Joona Haatanen has finally delivered his first win of the Euro Offroad Series, the Team Associated driver winning the season opening 2WD encounter at the Nurburgring in Germany. Putting himself into contention for the overall victory after winning A2, after just 3-laps it looked like both his and Michal Orlowski’s challenge for the win was over as they made contact and slow marshalling left them both down the order as Haatanen waited having made the contact with the Schumacher driver. Up front this all played perfectly into the hands of Top Qualifier Lee Martin, the third of the drivers fighting for the overall win. Holding a huge advantage, a mistake at the double before the straight on lap 7 would cost Martin 2-seconds and allow a brief challenge from fellow Brit Neil Cragg. Able to quickly re-establish his lead, the penultimate lap would see another much smaller error at the same piece of track but the 3/10ths lost was to prove costly. With Haatanen getting back up to second, all three drivers ended up on 3-points but with a winning time of 5:16.068 compared to Martin’s 5:16.317 the race was Haatanen’s who kept up Finnish motorsport tradition by taking his achievement completely in his stride. With his A1 time the slowest of triple finals reigning champion Michal Orlowski had to settle for third place points to open his title defence.
‘My first win, I finally did it’, was Haatanen’s reaction, as he gave Team Associated what is only their third EOS win. The 15-year-old continued, ‘I was too rude as I crashed Michal. I waited but the marshal didn’t put his car down so we were last. I went maximum because I knew I needed to get back to the front because Michal and Lee both had second places to count.’ Asked about the contact with Orlowski, the pair good friends off the track, he said, ‘I hit him at the corner table after he had a bobble. I was carrying more speed than he was’. One of the young stars of the sport to come up through the ranks of the EOS, Orlowski another of them, Haatanen had a disappointing Season #7 but says that is now behind him. Having secured his first TQ the previous season, marking him as one to watch, he said, ‘Only half of the races went good for me last year so this is a good start to a new season for me’.
Reacting to his second place Martin said, ‘Close but no cigar. I’m pretty gutted’. He continued, ‘I got lucky when they had an alternation but crashed myself at the double and then over jumped it at the end. It was this that cost me the win’. The Yokomo driver said, ‘at least we showed we can rock with the kids. The car is definitely good enough to win. I’m pretty gutted I didn’t to be honest. It would have been nice to start the season with a win but the performance shows we have improved from last season. I am looking forward to the next round’.
A disappointed Orlowski said, ‘I don’t know. I felt the car was good but I had a small error in the corner table and that lead to contact with Joona. I tried to come back but I was way down and then I got caught in others’ crashes. It was just bad luck I guess. I did everything the best I could’. Behind Orlowski, his 3rd one place better than his opening result last year, it was Neil Cragg who finished fourth ahead of the best of the Xray cars which was driven by another of the EOS’ emerging talents Daniel Kobbevik.
Joona Haatanen prevented reigning EOS Champion Michal Orlowski from taking an early overall 2WD victory at the Nurburgring, the Team Associated driver winning A2 to put himself in contention for his first ever EOS career win. A much cleaner opening lap than A1, Lee Martin took early control of the race holding a decent lead over the pursuing Orlowski and Haatanen but it all came undone on the 6th lap. In the middle section, the Yokomo driver landed in the centre of the corner with his car needing to be marshalled being stranded inside the corner. This let Orlowski take the lead but he only stayed there for two laps. Casing a jump he went wide and young charger Haatanen didn’t need an invitation to get down his inside. Unlike A1, in which he made a number of mistakes, this time the Finn drove the perfect race and after a last lap error from Orlowski could cruise to the finish nearly 4-seconds clear. Luckily for Orlowski, Martin just missed the extra lap at the loop and so his crash didn’t cost him the third place. Behind Lee, Neil Cragg took fourth ahead of Daniel Kobbevik and Jörn Neumann.
‘Michal just did a small mistake at the double and went wide and I could pass on his inside. That was kind of it’, was Haatanen’s description of the race. The 15-year-old added, ‘It as a good race between me and Michal and it was good for me that I ran the full 5-minutes with no mistakes’. Looking to the deciding race, the former Nurburgring podium finisher said, ‘A3 is going to be exciting. My car is easy to drive so I am going to go with the same car and the same tyres. I’m not looking to make any crazy changes at this stage’.
Orlowski said, ‘I just lost the lead when I cased the double which allowed Joona to get on my inside so I checked up’. Following his rival but unable to mount a challenge to take back the position, the Polish teenager said, ‘I tried to follow but had to push really hard. Joona had good pace in his car but my tyres were older than his. That was their third run’. He continued, ‘All three of us are in with a chance of the win and we are all the same pace but I have new tyres and I hope this strategy plays out good’.
Setting the fastest lap of A2, Martin said, ‘everything was working but I had a small mistake. It was just one of those things. I couldn’t catch back up’. The former champion concluded, ‘It is still all to play for so I will go for it’.
Michal Orlowski has won the first A-Main of the new season of the Euro Offroad Series, the Schumacher driver getting by Top Qualifier Lee Martin on the opening lap and surviving a few mistakes of his own to stay ahead of the Yokomo driver to the finish. The tight technical track would catch out all the Top 3 starters on the first lap. The first mistake came from Orlowski followed shortly by Martin allowing 3rd place starter Joona Haatanen to go to the front but only briefly as the Team Associated driver rolled at the very next corner allowing Orlowski emerge as the leader. Pulling clear as Martin saw off the attention of Haatanen, a mistake closed the gap and Orlowski now had Martin back on his case but the reigning champion remained composed and held on to take the win by 1/10th of a second with Haatanen a further 2.3-seconds back.
Summing up the race Orlowski said, ‘It started off with me, Joona & Lee making mistakes on the first lap so I was lucky to get the lead. I was starting to get a gap and then they both crashed but two corners later I crashed. Luckily I didn’t need to be marshalled but I was relieved to bring it home. Hopefully I will have less mistakes in the next one. I just need one more win’.
Martin said, ‘The track was a little hard having not had practice in the morning. It felt like a new track for the first few laps’. He continued, ‘my shocks felt pressurised probably from the cold overnight and the slipper didn’t feel perfect. We fitted a new one last night and I think its a bit glazed so we need to check. The race was close but I didn’t feel I drove that well so I’ll try to driver better the next one’.
‘A few too many mistakes’, was how Haatanen described his race. Posting the fastest lap of the final, the Finn added, ‘the car was good but I was on new tyres and we forgot to cut the outside pins so it was a bit edgy but I’m not complaining about the car. I had a mistake on the first lap when I crashed but after that I was there all the race. I had nobody behind me so I could push hard.’ Behind Haatanen, Daniel Kobbevik would come through from 6th to finish 4th ahead of Bruno Coelho and Elias Johansson.