By Tyler Hooks
Race Report from EFRA:
After 17 rounds of practice, qualifying began for the EFRA 1/10th IC track European Championships, held at the Vila Real circuit in Portugal.
Robert Pietsch looked like he had greater consistency than anyone else in the lead up to qualifying, and so it proved as he took the first two rounds of qualifying on Thursday evening, the first from Teemu Leino and Kyle Branson, the second from Branson and Alessio Mazzeo. With the best three rounds from five to count, this put Pietsch in a very strong position going into Friday morning’s final three rounds of qualifying.
Robert Pietsch sealed the pole position for Saturday’s main final by taking round three from Leino and Branson, then just for good measure took round four as well from Mazzeo and Dario Balestri. Throughout qualifying Pietsch didn’t appear any faster than his rivals over a single lap, but his pace was relentless and ultimately this got him to the front of the field every time. Into the last round of qualifying then, and with pole position already secured the remaining drivers were left to do battle for the four Superpole races An early retirement from Robert Pietsch opened the door for Dario Balestri to take the round from Teemu Leino and Kyle Branson, earning all three drivers a spot in the Superpole shootout along with Alessio Mazzeo.
Alessio Mazzeo was first to run, setting a best time of 20.802 on his final lap, which Kyle Branson set about trying to beat, just coming up short as he recorded a 21.081 on first lap out of the pits. With Mazzeo’s time still standing, Dario Balestri was next to run, and looked doomed to fail after a scruffy first three laps with a clearly aggressive car, before a fantastic fourth lap effort of 20.633 moved him to the top of the timing screen. So convinced was Dario that he couldn’t go faster that he abandoned his efforts at that point, leaving just Teemu Leino to run. Teemu tried as hard as possible but failed to beat Dario’s time, ending up with a best lap of 20.948 on his final effort, so Balestri secured the second guaranteed starting position for the main final.