The final round of 4WD Buggy qualifying at the season opener of the Euro Offroad Series in Poznan, Poland, is set to be a showdown for the overall TQ honours with each of the opening three qualifiers having been topped by different drivers. Starting off his title defence perfectly having topped yesterday’s practice Joern Neumann took Q1 from Martin Bayer. In Q2 Bayer went one better and set the pace taking the round from Xray team mate Renaud Savoya. The penultimate qualifier saw Hupo Honigl post the fastest time ahead of Kyosho’s David Ronnefalk with 2WD Top Qualifier Tom Cockerill third. Such is the closeness of the lead drivers just 2/10ths of a second separated the time of the fastest and slowest rounds.
Commenting on his Q3 run, Honigl said he just ‘crashed less’. The Team Durango driver said his DEX410 felt better in Q2 but he had too much traffic issues. Running new tyres on his TQ run, the Austrian feels he should be in for a good final qualifier as his 4WD, likes his 2WD, works better on a used set of the Proline handout tyres.
Team-mate Neumann described his opening TQ run as ‘OK’ but said for the second round he just didn’t have enough grip running on used tyres. Combined with ‘too many mistakes’ he ended the round fourth fastest. Unbeaten in the EOS in 4WD having won all previous 7 events over the past two seasons, in Q3 he was on for a good run until someone stepped on to the track and he hit their foot costing him over 2-seconds. Having run big bore shocks in all three qualifiers, the German plans to switch to small bore versions for the final round.
Topping Q2, Bayer said he was just relieved at this stage to have locked himself into the A-Main having missed the cut in 2WD earlier in the day. The European Champion said in the opening two rounds his LRP powered XB4 felt good. Running a shorter rear camber link for Q3 he said combined with being on new tyres the buggy had too much rotation and was not easy to drive. Setting the fifth fastest time he said he will revert to a slightly longer link for the final qualifier when he will run used tyres. Team-mate Renaud Savoya ran the same set-up as Bayer for Q3 and will also return to his Q2 set-up when he was second fastest just .9 off the Czech ace.
Second fastest in Q3 and as a result in contention for the overall TQ honours , Ronnefalk was very happy with the handling of his prototype chassis. Suffering a slipper shaft failure in Q1, in Q2 he had traffic problems with a coming together with the Durango of Kaja Novotny and subsequent crash on the same lap costing him around 10-seconds. Having broken his new centre slipper in Q1 which is fixed on one side, the Swede had to use an old version which has springs both sides and he said this improved the buggy a lot. Smoother to drive and having better traction he said in Q3 with a clear track the buggy felt ‘amazing’. With the announcement that he was running 2nd, Ronnefalk said he ‘pushed like hell’ for the final two laps as he wanted at TQ run but he just missed out by a tenth of a second. Delighted with how good the buggy was when pushed to the limited he said the final qualifier is going to be ‘crazy’ with so many drivers in contention for the overall TQ.
Schumacher’s Tom Cockerill is Top Qualifier for the opening round of the Euro Offroad Series taking place this weekend in Poland. Claiming his & Schumacher’s first pole position, the British driver becomes only the fourth driver to claim the honour in the 2WD class. Topping the fourth & final qualifier Team Durango’s Hupo Honigl will start second with team-mate & defending champion Joern Neumann set to line-up third. Despite breaking in Q4, young Team Durango talent Michal Orlowski will start his home event from 4th on the grid.
‘Really happy’ to secure the TQ honours, joining Neumann, Lee Martin and Naoto Matsukura as the only drivers to top 2WD qualifying, Cockerill said his prototype buggy, which has just been named the Cougar KF, is working extremely well since he arrived in Poznan. Taking both his TQ runs that secured him the pole position on new tyres, he said he was not expecting too much from the final qualifier as he was on used rubber. Going up in the rear diff oil and running a shorter wheelbase to account for being on the tyres he said the changes worked really well which is encouraging going into tomorrow’s finals. Still not doing the double after he broke his front shock tower attempting it this morning, he said for the finals he is sticking to the safe option adding he hopes at the start his rivals will be forced to do the same as they follow him. With many of the finalists having one of their three allocated qualifying tyres left over, he said he will be at a disadvantage in one of the final legs but on used tyres he is confident his buggy is better than his rivals. He plans to use the extra set of Proline tyres allocated to the A-finalists in the first of the 5-minute mains.
