In part 2 of this Euros preview we’ll take a look at some of the drivers & teams who we think will feature prominently at next week’s race.

So who’s hot?
At this early stage the usual suspects all look strong with Robert Batlle going into the event as most peoples’ favourite to win. Winner at the warm up and has had a great season so far; looking more like the Batlle of old before his comparatively unsuccessful stint with AE. The Mugen / Novarossi /ProCircuit combo seeming to suit him like a favourite t-shirt. Back in January he was quoted (slightly out of context) wanting to be #1 in a team, he is rightfully the #1 driver for Mugen, but with the likes of Willetts, Reckward, Hernandez, Baldo & Boero as team mates it’s a team of depth.

Dani Reckward topped practice at the warm up and looks set to lead the home nation charge, don’t be surprised to see Dani fired up for this event. TLR driver Darren Bloomfield is one to watch; on the crest of a wave having won his 2nd British Championship, 2nd at the warm up in May so in with a strong chance. Last year’s TQ Yannick Aigoin goes into this year’s Euros with a point to prove, his title challenge ebbed away last year after being dominant in qualifying. At the French nationals he’s put together a strong title challenge, however a slight off colour performance at the warm up leaves us with some uncertainty as to where Yannick ranks in terms of favourites. His brother Jerome has been going great all year, a win in Montpellier, strong showing at Neo11 and fighting for the French title with Yannick, but is Jerome version 2011 strong enough to close out a Euros win ? Martin Bayer will be looking to build on his podium finish in 2009, crowned 1/5th scale Euro champion will give him added confidence going into Sand. Running the same combo as Yannick bar tyres, questions remain about the nVision engine’s championship winning capabilities.

The standout name not mentioned up until now is the record-breaking three-time Euro champion Reno Savoya, he has endured a difficult first half 2011 with Team Durango. Its some time since we last saw him race so the front running pace may have returned but to claim a 4th consecutive title requires man and machine to be in perfect balance, something which doesn’t appear to be true at this point. Nonetheless expect Savoya to be super motivated, an opportunity to prove the critics wrong.
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If recent history is anything to go by it’s a case of Batlle vs. Savoya, each having featured in 7 Euro finals, in fact Reno’s record of always finishing better or equal is formidable – 7 consecutive Euro finals and not finished off the podium in the last 5 years. But times change. Robert has 7 final outings in total, the last man to win before Savoya got going, he’s finished 2nd twice 4th once and 6th in the last 5 years. Yannicktook his last Euro title in 2006, one of two, the first in 1998 – in most cases luck not going his way, he is a bit of quali specialist though, TQ’ing in 2005, 2006 & 2010. Another driver that has suffered at the hands of lady luck is Miguel Matias, despite this he has featured in 5 Euro finals in the last 10 years with an average finishing position of 2.8! He took his title in 2003 having led until the final lap in 2002, 2nd in 2006 and a popular 3rd last year in Portugal. The table aboe is pretty unscientific but quite interesting for those statistic nerds out there!

The Champions from 2003 – 2010
A few more to look out for
Jorn Neumann – Super fast at the 10th Worlds and on home soil
David Ronnefalk – Finalist in 2010 and aiming higher.
Neil Cragg – Back to winning ways but needs a drop of luck
Jerome Sartel – Getting to grips with his Agama nicely
Teemu Leino – Vying with JQ for best Finn, will probably take that prize!
Miguel Matias – A victory itself that he will be racing, but is he comfortable with THE Car ?
Elliott Boots – Worthy of a place in the final.
Borja Hernandez & Dani Vega – Both quick, could be dangerous if comfortable with their combos
Riccardo Rabitti – The class of Italia – can he transfer it to Euro success ?
Feldmann, Guschl, Guske, Keller – Some pretty quick German dudes!
Feschtschenko – The unpsellable surname!
Jeremy Pittet – Swiss gentleman with the cool retro Kyosho hat. Not bad racer either
Team Poland – Huge team! Will Maciek come out as top Pole ?
Bife, Monteiro, Duraes – The Portuguese Brat Pack.
Jiri Mara – XRAY/Hudy protégé, made the Euro warm up final, Czechmate!
Philippe Lachat – He’s back! What will he race ?

Whilst the main competition exists from driver to driver, national pride is at stake as well as the competition between manufacturers. For the past few years France has been the dominant force, and once again they look strong, but don’t discount the Spanish or German teams, Team GB has a strong group of guys at the top which could see them do well in the nations cup. We expect Czech Republic to do well, Martin Bayer leading the team with brother Ales, Jiri Mara, Marek not exactly slow. Italy like Sweden have finalist contenders at the forefront but perhaps lack the required depth for serious charges, but find themselves with more competition than previous years. In this respect Finland have potential to do well with Leino, Quagraine & Heinonen. Likewise part of this ‘midfield’ battle could be Austria the strong guys being Karner, Bauer, Heiss, Wollanka etc.

