Race report by Martin Hudy
The 2008 TITC has to be one of the most competitive races, with most World Champions and factory teams represented. No wonder, as this race was considered as World Championship warm-up race at the Worlds in late autumn of this year, and will take place at exactly the same track. Therefore it was obvious for all factory teams to send their best drivers to test the latest developments and to work on their cars to be ready for the upcoming World Championship raceâ€¦ and at the same time battle for the very best result as the performance at this race will pretty much dictate the hot candidates for the Worlds.
The TITC was held on the February 22-24 in the capital city of the Thailand, Bangkok. The strong XRAY European factory team had arrived a week before the race for long-term testing and preparation. From Team XRAY it was of course Juraj and I who were supporting Teemu Leino, Steven Weiss, and Alex Hagberg.
Despite the race started on Friday, we were at the track for many days beforehand to test and prepare the latest XRAY touring car â€“ the T2â€™008 â€“ as much as possible. Of course we were not the only team who came early to get as much track time as possible, so we were among the other practicing teams as well. This was great as we could compare our lap times and performance all the time. The track has a super-nice layout and the traction was amazingly high; every morning the organizer put some special fluid on the track which then made it super sticky.
From the first day and first practice it was Teemu who was really fast and set the benchmark as the guy to be beaten. Young XRAY driver Alex was showcasing his skills during practice. He is an upcoming talent and backed by the performance of the T2â€™008 he was setting some very good lap times as well as placing him among the top drivers. Steven arrived one day after us but he was really tired so did not practice so much. What was really strange was that not only was he tired on the first day but also the next few days; he probably got some sleeplessness and as such he was not able to fully concentrate on either working on his car or on racing. Juraj was the test guy as usual, and he tested all of the different setups and different ideas we wanted, so as to confirm whether or not it would work. His help paid off well, as his setup and car worked very well and his lap times were not far from the top drivers. Personally I had some problems with understeer from the beginning, but then worked very hard on changing the setup which improved my lap times from round to round.
The official race itself was divided into 3 days of racing. Friday started with two rounds of timed practice by heats, followed by the first round of qualifiers. Three qualifying rounds were held on Saturday and the last one on Sunday morning. Totally there were 5 rounds of qualifiers from which the 3 best results counting for the overall qualification result. After the great performance and results from the practice we were very confident. After the first round of qualification we could relax a bit as the team confirmed during racing that the performance in practice was not a fluke. Teemu took the win in the first round with an astonishing result of 1 second ahead of last yearâ€™s TITC winner and current world champion Andy Moore. Alex was super fast in the first round as well and finished 4th ahead of Surikarn and Hara. I changed the setup from the one I used in practice but found myself doing this change very wrongly as it made the car more difficult to drive and as such I could finish only 15th in the first round. Although Steven was in Thailand almost the entire week he still did not adapt well and still felt sick & very tired the whole day and could not concentrate on racing.
The heats were reseeded based on the results of the first round. Marc Rheinard was unlucky in the first round when he broke his car and had to race in a lower heat, but at the end it was lucky for him as the lower heats started in the morning when the track was not too hot and so he could achieve super times. Despite Teemu racing in the much warmer conditions and with considerably slower lap times, he was still able finish the second qualification in 2nd place overall. Alex finished in a very good 8th place and had a good chance for the A-main final. Myself, I was unlucky again as passing another driver ahead of me I lost my antenna tube so I decided not to continue.
In the third round, Alex confirmed his ambitions for the A-main final by showcasing a very nice run which secured him a 5th place start. This time Teemu was the unlucky one as his diff did not work properly and the performance was just not there. I continued to gather the title of â€œHero of Bad Luck of the Dayâ€ after I started my run and realized the car handled really strangely. What I had expected was confirmed after the run â€“ the inner part of the hand-out (supposedly) pre-glued tires was not glued! But of course I could only blame myself since I did not properly check each tire before every run. With this mistake I knew that my chances for the A-main final are gone. We had Teemu, Alex and young Thai XRAY driver Meen who had a chance to grab the ticket for the A-main finalâ€¦ so I had to be happy for the performance and great result of the team to balance my personal disappointment from my situation.
For the 4th run Teemu fixed his diff and confirmed once again his unbeatable performance by winning the 4th run and thus securing him the TQ position and 1st place on the starting grid. Alex finished in 5th place which also secured him an A-main position. Saturday was a very hot day where we were wrenching in over 40Â°C heat in the pits and we could relax a bit and prepare for the last final round on Sunday and then to be ready for the finals.
The last round of qualifiers started Sunday morning and with Teemu having already secured the TQ position he could cruise very comfortably and with no stress. Despite his relaxed racing, Teemu was still able to finish in 2nd place only 0.02sec behind Haraâ€¦ and this with a 2sec mistake! Young Thai XRAY driver Meen â€“ who was performing really very well the whole week â€“ missed the A-main by a very slim margin, so in the end it was Alex who got into the A-main final. It was really a shame that Steven was not up to racing to his full potential, and as such could not have good results.
I tried to get a good result to get at least a starting place in the B-main final, but I lost over 2 seconds when a slower car crashed me after I passed him; I missed the B-main final by 1 point. The same thing happened to Juraj who was performing really well and could easily finish in the C-main final when traffic and a crash put him into the D main. Considering that Juraj had to face 130 of the worldâ€™s best drivers, his result on the 32nd place was still really good.
1. Teemu Leino (TQ) Finland XRAY T2’008
2. Atsushi Hara Japan
3. Ronald Voelker Germany
4. Andy Moore UK
5. Viktor Wilck Sweden
6. Marc Rheinard Germany
7. Alexander Hagberg Sweden XRAY T2’008
8. Chris Grainger UK
9. Masami Hirosaka Japan
10. Naoto Matukura Japan
After the great result in the qualifiers we had big expectations for the main final but at the same time we knew it would be very difficult as all of the 10 drivers in the main final are the worldâ€™s best drivers. Nonetheless we would do our best to get the very best results! Out of the 10 drivers I have counted 4 World Champions, 2 European Champions and all of the other drivers were nothing less than Japanese Champions and a European Junior Champion. So the all-star finals were expected to thrilling and exciting.
Teemu confirmed his unbeatable performance from the qualifiers in the finals as well. Teemu won both first two final runs start-to-finishâ€¦ not giving a chance to anybody. Teemuâ€™s car was performing really well and especially in the second final when he was able to take the easy lead by more than 2 seconds and just drove easily without any mistakes. Alex was a bit unlucky in the first two finals when he was involved in traffic, but showed good racing in the last final when he drove through the traffic and managed to hang behind the leader Andy Moore. Towards the end of the run Alex tried to catch the leader but both were cruising at the same lap times and as such Alex finished in a great 2nd position which ensured him a 4th overall position. After the two wins Teemu did not start in the last final.
We left the TITC with great results and great satisfaction, as this was the first large asphalt outdoor race for the T2â€™008 and among such world-class competition the result, performance, and overall results have been nothing less than spectacular. Winning the World Championship warm-up race has been a great achievement and a solid background for the upcoming worlds, though of course we will continue to work and prepare very hard. Already we are been looking forward to the next races and the 2008 Worlds.
1. Teemu Leino XRAY T2’008
2. Andy Moore
3. Ronald Voelker
4. Alexander Hagberg XRAY T2’008
5. Naoto Matukura
6. Atsushi Hara
7. Chris Grainger
8. Viktor Wilck
9. Marc Rheinard
10. Masami Hirosaka
Source : XRAY