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Report by Mickael Brandt
This year the Swedish Cup consisted of six races where the best three plus the Final counted for the total cup. The first round was raced in Wäxjö where we had a new nitro racer attending for Team XRAY. “New?” Well, he is known for his skills with electric cars. His name is Alexander Hagberg. How did it go? He won, as you can read from his race report from May 30th.

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The second race was held in the middle of Sweden at the Arsunda race track, we had two Team XRAY NT1 cars direct qualifying, 2nd place was Edwin Sunesson and 4th place was Mackan Göransson. Unfortunately both retired quite early, Mackan after 11minutes stopping in 8th place with broken belts and Edwin after 14minutes stopping in 6th place with a broken servo. The race was won by Per-Ola Hard and only 5 cars managed to go the entire 45 minutes.

The third race was a combined Nordic Championship and Swedish Cup Race so we had participants from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. The race was held at the Väst-8 ring in Gothenburg, where we will have the 2010 NT EC, so it was a good race to start preparing for the EC. This was the first race of the season for me and it was really great to be racing again!

The qualification went quite well for me and great for Team XRAY, with Alexander Hagberg 1st and Adrian Berntsen 3rd and then me in 5th place less than 3/10sec from a direct spot in the final. I quite easily won my semi-final and took the number 5 starting position in the final. Everything felt really good until the start of the final when it started to rain. In the end it was a good final for Team XRAY as Alexander Hagberg won the race and Adrian Berntsen ended 3rd, Bengt Andersson 4th, Frank Andersen 6th and I finished down in 8th.

I had a horrible final, during the wet part of the final I got had trouble with the long belt so I had to pit and change the belt and the front belt pulley and lost 5 minutes fixing that, later on I lost time with engine problems. In the end it was a good race because within the XRAY camp we changed ideas and setups that made everyone go quicker so a big “thank you” goes out, especially to Alexander Hagberg and Adrian Berntsen! Also check Alexanders’ race report from June 28th.

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For the fourth round of the Swedish Cup we went to a new place that we never had raced 1:10NT on… the very nice Jehander-track in Norrköping. At first it looked like it was going to be a very long weekend and after the first practice round it still felt like that. I had started with quite a soft setup because the track was slightly bumpy and had lots of slow corners. The balance of the car was okay but I couldn't push as much as I liked to do. In the end I qualified 2nd but I was quite far behind the leader so during the evening practice fellow XRAY racer Mackan Göransson (qualified 4th) and I tried a lot of things with no progress.

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Finally I went all in and changed the setup to quite the opposite of what I was running in the qualification; I made the car hard both in oil and springs from 500cst to 600cst in oil and from F/R Violet/Blue to LightRed/LightPurple and I also changed to the 2.4mm rear swaybar. This made the car much more responsive yet still even easier to drive.

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The tyre wear was really high since the asphalt was quite unused and there was a well-banked and tight turn that also used the tires hard but I opted to go for no tire change and used the biggest tires that I had. In the beginning of the final I could not keep up with top qualifier Mikael Fransson and I had a hard time keeping Per-Ola Hard behind me. Since I had to save my tires I let him by after a few minutes.

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Nothing much happened during the first 20-25 minutes other than Mikael pulling away and my keeping P-O within a lap, then at the 30min mark I noticed that P-O started to struggle. Since my car was feeling better as the tyres got smaller I was catching him and went by him well before the last refuelling when his tires were almost gone. Unfortunately there was not much I could do to challenge the leader so in the end I finished 2nd, 3 laps down from a fast and consistent Mikael Fransson. Per-Ola finished 3 laps behind me, in 4th place we had Bengt Andersson, 6th place was Mackan Göransson, and in 7th place was Hans Elmefors all driving the XRAY NT1 car.

