By Mike Garrison
We are exactly one week away from the start of 2wd buggy qualifying for the 2017 IFMAR 1/10-scale Off-Road World Championships, held in Xiamen, China. As with any World Championship event, there is a long list of things to keep an eye on, however, I have put together my personal pick of the top 5 things to watch for at this year’s 1/10-scale Off-Road World Championships.
1) THE FACILITY
The 2015 IFMAR Worlds were held indoors on turf, which at that time was a relatively foreign terrain for many racers – especially the Americans. This year the event returns to dirt outside, similar to that of sugared surface of the 2013 Worlds at Silver Dollar Raceway in Chico, California. I firmly believe that certain drivers excel on turf/carpet, while others excel more on dirt. I believe that returning to dirt alone will shake up the running from what we saw in 2015, but even more so the fact that the event is outside. Weather can play a large part in any race, and while the weather looks mostly clear for the event, the track surface and weather can change in a matter of minutes.
2) THE TRACK
The track area itself is 70 meters X 40 meters (roughly 230 feet X 130 feet). The track is known to host 1/8-scale events, and will provide a LOT of track for 1/10-scale racing. From early photos of the track, the lanes are not as wide, and the track is not as long as I had anticipated, however, still considerably larger than most 1/10-scale tracks many of the drivers are accustom to. The layout features some technical rhythm sections and tricky switchbacks, but also features a full-length front straight and what appears to be a very fast right side to the track. With the mixture of both technical and high-speed sections, I foresee the racing being extremely close as it will put the test on both types of drivers; technical/precise and wide open/fast.
3) 4WD REVERSE
The track will be run in one direction for 2wd, and will be run in reverse for 4wd. This is an interesting twist as it requires a carefully planned track layout to be able to make this happen with no changes to jump faces and landings. I tend to believe that one way will flow and work better than the other. I personally do not like the idea of reversing the track direction, but I also understand the reasoning behind it – which I assume is to prevent an advantage for someone running both classes against someone who is only running 4wd and/or to simply “mix up” the competition for 4wd. Whether you like the idea of reversing the track or not, it will definitely make for some interesting racing, and will certain put the drivers brain to work as they must reverse all that they learned about the track in 2wd when it comes time to race 4wd.
4) SPEC TIRES
The dominant tire brands in America, and many places around the world, are Pro-Line, JConcepts, and AKA (in no particular order). These are the brands and treads that many drivers have the most experience with. This year’s spec tires are the Sweep Racing Tendroid in Extreme Soft compound. While many of the drivers have been testing and practicing for months using these tires in preparation, it is still somewhat of an unknown to many of them. Good or bad, different brand tires and treads all offer a different feel. The handling and feel of a tire that one driver likes, may be entirely the opposite of what another driver likes. Tires can often make or break a race, and with everyone on the same tires, some drivers will feel very comfortable while others will not. Within my top pick of drivers to win, none use or are sponsored by Sweep tires. Therefore, I believe the drivers who can change and adapt their driving to the conditions, rather than those who rely on perfect setup and tires to go fast, will excel in both classes.
5) 2013 CONTENDERS
While there is no denying the talent of the 2015 IFMAR World Championship finals lineup, I believe there this year’s Worlds will see a slightly different lineup of drivers in the finals. While it has become significantly more popular in America, carpet/turf off-road is still a bit of a novelty. Dirt, however, is still considered the “norm” for off-road on US soil (literally). I fully expect to see drivers such as Ryan Cavalieri, Dakotah Phend, Ty Tessmann, Ryan Maifield, Jared Tebo, and various other drivers who I consider more of “dirt specialists” running at the front of the pack in both classes. This does NOT mean I am counting out drivers such as Spencer Rivkin and Bruno Coelho (2015 champions), as I believe they too will be in the mix for the win, however, the 2015 turf lineup (primarily in 4wd) was missing a list of drivers that on dirt I believe should, could, and perhaps would have been in the finals.