The teams The teams
Mugen: (Batlle, Reckward, Willetts, Hernandez, Boero, Baldo x2, Guske, Lattanzio, Gallo, Sandberg)
Having nominated Batlle as the pre-event favourite it’s clear much of Mugen’s hopes of taking title #5 rests with Robert Batlle. Expect Reckward to be quick, he knows how to win with three European titles. Willetts did well at the warm up, a strong contender to make the final. The rest of team remains a bit of an unknown quantity perhaps team manager John-Yves Ferte can propel them up the finishing order. The car works well at Sand, no reason not to be on the podium.

TLR: (Y Aigoin, M Bayer, Bloomfield, Rabitti, Keller, Käufler, Feldmann, Monteiro, Nilsson, Larsson, Lewis)
A team with drivers quite capable of occupying the Euro top 4, we picked out 3 TLR drivers as possible winners, Yannick will be hoping to turn last year’s disappointing result into some success whilst Bloomfield is on the crest of a wave at the moment, winning all the time at home.

Kyosho: (J Aigoin, Ronnefalk, Teghesi, Engelstatter, Cantoni, Svensson, Pittet, Robin)
10 years ago we’d need a some toilet roll to list all of Kyosho’s drivers, these days with more brands than ever Kyosho’s chances rest with Jerome Aigoin – revamped, reformatted and much improved, the speed was always there but maturity has come. Ronnefalk finished 6th last year and has the ability and confidence to challenge the top 3.

Team Durango: (Savoya, Neumann, Boots, Doughty, Brunsden)
Team Durango went on a shopping spree at the start of the year snapping up several high calibre drivers worldwide, leading the European team is Savoya followed closely by Neumann and Boots – all very much capable finalists, questions remain over the car’s competitiveness over the longer runs. US driver Ryan Lutz still looks to be the driver who can get the most out of this car. Unknown quantity.

XRAY: (Leino, Mara, Duraes, A Bayer, Sawyer, Frischkopf)
At the warmup XRAY did quite well with a standout performance from young Czech driver Jiri Mara, recently crowned Portuguese Champion Carlos Duraes is maturing steadily and should be aiming to make the final. Teemu Leino drives the team though, the understated Finn gets the job done.

Agama: (Vega, Sartel, Karner, Perin, Hazlewood, Bacro)
With their success at the ‘B’ Euros last month, the Agama team will aiming to get at least one car in the final, Vega & Sartel are both very quick and Jon Hazlewood (Captain Nemo) is enjoying his racing comeback more than ever. Quite a nicely balanced team with good drivers from the UK, France, Italy, Austria and Spain – the European team

Team Associated: (Cragg, Drescher, Bailey)
The departure of Batlle for this year will hit AE’s European hopes pretty hard, having said that Neil Cragg is a class driver, he just needs a bit of luck. AE seem to be the British team with the world famous team manager Admiral Craig Drescher steering battleship HMS Asso. Close to being one of the smaller-est teams now.

JQ Products: (Matias, JQ, Hardt, Heinonen, Medjoubi x2, Gomes)
Judging by his 10th Offroad Worlds performance JQ should be driving a Durango car, he seems to excel whenever at the wheel of a ‘Rango’, anyhow, the Euros is a bit of a test all eyes will be on lead drivers Miguel Matias & JQ to see where they can end up. We know from history if Miguel makes it to the main he usually does quite well; getting a car into the main would be a good result after a challenging time since the release of THE Car.

Serpent: (Alberto Garcia, Rodrigo Luis, Brunsberg, Ekenstierna)
Both Spaniard Alberto Garcia & Rodrigo Luis of Portugal made last year’s Euro final albeit with different cars, whilst not considered ‘bankable’ final contenders, they excelled in the tricky conditions that the Guarda track threw at them. We think it’ll be a four-way fight between the 1/8 newbies Serpent, JQ, Durango & Agama as to who gets the best result. At the end of the day Serpent could be considered underdogs.

The smaller teams
We’ve looked at the big boys but there are several other brands with drivers who could feature. Starting off with the unpredictable Richi Gomez, driving Crono we believe for this event. A driver with buckets of talent and continues to spring surprise results. Don’t forget Nuno Casal Ribiero of Portugal either! HoBao appear to have a one driver per continent strategy (Kortz USA, Tortorici Europe & Josh Pain Australasia), but whatever works. Tortorici remains a legend for his two mesmerising Euro wins of ’04 & ’05. Hot Bodies driver Graham Alsop – always fast at home yet to show his true pace in Europe though, Hot Bodies secret weapon in the form of John Holmes could be one to watch, he’s had a fantastic season so far back home. Hobbytech’s Nicolas Rodriguez could be feisty, a driver with a strong track record in Europe, he’s been quick at home and now on ProCircuit rubber he should be fast. LRP’s hopes rest with German driver Philipp Guschl, qualifying 7th at the Euro warm up suggests he has the pace to push some of the front runners.

So thats what we have to say, what do you think ? Vote in our driver poll tomorrow!