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The fifth race was held in Stockholm and hosted by MHF Skarpnäck. Last year this race was won by the always fast Roland Ström but this year he had stopped racing. Also absent was Alexander Hagberg and Per-Ola Hard (who where flying to Italy for this year’s EC) and Mikael Fransson opted to sit out this race since he already had races to make the whole Cup and be in contention for the win. It was not going to be an easy race though since we had last year’s 2nd placed driver Alexander Andersson and the young and up-and-coming Markus Hellquist amongst a large number of local racers who are always fast at this track.

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I had a good base setup from last year when I finished 3rd so I made extra preparation at home and didn’t do any free practice during Friday. For the heat practice I decided to try a new setup, one that I had used at the EC warm-up race in Gothenburg, the same that Alexander Hagberg used (see his race report from July 20th). The car was crazy to drive!

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It was really quick but way too intense for my age and reflexes! I went back towards my base setup and ended in the middle with a car that was really quick but still controllable for 5 minutes. I managed to set a fast lap in the 1st round and the time was within 1 second of last year’s TQ time set by Roland Ström. I was quite certain to be in the Top 4 and started to try things for the final in the rest of the rounds. In the end I was TQ by 6 seconds ahead of Alexander Andersson so I was quite happy with that! The final practice went okay. I had the best lap time and didn’t have to push to do it so I felt confident for the final.

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Ahhh, the final. Last year I was following Roland for a couple of laps before I went off and chunked my tire in the chicane. This year I was in the lead until just before the 2nd pitstop when I went off in the chicane and – yes - chunked my tire! I had built up a lead of about 5-6 seconds which I lost just by going off but then I lost even more time because of the chunked tire. During the 3rd and 4th pitstops I got stop-and-go penalties for bad refuelling but I still managed to hold onto 2nd place.

However, 2 laps until the middle of the race, race leader Marcus Hellquist pitted to change his right rear tire and they had some troubles changing the tire which allowed me to regain the 2 laps I was behind. Then it started to rain, not much but enough to make it challenging. I was quite pleased with my car, though, because it was still very well balanced so I could keep the car on the track and after a couple of minutes it was dry and I could push again and keep Alexander Andersson behind me. When I came in for the last refuelling I had only a half lap lead on Alexander and when I went onto the main straight I lost second gear and that was really bad with the small tyres I had left at the end of the final.

Fortunately for me it started to rain a little bit again so no one was able to push and this helped me to safely cruise to victory in the final laps nearly one lap ahead of Alexander and 3 laps ahead of Markus. In the end I was happy with the result and I was not to upset with my pit man Hans Lyxell, since he did guide me through the rain to my first victory of the season!

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The sixth and final race of the Swedish Cup was held in Trollhättan on their newly resurfaced and now bump-free track.

The top 5 in the Cup were Per-Ola Hard (143p.), me (141p.), the newly-crowned National Champion Mikael Fransson (140p.), Markus Hellquist (137p.) and Staffan Karlsson (133p.) and along with Alexander Andersson (130p.) in 7th place we all had a good chance to win the Swedish Cup since the Final race had more points to gain than a normal race.

The race was held quite late in the year so there were concerns that it was going to rain. Fortunately, the forecast was sunshine all weekend so the stage was set for a good race!

My race friends Mackan Göransson (driving an XRAY NT1) and Thomas Gidlund and I arrived at the track on Friday after lunch, so we had the afternoon to set up our cars. We really needed this because the traction was really strange. Nevertheless, the track didn’t have any bumps so the lap times were better than before but making consistently fast laps for 45 minutes (or even 5 minutes) was going to be difficult. It seems that new asphalt has strange traction; we had the same feeling in Norrköping which also had a rather new surface.

During Friday practice, Mackan and I worked hard to find some sort of balance in the car while keeping up our speeds. We tried soft setups and hard setups, and in the end we used 500cst and purple front springs and blue rear springs with low roll center in the rear and high in the front. I tried a lot of different oils in both the front and rear diffs and decided to go with 60000cst in the rear and 40000cst in the front.

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When qualification started I was still not quite happy with the car. Both Mackan and I could do quick lap times but not safe enough for a 45 minute final.

