Tyrelli World RX of Canada, Day One (Qualifying Rounds)
Sunny skies and hot temperatures greeted fans and competitors on this late June weekend, the Circuit Trois-Rivieres packed with excited fans, awaiting the only ARXL round in the Americas this season.
The racing in the first qualifying session of Premier League was fast and furious, and the first heat was absolutely no exception to this. While Kitanishi’s Yuki Fujishima drove one of the best heat performances of any round, by any driver this season so far, taking the win in dominant fashion, a wild battle ensued between the other three cars in the race. Haapala’s Aatto Virtanen roared out to an early lead, logging the second-fastest start in all of Q1, but found trouble shortly after with a punctured tire, slowing the #7 machine’s progress and mixing it up suddenly with KMC’s Kevin Michaels and K1A’s Marie-Claire Allemand. Michaels was able to do enough to get past the stricken Haapala, while Allemand struggled to find the pace to make an overtake stick, finishing fourth in the heat.
Eino Vatanen had an excellent race in the second heat, making a monumentally good start, followed up with four excellent laps to hold off defending champion Hsiu-Yinn Lim by just under two seconds at the line. Pekka Heikkinen struggled a little with consistency but was hot on the tail of the #1 Armada, keeping Lim honest through the entire race, finishing just half a second behind in third place. Jaimz Marshall struggled on the start and was never able to fully recover from his mistake, rounding out the field four tenths of a second behind Heikkinen.
The final heat of Q1 was a desperately close affair, with virtually nothing between the drivers at all. SCH minMAX’s Charlie LeClair was ever so slightly the fastest driver on track, but a rough start for the Frenchman forced him to settle for last place, a tenth behind Pablo Sanchez’s #52 Shromet. In the end, it was Matt Sierra’s Merciel on the top of the timesheets, a tenth up on Sanchez.
After losing out on a solid result in Q1 due to tire issues, Aatto Virtanen lost no time in recovery, putting up the best time in the first heat of Q2, some seven seconds ahead of FMR’s Jaimz Marshall and KMC’s Kevin Michaels. In spite of a sloppy final lap, Marshall just managed to hold on to second place in the heat, with Michaels struggling in the last couple of corners to put down the power in the #62 Aero Stretto. Marie Claire-Allemand rounded out the field, the #707 Hwa not looking particularly competitive at this power-hungry circuit.
Pekka Heikkinen took the top time in the second heat, some nine seconds ahead of Pablo Sanchez at the chequered flag. Sanchez and Matt Sierra once again renewed their rivalry, the two drivers swapping places several times over the course of the race, with Sanchez making a particularly spectacular overtake on the final lap to take and hold second place, a position he held to the flag, beating the #36 Merciel by eighteen hundredths of a second. Charlie LeClair had a minor suspension problem on the second lap, slowing the #33 Kuma and dashing their hopes of a strong finish this session.
Yuki Fujishima drove another otherworldly race in the final heat, beating Hsiu-Yinn Lim by nearly seven seconds and pipping Pekka Heikkinen’s nearly untouchable time by eighteen thousandths of a second. Lim had an excellent race with Delta Motorsports’ Eino Vatanen, less than a hundredth of a second between the drivers as Lim won the drag race out of the final corner.
Times continued to tumble in the third qualifying session, with Charlie LeClair putting the freshly-repaired #33 Kuma on the top of the timesheet in the first session, well clear of Jaimz Marshall and Kevin Michaels. Marshall had a spectacularly good third lap, good enough to blow past Michaels for second place, the Brit holding the place in spite of an error on his final lap. Marie-Claire Allemand rounded out the field, still struggling to find a way to keep up with the rest of the field.
Eino Vatanen took the top spot in the second heat easily, some six seconds ahead of Matt Sierra, the Merciel driver holding on to second place in spite of a rather sloppy race overall for the Brit. Pablo Sanchez was close at hand in third, but he too was inconsistent and found himself unable to defend against Sierra’s overtake on Lap 2. Aatto Virtanen suffered a suspension failure on Lap 2, likely hastened by the tire failure in Q1, the #7 Haapala not competitve as it limped home at the back of the pack.
Yuki Fujishima made it three for three with the top time in the final heat, beating Pekka Heikkinen by four seconds at the line. Heikkinen made an excellent start, but struggled on his final lap, making a couple of costly errors that prevented him from mounting any kind of serious threat to Fujishima ahead. Hsiu-Yinn Lim too struggled with consistency, though was every bit a measure for Heikkinen in front, the Chinese star finishing barely more than a half second behind in third.
