The annual European 1/8th Off Road Championships, this year took place at the fantastic facility owned by the well known racing family Baldo. The facilities were top notch, and the track was epic to say the least, a nearly 1 minute lap through multiple elevation changes, jumps and cambers would provide one of the stiffest tests we have ever seen in these championships.
The length of the track certainly was an obstacle for those who didn’t attend the warm up race, as doing so few laps in a run doesn’t allow the driver to repeat the same sections many times to learn them, still the usual suspects would rise to the top over the course of the week.
The NEMO team was well represented by drivers from the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Finland, plus some Agama guys from the distributor of the host country Spain.
Practice got underway and right from the very start Darren Bloomfield was on the pace and comfortable with his car. This allowed him to concentrate on tyre testing, and small details of the set up rather than taking big stabs at finding the right way. The rest of the Agama A215 chassis were performing very well, with notable performances from Burak Kilic, Dani Vega and Ari Heinonen during the practice runs, some of the other guys who were not present at the warm up were still dialling themselves in to the track, and leaning on their team mates further up for some guidance, which was gladly offered within the team.
In the final two seeding practice runs, Darren once again tested some tyres just be sure he was happy with what he planned for the week, around this time was when the wind started to pick up, which over the course of the next few days would cause plenty of drivers some major headaches and accidents that were really out of their control, especially along the downhill back section over the jumps, where catching air was a formality to keep the speed up.
As ever the seeding practice was done on the 3 consecutive lap rule, which is nonsense as it throws in people who hang it out on the limit for 3 laps and get away with it, and this race was no exception, with the driver who TQ’d practice not really a factor at all in the rest of the event.
Round 1 of qualifying saw Darren start as he meant to go on with a great 2nd in the round, just off the TQ pace and squeezing past the 3rd and 4th placed drivers Battle and Ronnefalk who were also in his heat. A consistent run, with only a small bobble on the opening lap to cost him any time so the team were very happy. Excellent runs from Burak Kilic, Dani Vega and Joan Espasa all competing in the top 20 in round.
Round 2 and Darren made a small mistake which cost him a couple of seconds and was enough to see him finish 5th in round, slightly disappointed with the error, but still happy with 5th as it was another good score counting that would see him on his way to the semis.
The 3rd round saw an epic battle between Darren and David Ronnefalk to take the TQ for the round, the two guys in the same heat were never more than a few 1/10 of a second apart, and it was David who would sneak the win with a time 4/10 quicker, Darren once again 2nd for the round and pleased with his consistent pace. Now secure somewhere near the top of the semi finals, he could go into the second day of qualifying relaxed and try to improve or test new ideas. The junior boys, Jonny Skidmore, Ollie Currie, Burak Kilic and the little hero Berkan Kilic had all been doing great, improving their times and doing a solid job to pick their way up the leaderboard and improve their pace on this extreme track.
Round 4 of qualifying and Darren was again 2nd, to further improve his overall score and allow him to drop the 5th he carried from round 2. This time he felt he could go significantly faster than he did, and a couple of errors had cost him a shot at the TQ time. The weather was starting to really heat up now also, causing the guys to question their shock and diff oils, and the tyre compounds they were running as the sun baked the surface of the track.
The final round saw Darren try a little set up tweak, which he didn’t like but still battled on and took 3rd in round, and an excellent 2nd overall and pole for the B semi.
Dani Vega and Joan Espasa would just miss out on direct qualification to the semis, but would line up in the 1/4 finals, along with the sensational performance from young Burak Kilic, 12 Years Old and mixing it with the big guns.
Finals came around and the weather ramped up again, with yet more temperature and wind to really throw the cat among the pigeons for everybody.
The 1/8th finals came around and we had a good representation in these. On the B side Jonny Skidmore started near the front in 4th, but a couple of bad laps near the start dropped him back and with the standard of the competition so high, he was never able to get himself back into contention unfortunately. On the 1/8 A side, we had 2 contenders in Ari Heinonen and Ollie Currie. Ari was able to stay near the front for the whole race and kept himself in the bump up positions all the way to secure 4th and a place in the 1/4 finals. Ollie had a bad start and had to try and make his way up, a great drive saw him get back up to 6th, but by then the top 5 were too far away for him to mount a challenge and he would end his race there.
Into the 1/4 finals and the Spanish Agama contingent were in with the Super Burak on the B side, and it was an outstanding performance from the young man who drove himself straight into the semi finals with a calm and assured drive, way beyond his tender years. Sadly both the Spanish guys ran into trouble and wouldn’t be able to challenge the bump up positions. in 1/4 A, Ari Heinonen ran strongly throughout, but was not quite able to get into the mix for the top 4 and he would end his meeting in the 1/4 finals.
On to the semi finals, and both our guys were in the same B side, Darren and Burak. Darren got away ok, but it soon became apparent he hadn’t got the set up right for the hotter weather and was not able to keep the pace he had shown throughout the meeting. A battle all the way through, Darren would just get himself though into the main with 6th place and a heap of relief. The man in 7th and change him down after an epic drive, was our very own Burak, taking confidence from his great performance in the 1/4 final he was right at it and not scared of anyone, as a team you never want to see your own two guys battling it out for one spot, but nobody could have begrudged the young man if he had been the one to get through. The whole NEMO team is extremely proud of Burak..
Between the semis and the main, Darren set about re-setting his car, following some advice from NEMO Team Manager they came up with a plan to get himself back in the hunt.
There was no rest for Burak however, and he went into the junior final where he would again reign supreme and go on to take a fantastic win, and he would be joined on the podium by Jonny Skidmore in 3rd after another great performance.
The main final got underway with the terrible wind still being prevalent, but it was clear from the early laps that the changes made to Darren’s car were for the better and he was looking very racy. Over the course of the first 15 minutes he worked his way up the field until he got himself into 4th and he then set about chasing down the leading 3 guys, the same guys that he had been neck and neck with all through qualifying, unfortunately after starting last and having to work his way through the field, he was left with a 15/20 second gap to the guys battling at the front, but Darren was confident and his car was working well so he started gradually reducing the gap until he got within about 10/12 seconds and then he made an error and dropped back into a battle with Neil Cragg and Yannick Aigoin. Because he had now got into battle he couldn’t string the consistent fast laps together to keep closing on the front 3 guys, and with Darren, Neil and Yannick tripping over the front guys were getting away, then with 10 minutes to go major drama as both Ronnefalk and Batlle retired on the same lap with identical servo over heating problems, meaning Darren’s battle was now for 2nd overall with Elliott in a clear lead. Finally Darren would have to settle for 4th after a few late race errors as he tried his hardest to pass Neil and Yannick.
It is a great result and nothing can be taken easily at this level, but the guys although happy were a little disappointed as they really felt that 2nd should have been on and had they started up the front in the main final, he could have been in the fight for victory.
NEMO Racing would like to thank the team members for their fantastic attitude and representation through the week, the Redovan club and Baldo family for laying on a fantastic event and to Alan Dell for his usual sterling work as UK Team Manager.
Congratulations to Elliott Boots on his second European Title, and as ever we at NEMO look forward to the next race….