So after adverse weather conditions up-ended our initial event schedule here in Austria, today saw our 50-strong driver grid take to the circuit at 9.00am for the first DMEC qualifying session in almost an entire year (thanks COVID-19) to see who would come up top trumps heading into Top 32 Battles … and unfortunately, who would be heading back to the pits to prepare for Round 2 action tomorrow.
After getting plenty of practice yesterday and some additional runs this morning, our drivers’ intent was obvious from the get-go with extremely high-scoring runs right the way throughout. Ultimately, however, the Norwegian Sledgehammer, Tor Arne Kvia would be the one smiling the widest at lunchtime as he topped the leaderboard with an incredible score of 97.00 on his second qualifying run to put him 3 points ahead of the newly-second placed Jack Shanahan, who in turn was 1 point ahead of Polish driver and firm fan-favourite Piotr Wiecek with a score of 93.00.
One special mention definitely needs to go to another Polish driver in the form of Grzegorz Hypki who, after suffering catastrophic engine failure yesterday, managed to source and swap in a brand new engine overnight and made it into Top 32 battles having made it back from the dyno with just seconds to go before he would have missed his second qualifying run, of course having missed his first one.
Top 32 action then saw us switch from broadcasting on our DMEC Facebook Page over to Red Bull TV for the duration of the remainder of the weekend and those witnessing the action (whether in person, or live on Red Bull TV) were treated once again to the sort of action DMEC is known the world over for. An unfortunate moment of the Top 32 though, saw both Christian Erlandsson and Stavros Grillis fail to complete their battle on the second run. The decision would go back to the first run which saw Greek youngster Grillis progress, but with differential failure being the cause of his issues, he wouldn’t be able to move on and show us the exciting driving style we had, until that point, been seeing all weekend long.
Top 16 started with somewhat of a shock exit for top qualifier Tor Arne Kvia, who was deservedly overcome by Finnish fast-man Juha Rintanen. At the other side of the bracket then after an incredibly tough overnight engine change, an all-Polish battle would see Grzegorz Hypki taken down and pushed out of competition by fellow countryman Piotr Wiecek.
Naturally Top 8 competition would see the craziest battles we were yet to see. Despite looking like the fastest driver on the planet, Rintanen would be pushed out of competition by Conor Shanahan in his new GT86. Adam Zalewski would also progress, overcoming Lithuanian driver Benediktas Cirba. Moving to the other side Jack Shanahan would ensure at least 1 Shanahan would be taking home a trophy by pipping Oliver Randalu to a Top 4 place, before Piotr Wiecek blasted by French-man Axel Francois to leave 2 Irish and 2 Polish drivers in the Top 4!
And then, MAJOR DRAMA! In an all GT86 battle, Conor Shanahan would cement himself a place in the final against Polishman Adam Zalewski in his new car’s first outing. Meanwhile in the pits, however, Jack Shanahan and his entire crew were struggling to overcome an issue with a wheel to make his way to his Top 4 battle with Piotr Wiecek, in what was some of the craziest and most dramatic footage DMEC has ever seen. If you missed it, make sure you watch it back on Red Bull TV! Eventually though, Jack would make it to the line … but the pace of Wiecek would prove too much for Jack to handle, seeing the Polishman progress to the final and Jack slotting himself into the Play-Off.
That wasn’t the end of the drama though. On the second run of the play-off battle, Adam Zalewski would get struck down by an extremely unlucky de-beaded tyre that would put an end to what had, up until that point, been an incredible battle.
And then there were two! Shanahan vs. Wiecek. New car vs. well known machinery. It all came down to 2 runs but right from the off, the pace of Wiecek would prove unmatchable for Irish youngster Shanahan. Conor’s newly built Toyota GT86 is undoubtedly an incredible build, but the power difference between the 2 cars would see Polishman Piotr put himself on the top spot of the podium and put Poland at the top of the Nations Cup standings after Round 1 is said and done.
So, that’s been a little wrap-up of today’s incredible action but remember, we are only HALF-WAY through this weekend’s action. We go back at it again tomorrow morning from 9.00am local Austrian time, when Round 2 Qualifying kicks off at the PS Racing Center here in Greinbach. Make sure you set those alarms, get up early in the morning and tune in LIVE on Red Bull TV.