confidence for all mains’.  A driver with plenty of found race winning memories from the Sport V Hotel, he said, ‘It’s good to be back here and for sure I will return to the MIBO International next year’.

Summing up his finals, a clearly disappointed Brunet said, ‘I struggled a little bit today with my lines.  Ronald was a bit faster than us today’.  The 25-year-old continued, ‘I am frustrated with my Q4, I was leading it and made a mistake.  I lost a big chance yesterday to win the race today’.

Also making the podium in Stock, Havranek got straight to the point saying, ‘in the finals Ronald was faster so it was then between me and Brunet. In the first A-Main we switched position 2 or 3 times but then touch and Eric passed us for 2nd.  In A3 I knew I need to win to get second and Ronald was too fast so I focused on keeping my third.  At the end I am happy with the result.’

View our event image gallery here.