Balestri defends EC title the hard way
Dario Balestri, best described as rc racing’s answer to Valentio Rossi, has successfully defended his European 1:10 200mm Championship title in Madrid. While many may have ruled the young Italian out after he qualified just 26th fastest, Balestri pulled off one of the greatest title defences the sport has seen.
Lining up in the 1/4 Finals due to his poor performance in Friday and Saturday’s heats the Team Magic driver finally found the set-up he had so desperately been seeking all week. Starting from fourth on the grid he quickly took charge of the 20 minute encounter winning by four seconds to bump up to the Semis and now Balestri had a real chance of keeping the crown he had won a year earlier in Heemstede, The Netherlands.
Starting 8th on the grid in the Semi B, which had a quality line-up of drivers including Kyosho’s Adrien Bertin & Francesco Tironi, Serpent’s Mark Green and Xray’s Martin Christensen, the Novarossi supported driver was getting quicker and quicker as he fine tuned his G4’s settings. Storming through the field he made it win number two of the day beating Bertin to secure that all important place in the Main Final.
With all of the sports five major manufacturers represented in the Main Final with 5 Xray, 2 Serpent, 1 Mugen, 1 Kyosho and 1 Team Magic, the stage was set for a titanic battle between established names and some of the sports emerging young stars.
Top Qualifier Teemu Leino made the most of his No.1 starting position to lead the field but it was short lived and after just a few laps local ace and crowd favourite Oscar Cabezas got past the Finn and began opening up a comfortable lead. Coming up to the second round of pit stops the Serpent SDD driver’s car came to a halt, a costly mistiming of his pit stop resulting in his car running out of fuel and loosing 2 laps a terrible turn of luck for the man with the fastest lap of the championships .
This allowed another young star and fellow 720 driver Alessio Mazzeo to take the lead. The current EC-B Champion in 1:10 200mm, the personable teenager has impressed so many people with his pace in Madrid. Keeping a cool head, Mazzeo was looking good as he led the way but double championship success was not to be as he started to struggle in the corners in the later half of the race.
While all this was going on at the front Balestri had been cutting his way through the field and with the fastest car on the circuit he was now the new race leader a lead he would not relinquish to cross the finish line over a lap in front of runner up Jilles Groskamp of the Netherlands.
Lean with his words, a smiling and rather relieved looking Balestri said afterwards, ‘I am delighted. We changed the general set-up of the car for today and from the start of the 1/4 final I knew that I could win this. This is a great result for me, Team Magic and Novarossi.’
After 45 minutes of racing that had the hundreds of onlookers glued to their vantage points, Jilles Groskamp was pleased with his first full nitro A-main final despite loosing the feeling in his left arm, ‘It was a long final for me, just half way through the final I had no feeling in my arm because I hold me radio up very high. I could not believe it was happening to me. I had no feeling in my finger so I had to do the throttle more with my hand and I missed some corners. My car was not the fastest as my engine was quite rich because of the temperature. I just drove my own race and with three minutes to go I was suddenly in second only a lap behind Dario and he was really really fast in the Final. I am super happy as it was the maximum I could do cause if you see the lap times I was for sure not the fastest car on the track but I just ran my own race and got second so I’m really really happy and for me it was the first time I ran a 45 minute final.’
Asked whether he would have a new training program to prevent future loss of feeling in his arm the Team Xray driver said, ‘I told my mechanic Denis already that on Tuesday I will go to the gym and work on my arms.’
Completing the podium Mazzeo was upbeat about his result, ‘The race was good and I finished on the podium. I’m happy, I’m very very happy. ‘ In addition to finishing third, the Italian was also crowned EFRA European Junior Champion, making it a remarkable year for the Serpent driver.
Having TQ’d for the event Teemu Leino was understandably disappointed to miss out on a podium finish on his Nitro Euros debut, ‘Yeh I am a little disappointed for sure. Maybe the set-up was not right for the 45 minute final. The two speed was not right, I did not adjust it properly and that was a problem for the whole final.’
With big names like Salven, Green, Tironi, Vrielijnck and Johnson failing to make the final, Adrien Bertin may have looked a strong bet for the title but the former World Champion was to be the only retirement of the race. ‘I think we were in a position to win, we were quite unlucky with the fuel tank. I had a problem with Martin (Hudy) on the rostrum he just put his head in front of my view and I had a crash and lost almost one lap. Then I was catching the leading group and was running with Dario and we were very fast but then the fuel cap remained open and I lost all the fuel from my car. I am really disappointed cause when you can smell the victory it is even more difficult. Anyway I am satisfied cause we have demonstrated now that our engine is very competitive.’
One thing to come out of the 2007 EFRA Euros is the number of future stars that are emerging in our sport and this bides well for many more thrilling events like what was experience here in Madrid this week.
Red RC would like to thank the AECAR and ARCA for their hospitality during the championships and in particular the timing crew who assisted us in bringing the huge number of site visitors coverage of what has been a thrilling 7 days of rc racing.
Download the complete final results here (PDF). Qualifying list is also available here (PDF).
View our image gallery here.