The warm-up for this years IFMAR World Championship 1/10 Nitro Touring Car was held in Houston, Texas at the beginning of March. For Team Shepherd it was quite an important event as it was the real first test with the team under race conditions with our latest development, the Velox V10, against other international top drivers. As announced before, Shepherd’s team drivers Jilles Groskamp, Daniele Ielasi and Josh Cyrul joined the factory staff around Patrick Schäfer to prepare for this years major event in July.
Unfortunately the team had to deal with some travel issues like missed and canceled flights, but on Thursday finally everybody was ready at the track and the first practice sessions already looked very promising. The team tested the soon to be released spool as a replacement for the front differential and all drivers liked it very much. During qualifying it was difficult to get a clean run because the racing line was very narrow on this challenging track but nevertheless 3 Shepherd drivers made it into the top ten. Daniele Ielasi qualified directly for the 1 hour final on 3rd position, Jilles Groskamp just missed the direct qualification on the 5th position and Patrick Schäfer ended up on 10th position. As Josh Cyrul still had to break in his engine during qualifying he had to start in the quarter-final.
On Saturday the lower finals were scheduled, but as there were only two 1/8th finals, the rest of the day the track was open for free practice. Everybody took the chance to prepare for the finals and some setup changes were tested. On Sunday the first driver to run was Josh Cyrul. He had no problems to bump up to the semi-final where he joined Patrick Schäfer starting from the 3rd position. The start of the semi-final was a mess and in the first corner some accidents happened. Unfortunately Patrick was hit by another car from the rear and had to get the assistance of a marshal. Accidentally the marshal pushed the body behind the rear wheel and Patrick had to enter the pit lane to get some help from his mechanic Alex. Having not finished the first lap he was already 2 laps down on the rest of the field. Josh had a good start and was able to climb some positions in the ranking. Both cars were fast and Patrick was able to recover to the 3rd place during the next 20 minutes. But when returning to the track after his penultimate pit stop somebody putted a car in his way at the end of the pit lane and he crashed his V10 irreparably. Josh had more luck as he was able to bump up to the main final on a safe 2nd position.
In the second semi-final Jilles Groskamp started from the first position. After a safe drive he finished the 30 minutes race on 2nd place and joined Daniele and Josh in the final. With three cars Shepherd had the most cars in the final of all manufacturers. To gain as much experience as possible the team decided to try to different strategies. Daniele and Josh started the race with only one set of tyres prepared, Jilles Groskamp planned to do a tyre stop.
Also in the final the start was a disaster. Daniele could take profit from a start crash of Burch and Tosolini took the early lead. Josh had a clean start but Jilles lost a screw and it took nearly 3 minutes to repair his car. Soon Paolo Morganti passed Daniele but he knew that Paolo would have to do a tyre stop. Meanwhile Josh Cyrul improved to the third position right behind Daniele. After the tyre stop of Morganti two Shepherd drivers were leading the race. Unfortunately both couldn’t cross the finishing line in first position. 10 minutes before the end Josh was pushed into the boards by another car and broke his rim while Daniele had a flame out and lost a lot of time. At the end he finished in third position behind Paolo Morganti and Ralph Burch.
Although none of our drivers could claim the victory It was a great week of racing with 3 cars in the main final and Daniele on the podium. The team worked together very well and a lot of good ideas came up. As also the facility was nice and the organizer staff very friendly, we are looking forward to a great World Championship July.