Aatto Virtanen’s rollercoaster weekend continued in the final qualifying session, the Finnish driver masterfully putting his Haapala on the top of the timesheets, his team having freshly replaced the entire front right suspension in record time. Jaimz Marshall overcame a mediocre start to finish in second place, pipping Kevin Michaels on the second lap with a brilliant overtaking move going into the infield section of the track. Marie-Claire Allemand reprised her position in fourth place in the heat, some thirteen seconds back of Michaels.
Pekka Heikkinen romped to an easy victory in the second heat, the Finn showing the #80 Team Red Cock Pepperbomb XT2 to be just as much of a threat as its Season One predecessor was. Hsiu-Yinn Lim got her elbows out in the first session, pushing her way past Matt Sierra and Pablo Sanchez to take second place, the hard knock she administered Sierra damaging the #36 Merciel Pixi and putting it out of contention for the rest of the race. Pablo Sanchez had a couple of inconsistent laps in the #52 Shromet, unable to mount a serious threat to Lim ahead and settling for third place.
Eino Vatanen made an incredible start in the final heat, roaring out to an early lead that was not relinquished at any point for the rest of the race, finishing well ahead of Kitanishi’s Yuki Fujishima in second. Charlie LeClair was right on the rear bumper of Fujishima, but just did not have the pace to make an overtake on the Japanese driver, settling instead for third place.
The close, hard fought racing continued in League One, no quarter being given by any of the competitors in the first round of qualifying. Duncan Duff took the top time in the first heat, having put a spectacular move on Autodelta’s Job Van Uitert on Lap 2 take the lead. Feihong Luo struggled on his last lap, the Huangdou driver pressuring both Duff and Van Uitert until then. Gus Block took advantage of a messy final lap by Elaine Eisenberg, flying past the Swiss driver enroute to finishing fourth in the heat. Yinzer’s Amanda Huuginkis rounded out the field in sixth place, the Yinzer driver struggling to put in consistent lap times as the session wore on.
Stefan Banach took the top time in the second heat, the OBRSO driver beating out Ace Racing’s Reiko Nagase for the heat win by a full second. Rena Hayami held off a late charge by Daylily’s Saki Mochizuki for third place, the Wade Racing driver making a solid start and running competitive all race long. Riley Phillips had a difficult race, making a poor start and finding himself struggling with an unexplained loss of power in the #94 Zephorus machine. In spite of his misfortune, Phillips managed to just remain ahead of Team Sasquatch’s William Cunningham, the American having a bit of a disaster on his final lap, losing a nearly full-second lead on Phillips after running very wide going into the infield section.
Dominic Andrew-Scott took the top time in the third heat, in decisive fashion no less, some two seconds clear of Martin Bayer, the German struggling to get the #3 Cisalpina’s power down on the dry, dusty surface. Harry Davies finished in third, the Knightwick driver making a forgettable start and first lap, while Fourteen40 Kazuki’s Mikah Jameson and SWISSRA’s Markus Hutter took the final two spots in the heat respectively, the two drivers tangling right on the start and damaging their cars slightly.
Mulle Meck shocked with a surprise heat victory in the final heat, a couple of excellent laps propelling the Swedish driver to the top spot ahead of Gnoo Dadsport’s Alison Wondersley. Elin Arbez had a race to forget in third place, the championship leader having a disasterous final lap to end her heat, allowing Wondersley through without any resistance. Kenji Nishida finished welll back of Arbez in fourth place, while Motorpop’s Sabine Weber had the misfortune of a punctured tire in her race, putting the German driver at the back of the pack.
Riley Phillips roared to the top of the timesheets in the first heat of Q2, his ignition system repaired after being the source of the power loss, finishing some three seconds ahead of Sabine Weber, the Motorpop driver looking sharp after a gutsy overtake on the #56 Kazuki of Mikah Jameson on the final lap. William Cunningham finished fourth, some ways back after struggling on this power-hungry circuit. Markus Hutter fought lingering issues from his Q1 accident to finish fifth, while Amanda Huuginkis found the #73 Yinzer to suddenly have a transmission full of neutrals on her first lap, limping the car home at the back of the pack.
Elin Arbez shook off the mental miscues of her first race, roaring to the top time of the second heat in decisive fashion, beating Martin Bayer by some five seconds at the line. Elaine Eisenberg finished third, some four seconds behind Bayer, after the MIHR driver struggled on the start, and found it difficult to keep up with the pace of the two frontrunners. Gus Block finished fourth, a strong start by the Hooligan Fourteen40 driver squandered by mistakes on every lap. Harry Davies finished in fifth place, three quarters of a second behind Block, with a struggling Kenji Nishida bringing up the rear.
