ARX Round One: Coma RallyX de Espana
The first round of qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya started with a bang, with chaos engulfing the field in the first heat. The TCC 1450 RS of Robert Field bogged down hard at the start line, scattering cars to and fro as they dodged the stricken machine. Field got the car going again, but having lost several seconds, his race was lost, finishing well back of Craig March in the #95 Astelli Racing machine.
Race two saw a marquee matchup between two of the favourites for the championship; Bandit Borgwarnerson in the #100 Flamarbol Beryl and Hsiu-Yinn Lim in the breathtakingly fast #16 Armada Racing Pint RX. Both cars shot off the line, with Lim leading the red hatchback into the first corner. Lim opted to take their joker lap on the first lap, which opened the track for Borgwarnerson to set the fastest lap of the session at 43.500 seconds. In the end, this proved the difference, with Borgwarnerson edging Lim by a mere four-tenths of a second at the finish line.
Eric Meistermann and Yuki Fujishima battled viciously in the third race of the session, with the #24 FAAL winning a photo finish over Fujishima’s Kitanishi SPECTER RallyX by a mere three-hundredths of a second, fully two seconds ahead of the #21 Isami Vireo ARX driven by Sylvester Landon.
Newcomer Phornsawan Sirisuk of Thailand stormed to a decisive victory in the #55 SBA Rosales R200, finishing a full two and a half seconds ahead of Pablo Sanchez in the #52 Shromet Appalachian in second place, and four seconds ahead of third-place Quentin LeTheou in the Flamers Ilithiya.
Finland’s Pekka Heikkinen dominated the fifth and final heat, his Pepperbomb XT storming to a decisive victory in the heat over the JHW Lynx of Marika Kazan, and edging out Meistermann for the third best time in Q1.
With the field mixed up and re-seeded based on their Q1 finish, Jorg Ambuhl in the #129 Abula R4 overcame a very poor start to take the victory in the first heat, finishing a second and a half over the #92 Fuji Coherence R4 and the #6 FMR Stadia.
Kevin Michaels and Hammond Hunter traded paint in the second heat, the drivers swapping the lead several times throughout the race, with the #63 KMC Arrotare’s making the best of it’s superior acceleration and flying past the #10 Fallow Stadium to take the heat victory.
Tom Powell in the #888 Seydel-GNG machine flew off the starting line and never looked back in the third heat, taking the victory over Eino Vatanen in the Delta Motorsports Margay 18-S1. Miguel Gonzalez had a very poor start, losing control of his NEMW Nashoba into the first corner, causing some minor mechanical damage that affected the pace of the car, finishing well back of the pack in last place.
Maria Ramirez fell victim to too many cars fighting for too much real estate going into Turn 4 in the fourth heat, her quality start ruined after the #545 Sakura Ronin spun Ramirez’ Geshenk RX off the track, causing massive damage to the #129 car, which limped around the rest of the race, narrowly avoiding being lapped by the #8 Merciel Pixi of Alexander John Sierra.
The fifth and final heat of Q2 was set to be an epic race, with Borgwarnerson in the Flamarbol on the rail, and Lim in the Armada and Meistermann in the FAAL filling out the rest of the first row. A poor start by the Flamarbol held up Heikkinen and March behind, allowing for Lim and Meistermann to battle right into the first corner. Perhaps trying to avoid the aggressive Frenchman as much as possible, Lim opted for the joker lap, availing themselves some clear track until the final lap, where the Armada slotted in a mere twelve-hundredths of a second ahead of the FAAL, to finish second behind Borgwarnerson, who took their second heat victory this day.
Having struggled in Q2 after his minor accident, Miguel Gonzalez monstered the field in the first heat of Q3, finishing a massive ten seconds ahead of second-place Robert Field in the #66 TCC 1450 RS. In a gutsy move, the #129 Geshenk returned to the track to continue their weekend; though the car still bore a considerable amount of damage, the team still managed to finish the heat, albeit in last place.
Timo Virtanen cruised to an easy victory in in the second heat, the Finnish driver taking his LATOY LSSD to a decisive finish a full three seconds ahead of Hunter in the Deer and Hunt, who fought a pitched battle once again with Michaels in the KMC Arrotare. A tangle between Ambuhl and Fujiwara on the third lap set both drivers back a bit, rounding out the field in this heat.
Eino Vatanen started strong and did not look back, finishing well ahead of the #86 NPV Factory Racing car driven my Mason Olsen, the New Zealander finishing three seconds back of the Finn for second place in the third heat.
Sirisuk cruised to a strong finish in the fourth heat, finishing well ahead of March and Landon to set the fourth-best time of Q3, establishing the young Thai driver as a potential favourite to move on to the events on Sunday.
Borgwarnerson took the top honours in the fifth heat for a third time in a row, the Flamarbol cruising to a decisive victory over Heikkinen and Lim, with fully three and a half seconds between the superstar New Zealander and his Finnish and Chinese rivals, who themselves tangled more than a few times during the course of this race. Alexander-John Sierra and Yuki Fujishima had a tangle on their joker lap, both drivers running wide in Turn 8 on the final lap.
Jorg Ambuhl took the top spot in the first heat of the final qualifying session, the Swiss driver edging out Fujiwara by three tenths for P27 in the session. Maria Ramirez’ bad luck continued, getting into an accident while trying to avoid the damaged #72 Zenshi Nimessa of Laurent Faust. This time, the damage proved too much, and Ramirez retired her stricken machine on the third lap.
Hammond Hunter took the win in the second heat, setting the seventeenth-fastest time for the session, just ahead of Joey Rogers in the Albatross RS300, who finished four thousandths of a second ahead of a charging Alexander Krebs in his Likar Tixref.
In the third heat, Tom Powel in the #888 Seydel-GNG machine took the top honour, a second and a half up on Mason Olsen and Einar Poogen in the #86 NPV and the #88 Okul respectively.
Sylvester Landon stormed to the fifth-best time of Q4 in the fourth heat, beating out Alexander-John Sierra’s Merciel by over a second, helping the American driver to secure his fourteen championship points earned in the qualification rounds.
Tsiu-Yinn Lim crashed hard trying an aggressive overtaking maneuver on Pekka Heikkinen going into the first corner, spinning off the track and damaging the Armada Pint badly, forcing the driver to limp the car back home in last place in the final heat, and finishing with the third to last time in Q4. Borgwarnerson, unaffected by the chaos behind him, cruised to dominant victory in the final heat, securing his astounding acheivement of winning all four qualifying races, cementing the top seed in the semi-finals easily.
Join us tomorrow for day two of the opening round of the Automation Rallycross League!