The only driver to TQ a round on used tyres, his Q4 time the fastest of qualifying, Honigl said unlike his rivals his Durango feels better on used tyres. Having looked at the other drivers tyres after one run he said his own don’t seem to be as worn and this might be part of the reason he can run better on the second run. Looking to the finals the former European Champion said on new tyres his buggy is harder to drive but he will have to run new tyres twice as on a third run the tyres would be too worn.
Neumann said he is struggling with a lack of overall traction. The European Champion feels his rivals are using their tyres better than he is with his tyres ‘done’ after one run. Starting third on the grid, the German said with two new sets of tyres for the finals he should be able for two competitive legs but feels the double section is going to make it hard to do much passing as you cant run too close to the buggy in front for fear of colliding with them at the high risk jumps.
After struggling to get to terms with this season’s new controlled tyres, 12-year-old Orlowski was clearly pleased to be starting fourth. Another driver to have saved a set of his qualifying tyres for the finals, he said the starting position gives him a good opportunity to repeat the podium finish he took here last year. With the double expected to trip up a number of drivers in the finals, Orlowski said he plans to stay safe and stick with his single single approach.
Racing offroad for only the third time, touring car driver Patrick Hornum is the top Team C qualifier lining up an impressive 5th on the grid just in front Oliver Scholz. Back to back German National, Scholz said after a bad start to qualifying he was pleased with his performance in Q3 & 4 adding the improvements came from better driving. The 18-year-old said his goal for the season opener was to make the main and now with that pressure lifted he will just see what happens in the finals.
Making Durango the best represented manufacturer in the final, last year’s 4WD podium finish Benni Gröschel will start 7th thanks to his Q1 run to the third fastest time. Behind him Belgian National Champion Nicolas Risser starts 8th. Running his Team C chassis for the very first time this weekend, the 17-year-old said he was ‘very happy’ to make the final after a bad start to the day when he broke a servo in Q1. Fifth fastest in Q4 this booked his spot in the main event.
Scrapping his way into the final, David Ronnefalk will start 9th ahead of the Dutch Yokomo driver Bryan van Bijnberk. Changing to softer shocks with more pack, the World Championship finalist said his Kyosho RB6 was now really good. Needing a good final qualifier the Swede was on for a strong run until he hit the foot of Xray boss Juraj Hudy who was marshalling a stranded buggy. Costing him 3-seconds, luckily Ronnefalk was able to savage 9th for the round to secure his place in the in final.
Unfortunately for Xray and their new XB4 2WD they didn’t have a much needed good final qualifier meaning both Martin Bayer and Renaud Savoya will line-up for the B-Final tomorrow.
2WD A-Main Grid
1. Tom Cockerill (GB) – Schumacher – 310 pts
2. Hupo Hönigl (AT) – Team Durango – 308
3. Jörn Neumann (DE) – Team Durango – 307
4. Michal Orlowski (PL) – Team Durango – 303
5. Patrick Hornum (DK) – Team C – 303
6. Oliver Scholz (DE) – Team C – 301
7. Benni Gröschel (DE) – Team Durango – 297
8. Nicolas Risser (BE) – Team C – 297
9. David Ronnefalk (SE) – Kyosho – 296
10.Bryan van Bijnberk (NL) – Yokomo – 296
1. Hupo Hönigl (AT) – Team Durango – 13/5:03.513
2. Tom Cockerill (GB) – Schumacher – 13/5:04.805
3. Patrick Hornum (DK) – Team C – 13/5:12.434
4. Jörn Neumann (DE) – Team Durango – 13/5:13.027
5. Nicolas Risser (BE) – Team C – 13/5:15.479
6. Oliver Scholz (DE) – Team C – 13/5:17.804
7. David Poulter (GB) – TLR – 13/5:18.620
8. Bryan van Bijnberk (NL) – Yokomo – 13/5:19.272
9. David Ronnefalk (SE) – Kyosho – 13/5:19.683
10.Jiri Mara (CZ) – Xray – 13/5:20.017