I’m all back from Spain now and wanted to share my trip. Thanks so much to Miguelo, David, Laura, and Pablo from the BuggyLand staff for setting up my trip and taking great care of me. I flew into Madrid, Spain on Thursday morning, got picked up and headed to the track. When I arrived to the track, Miguelo was packing the track and making some final touches on it. I was surprised to see all the elevation change and just the size of the track, it looked amazing, I was excited to get out there.
Practice would start on Friday morning and we would get four runs on the track with each class, 1/8 Nitro Buggy and 1/8 Electric Buggy, with the first two sessions just being timed, and then the second two being used as seeding runs for qualifying.
My first few runs on the track were not too great, the track was very fast and pretty high traction, as they put down sugar on the track and had it hard packed. All during the day, I would change my car for each run, but I was also getting used to the track. All the top European drivers were there, Robert Batlle, Elliot Boots, David Ronnefalk, Davide Ongaro, Ricardo Berton, Juan Carlos Canas, Joao Figueiredo, and the Baldo brothers, so I was not going to have an easy time, I needed to learn this style of track and get much faster. I got better each run, and I seeded 7th in Nitro and 11th in Electric, not great, but much better than it started.
Qualifying would be on Saturday and we would get four rounds of qualifying and then run the first set of Electric mains in the evening. The track was looking much different as the track crew watered the track during the night and fixed a few sections that were breaking apart. With the sugar that was on the track, the water kinda washed it away and made for a much looser and dusty surface to start qualifying.
Q1 : Electric would be first. I wasn’t sure about the track conditions, so tire choice was going to be key. The weather was also much cooler in the mornings, and wouldn’t really warm up until noon time. I decided to go with AKA Soft Zipps, but I think that choice was not great. The traction was way down compared to practice, and there was too much dust for Zipps. My run wasn’t great, I would finish 11th. Nitro was next, I learned from Electric, made a couple changes to my Kyosho MP9 and also switched to AKA Soft Impacts. My run was pretty good and I was much fester than in Electric, finishing in 5th.
Q2 : The track was getting much more clean, the track crew swept the whole track after Q1 to have a cleaner racing line for the rest of qualifying. I decided to go again with S Zipps, and this time they were good. I had a much better Electric qualifier and finished 6th. For Nitro I decided to try Long Wear Soft Impacts, the track was super fast, so the long wear compound gave good support, but I thought the more open tread of the Impact would be better than the tighter tread of a Double Down or Zipp. I had my best run so far, finally a fully clean run and finished 3rd behind Boots and Ongaro.
Q3 : I was gaining some confidence now and feeling much better around the amazing BuggyLand track. I threw on the same tires off my Nitro buggy onto my Electric buggy and had another great run. The track was still in a weird state though, the groove was cleaner, more similar to practice, but the over laptime was still slower compared to practice. The traction was still down some. The AKA Long Wear Soft Impacts were good, and I had a good run, battling with Ronnefalk on the track for most of the heat. The race had zero announcing in English, and they never announced the drivers names, so I never knew what position I was in during any of the races. This was actually my first ever race with no english announcing at all, it was very different. Back to the race … I had a clean run, bobbled slightly on my last lap, but I was happy. After the race, I looked at the computer screen, I was 2nd, only 0.01 of a second back from Ongaro. The top 6 positions were separated by only 0.9 of a second! For Nitro I put back on the same set of S Zipps I used in Q1 and Q2 of Electric. I had a really good run and again was surprised to come off the drivers stand to see I was 2nd, only 0.3 of a second behind Boots.
Q4 : My confidence was good now and I finally had some good speed. My outright speed, fastest lap, was still a touch off, but I was driving more consistent than my competition. I decided to run AKA LWS DoubleDown in Q4 with both cars. In both I had decent runs, but had a few little mistakes here and there, and some drivers really picked up their pace, I finished 4th in both. I was happier after qualifying than practice, but I still needed more raw speed and a faster pace for the finals.
Nitro : Q1, 5th : Q2 : 3rd, Q3, 2nd : Q4, 4th : Overall 3rd
Saturday night we would have A1 for Electric. The temperature went down quite a bit, but I was thinking the track would still have good traction. My main focus was nitro, and I thought I would need to run Zipps for the 1 hour long final, so I wanted to run Zipps in electric to get used to the feel. I ran Long Wear Soft.
A1 : My car felt good in the 1 lap warm up, grip seemed to be pretty high. I started 7th and had a good start, passing one car and feeling decent. Shortly after that I think I tangled with another car and then got shuffled back in the pack. The track being so fast, it was not easy to race with other cars and drive close without contact. I fought in the back of the pack for the rest of the main and finished 10th. I was pretty bummed with A1, but I thought my car was better and my pace seemed faster.
Sunday would start out with A2 and A3 for Electric. The schedule would be crazy as we had A2, A3, then Semi Practice, Semi, and the Nitro Final. With no mechanic and always making some changes to my cars, glueing tires, I barely had time to breathe each day.
A2 : This final would not go as planned either, as I would make some mistakes and drop back into the pack some. I would finish in 8th, but a driver got a penalty after the race, so I finished 7th officially.