Dominic Andrew-Scott continued his strong showing with another top heat time in the third heat, finishing some two seconds clear of Alison Wondersley in second place. Wondersley and Autodelta’s Job Van Uitert were locked in a tense battle all race, the Dutchman pressuring Wondersley the entire race, but ultimately unable to find a way around the #7 Goblin. Saki Mochizuki finished in fourth place, some eight tenths of a second ahead of Feihong Luo, who struggled on the start and didn’t look particularly comfortable with the #26 Huangdou’s behaviour.
Stefan Banach roared to the top time in the session, pipping Arbez’s high water mark from the second heat by a quarter of a second to win his heat in decisive fashion. Nobody was even close to the Polish driver, with Reiko Nagase finishing some eleven seconds back in second place, the leader of an intense four-way battle for second, with less than a second separating second-place Nagase from fifth-place Duncan Duff. Mulle Meck took the early lead in this group, but a sloppy second lap allowed Nagase through into second place, with Rena Hayami close behind in fourth. Duff followed in fifth, the Canadian driver making a mediocre start and struggling to make up time after that, overdriving the #404 Mons on a couple of occasions.
Gus Block took the top spot in the first heat of Q3, some eight seconds clear of Sparkling Machine’s Kenji Nishida in second place. Harry Davies made an excellent start in the #34 Knightwick, but a series of mistakes caused the German driver to relinquish second to Nishida on the first lap. Markus Hutter still found his #63 Munot Starkwind to be struggling with handling issues, while William Cunningham found himself struggling with a lack of power in fourth place. Amanda Huuginkis toughed out another difficult race, the team at Roundhaas Racing struggling to figure out the transmission issues in the #73 Yinzer.
Rena Hayami took the top spot in the second heat, an excellent start followed by four clean laps by the Wade Racing driver, putting the #76 machine some four and half seconds clear of Elaine Eisenberg in second place. Eisenberg was seemingly snoozing on the start, losing critical time right from lights out, but a smart final lap saw the #598 driver hold on to the position ahead of Reiko Nagase. Feihong Luo also made a rather poor start, the margin between him and Nagase ahead more than the difference in their starting times. Mulle Meck slipped past Duncan Duff to take fifth place in the heat, after the Canadian ran wide on his joker, costing him precious time.
Alison Wondersley took the top time in the third heat, eight seconds clear of a ferocious fight between Job Van Uitert and Saki Mochizuki. Van Uitert and Mochizuki traded paint a couple of times on the start, with Van Uitert slipping through ahead going into the first lap. Mochizuki got close a number of times after that, but just didn’t quite have enough pace to overtake the Dutchman. Sabine Weber made it very close at the end, the German driver putting the #55 Motorpop right on Mochizuki’s tail with a tremendous final lap as her opponent’s attention was on the battle ahead. Mikah Jameson made an incredible start, but mental miscues squandered the effort in the end, the Kazuki rounding out the field in the third heat.
Stefan Banach took the top time in the final heat, four seconds clear of Elin Arbez’s Morton Teo, after the New Zealander struggled off the starting line, and made a couple of mistakes toward the end of the heat. Martin Bayer was close at hand behind Arbez, putting a considerable amount of pressure on his opponent as he needled for a way to overtake. Riley Phillips overcame a poor start to take fourth place in the heat, pipping Dominic Andrew-Scott on Lap 3 to take the spot, in an otherwise very closely matched battle between the two Brits.
Harry Davies put the #34 Knightwick on the top of the timesheets in the first heat, starting strong and running a clean race to finish some two seconds clear of Sasquatch’s William Cunningham, who battled hard with Mons Racing’s Duncan Duff, the Canadian only six hundredths of a second behind in third place after running wide on the last corner to let Cunningham through. Kenji Nishida had trouble on his first lap, a big slide in the infield costing the Sparkling Machine driver dearly, costing the driver a shot at finishing higher than fourth place. Markus Hutter started poorly, and continued his disappointing form through the race, finishing fifth, the only driver behind being the stricken Amanda Huuginkis, still struggling with transmission problems.
Mulle Meck took his second heat win of the day, making an excellent start and running a very consistent race to beat Huangdou’s Feihong Luo by more than a second at the line. Mikah Jameson fought with Meck and Luo for most of the race, but a diastrous final lap saw the Kazuki driver run very wide in the second corner, letting both Meck and Luo through for position, forcing Jameson to settle for third place in the heat. Elaine Eisenberg too suffered the same fate as Jameson, a rough final lap allowing Reiko Nagase through for fourth place ahead of the Swiss driver. Sabine Weber’s bad luck continued, a major suspension failure on Lap 2 dashing the hopes that she would appear on Day Two.