In the 4th qualifier I put on really soft 35 tires in the front and 37 in the rear so that I could try to make a good enough run to stay in the Top 4. It was enough to be 3rd behind Mikael Fransson and Alexander Andersson. Mackan was not that lucky and he ended up 6th and would start as number 1 in semi-B.

During the evening practice I decided to do what I did in Norrköping, trying my WC setup which again proved to make the car really well balanced although the grip level in the car was about the same so I decided to make big changes to the roll center which I had never tried before (and will probably never use at any other track again). I used the lowest roll center in the rear and highest in the front. Now the car felt really good, although it was not super fast as before but the balance between speed and “controllable” was much better!

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Saturday came and so did Per-Ola Hard; he couldn’t race on Saturday so he arrived early on Sunday and made good use of the 2hrs free practice before his semi-final and it seemed that he would be in the race to win despite missing a whole day racing and practice. He showed that by winning his semi with 2 laps despite losing 1 minute with an engine stoppage.

Mackan Göransson was in the same final and he was cruising to be safe in the final only to be taken out by a backmarker when he was lapping him. Unfortunately something happened to his car so he could not continue the race which was really sad because he was fast the whole weekend.

In the main-final practice I decided to try only one thing and that was a softer front diff to see if I could get a little bit more steering after the straight but it didn’t feel good so I went back to what I had used before.

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So the stage was set, Per-Ola, me and Mikael Fransson had the best chance of securing the Swedish Cup and we were all in the final, as were Alexander Andersson, Marqus Hellqvist and Staffan Karlsson who were also in the final and could battle for the win.

At the sound of the start Mikael got away cleanly but Alexander got wide in the first turn so Marcus and I slipped through. I was afraid that Mikael would pull away like he did in Norrköping, but he didn’t and I could actually keep up with him for the first stint without losing any time. At 5 minutes I pitted but he didn’t so I got nervous that he was on longer stints than me but while I was in the pits he made a mistake and I was right there behind him again when he went in for his first fuel stop on my out lap which meant I took the lead. When he was in the pits something happened so when he came out again I was one lap ahead of him and that felt good!

What about the others? Alexander had trouble getting traction with his tires and went off and immediately lost time. Marcus was not as fast as Mikael or me, so he lost time until his 4th pitstop when he flamed out and lost at least 2 laps. Then we had Per-Ola who was clearly not as fast as he was in the semi (he was maybe running harder tires now) and to top it off something happened with him in the first fuel stop so he was also one lap behind rather early in the race. The rest of the field could not keep up with the pace so what I had to do was not drive too slowly, save tires, and absolutely not leave the black part of the track.

Both Alexander Andersson but especially Mikale Fransson were doing good lap times but they both had problems and off-track experiences so halfway in the race I was leading everyone by at least 2 laps so I tried to save tires even more because my pit men said the tires started to look small. The car felt okay but I took it easy and dropped the lap times by almost a second and stayed far away from the rest of the cars so that nothing would happen. After 45 minutes I was 1st by 4 laps with a superb drive from home-driver Martin Aberg in 2nd place and the always-steady driving Staffan Karlsson in 3rd. Mikael Fransson was still driving fast down in 4th place with Markus Hellquist in 5th and Alexander Andersson 6th then an unlucky Per-Ola down in 9th place.

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Final results:

1. Mickael Brandt XRAY NT1

2. Mikael Fransson
3. Per-Ola Hard

I won the Swedish Cup (with 201 points) ahead of 2nd place Mikael Fransson (194pts) and 3rd place Per-Ola Hard (190pts).

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This was a great ending to a quite good season for me so a big thank you goes to XRAY and Minicars with Futaba and Sirio for helping me have fun at the races this year!

Finally, a special “thank you” goes to my pitmen, Mackan Göransson, Marcus Lindner, Hans Lyxell and especially to the always super-fast Mikael Bengtsson.

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