Neil Cragg Wins World Championships with his Team Associated B4!
Every two years the best offroad drivers gather together to compete for the IFMAR 1/10th Scale Electric Offroad World Championship. This year's event took place in Collegno, a suburb of Torino, Italy. With its close proximity to the mountains, Torino will be the site of the upcoming 2006 Winter Olympics and is famous for its riverside strip of nightclubs and bars. Having already competed in the Warm-Up event a few months prior, all the major teams had an idea of what to prepare for regarding the surface and conditions, the only wildcard would be the unpredictable summer rain.
As the teams arrived in Italy, old friends and rivalries were rekindled. Some teams and drivers finished final prep work on their vehicles, while others chose to take in some local sites. Numerous drivers found their way to the Ferrari museum for a slice of Italian history, while others toured the countryside in their diesel-powered rental vehicles, taking in the sights.
As practice began for the 2WD portion of the event, it was clear that the competition would be extremely close. Throughout practice certain drivers were able to run an extremely quick pace, but would have difficulty maintaining that pace due to the inconsistent Italian track surface. As qualifying began, Team Associated drivers Ryan Cavalieri, Neil Cragg and Ryan Maifield battled for the top three grid positions while the other seven places in the main were up for grabs. Heading in to the fifth and final round of qualifying only the top five drivers in the main were guaranteed an A-Main position. The battle for fifth through fifteenth was on! With some clutch performances, Associated drivers Dave Montgomery and Atsushi Hara vaulted in to the A-final to join the other five Associated B4s to set the stage for a dominant performance. Just missing the A-final were Associated/Reedy drivers Paul Bradby and Peter Pinisch.
As the first of the triple A mains kicked off, Ryan Cavalieri jumped out to an early lead with Neil Cragg in tow. A tangle between third place qualifier Ryan Maifield and fourth place qualifier Jared Tebo collected the field and allowed tenth qualifier Atsushi Hara to clear the pile up and come on in third position for the first lap. As time ticked off the clock, Cavalieri and Cragg put some distance on Hara and battled for the first A-Main victory. At the finish line Cavalieri squeaked out the victory by only a few inches over Cragg to gain the advantage going in to A2.
The second A Main started much cleaner than the first as the drivers completed the first lap in perfect qualifying order. An uncharacteristic mistake by Cavalieri over the triple on the first lap gave Cragg the lead and dropped Cavalieri back to second with Maifield and Tebo close in tow. A few laps later Cavalieri again had problems over the triple jump and this allowed Cragg and Maifield to clear the field and race for the win. With a minute to go, Cragg crashed and collected Maifield. After the marshal Maifield was in the lead with Cragg right behind. With thirty seconds to go, Maifield got hung up on a pipe and Cragg drove by for the win. After a rough race, Cavalieri secured third in A2 setting, the stage for a showdown in A3.
Walking through the pits before the final A-main event there was a buzz about the battle about to take place for the World Championship. Cavalieri was confident, Cragg was relaxed, and Maifield needed a win and some help the claim the title.
The start of A3 was very similar to A2, clean and in perfect qualifying order. Four minutes into the race, the top three were still running in qualifying order. A slight miscalculation by Cragg caused him to roll over and lose two seconds to Cavalieri. Driving like a man possessed, Cragg caught back up to Cavalieri and uncharacteristically Cavalieri crashed and collected Cragg. As the marshal sorted out the pile, Maifield and Easton closed in to join the battle for the lead. Cragg was now only a few feet ahead of Cavalieri who had a few feet on Maifield. As the drivers approached the center chicane/carpet section Cavalieri pushed his car a bit too hard and flipped after catching the pipe. With only two laps remaining Cragg had to only drive around the track and maintain his position ahead of Cavalieri to claim the World Championship. As Cragg crossed the line, the fans erupted in cheers for the multi-time European Champion who had just won his first World Championship.
Congratulations to all the competitors and "thank you" to AF Models for a superb event.