Well, that wasn’t too bad. We were right about a lot of things. We got 10/12 in the main right, we were right that a married guy won’t win, nor a driver with a stick radio, and that some drivers will Neff out under pressure. Let’s take a look at the main contenders, and a few others.
David Ronnefalk 1st (Prediction 2nd)
David was just as good as we expected. After finding the right tyre, soft grid irons, he was on the pace in qualifying, his confidence grew, and he never looked back! Luckily AKA’s new double down tyres worked and lasted well, and with a great 60min main drive where everything looked to work perfectly he took the win. The race was close for the first half or so, and it definitely wasn’t clear that David would win it, but after about halfway, he started clicking off laps and just motored away, and was suddenly behind the other guys on the track instead of in front of them. He did crash on the last lap on the 2nd to last corner, which could have ended in disaster, like Cody did on the last or next to last lap in Thailand. It seems like it is difficult to play it safe in those last moments. Heart stopping stuff.
A well deserved win for David, who has been supported by his father and Adrien Bertin for many years. I was sceptical about his chances after he switched to HB from Kyosho, because of his driving style, but he proved me wrong, by improving, remaining aggressive but being even more precise and in control.
David’s car looked very good, and it looks different to Ty’s HB. David’s HB looks high on the track, and he drives it within it’s traction capabilities, often going up on two wheels and just keeping it pinned. It’s awesome to watch. Ty’s car looks lower and softer, rolling more and not squaring up or recovering from mistakes or loss of traction as fast. Ronnefalk’s car looks more like a 1:8th scale style setup that can be driven hard and punched, and Tessman’s looks more like a car you have to drive with finess. Of course driving style comes into play too, but that’s not all of it I think.
Robert Battle 2nd (Prediction 9th, problem in final)
Even without taking into account the hospital, resting at the hotel, medication, and the still present kidney stone, 2nd place at the worlds is impressive, so I suppose now it is even more impressive. Robert had some bad mistakes where he lost a lot of time, and then he was stuck in the battle mid pack, causing him to lose touch with the leaders. At some point he got some space and began clicking off fast laps and drove up to 2nd place. I actually think Ongaro would have got 2nd, but he had issues in the end and lost out.
We thought the Mugens would struggle a bit if the track was loose and remained smooth, but if it got bumpy they would be strong. Wrong, they were fast from the very beginning, with Ongaro leading the way. Actually Ongaro’s Mugen was in our opinion the best handling car at the event. He could get away with insanity and it would just take it like nothing happened and keep going. Robert’s car was good too but looser and not as fast and safe looking as Ongaro’s.
Ty Tessmann 3rd (Prediction 4th)
Tessmann was Tessmann, but this time it wasn’t quite enough. He had the same car as the winner, different setup, the low cg OS cooling head, and ProLine tyres. If you want to look for reasons/excuses look there. Otherwise he just got beat. You can’t win them all. Tessmann has his pace, and can run it until his chassis wears through. At this race that pace just was not quite fast enough, for whatever reason.
Jared Tebo 5th (Prediction 3rd)
We predicted that Tebo would be a factor, and he was, even leading the main at one point. However, we also considered the fact that the pressure might get to him, which may lead to mistakes. In Tebos own words ”battled hard early, got a bit lost mentally in the middle, and finished strong to get back to 4th”. As Degani bent over to marshal Tebo’s car he could not help but think if Jared was thinking about his comments. (I may or may not have made up that last bit, as I don’t believe Tebo crashed by Degani) On that topic, did you see Degani marshaling out there? One of the fastest marshals. Who would have thought?
The cars looked good, they had the pace, but mistakes kept Tebo behind, and Boots had his other issues too. I think that mistakes happen due to driver error as well as setup, and on bumpy tracks like this one the setup that the Kyosho drivers use makes it more likely to flip over in a sketchy situation. Normally the Kyosho is very good at staying upright, but with the latest HB, and with the Mugens, the Kyosho guys can’t hang in all conditions anymore. Go back to the super rough Argentina Worlds Warm up when Ronnefalk dominated and absolutely blew everyone away in qualifying with his Kyosho, it was setup. It wasn’t what they typically run. It didn’t want to flip over. The bar has been raised the last few years in my opinion, and if you want to remain at the top regardless of track conditions, some changes need to be made.
Ryan Cavalieri 5th (Prediction 5th)
Ryan looked great in the semi, won it, but got a 1 second penalty, which someone pulled out of their behind, for muscling his way past Tessmann right at the line. Racing incident in my opinion, a tough call to make. Not an intentional take out, going for a gap that was closed by Tessmann, side by side contact.
Unlucky for Cavalieri to flame out on the line. The starts were terrible anyway, no structure, at least know the rules before you begin running mains, that would help. Anyway, flame out for whatever reason, which led to starting in the pits and battling in the pack. Driving up to 3rd-4th at some point, eventually finishing 5th. Solid performance, but I feel it could have been quite a bit better had he been able to start the race properly. If Ryan could have been battling at the front, I think the race may have been close to the end. He is too good of a driver to let an opportunity slip through his fingers.
A loose version of the Mugen. Close but no cigar. Two cars in the main was good of course, but when you looked at them, and then you looked at Ongaro go round, you could tell something was different.
Davide Ongaro 6th (Prediction Just misses main)
For me, Ongaro was the most impressive driver at the worlds. I think he surprised everyone with his speed and mature driving, even those close to him. He could switch up his lines when needed, he was fair and careful (even too careful) around other drivers (something the other Italian drivers could learn from), and his throttle control and ability to place his car where he wanted to was evident. He jumps really well too and clearly showed that he is a future champion in the making.
