A week out from the Nationals and we started to get some sneak peeks at the track, there were some really big jumps and then some jumps with a style that we had never seen before! The weather was also looking not so good for the Saturday qualifying either so it was going to be crucial to learn the track as quickly as possible.
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Friday was the practice day and first time on the track was interesting to say the least, there was very low traction and a huge amount of tight hairpin corners. I went out first with truggy and struggled to put in consistent laps mainly as I was trying to learn the track. The next round I had a chance to run the XB9, it was really good considering the low grip, after the truggy run I had turned up the EPA on steering to allow for the really tight hair pins. This proved to work well. After 3 rounds of practice I was placed 3rd on the grid in buggy, in truggy I was using the time to try different setup changes to yield a little more grip and after practice I was sitting in 13th position. Things were starting to come together and I was looking forward to qualifying on Saturday.
Unfortunately the weather had other ideas on whether we would be qualifying!! It rained solidly for the whole day on Saturday putting a real damper on things. Saturday was spent weather proofing the cars and making sure things were ready to run.
Sunday came and the decision was made to seed the heats based on the practice rounds and run 1 round of qualifying. This put huge pressure on all racers as one mistake could mean you get bumped in to a lower final. Truggy was up first and I came in for fuel and thought I had timed it well as the countdown to the rolling start was at zero just as I was before the timing loop, to my surprise there was a large delay between the countdown and the buzzer going off signaling the start? I had already crossed the loop with what I thought was perfect timing yet I’d missed the buzzer. I decided to cut the track and go over the loop again only to have the computer read out I had already been counted. I tried to keep consistent but I knew this was going to have a significant effect on qualifying in truggy for me. In Buggy well aware of the loop inconsistencies I kept well back from the loop giving me plenty of time. I put in a really quick and consistent time of 10laps 7min35 securing me an overall qualifying of 3rd in buggy.
Things were being pushed through really quickly as we only had 1 day to complete qualifying and finals this mean the finals were lowered to 45mins and the semi’s to 20mins. Due to my mishap in Truggy I had to start in a quarter final, I managed to win the quarter and bump through to the semi. In the semi I had a fantastic start with avoiding a pile up and going from 9th to 4th on the first lap. I then managed to move in to second place, I was thinking all I need to do now is keep things consistent and I will be in the A final! I then had a couple of bobbles which put me back to 4th I was having a bit of a race between 3rd and the 4th but found the 4th place was driving incredibly aggressively. I was in third and ended up pulling wide to let 4th through as I was only interested in finishing the race and 4th was enough to guarantee a bump up position. There was a straight just after I let this driver through and he got it all wrong going off the track and I expected him to slow down to get back on the track as I was on the straight at full speed. I was wrong the driver continued with full throttle to get the car back on the track and smashed straight in to me which ripped the front arm off my truggy. Needless to say I was gutted and this incident put an end to my chances at a final in truggy.
In Buggy I had qualified straight in to the even semi, the race started and my engine went really rich! It was a nightmare as I was struggling to make jumps and keep the car on its wheels over jumps. I was lucky as I had a fantastic pit team who made the call to lean the engine during the pit stop and allowed me to get the speed and consistency back and allowed me to finish 3rd in the semi which qualified me for 4th on the grid for the final.
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Before the final it was a bit of a concern on what tires to use as the track wasn’t super grippy, I opted to stick with what I had run in the semi which was an AKA super soft grid-iron. This proved to be a really good choice. The first lap started and it was very clean there was nothing between 1st to 4th I swapped the lead with another driver on the second lap and then went wide to let them snatch the lead again I was happy as I knew my pit strategy was better as I would have one less stop. As I pulled in for my pit stop and was refueled they dropped the car down and it went really rich !! it was almost about to flame I kept pulsing the throttle furiously and managed to make it to the third corner of the track and the engine flamed!! My pit team rushed to grab the car and get it started again,but I had dropped from 1st place down to 7th after losing a lap on the new leader.
I had to push really hard and allow my driving, pit team and strategy to gain back some ground I managed to make my way up to 4th on the 25th lap and worked my way to 3rd on the 35th lap. We had Mike S in the Lead Kent Perry with his XB9 in 2nd and me in third 7.4 seconds behind Kent. Whilst Kent was in the pits his engine flamed out! This allowed me to sneak past in to second place which I held until the finish of the race unfortunately for Kent this had a huge effect on his position and went from 2nd to 5th from the flame.
All in all it was a great event , The XB9 was completely trouble free for the entire weekend and performed flawlessly. A huge thanks to Xray for an awesome car!
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1. Mike Stratford 2. Chris Banham - XRAY XB9
3. Dave Edhause
4. Hunter Burt
5. Jordan Burley 6. Kent Perry - XRAY XB9
7. Jonathan Coluccio
8. Jonathan Thompson
9. Craig Underwood
10. Roger Van Dorsten