With three rounds of qualifying complete at the Euro Offroad Series in Germany it is still all to play for in terms of the overall TQ at the season finale with three different drivers topping the times. After Joona Haatanen took the opening qualifier at Arena33 ahead of Bruno Coelho, it was Team Associated team-mate Neil Cragg who took Q2 ahead of title rival Michal Orlowski. In Q3, it was Orlowski’s Schumacher team-mate & top seed Joern Neumann who would come out on top ahead of Haatanen and Cragg, both drivers having errors on their final lap. Now with one qualifier remaining, 5 drivers are in contention to become the Top Qualifier for the EOS’ first ever race outdoors with tyre strategy set to play a part.
After a disappointing start to qualifying with a P8 run, on his Q2 attempt Neumann said, ‘3rd was not too bad. I was a little held up at the start by Martin Wollanka but it was good after that’. On his TQ run, the fastest 5-minute of the day so far, the German said, ‘It was a clean run. We made a slight change to the car. We made a shorter wheelbase now the car is perfect. It is easy to drive and still fast’. Posting the fastest lap of Q3 he plans to leave the car the same for the fourth & final heat but said, ‘I am not sure about tyres. Now we have three sets and I have one (new) set left and I don’t know if I use now or save for the finals’.
Commenting on his TQ in the second qualifier, Cragg said, ‘It was pretty steady, I didn’t have the ultimate pace but the consistency paid off’. More impressed by his Q3 drive, he said, ‘I drove as good as I could. I drove my ass off because I was on third run tyres but had a little mistake through traffic and caught the pipe which cost me the TQ’. Already Top Qualifier at two of the previous EOS encounters this season, he said he also had a better car for Q3, ‘In Q2 I could see Joona’s car was faster so we made a change’. Asked if he copied his Finnish team-mate’s set-up he said, ‘No we did our own thing and changed the rear suspension and it was definitely better even on 3rd run tyres’. He concluded, ‘hopefully with new one (tyres) for the last one we can smoke everyone, that is the dream anyway’.
Unable to repeat his error free Q1 performance, on Q2 Haatanen said, ‘I had a couple of mistakes that cost me a Top 3 but even with the time lost I was in the Top 5 so I know I have the speed’. Still chasing his first podium of the current season, on the third round of qualifying, the teenager said, ‘On the last lap someone crashed on the front jump which put me off and so my landing was bad and that cost me the TQ’. Using his second set of tyres in Q3, he said, ‘on new tyres my car runs awesome’, but unlike his team-mate he now has just one set of tyres remaining for the final qualifier and tomorrow’s triple final.
After ending up P10 in Q1, Orlowski said, ‘Q2 was better than Q1 but it still wasn’t a great run because I had a few bobbles but it was good to get 2nd’. Leading the championship by 4-points from his only remaining challenger Cragg, on Q3 he said, ‘Like Neil I also ran 3rd run tyres. The car felt good but because of the tyres it was a little off pace but for the last one I have new tyres to fight for the TQ. There are a couple of guys who can TQ so it is going to be an interesting Q4’. Asked about his car, the Pole replied, ‘We changed quite a lot because I felt we need more speed in the car. Its not something we normally do but every run its getting better and better’.
The other contender for the TQ, Coelho’s Q2 and 3 didn’t go well. On new tyres for his latest run, the Xray driver opted to pull up after a minute as he lost almost 7-seconds when a marshal failed to see his car after a mistake. He said afterwards, ‘I lost a lot of time so it was better to save the tyres for the last one’.
Joona Haatanen has taken the opening 2WD qualifier at the season finale of the Euro Offroad Series at Arena33 in Germany. The Team Associated driver posted the fastest time ahead of Bruno Coelho after the Xray driver had a moment on his final lap that would cost him 1-second, the separation just under 6/10ths. With most drivers having errors over the 5-minutes, Neil Cragg would get it wrong on the opening lap but a good drive for the remainder of the qualifier picked him up a P3 ahead of Daniel Kobbevik and Lee Martin. For top seed Joern Neumann, a good first lap led the Schumacher driver to push harder on his second lap leading to a mistake with subsequent errors leaving him with a P8 for Q1. Team-mate & championship leader Michal Orlowski also had an error filled run and could only manage the 10th fastest time.
‘I had a clean run’, was Haatanen’s summary of his TQ run. Top Qualifier at Arena33 last year, that race then held indoors on carpet, the Finish driver said, ‘I was driving around behind Lee and I saw many drivers made mistakes so I knew consistency was important and then on the last lap Bruno had a mistake and I got by for the TQ’. Happy with his B6.1, having left it untouched from the start of the day, he said he plans to continue to ‘keep it the same and go for another consistent run’.
Coelho said it was ‘a good run except that ‘I flipped twice and then got up on two wheels on the last lap which cost me the TQ’. Much happier with his car now, the Portuguese driver said, ‘the car is working well. It is on point now but still we will try to improve it more. The track is very difficult and like said before it is very easy to do mistakes’.
