Those readers who haven’t followed our 4WD Worlds coverage may be a little unfamiliar with the name Bruno Coelho, better known for his touring car prowess, it’s fair to say that the 2015 IFMAR Worlds have produced two new ‘surprise’ World Champions – few would have picked them as favourites prior to the events, but during them, they came to be dominant forces.
Coelho’s march to the top was evident as he was immediately setting the pace already from early practice, going onto TQ 4/5 rounds of qualifying and take A finals one and two, the first slightly controversial with Coelho misjudging the blind table top up ramp, landing on the wrong side of the track, waiting for just long enough to satisfy himself and the head referee, rivals called for justice and blood after the final, a protest was lodged, later withdrawn and the A1 result made official.
All this only served to fire up the quiet 22 year old Portuguese star, rare to show emotion, he went onto crush the field in A2, an anticlimax of a final but only goes to show how Coelho had everyone beat on the day. The 3rd A final going to warm up winner and 4x World Champion Naoto Matsukura securing himself the runner up spot and David Ronnefalk taking the final spot on the 4WD Worlds Podium. Disappointment for 2nd placed qualifier Michal Orlowski, at only 14-years old suffered nerves in A1, he was out driven and out muscled by those around him.
To sum up Yatabe Arena put on a brilliantly professional event, we thank Hiroshi Suzuki, his staff, IFMAR, Masami Hirosaka and Miura-san for their kindness, hospitality and hosting us. The astroturf surface provided a completely different challenge to drivers compared with past ‘dirt’ World Championships and perhaps different Champions as well, they are however both very worthy Champions – the right guys won in the end Spencer & Bruno.
With a World Championship already decided, Bruno Coelho heeded advice to sit out A3 and allowed his fellow finalists to determine the rest of the final positions and all important podium. With Michal Orlowski starting infront he led round until the triple and 180 corner, where Naoto got a bit of an opening and expertly set him up to switch back and claim the inside line into the rumble strips corner, Orlowski caught napping slightly by the aggressive Naoto who was making sure he was going to start lap 2 out front. Orlowski’s unfortunate showing in the finals continued as a repeat of A1 saw him land on the bott dot infront of the drivers stand and clip the corner, allowing Ronnefalk to sweep past as well as the yet-again fast starting Ryan Maifield.
The order out front would stay the same until Naoto made a mistake and allowed Ronnefalk to close, however he would go onto take the win in A3 ensuring himself 2nd and Ronnefalk claiming 2nd in A3 and 3rd overall.
The anticipated fireworks and tears that we were expecting and somewhat morbidly looking forward to in the A finals didn’t materialise as A2 proved to be a bit of a display of cruise control for A1 winner Bruno Coelho. Not repeating any kind of mistakes from A1, the XRAY driver simply opened himself up a gap which Michal Orlowski had no answer for, rather than chipping away at it, it opened from 1 sec, to two to three, simply put, Coelho in a league of his own.
Ryan Maifield turned out to be the star of A2, coming from 9th on the grid to a storming drive to 3rd, disappointment for Naoto Matsukura, lasting only 12 laps before retiring, his title hopes dashed, he was beaten to the first corner by a punchy move from David Ronnefalk.
The rest of the final action came from the fights in the midpack, not at the front sadly, it was clear with already half the final gone Coelho would have to face disaster if he were to miss out on the victory, however an anticlimactic an A2 it was, Coelho’s Worlds win is still a fully deserved one as Bruno has pretty much been the man to beat throughout all of 4WD. He overcame controversy in A1, kept his head and drove a robotic A2.
2nd Update: A1 Results are now Official and unchanged. The protest from Team Japan was also withdrawn.
There were rumours in the pits of a possible protest, however upon asking we were informed that there was a 15 minute window to protest a result, and that lapsed before anything materialised.