Dominic Andrew-Scott took the top time of the third heat, impressing everyone with his poise and confidence as he sailed across the line some two seconds ahead of Job Van Uitert and Riley Phillips, the former just a fraction of a second ahead. Phillips had Van Uitert’s number initially, but a couple of rough laps to bookend his heat put the #96 Zephorus just behind Van Uitert’s Autodelta. Gus Block was able to get the power down easier coming out of the final corner and was able to win the drag race to the finish line with Saki Mochizuki, Block taking fourth by a bumper.
Martin Bayer was able to overcome a tremendous start by Stefan Banach, absolutely monstering the track to finish far ahead in first place, some three seconds ahead of the Polish driver in second. Alison Wondersley almost held on to second place, but a couple of mistakes in the first half of the final lap allowed Banach to overtake for third, and in spite of Wondersley’s excellent launch out of the final corner, was not able to close the gap. Elin Arbez finished a couple of seconds back in fourth place, safely through into Day Two action, while Rena Hayami struggled with consistency, bringing up the rear in fifth place.
Team Oranj’s Ken Visser absolutely flew in his first heat, taking the top time of the session as well in a dominant race. OHO Racing’s Karina Meister finished in second, nearly two seconds behind Visser, unable to match the Dutchman’s pace. Bruce Mooseview struggled a bit in the #32 FABEL, two seconds behind, while Tsubasa Arima had a rotten start, followed by four inconsistent laps to round out the heat.
Charlie Martin took the top time in the second heat, just edging out Buy2Get1Free’s Carina Flannagan at the line. Riku Jokinen was fast, challenging for the lead for the first three laps, but a bobble on his joker lap cost him enough time that he ended up in third place, just behind Flannagan. Chizuru Mizuhara had a rough race, finishing well back in fourth place, after a difficult start and struggling with an ill-handling car.
Bruce Mooseview took the top time in the first heat, recovering from a rather poor start to beat Ralliheart’s Riku Jokinen to the line. Chizuru Mizuhara also made a rather poor start, but unfortunately for the MIHR driver, they were not quite able to recover as well as Mooseview, finishing in third, just a bumper behind Jokinen. Tsubasa Arima had a rotten joker lap, running very wide a couple of times and taking them out of contention for the top time.
Karina Meister took the top time in the second heat, starting strong and overcoming a bit of inconsistency to beat Carina Flannagan by a second and a half. Ken Visser had a somewhat poor start, but recovered admirably with a late charge, making things very difficult for Flannagan ahead, as the Dutchman finished third overall. Charlie Martin struggled with consistency all race, making several mistakes in his #84 Kadett to put him in fourth place.
Frustration for Charlie Martin, as the Brit made an incredible start to lead the first heat, but a sloppy mistake on his second lap put the #84 Autodelta into the wall, damaging it considerably and spoiling his race completely. Riku Jokinen inherited the lead from Martin, surviving a late push by Tsubasa Arima to take the top time in the heat. Chizuru Mizuhara was competitive behind Arima, but struggled to convert any overtake attempt, finishing in third place.
Karina Meister made it two in a row, finishing top of the charts in the second heat. Carina Flannagan fought off a late charge by Ken Visser to hold on to second place, very little between the New Zealander and the Dutchman all race long. Bruce Mooseview struggled on the start, then found himself overdriving the car a bit too much, making a couple of careless mistakes to put him down in fourth place.
Sand Swimmers’ Bruce Mooseview took the top time in the first heat, putting a spectacular overtake on Tsubasa Arima to take the lead on the last lap. Chizuru Mizuhara made a rotten start, stalling on the grid and struggling to make up the lost time as the race progressed, ultimately finishing a disappointing third place. Charlie Martin soldiered on in fourth place, determined to make Day Two.
Three for three for #3, as Karina Meister took the top spot in the final heat in convincing fashion over her rival, Carina Flannagan. Meister made a decent start, but Flannagan’s was slightly better, the New Zealander leading into the first corner, where she and Ken Visser promptly ran wide and let Meister through for the lead of the heat. Visser recovered from his mistake as well, finishing a very close third place behind Flannagan, closing the gap pretty dramatically on the final lap. Riku Jokinen made a poor start, then struggled to find the pace needed to recover, putting the #74 Ralliheart at the back of the pack, but only just.