The 2016 European Championships will this year be held at the fantastic Redovan track near Alicante in Spain. As usual a pre-event warm up race was held and several of the NEMO Racing/Agama team took the opportunity to attend and learn before the event itself.
The track itself is huge, and well over 50 seconds a lap for even the very top guys, and a lap with a mistake could easily run to over a minute, the fact the track is mainly very quick serves to show just how big it really is. Built on 3 levels, the track winds up and down the hillside through many elevation changes and fast sections where pin point accuracy is everything, the slightest bit off line and your out on the dust or into the track markings and heading for a big crash.
A relatively small entry meant there was plenty of track time for everyone, but due to the size of the track, a 10 minute run only offered a maximum of 11 laps so learning each section was very difficult.
The Agama drivers were each trying different tyre treads and compounds to try and get to the correct choice throughout practice, and also changing the set ups to cope with the high traction sugar coated surface, tyre wear would be an issue come the main final.
Qualifying saw Darren Bloomfield starting out steady, still finding his way with the set up and not wanting to push too hard when he wasn’t comfortable with everything but he would be in the top 10 in the first few rounds, before he started to find the confidence in rounds 4 & 5. 5th overall in round 4 preceded a set up change for round 5 which unlocked a good chunk of pace, and despite an error and a less than helpful back marker, he would end up in 2nd for the round and almost right on the pace of Ronnefalk.
The other Agama guys Ari Heinonen, Burak & Berkan Kilic and Jonny Skidmore were joined by Spanish Agama drivers Dani Vega and Joan Espasa, with Burak and Joan looking especially racy..
The times were all up and down a bit as the guys tried things or just had a mistake or two.
As the finals got going the track did start to break up a little in a few areas, just to make it a little more challenging but this difficulty seemed to bring Ari Heinonen alive, a great performance in his 1st final was followed by another great one in his 1/4 final where he was set fair for a place in the semi until a small error leave him upside down and when the marshall picked it up, he cut the flywheel..game over. Berkan and Jonny put up good runs but just missed out, but Burak blast through to the semis and earned himself a place in the last chance race also, which he took brilliantly to put himself on the grid for the main final, joining Joan Espasa and Darren. Darren’s semi was steady, but seemingly quick as his 4th place would see him qualify 4th on the grid as nobody in semi 2 was able to go quicker than he had.
The main final got underway with most guys pacing themselves a little early on, knowing full well that 45 minutes on this track could be a very long time indeed. Darren was running 2nd early on, before a few errors saw Ronnefalk get past and he settled into a good 3rd, with a bit of a battle with Robert Batlle, the two swapping places as they each made the odd error. Then at about the 35 minute mark Darren made a couple of bad laps that dropped him to 4th. Burak had had a sensational final and was running as high as 6th, but with having done two previous finals, plus a junior final and a last chance race his car was starting to get a bit tired after hours of hard racing without the chance to do any preparation and with only a few minutes of the final left it cried enough. He should not despair as he was excellent throughout the weekend, and showed what a genuine talent he is at the tender age of 12.
Joan Espasa had slowly worked his way up and was running 5th towards the end and he would luck in when Darren and Bryan Baldo would run out of fuel on the final lap to allow him to take 4th, and Darren 5th.
Overall the team took a great deal from the weekend as a huge amount of data was gathered and lessons learned, although there does seem to be some confusion as to whether the track crew will sugar coat the surface for the main Euro’s, either way we are hopeful EFRA and the host club will communicate their intentions with regards to the track surface, so tyre manufactures can properly prepare and bring the right stuff, without the huge cost of bringing everything…..
Lastly thank you to the Spanish federation and the Baldo family who managed to run a good reliable program whilst still maintaining a fun environment. We are excited for the main event.