One of the hottest topics of debate going into this year’s Worlds is practice – specifically the option of unlimited practice on the same layout that would be used for the main event. October 1st the track opened with it’s fresh new layout, and three weeks later on October 22nd the track closed. In those 22 days the track was lapped a many tens of thousands of times – as a result those drivers were able to gain invaluable setup knowledge, track knowledge, corner-time and above all spend time testing and perfecting all those things. During the ‘practice period’ we received quite a few emails from notable drivers who were disappointed with the situation: 40+ Worlds competitors will likely have a huge advantage over the 140 drivers who arrive to a track they have either never run on or not to the degree of several hundreds of laps. Suggestions of a ‘two-tier’ Championship have been mentioned; the winner of the drivers who went to practice and ‘the best of the rest’ – those who went with no practice. It will be interesting to see if there is evidence between two similar calibre drivers, one who has practiced and one who hasn’t.

The Serpentine-like warm up track

You may think how much do you gain over 600 laps vs. 50 laps experience? The key here is the difficulty of the Pattaya track, one quote in particular stands out by favourite to win Jared Tebo, “It took the best drivers in the world 200 – 300 laps to be able to run 5 minutes clean”. A track where it takes the absolute best that long to find the right lines and drive smooth cannot be taken lightly and may end up being a key factor in qualifying and even the finals.
Normal practice once a Worlds is announced is to organise a ‘warm up race’, this was held in February on a car-killing layout – those drivers who had prepared sported metal front & rear skid plates to protect the chassis from the abrasive surface. Indeed many of the top teams have beefed up shock towers and chassis for the main Worlds; Kyosho have prepared a steel front lower suspension block – tough enough to withstand the punishment. The warm up was TQ’d by Canadian Ty Tessmann, he was out front in the 60 min final until problems hit, this process was repeated for a number of drivers until Thailand’s Meen Vejrak managed to take the win. Local knowledge and decent driving abilities will aid the team from Thailand. Whether the worlds layout will be ‘as’ hard on cars as the warm up we won’t know until a few days in, IFMAR has a strict policy on chassis changes – they must be approved; could we be seeing towers of dirty and warped aluminium chassis’ in the pits ? Only time will tell.
Tune in next week for Full Worlds Coverage