Bruno Coelho is the 2WD Top Qualifier at the season finale of the Euro Offroad Series in Steyregg, Austria. The Xray driver claimed his first 2WD TQ of the season with a third consecutive TQ run in the penultimate round of qualifying to become only the third different pole sitter of this year’s 6 round calendar. Winner of the second round of the championship, the current 4WD points leader will look to become only the third different 2WD winner of the season later today. With incoming bad weather, the organisers have decided to bring forward the running of the finals tonight in the hope the first winner at astro surface ERT Steyregg track can be decided in dry conditions. With Coelho going on to complete a clean sweep of all qualifying rounds, a second place in the concluding qualifier means already confirmed Season #8 champion Michal Orlowski will start P2 with Joona Haatanen lining up third ahead of Lucas Grainer and Hupo Honigl.
Reacting to the Q3 performance with which he locked down the overall TQ, Coelho said, ‘it was another good round but this time I made a stronger start than the two before and now the TQ is already done’. Asked about his distinct advantage over his rivals, the former Buggy World Champion replied, ‘the track is super difficult and I like it that way but our car is working very good now also’. He added, ‘In the final I think anything can still happen. We have already seen how easy it is to have a mistake that ends up costing a couple of seconds so it is all open for the finals’.
Commenting on his second place on the grid, Orlowski said, ‘the day didn’t start off well so I’m happy to be second’. Finishing the closest he has been all day to Coelho in Q4, albeit helped by the Portuguese driver having a 3-second roll, the Schumacher driver continued, ‘that was a 3rd run on the tyres so I have perfect tyres for the final. I think we will make some changes for the next run but I don’t actually have any ideas what. I also know I am not driving perfect and know the areas I am losing out because of my driving’. Winner on the last two occasions and chasing a hat trick of consecutive wins, the Pole concluded, ‘I am confident I can follow Bruno around. We’ll see what happens from there’.
Reacting after the final qualifier to his P3 grid position, Haatanen said, ‘the car was amazing again but I was on my 4th run with the tyres and they started sliding around at the end. That cost me 2nd in the ranking to Michal’. Looking to the finals, the Team Associated driver said, ‘It seems Michal has a similar pace to Bruno so maybe I can be there if anything happens between them. I will have new tyres so my own pace should be better but I will try to drive smooth and without mistakes like in did in the first two qualifiers’.
The second round of qualifying at the EOS Season Finale was pretty much a repeat of Q1 with Bruno Coelho again the clear benchmark and topping the times from Joona Haatanen. Coelho improved on his opening time by over 2-seconds to finish with an even greater advantage over his Finnish rival who found a 1-second improvement in his pace in the hot and humid conditions. With the astro surface appearing to favour Xray XB2, Austrian Lucas Grainer completing the Top 3 as the driver closest to Coelho in the top heat. While improving on his first effort and breaking into the 12-laps over the 5-minutes, Michal Orlowski claimed a 4th but again the run contained too many mistakes and crashes with him a massive 8-seconds down on Coelho’s TQ pace. Behind the three time champion, Hupo Honigl backed up his P3 in Q1 with the fifth fastest time with Pekko Iivonen completing the Top 6. In 2WD 13.5, Tim Kunz took the opening two qualifiers while Philipp Märzinger set the pace 2WD Stadium truck.
Bruno Coelho has claimed the opening 2WD qualifier at the Euro Offroad Series Season finale at ERT Steyregg in Austria. A new venue on the Season #8 calendar, the difficult astro turf track saw the Xray driver top the first of the four qualifiers by over 3-seconds from Team Associated’s Joona Haatanen who, after struggling in practice, was running in the second fastest heat. Obviously finding some new motivation from racing at home, Hupo Honigl would complete the Top 3 ahead of Xray team-mate Daniel Kobbevik who just missed out on a 12-lap run. For already crowned 2WD Champion Michal Orlowski it wasn’t a strong start to the event as his run was filled with errors resulting in a P7 for Q1.
