Joona Haatanen has claimed his maiden TQ of the Euro Offroad Series, the up & coming star of the championship securing the top spot for tomorrow’s 2WD A-Main at Arena33. Having taken the opening two rounds of qualifying, the Team Associated driver could only be denied his first pole position by Yokomo’s Lee Martin who had topped Q3. In the end however Martin, who had the advantage of the fastest TQ time, couldn’t get it done with Bruno Coelho finally delivering on his fast pace to take the fourth & final qualifier, making Haatanen the Top Qualifier and demoting Martin to third on the grid.
With the final qualifier proving his worst of the day a delighted Haatanen, said, ‘the car was good but I was just too tired’. A long 13 plus hour day at the track for the 14-year-old, he said, ‘It is good to be starting first here because the layout will make it very hard to overtake. Having no one in front I just to plan on driving my own race and see what happens. The pressure is on them to pass me’. In terms of his Reedy powered B6 he said, ‘the car is really good so I will stay the same. I don’t want to take any risks by changing it’. Opting to use his first set of tyres for a third time in Q3, getting a P3 despite them being passed their best, Haatanen has the added bonus of having two good sets of tyres at his disposal should the finals go to A3.
‘Finally no mistakes, like I said before the car is amazing’, was how Coelho reacted to capping off the day with a TQ run. The Xray driver added, ‘my focus was to drive without mistake but when I was behind Lee (Martin) and because the game was on for 2nd (on the grid) I had to force things’. He continued, ‘when he flipped I just tried to save the position but I couldn’t relax too much because it was going to come down to time’. While Joakim Nicolaisen would mount a credible challenge before a late error, Coelho would go on to take the TQ bettering Martin’s previous fastest time by 8/10ths of second. Looking to the finals he said, ‘there are no points to overtake so I’ll just have to wait for a mistake by Joona’.
Ending the deciding qualifier with a P4, Martin said, ‘I crashed on the easy ones’. He continued, ‘On the world’s worst table top I jumped into the kicker and flipped, it was game over after that’. While his YZ2 ‘felt ok’, the reigning champion said ‘it’s still rolling too much and we’ll have to try something different for tomorrow’. Asked about his plan of attack for the finals he replied, ‘I’m going to sit back and see what happens but starting third might not be a bad thing’. The only real potential challenger to current championship leader Michal Orlowski’s quest for a first EOS title, he said, ‘it would have been nice to get the TQ point but its going to be crazy racing in the finals so its still all to play for’. Martin’s team-mate Marc Rheinard came into the weekend as the other title challenge to Orlowski but ending up as the BQ at his home race his title hopes are now over.
Behind Martin, Nicolaisen has capped off an impressive return to the EOS following his military service to qualify 4th on the grid. The Team Associated driver lines up ahead of his team-mate Neil Cragg who concluded qualifying with a P6. Having been the dominant force in 2WD at the last two rounds of the EOS, Orlowski put the entire Schumacher team through an intense end to the day as he went up and down the order on the time screen. With a previous best of a P6 in the second qualifier after a DNF in the first, he would somehow, despite putting his LRP powered KC on it roof a number of times, salvage a 5th for the round which would put him into the main event where he will carry the number 8.