Sixteen days were spent away from my family to attend this years rendition of the IFMAR World Championships. The event was held in Perth, Australia which for us Ohioans meant we probably could have gotten their faster by digging to the other side of the earth. Part of that issue is our current airline allegiance being Delta and thus being held to their schedule which included 3 layovers with 2 of them being 5+ hours each. Our trip there was a 38 hour affair, and our trip home was 42 hours door to door with our delay we encountered on our final flight. The positive on all of this is that for the most part, any further trip we take should feel pretty short in comparison! Joe and I left Ohio on Sunday morning and we met Matt and Danny in Los Angeles on Sunday night before embarking on the 14 hour flight across the largest pond on earth.
We ended up arriving on Tuesday afternoon accounting for time changes which we were hoping would allow us to acclimate to the time before we began our work week long session of practice.
So it was on Thursday we began practicing. Well, that sounds like we got more practice than we actually did. In fact we got to run just 1 time for 10 minutes on that first day. Friday we got 2 more runs, and then for some still unknown reason on Saturday we got just one run yet again. So in the first 3 days of the event we had seen the track a total of 4 times and got hopefully 40 minutes of track time. Sunday and Monday saw the Official IFMAR Practice begin with Mondays two runs being seeding runs to seed us into qualifiers based on fastest 3 consecutive laps.
Now, we had a test session with Joe, Alex, Jared, and I about a month earlier in So-Cal to test a new car that we were considering to take to the Worlds. We tested at Thunder Alley and the old Dialed in track which were both higher traction and Dialed in being very rough as well. They were your typical American tracks with lots of tighter corners and the new car was working very well. We were all pleased with it and felt it was performing better than our .4’s. So we made a group decision to take the car to Worlds.
Throughout practice and into qualifying we continued to work hard together making changes, talking about what we felt and how we thought we could improve. I took slow mo video’s around the track of the other guys to help us maybe analyze what the car was doing better. We put in hours of wrenching after each day at the track doing our best to get comfortable and dialed in.
As qualifying started Joe put in a couple of decent runs early, in the mid and upper teens. I struggled with mistakes early on and was in the 30’s the first couple of runs. On the final day I was able to put in two top 20 runs with my final run potentially having been a top 10 but one large crash kept me out of that. But regardless things were getting better and I felt that things were moving in the right direction and that I would be able to have a good main day. Joe, Alex, and I would all qualify into the quarter finals.
At the start of the 1/4 final I had one of my best starts ever starting from the 6 position. As others seemed to be super cautions I decided to be assertive and quickly moved into 5th on the inside of the stairs. Then as others in front of me tangled and fought I simply powered by and quickly assumed the lead 1/2 a lap into the main. I started to even pull away a little and was in a bit of disbelief but pleased and just wanted to put in good laps. But on the 3rd lap I hit to far inside on the double after the carousel that had no lip, and shorted the jump and lawn darted into the face of the lander. I got stuck in the loose stuff in between and fell back a lot. I got back out and being a 30 minute race I wasn’t to concerned yet. But as we got to the pit option lap I was asked if I wanted to come in at 7:45 or at 8:15. Being the first stop and knowing the tank was full from the start of the race, I opted for the 8:15 mark and started another lap. But even down the front straight I felt it start to go lean and I knew I probably made a mistake. A few corners later there I was out of gas and out of contention in the 1/4 final. It was because I chose to fully change my tune for the final qualifier and main to make it easier for me to drive it but it turns out it wasn’t the best mileage tune. I never got a good fuel mileage run and just hoped I would be able to do the 8:15 on the first stop but it wasn’t meant to be and that’s all on me.
So yeah, that’s pretty much how it all went down. Joe was doing great as we were in the same quarter and he assumed the lead after my crash. He had some good battles up front but came up just short in his bid for the bump. Alex in the other quarter had a pretty good race but had a really bad pit lane incident I think and that basically cost him a bump to the semi. So overall an unfortunate disappointment for us, final result wise at the Worlds. We are still extremely confident in the new car and the ideas that are in it. I feel perhaps just a lack of track time on similar surfaces and lack of time with the car are really what hurt us the most.
While not doing well at the largest event held every two years is a major bummer, it’s not the end all. We do many large events every year and will simply regroup and learn from the mistakes and come back stronger as the 2019 season comes around.
I want to make a comment regarding the new World Champion Davide Ongaro. I watched most all of his qualifiers and he simply has the most amazing throttle finger i’ve ever heard. His extremely quick and precisely tuned throttle inputs in the corners are like no one else i’ve ever heard. He is able to keep momentum while not breaking traction. He absolutely was favored to win and for good reason. Congrats to him on the victory!
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