‘I crashed on the first lap, what an idiot, I knew from practice a lot of people are making crashes’, was Cragg’s reaction after the run. The British driver continued, ‘I lost 3-seconds there but except for that it was a good run. To get a Top 3 at the end I’m happy with that’. Pleased with how his B6.1 is working, he said his aim for Q2 is to ‘get another Top 3 in the next one and go from there’.
Finding himself in the second fastest heat having set the 14th fastest time in seeding, Kobbevik said, ‘now it is going good after we struggled at the start. It was good to get into the Top 5, I’m happy with that’. Asked what he had struggled with, the 13-year-old Xray driver replied, ‘the car, the track, everything’. With not that much experience on of running on astro turf, he said it is a ‘strange surface but fun to drive’.
Completing the Top 5, Lee Martin would have crashes on both his opening and closing laps which cost him more than 6-seconds. The Yokomo driver said, ‘After the first crash I scared myself for a couple laps but the car was pretty good. Then I jumped off the side of the big jump on the last lap’. The British driver concluded, ‘the car was good, the driver was crap’.
Joern Neumann has topped 2WD seeding at the first ever outdoor race of the Euro Offroad Series, the Schumacher driver putting in the fastest three consecutive laps on the new astro turf track at Arena33 in Germany. A hot sunny day in Andernach, Neumann would top the two rounds of controlled practice from the Yokomo of Lee Martin and with Xray’s Bruno Coelho completing the Top 3. The concluding round of the championship with the title undecided, contenders Neil Cragg and Michal Orlowski would put down the 5th and 7th fastest times.
With drivers starting out the day with three rounds of free practice after which he was fourth fastest, Neumann said, ‘we have been making little changes to the car for the low grip of this astro and now the car is very good’. Asked about the astro turf surface, the German replied, ‘My home track is astro turf and I only do about five races a year but its better than carpet. You can drive more aggressive to make time, on carpet its almost impossible.’ He continued, ‘here the car slides a little so the timing of the jumps can be different. To drive it is not the same every lap because here you have bumps’.
‘That was a not a bad run’, was Martin’s reaction at the end of practice adding, ‘it was fun because me and Neil were running together and it felt like a final in England’. In terms of his car, the former champion said, ‘the track is little loose in spots so I have been tweaking the car for that. The tyre wear is quite high so for the second run you need to find even more traction’. With the find practice taking place at lunch time he said, ‘the sun was at its optimum which would make the astro more loose so it should be better the rest of the day. Also the astro is still running in and it is losing a lot of fluff’.
Coelho described his performance as ‘ok but not perfect’. He went to say, ‘we are still working on the car and getting more rear traction but I think, I hope, we are now on a good way’. Looking to the first of the four qualifiers, all of which will be run today, he said, ‘I think doing 5-minutes without mistakes will be super hard because I already struggle to do three laps’.
Posting the fourth fastest time Joona Hataanen felt practice had gone ‘pretty good’. The young Finn said, ‘I have run the same set-up everytime because I am getting used to astro turf as this is almost my first time running on it’. Asked what he found was the biggest difference between the astro and carpet, the Team Associated driver said, ‘You have to drive smooth but I am still so aggressive from running on carpet but I’m improving every run’.
Team-mate Cragg, who needs a win this weekend to take the title, said, ‘we tried a few things that run because the track is getting more slippery and I am quite happy with the car’. Winner the last time the EOS was in Germany, then indoors in Daun, the former World Champion said, ‘I think we have good race pace and the car seems consistent out there’.
Putting his P7 time behind Marc Rheinard down to not getting three good laps together, reigning champion Orlowski said ‘so far so good. We got lots of practice and have used that to try lots of stuff and get used to the track and traction’. Needing to prevent Cragg from taking the win in Andernach to retain his 2WD title, the Pole believes they have a ‘good set-up’ for their cars adding ‘both of us (he and Neumann) are really fast just I didn’t get three laps. Also our car looks good on 5-minute pace’.
Name – Arena33 Owner – Tonisport Country – Germany Location – Andernach (130 km East of Frankfurt) Direction – Anti-Clockwise Surface – Astro Previous key events hosted – 1 X EOS Indoors
After 28 races over 7 championship seasons on indoor carpet tracks, the 2017/18 Euro Offroad Series concludes this weekend with a first as the race takes place outdoors on astro turf at Arena 33 in Germany – And marking the occasion the Summer has finally arrived in Europe with it a beautiful sunny day. Joining the EOS calendar last year when it hosted the penultimate round on its indoor carpet track, the championship’s first ever outdoor race was made possible following the subsequent building of an astro track to the rear of the Tonisport owned Arena33 in Andernach, home town of the Rheinard family. Built using astro turf that previously was used on a soccer field, the track features EOS carpet covered jumps and fills an area 24 meters deep by 41 meters wide. With converted shipping containers as a drivers stand, drivers are pitting inside in Arena 33, the cool indoor conditions a nice break from the heat outside.