The first 4WD A final delivered on controversy on only the 2nd lap as Bruno Coelho pulled away cleanly from pole, only to get the table top blind up ramp wrong and land on his wheels but on the wrong side of the track, he waited just enough not to be passed by 2nd placed Michal Orlowski and the rest of the pack, however the post-race reaction from some rivals and spectators was pretty heated to say the least. One outspoken driver calling it “Maximum IFMAR BullS**T”.
As the final progressed, only on the next lap Orlowski’s chances went tumbling as his Schumacher buggy cartwheeled having landed badly on the bott dots, Naoto promoted to 2nd and Ronnefalk 3rd.
Naoto set off to try and hunt and haunt Coelho, but the poleman stayed cool under pressure having had his ‘off’ moment and got away with it, Naoto stayed with Coelho however Ronnefalk fell back after a mistake but would stay 3rd. Halfway into the final Naoto clipped the middle of the chicane sending his car sideways but right way up – time lost. Further errors would see him unable to ever really close down Coelho for serious pressure.
With the top 6 unchanged overnight it was Jared Tebo with his 3rd place result in Q5 that proved to be the big mover that shook things up a little in the top 10, having sat 12th overnight after a strong Q4, Tebo’s result saw him tie on points with Ryan Maifield and Yusuke Sugiura both whom had good showings in the final round. The unfortunate man to get pushed out of the top 10 was Lee ‘Rocky’ Martin, unable to punch through his 25 points score of yesterday, the Brit will start top of the B with Ty Tessmann right behind – the Canadian driver able to haul himself up from 19th overnight to 12th after taking 8th for the round in Q5.
Not taking any of the headlines away from Bruno Coelho’s showing, four TQs out of five is mighty impressive, not to mention his 17.0 laptime in Q5 will likely have rivals head scratching.
Honourable mention to young Kaito Kodera however, the young driver rueing his bad luck in Q1 which in the end cost him – two mistakes on the final straight on the final lap dropping him off a top 5 points result which would have seen a likely A final potential start sees him Top of the C main…
Also to the current 4WD World Champion Steven Hartson, who’s reign will come to a disappointing end – unable to defend his title having qualified a lowly 35th, after the highs of 2WD, the Team Associated struggling in 4WD with Kody Numedahl the highest placed qualifier in 16th.
Ultimately Hayato is the lucky man to make it into the A, had he been 3/10ths slower in Q5, he would have missed the cut.
With TQ/pole already settled in yesterday evening’s closing Q4, pressure was off Bruno Coelho however the Portuguese driver still delivered impressively setting the fastest time so far in qualifying, the only man to manage 18 laps as well. Naoto Matsukura failed to repeat yesterday’s heroic turn of speed, limping home after some mistakes with a 17/ 5:06.568, not so for Michal Orlowski, who earns the nickname ‘Mr Consistent’, and could be one to watch should there be any mistakes from Coelho or even fireworks in the A final.
Also having a great run was Jared Tebo with 17/5:01.511, much needed to haul the 2WD TQ into the A final to start 7th, the opposite however for his good mate Ryan Cavalieri, having a minor issue even before the heat began, summing up Team Associated’s struggles here in the 4WD portion of the Worlds.
The top 10 of round 5 saw a few more unfamiliar names scrape it through, after a mixed quali practice pacesetter Yusuke Sugiura managed 6th whilst Ryan Maifield won the B heat after Tom Cockerill made a few rare errors. Hayato Matsuzaki wasn’t far behind and managed to do just enough to make it to start 10th in the main.
According to our unofficial sources, the IFMAR officials have selected the MORBC (Model Offroad buggy club of Western Australia) as the host for the 2018 IFMAR 1/8 Offroad World Championships – located in Western Australia’s capital city, Perth.
IFMAR officials held their AGM at Yatabe Arena during the 1/10 offroad Worlds and unofficial sources say that the club who staged the FEMCA (Far East) Championships in June this year are expected to host the event again in 2017 in preparation to host the IFMAR Worlds a year later, we also hear a possible October date is on the cards. Watch this space.