Compared to the 2WD practice day on Monday, the 4WD practice day on Friday was a piece of cake – for starters, the track crew didn’t have to restore the course after being beaten by weather! Due to the adverse conditions earlier this week the IFMAR officials on hand made the executive decision to waive the rule which dictates that a large percentage of the track must change between the 2WD and 4WD portions, which drew mixed reviews from the competitors. All ten scheduled rounds of practice went off without a hitch, with the final round once again used to seed the drivers into their qualifying heats with the fastest two consecutive laps counting toward the resort.
Racers were rather unified in their disapproval of the fact that just one round of the ten was used for the resort; concerns over ending up in a slow heat if you suffered a mechanical issue in that single timed round became reality for a few, notably reigning World Champion Ryan Cavalieri – despite being quick all day, problems in the final heat kept him out of the top 20 and could relegate him to a qualifier with potential traffic issues; ditto for new 2WD champ Jared Tebo, who showed plenty of pace but had a few setbacks. IFMAR did make an exception for such cases, however, choosing to arbitrarily move such drivers into faster heats (Tebo will run in the ‘A’ heat, Cavalieri in the ‘B’ qualifier). The story of the day again surrounded the level of grip, and when combined with the higher speeds of the 4WD class and the stock open-cell foam inserts of the handout Pro-Line X2 compound Scrubs (front) and Suburbs (rear), most drivers reported that their cars felt “tippy” and that finding the balance between fast lap times and controllable stability was very difficult. The only section of the track that really took on a new character today was the right side tabletop-triple jump section immediately following the straightaway, with drivers split between navigating the section normally versus clearing the takeoff of the triple jump and then doubling out – with neither showing a distinct advantage.
Compared to the 2WD times from Monday the 4WD cars are lapping nearly a second and a half faster, with Team Durango pilot and perennial Euro Offroad Series dominator Joern Neumann leading the way. Here’s the top twenty from today’s timed round:
1. Jorn Neumann (Germany) – 54.434
2. Ryan Lutz (USA) – 54.88
3. Ty Tessmann (Canada) – 55.44
4. Tyler Vik (USA) – 55.45
5. Lee Martin (England) – 55.57
6. Ryan Maifield (USA) – 55.71
7. Marc Rheinard (Germany) – 55.83
8. Neil Cragg (England) – 55.89
9. Mike Truhe (USA) – 55.95
10. Kody Numedahl (USA) – 56.021
11. Naoto Matsukura (USA) – 56.027
12. Eric Albano (USA) – 56.14
13. Barry Baker (USA) – 56.24
14. Steven Hartson (USA) – 56.32
15. Carson Wernimont (USA) – 56.36
16. Dustin Evans (USA) – 56.39
17. Travis Amezcua (USA) – 56.401
18. Billy Fischer (USA) – 56.461
19. Dakotah Phend (USA) – 56.488
20. Darren Bloomfield (England) – 56.55
Once again it’s the American drivers who control the top of the charts early on, with 14 of the fastest 20 times. Chassis wise the top two drivers are both Team Durango teammates, Hot Bodies’ new but proven (and now officially announced) ROAR National Champion D413 not far behind, a couple of Tamiya’s new TRF511 prototype buggies, and a host of the new TLR 22-4 cars toward the bottom of the list above. It’s worth noting that A Main Hobbies team driver Tyler Vik, who had the fourth fastest time today, built an XRAY XB4 kit in his hotel room Thursday night before using it to finish with the fourth fastest time – impressive! Vik was among the drivers with a strong on-road background who found instant speed and comfort driving a 4WD vehicle around the car’s high-grip and windy course, particularly the left side of the track with its many flat and high speed corners that place an emphasis on corner speed without traction rolling out of the park.
We put together another batch of our “Sixty Second Small Talk” interviews with practice highlights as well, with more to come:
Below you’ll find a gallery of the images shot during today’s top heats, featuring the cars to watch during tomorrow’s four rounds of qualifying. It will be exciting to see how the drivers who did well in 2WD (like Team Associated Design Engineer Kody Numedahl, who made the A-Main in his first-ever Worlds!) will hold up under the pressure of repeating the performance while those with more disappointing finishes (like Worlds Warm-Up winner Ty Tessmann, who missed the main event by one position). Who will take the coveted TQ honors? Who will squeak into the final and earn a shot at the title? We’ll find out in a few hours!