In terms of track layout, a driver with more experience of astro tracks than most is Neil Cragg and having had 3 runs on it it he gave it a seal of approval. In contention for the 2WD title this weekend he said, ‘It’s pretty fun driving out there and I think everyone is enjoying the track. They (Tonisport) have done a good job building the track’. He added, ‘the layout is good, the jumps are good and the sun is shining, what more do you want’. Asked the most difficult element of the track he replied, ‘the pipes are so unforgiving. It you touch it you get stuck in it’. His 2WD championship rival Michal Orlowski summed the track as ‘different but pretty good’. Having raced a number of times in the UK on astro turf tracks, he said, ‘the traction is a little weird right now. I was expecting it to get more grippy after each run but it’s getting less and less’. He added, ‘there is different traction in different spots. I think it will be a struggle for those who are not used to racing on astro’.
Reigning 4WD Champion Bruno Coelho, said, ‘the track is fun’. Asked about the switch to astro, the winner here on the indoor track last year said, ‘the World’s four years ago was the last time I raced on astro. My schedule meant I couldn’t test here but we did 2-days on an astro track in Austria, but here the traction is much less’. On the layout, the former World Champion said, ‘when you first look at it it looks standard but when you drive it it’s pretty hard. There are many bumps in the track so you have to take different lines’.
One of the organisers of the EOS along with Uwe Rheinard, Scotty Ernst is along with announcing also racing this weekend and the American is loving his first experience of astro. Asked how he likes the astro he replied, ‘Amazing experience. Coming from a dirt guy I had questionable expectations but after a few runs on it I can say it’s a joy to drive on’. The American added, ‘I’d be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t easier (than dirt) but being able to drive Mod 2WD and be in control is a lot of fun. The challenge is the bumpiness under the astro which makes it a great challenge to driving a perfect lap. Also having changing track conditions without the tyre headache we have on dirt is great. You just drive. As the track changes you adapt your driving. He concluded, ‘It’s just a different kind of fun. Dirt guys love dirt but don’t knock it (astro) until you have tried it’.
The Euro Offroad Series will run it’s first ever outdoor race this weekend (20-22 April) with the German encounter set to decide this season’s champion or champions depending on the outcome.Added to the EOS calendar last season shortly after opening the doors to its new indoor facility, Arena 33 has subsequently added an outdoor astro surface track that has just been completed in time for the Season #7 finale, setting the stage for an extra interesting 2017/18 title showdown. Unlike last season, when both titles had already been decided before the concluding race, the defending buggy champions have challengers to them retaining their titles. After holding 28 championship races indoors, even the weather looks set to shine on the first outdoor EOS encounter, with temperatures in the high 20s forecast for Andernach.
In 2WD, reigning champion Michal Orlowski holds the points lead. The only multiple winner this season, including winning the most recent outing in Austria last month, the Schumacher driver has a challenger in Neil Cragg. The Team Associated driver has had a break through season finally claiming his first race win. The former World Champion has also had the best qualifying record claiming 2 TQ from the 4 rounds. While Cragg must win to take what would be Team Associated’s first EOS title, Orlowski feels the switch to astro turf with will be advantageous to his rival saying, ‘Neil was born racing on astro so he knows what to do with the car’. Cragg and fellow British driver Lee Martin come into the weekend expected to be extra strong as the two drivers with the best knowledge of the track surface given the popularity of the surface at UK tracks.
In 4WD, it also the current champion that leads the points with Bruno Coelho having a 3-point advantage over Orlowski. The Xray driver has two wins as does his challenger but Orlowski needs to make it three wins to secure his first ever 4WD title and potentially become only the third ever EOS double champion. The only other drivers to wrap up both titles in the same season are Orlowski’s new team-mate Joern Neumann and Yokomo’s Lee Martin.
While the attention will be on the title battles, a number of drivers will be hoping the new surface will present the opportunity to wrap up what has been a disappointing season on a high note. While he sits third in the 4WD standings, Lee Martin has had a frustrating time and hasn’t been able to properly battle for race wins. Down in 5th in the 2WD standings, after Wels where he had his worst finish of the season he vowed to test extensively ahead of the season finale. Top Qualifier at Arena 33 last year, Team Associated’s Joona Hataanen came close to his first podium at Round 4.Having not enjoyed the form many expected this season, the talented young Finn will be more determined than ever to take advantage of the new surface and at least finish with a podium result.
While they wont want to harm their team-mates chances in the title battle both Martin Bayer and Neumann will be looking to cap off some strong showings this season with a win.Bayer has enjoyed a TQ proving the Xray team-manager has the speed while Neumann is enjoying his best season in years since joining Schumacher at Round 2. Another to watch will be Martin Wollanka who had promising debut outing with Sworkz at the previous round.A former European Champion when the race took place on astro, Marc Rheinard will be determined to put a terrible season behind him in his home town.