The North Islands were fast approaching and everyone was keeping a keen eye on the weather forecast. I had just finished building the XB9 on the Wednesday before the event and was very keen to get some laps on the new car. Unfortunately the weather didn’t allow this, On Friday the call was made due to the approaching bad weather that practice time would be reduced and 2 x 5 minute qualifying heats would be run in the afternoon to at least provide some sort of qualifying positions.
I knew this would be a challenge with a field of 51 Buggies and 50 Truggies everyone was keen to get good rounds in.
I had setup the XB9 with what I felt would be best for the track, after some track testing I was absolutely blown away with the car, the way it jumped, landed and turned was awesome. Infact the landings were so good I found myself having to remember not to wait for the car to settle after a jump. Practice came to an end fairly quickly and having tested both the XB9 and XT8 I was happy.
First qualifying round of buggy the track had dried considerably and I realized I needed to lower the rear diff oil in order to gain some more traction. I managed to place 5th overall which I was happy with considering how little track time I had with the car.
The second round of buggy I had changed the rear diff oil and the car felt really good! I managed to shave over a second a lap off my best lap and was feeling more confident.
After the 2 rounds of qualifying I had managed to secure 5th in buggy and 4th in Truggy, if the weather was looking good I would have the chance to improve this on the Saturday. Saturday came and racing was cancelled due to the weather, which meant the qualifying places from the Friday rounds would now count towards the final grids.
In the semifinal I chose a tyre which had been working all weekend and when I started on my first lap I knew I had made a bad choice in tyre, my lap times had increased significantly and now it was all about keeping the car on its wheels. I managed to keep 3rd place, which allowed me to qualify 5th in the A-main.
I knew for the final it was now critical to get a tyre that was going to work with the track conditions, I chose to go with AKA Crossbraces, in the first lap of the final I knew I had made the right call, the car felt planted with heaps of grip but not too much to make the car traction roll. I managed to get to 4th in the first lap and in the second lap found myself leading the final! I ended up traded positions with another XB9 driver for the first 15mins of the race, both the cars looked fast and planted. After a few mistakes and having some trouble passing back markers I was sitting in 3rd with Kent (fellow XB9 driver) just behind me in 4th. This ended up being the final placings in the buggy final. Overall I was incredibly happy with the car, it handled extremely well and was very strong and reliable.
(click to enlarge)
1. Alan Looi
2. Mike Stratford 3. Chris Banham XRAY XB9
4. Kent Perry XRAY XB9
1. Mike Stratford
2. Alan Looi 3. Chris Banham XRAY XT8