Commenting on his TQ run, Coelho said, ‘the first few laps I was trying to drive safe’. After a wet start to the day which had drivers running the silver compound of Schumacher’s handout tyre, he continued, ‘In the warm-up I was flipping everywhere as it was the first time on yellow (compound) tyres. By the third lap I was in first and Hupo was second so I just watched his pace’. Coming into the event fresh from winning another European Touring Car Championship title, the Portuguese described the track as ‘the most difficult track I have been to’, explaining, ‘the hills create a lot of optical illusions and you think the car is a certain way on the track but its not’. On his XB2 he said, ‘the car is working very good and we now have a wet car and and dry car, so we are good for any conditions. Well we think so’. Unfortunately Saturday and Sunday’s weather is showing plenty of wet conditions.
‘Much better than practice’, was Haatanen reaction when asked how he felt Q1 had gone. Kicking off the current EOS season with his first ever win, the Finn said, ‘the car was way too soft in practice so I looked up my Arena 33 set-up from last year and put it on for qualifying. The car was much better and easier to drive. It doesn’t want to flip over anymore’. Describing the 5-minute qualifier as ‘a bit safe to make sure of a good first run’ he said ‘I’m happy with the result as practice didn’t go so good and I think I will drive similar for the next one’.
Honigl said, ‘It was a good run. At least I had no mistakes but I am not used to driving up at the front again’. The former series race winner continued, ‘I was shaking like a beginner. The car could do better but we had the driver issue. Hopefully I can improve that for the next one’.
Battling for an overall Top 3 in the final championship standings, Kobbevik said his opening effort had ‘just too many mistakes’. Having made big changes to his Xray between the final seeding run and Q1 he said the car felt more edgy and it took him time to get used to it. Feeling the new set-up is better adding ‘I like it’, the young Norwegian will leave car the same and instead try to build confidence in his driving.
‘I don’t know’ was Orlowski reply when question about Q1. The Pole continued, ‘I had too many mistakes and crashes but the car felt good and had the pace’. Admitting conditions were now more edgy as the grip comes up, he plans to make a small front end change to his Cougar Laydown adding, ‘hopefully it will be better as the overall feeling with the car is very good’.
Name/Club – ERT Steyregg Country – Austria Location – Steyregg (10km South East of Linz) Direction – Anti-Clockwise Surface – Astro Previous key events hosted – 0
Season #8 of the EOS comes to a conclusion this weekend with a first visit to the ERT Steyregg in Austria. Built in 1997, the track is the home of the ERT Steyregg club which was founded 10-years earlier at different location nearby until the land was required for housing. Coming to an arrangement to rent a plot of land from a local Earl, the club originally built a dirt track which after a few years was then converted to a concrete surface. Due to the freezing conditions of the Austrian winters, which destroyed the top surface, this meant a lot of work each year as the surface had to be redone annually. Three years ago the decision was then made to convert the track to full astro turf, and with the club which once had a membership of 100 but is now just 20, this means a huge reduction in the amount of track work needed and if the weather is fine means they can even resume racing as early as February. Unfortunately an on-road track built to the rear of the drivers stand is no longer in use as the result of the high dust levels generated by a nearby gravel plant.
Having already successfully secured his 3rd consecutive 2WD title at the previous round in Arena 33, Michal Orlowski described the ERT Steyregg track as ‘tough’. Arriving to a wet track this morning after overnight rain, with more unfortunately on the forecast for Saturday & Sunday, he added ‘the layout is quite difficult’ with its mixture of uphill and downhill chicanes. With the warm weather making for ever changing tracks conditions as it dries out, this has meant the main focus has been on chasing the conditions but he is happy with how it’s been going so far.
Winner of the season opener, Joona Haatanen described the track as ‘different’ but added, ‘I like it’. The young Finn said ‘where you stand on the drivers stand completely transforms how the track is to drive’. Having ran free practice on the left side, he moved to the right side of the drivers stand for timed practice and ‘it was like a completely different track’. Like Orlowski, he said the track has felt different each run but added ‘if it stays like it is now is it is going to make for good racing’.