2004 1/12th Euros – Awesome racing without the smell, but with some controversy.
The 2004 Euro?s are now in the history books and I was lucky enough to be a part of it. The event was hosted by the ?Speed Freaks? in Kapfenberg, Austria and held within a sports complex in this small, quaint village in Austria.
Upon arriving in Austria, Calandra Racing Concept?s European Team Manager, Robert Bachofner, greeted me at the Vienna airport. When I think of Austria, I think of downhill skiing; Innsbruck, Kitzbule and Hans Klammer. The road to Kapfenberg absolutely confirmed my TV painted pictures of Austria. Huge mountains with snow near the top and very twisty roads were the order of the day as we ventured to the circuit.
When we arrived, the host club was laying out the 100 x 50 race track on the floor of a hockey arena. The grey carpet racing surface was to be marked and outlined with green carpet. The circuit used three different sized ?dots? or plow discs in conjunction with the green felt and very few boards to separate and layout the turns. The result was an extremely easy track on bodies as very few times did driving errors turn into board crashing. The lanes were 2 meters wide and the quick laps for the 1/12th modified cars were 14+ seconds. The drivers stand (or rostrum in Europe) was very high with adequate space for 12 drivers. The pitting space was massive, the remaining part of the hockey arena served as ample space for working on the cars and truing tires.
The race format at the Euros is very rigid and allows for LOTS of track time. Admittedly, with only 75 entries, it is easier to schedule in track time but American race organizers could learn a thing or 2 about this rigid structure. Races were on time and track time was more than ample. Five practices, 6 rounds of qualifying, one practice main and triple main events. You had to charge batteries continuously and be ready, no ?minute?s grace? here. Needless to say, excellent race management. One of the most interesting aspects about the Euros for me was the lack of wintergreen or smelling traction additives. At the beginning of practice, the grip was non-existent. I desperately wanted to spray wintergreen mist on the surface as we do at CRC?s test track to speed up the grip level. But, every time I said the word ?wintergreen? at the Euro?s I got some very strange and sometimes dirty looks.
In time, the grip level rose to a ?decent? level. The 9 turn powered 1/12th cars were slithering around the tight but fast circuit with a good degree of precision. In fact, after day number 1, I almost forgot about the super high bite tracks and wintergreen hangovers of US based carpet racing. The grip was good and the air was fresh.
Pretty awesome to say the least! The battle was primarily between 4 cars. David Spashett was the favorite. The Corally boys of Sakke and Simo Ahoniemi and CRC?s own Hubert Honigl, fondly known as “Hupo”. In the first A-main, the fabulous four broke away with Sakke forcing his was past David. I think forcing is a mild word, but let?s call it forcing. David made a few charges but continuous battles with Sakke let Simo get away and Hupo sneak by for second.
The second final was incredible and a bit unbelievable. David leads with Simo, Sakke and Hupo close. The 4 break away and begin to do some passing. Hupo is stalking with his Carpet Knife right on Sakke?s tail. No tapping, no forcing, Hupo is waiting patiently. Sakke is pushing hard. Sake and Simo get it all wrong coming onto the straight and in a perfect pass, Hupo blows by the bobbling brothers. Hupo goes to second to challenge David for the lead. Sakke recovers quickly for 3rd. Not 3 turns later, Sakke hacks Hupo out of the way and out of the race. Hupo breaks his rollover antenna and must retire. I must say that this type of pass at this level was uncalled for. Hupo followed Sakke for laps and only passed when the driver in front bobbled. His reward for that patience was an immediate hack within one lap. In the altercation Simo gets by for second and Sakke trails in 3rd. David has a moment getting in trouble allowing Sakke to second.
Now this is the really wacky part of final #2…. David is now struggling a bit and falls back some 25 feet. Meanwhile, up front it is Sakke beginning to close on Simo. Now if Simo wins this final, the Euros are over. Simo wins. Corally wins. Sakke relentlessly pursues his brother, pushing the younger brother very hard. The pace is fast with David still about 25 feet back. With considerable experience racing my own brother, I am thinking ?Why is Sakke not easing up, falling back letting Simo win for Corally, win for his brother?” Maybe Sakke could strategically slow David?s pace letting Simo conserve batteries and secure the victory. In stead, Sakke is poking his car under, around and all over brother Simo. Simo is driving extremely hard to hold the lead and the get win he needs to capture the overall victory. David is now closing the gap as these 2 battle, compromising their racing lines. Time runs out with the ?finish the lap you are on” command given. On that last lap, Simo dumps big time and is slowing. Sakke is desperately trying to find a way past his slower brother. Simo, even though he is dumping and has his brother and teammate behind him, blocks and holds his line. Sakke has no where to go and creams him handing over the victory to David. It is so strange, first Sakke pushes like crazy then Simo stays in the racing line?. hhhhmmmm?? I think it was a full 15 minutes after the main before all the people could believe what just took place. In any case, some pretty ?strange? driving from some very talented drivers. A quick glance at Corally owner Constant Paul looked like he may have aged 10 years in that 8 minute run
|In the final main, anyone of the four could win, but Simo and David had the best chance with race victories. Hupo and Sakke held second place finishes and need victories for a chance. The four again broke away. This time however, Bernard Bopp managed to keep his CRC Carpet Knife in touch with the Fab Four. Each of the drivers had some bobbles. The pressure was intense. Hupo really had some poor luck as one of the Ahoniemi brothers bobbled caught Hupo up and cost some time. Just when Honigl recovered from that incident, Spashett bobbled on the chicane leading onto the straight sending Hupo off the track onto the concrete. In any case, this main was not good for neither Hupo nor David. Sakke went on to win with a dumping Simo holding on for second. David in 3rd and Hupo forth with Bopp fifth. The overall win would go to Simo with Sake again missing out on the win. I was made aware after the event that Sakke has placed second at this event some 9 years straight.
In summary, what an event! The highlights were the perfect circuit and track layout. The clever use of green felt and some dots with very few boards led to a track that is very easy on body shells and spare parts. The race schedule allowed for tons of track time and the triple main format for even us non A-main?ers was great. The low points of the race? the race announcing is non-existent! BORING! Come on Europe!, get some spectators, get a good announcer and liven things up a bit. The announcer sounded like the grim reaper 2 minutes to go? in broken English. Come on, the races were exciting, with a few spectators and a good announcer, it would have been crazy during the mains. Another low point was the amount of forced passes in the first 2 finals. Those guys are too talented for that type of rough driving. I was surprised the officials did not step in with penalties. One stop and go penalty would have gone a long way to prevent the next hack move from happening.
And lastly, the non-smelling tire additive issue. It is a great idea BUT until you can ENFORCE the limited additive rule, it is a waste of time. You have no way to tell other than smell what additives were being used. I have a strong feeling that a number of competitors were mixing or running additives that were NOT legal. You have no way to enforce the rule, get rid of the rule or change the way we put additive on. May I suggest a method in which you put on your traction additive in technical inspection area.
For example, cars come to technical inspection with DRY tires. There, the racer can put on the race legal additive while waiting to go to the track. No cars come or leave tech with wet tires. Tech opens the moment the race previous starts. Competitors are allowed to apply additive while they are waiting in tech. The cans of additive stay in tech. Tires come into tech in a dry condition, additive is applied in secure area, no cans are allowed in or out. There are 10 cans of additive in tech and they are rotated randomly. This should reduce the flagrant violation of the controlled additive rule. What do you say EFRA, step up to the plate and make the additive rule one you can enforce?
Other than those small issues, what a race! Thanks for a great show.