A3 : Ongaro won A1 and A2 very convincingly, so the he would not start A3. I had a better race in A3, but my pace was still slow. I was able to drive mistake free and drive good under severe pressure from drivers with a better pace. I was in 4th going into the final corner, but the two cars in front of me, 2nd and 3rd, Canas and Batlle, tangled and I passed Batlle to finish 3rd and that gave me 7th overall.
After A3 it was time to fully focus on Nitro Buggy. We would have a 10 minute Semi practice, then a 20 minute semi. I would start 2nd in Semi A as I qualified 3rd overall. Practice went pretty good and my pace was decent. The traction was higher than the day previous, but still down just a little compared to practice. Tire wear would be an issue, so I was planning to run a tight tread pattern, DoubleDown or Zipp. Only had a few tires in Long Wear Medium, and that was the compound that would be best.
Semi A : I mounted Long Wear Medium DoubleDown tires and my car felt good. I started in 2nd and ran pretty close to Boots for the majority of the final. I was pitting a few laps after Boots and I would take over the lead briefly during the pit stops. I was able to drive completely mistake free until right before my final pit stop. I crashed on the track, then bobbled exiting the pit lane. That would cost me around 10 seconds total, but I remained in 2nd. Boots would set the fastest overall Semi time and start 1st, with my mistakes in the final 5 minutes I would lose some positions on the grid and start 5th.
Final : For the Final I decided to run Long Wear Medium Zipps as my DoubleDowns had some wear after the 20 minute Semi, and the Final would be 1 hour. Boots would crash on lap 1 and I would move into 4th, and my pace seemed ok early into the race. After the first pit stop, I was going 8:30, with most of the lead drivers pitting at 7:30, my pace seemed to slow down, or the top drivers started to drive faster. I had some battles with Ronnefalk, but he pulled away from me, and I also battled with Berton and was able to pull away from him. I drove most of the final in 6th, but Robert Batlle had a flame out while running 2nd or 3rd. I didn’t realize that had happened and we were battling at the end of the race, but I thought he was a lap ahead. I would let him pass me, then our pit strategy seemed different, he would be behind me again, and I would let him pass. The race was not announced in english, so I didn’t know my position until after the race. On the final lap, Robert would flame out again and I would finish 5th. When I got down off the drivers stand, my pit guys were trying to tell me that I was racing with Robert, stop letting him pass. Whoops. Thanks so much to Alejandro and Jorge for the pitting in the final, they did a great job. My Kyosho teammate Elliot Boots drove an amazing final to crash lap 1 and come through the pack to win fairly easily. I was just about 2 laps down to Boots after the 1 hour, and I wasn’t too happy with my final.
Monday, myself, Elliot Boots, and David Ronnefalk would stay one day after, and we had some fun hanging out together. Our friend Pablo came and picked us up to take us to downtown Madrid. We walked around some, and then Boots had a genius idea to take a Segway tour. We took a 1 hour tour, the guide spoke good english, we learned some cool facts about the city, and got to tear through the city on Segways. Boots was the only person that had been on a Segway before, but we all caught on quick and had a blast!
After we finished, Pablo dropped us off back at our hotel. We all then took a cab over to Carlos Sainz indoor carting track where we met with Daniel Vega, old school 1/8 racer and awesome guy. We did 3 sessions and had a blast. We got to drive session 1 with just us three, myself, Boots, Ronnefalk. Session 2 we had 2 other drivers with us, but it wasn’t too bad. The 3 of us were much faster and we were setting the fastest times on the day by quite a bit. I was fastest in session 1 and 2, but we were all within a few tenths each run. Session 3 we would have 4 or so other drivers and it was a mess. Of course … racers are racers … put that helmet on, it gets real! We all wanted to be fastest in the final session, but we were getting held up pretty bad and some rough driving would come into play. Both David and I got stop and goes and they were trying to reprimand us, but they only spoke spanish, and both of us didn’t. We finally got freed and I was super mad, so I set my fastest time and got into the fastest 30 overall times 🙂
Overall, my trip to Spain was great, met with some great friends, got to drive on a new track, made new friends, had a great time. I wish I could have raced a little better, but I gave it all I had and worked hard for my finishes. I think I went the wrong way on setup, and I just wasn’t able to get fast laps. I struggled in practice getting used to the track, mainly driving bad, so I changed my car a lot to make it easier for me to drive. I think that hurt me the most, as in the end, my car was too easy to drive and too slow. Hopefully I can come back next year and challenge the Euro’s more for the win.
Thanks again to Miguelo Izquirdo and the whole BuggyLand staff for making the trip possible, to David Benito for driving me all around, pitting for me in practice and qualifying, translating everything for me, Alejandro Daras Anton and Jorge Revert for pitting for me in the Final, all my fans, my family, and my great sponsors : Kyosho, MX racing, Team Orion, AKA, KO Propo, GS Hobby, JTP, BoomRC, TD Paint, Lunsford, MIP, and Fastlane Raceway.
Track and racing pictures thanks to neobuggy.net
Thanks for reading, God Bless, and see you at the next race!