Neil Cragg has claimed Team Associated’s first ever TQ of the Euro Offroad Series marking a successful debut for the the American manufacturer’s all new B6 buggy which will fill the first 3 spots on the A-Main grid at the Nurburgring. Posting his third TQ of the event in the fourth & final round of 2WD qualifying at the EOS season finale, making it a clean sweep for the B6, Cragg will start ahead of team-mates Ryan Cavalieri and Spencer Rivkin. Reigning Champion Lee Martin would be the best of the rest finding himself in the Associated sandwich with his Yokomo set to start 4th ahead of the B6 of young Finnish star Joona Haatanen. Top Qualifier when the season opener took place last September at the iconic 1:1 scale race circuit, Xray’s Bruno Coelho will start the very evenly matched field from 6th on the grid.
Summing up his TQ performance, Cragg said ‘it been a good start for the new car. We TQ’d every round so we couldn’t have done any better.’ Looking to the final, the former World Champion said, ‘everyone is the same pace, aren’t they but with three cars at the front hopefully one of our cars will get the win’. Very happy with his car which he described as ‘easy to drive’, he said the big thing for the final was going to be getting over the first jump and then keeping it on it wheels for the rest of the race’.
The only driver who could have denied Cragg the overall TQ, Cavalieri ‘tried something’ for the final qualifier but it wasn’t the right direction to go. Posting a TQ run in Q2 for A1 he will revert to that same set-up declaring the finals ‘should be fun’. With ‘everyone pretty close’, the 2011 World Champion said, ‘there are few spots that if someone gets wide you will be able to get down the inside’, but the key to passing was going to be to ‘force a slight mistake’ from the driver ahead.
Making his EOS debut as part of surprise unannounced invasion by Associated’s American A-team, Rivkin said his last qualifier was ‘OK’ and for the finals he ‘need(s) to be extra extra disciplined’. The World Champion also feels his car is good enough to get the job done. With his Reedy powered B6 ‘easy to drive’ he just needs to ‘back it down’ in terms of his driving adding the new car has already shown it is a ‘killer machine’ with its qualifying performance.
Trying a rear roll-bar in the final qualifier, Martin said it ‘did some good things but was nervous’ adding ‘it is something to go away and work on for the future’. With the ‘pace of everyone pretty similar’ he joked ‘I just have the three road blocks in the way of me winning’. Expecting a tough race, the 5 time 2WD race winner, said ‘there are a few jumps its easy to get it wrong which should create opportunities’ adding he will also ‘be hoping to pressure a few people into making mistakes’.
Completing the top half of the grid with a great P2 run in the final qualifier, Haatanen was very happy with his speed, new tyres giving his B6 the extra pace. Asked about his approach for the world class final line-up, he replied in typical Finnish straight talking style that he will ‘just drive, there is no plan’ adding ‘I will leave the car the same’.
Coelho said his Hobbywing powered XB2 was ‘much better’ and ‘very nice’ to drive in the final qualifier but he made ‘too many mistakes’. Making some geometry changes as well as a diff change, the 4WD title contender said ‘first is almost impossible’ from his starting position ‘but we will see as now the car is very good’. Behind Coelho, Joern Neumann will start 7th ahead of Martin Wollanka with Michal Orlowski 9th. Winner of the previous EOS encounter, Marc Rheinard is unlikely to repeat that result today as he completes the grid by lining up 10th.