Reno Savoya 7th (Prediction No prediction)
Savoya is the other of the two drivers we missed for the main. Actually we didn’t even seriously consider him as a contender for the main. Degani thought that Savoya was the most impressive driver for making it into the main, as bad as his car was handling the bumps, the rear end wanting to go all over the place. That’s true talent right there. Also, then going on to beat all the TLRs in the main is an achievement, specially in America. Savoya was at best when he raced for Mugen, winning 3 Euros in a row if I am not mistaken, and getting a podium at the Worlds. Since then it feels like he has tried to make every car he has run like a Mugen, but you can’t do that. It looked like the stars were aligning when he raced for Xray, only to leave/be kicked off the following year. I think Savoya’s career could have been much different, and a lot more successful if he had been able to find a home and stay there throughout. Switching brands almost every year makes it almost impossible to win at this highly competitive time.
Seemed like it was critical regarding setup, not looking the best or comfortable on the bumpy slippery track. Apart from Dakotah in the semi, and Maifield at times, the TLRs were just a bit off the pace at this race. No big technical jumps, no point and shoot driving, more European style track just not the TLRs strong suit. We wrongly expected the Losi’s to be really good here, we did not realise how non-American the layout turned out to be. I will write about the track and about Europe vs America in a separate post later. Now we move on.
Ryan Maifield 8th (Prediction 1st)
Maifield showed his incredible talent in the semi final, where he was actually looking like he wouldn’t make the main. Then somehow he pulled it all together, drove like his life depended on it, and made it into the top 5. In the main he was just never a top contender. He made a lot of mistakes, and didn’t quite have the pace. I don’t know how to divide the “blame”, but it really looked like this wasn’t the best track for the Losi cars, and to compound (no pun intended) the problem, not the best conditions for the JConcepts tyres either. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you are Maifield, you can’t make up a disadvantage like that at this level.
Ryan Lutz 9th (Prediction 7th)
Ryan made the main as expected, because he is a great driver. So precise and fast, but driving carefully, not flat out. That’s what it looked like. He wasn’t really ever a contender in the main. It may be because of his absolutely terrible taste in t shirts, or…
Too hard to drive for 60 minutes was what we expected, and it looks like it was true. Ryan was reacting to what the car was doing, and correcting, instead of punching it around the track. In a way the car seemed to be controlling what he could do, not the other way round. I think the very different suspension geometry they are running needs some more work, for it to be good on other than the standard smooth medium grip jumpy US tracks.
Elliot Boots 10th (Prediction 6th)
Boots made a charge to the front during the early part of the race, but began falling back, mainly due to two factors. 1. Wrong tyre choice, ending up with slicks probably quite early on. 2. No runtime, stopping at 6 minutes. The strange thing is that Maifield who also drives punched was able to go 7:30. The difference could be the fuel, Boots running Byrons, and Maifield on Sidewinder, which has proven to have good runtime in the past. Boots was probably disappointed after TQ:ing the 2 first rounds of qualifying, and being so dominant in the early stages. He dropped off a bit after that, but came back strong with a great semi, and a good push to the front in the main, until his problems began. To win you need to have all parts of your program on point, and working right. He obviously has the speed. It may also have been that stick radio catching up to him!
Dakotah Phend 11th (Prediction 10th)
I don’t know what happened between the semi final and the main, but whatever it was, it was not good. He was so far ahead in the semi that he flamed out and still made the main. In the main I didn’t even notice him. Degani did, when he marshalled him. Unfortunate turn of events, based on his semi final pace! I don’t really know what to say.
Kyle McBride 12th (Prediction 8th)
You didn’t think of this guy did you? Well we did, and how genius do we look now? Kyle is a smooth driver, and good in mains, and clearly good when the track is difficult. His engine sounded like a turd in the main, I don’t know what was going on there. Just sounded too rich the whole time, and he never really got going.
Outside The Main:
We picked Josh to make the main, and early on in the race we were looking good, as Josh posted top 10 times. But then he began having his “Wheeler Issues” with a runaway or two, and a flameout in his 1/4 final. Not quite able to squeak it in this time.
Rivkin was a natural pick, I mean he is the current National Champion after all. But this time the track wasn’t his cup of tea. Long finals on a bumpy track like that is not what Rivkin specialises in. An electric driver and used to smooth tracks, it was not to be. Never really had a chance in the semi, even though he bumped easily from the 1/4.
About a year ago Degani predicted that Cody would finish 10th at this Worlds. He finished 14th, so not far off. Degani laid out a plan for Cody. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he should have rented a place in Vegas, and lived there for the year, and practiced his ass off. Then he could have a good shot at being the 2nd double champ in history. Otherwise it would be 10th place according to Greg. Well it didn’t happen, and 14th was the result.
I thought Cody looked good for part of the semi and was in a position to bump up, but he must have had a couple of bad wrecks because he fell back suddenly and just missed the bump up. An impressive run of Worlds A mains from his first Worlds in 2008 through 2010, 2012 and 2014 comes to an end.
Honorable mention to Luis Gudino, at nitro challenge he almost knocked his head off, forgetting the finish line sign at the step down, and proceeded to eat shit and blow out his knee. This time he made the lap without major injuries. Looking forward to Australia 2018!