September 13, 2022

Coelho “less prepared” but “there to fight” to retain ISTC World Championship

In 2014, the world unearthed a then mostly unheard of young Portuguese driver.  Initially it was the wiring on his car that had the internet buzzing, but as the ISTC World Championship in Kissimmee progressed people started to realise this guy was something a bit special as he started mixing it with Touring Car’s elite. RedRC actually knows Bruno Coelho a lot longer than most of the current crop of top drivers.  His father Cesar was responsible for organising the 2008 Nitro Touring Car World Championships in Lisbon and was a great host to us as we report on the event with Bruno this slightly wild kid jumping around in the background.

As he explained so well in a great video interview with JConcepts’ Jason Ruona at the 2019 1:10 Offroad Worlds, the 2014 ISTC World Championship was a do or die trip for him and his father.  They came to impress and get Bruno factory support. I remember his father asking if we could give his impressive performance in the event an extra push in our coverage because if he didn’t get recognition his racing was finished.  Bruno I am sure would have done the same only at the time his English was minimal but like his driving he’s a quick learner!  Luckily for the world of RC, Florida wouldn’t be the last time we would see Bruno.  Finishing 2nd behind Naoto Matsukura as the multiple 1:12 World Champion took his first ISTC title, Bruno had impressed enough people. Driving an Xray, the Slovakian manufacturer secured his services to put one of our sport’s greatest all round racers to work winning races around the world including a 1:10 4WD Offroad World title.

Back in 2016 with full factory support and the World ready to see him win the title, the week in Beijing couldn’t have started any better. In qualifying Bruno took 5 of the six qualifiers. Your Top Qualifier drove into the distance to win A1. Just 5 minutes separated him from the ultimate dream but he would learn in A2 that World titles are lost a lot easier than they are won. Leading, he would roll his car handing Ronald Volker a sniff at his first World title.  The pressure in A3 was intense, one guy with all to loose, one guy with everything to gain.  The pressure of failure was too much and Volker took home the trophy.  Such disappointment makes you stronger and since then it is clear to see Bruno is better at handling such pressure – he is older and wiser.  South Africa was a good example, Volker out-qualified him but he played cool in he finals to set up an excellent pass on the German, the duo having previously had their fare share of overtake incidents. 

Having had to wait twice as long as normal to defend that title as the world shutdown in 2020, Bruno knows he is the driver with the biggest target on his back this week. Coming into the 11th running of the ISTC Worlds having spent the last week representing Xray with 6th at the 1:8 Offroad World Championship in Spain, he has little time to turn himself back into a touring car driver.  While all his rivals have been solely focused on the precision driving required for touring car, Bruno has had to quickly reset his brain. A flight cancellation that meant he arrived to hook up with his mechanic Francesco Martini a day later than planned.  Talking to him over the phone between practice runs at the Lucca track in Italy the day before the World’s commences, he found the first run of the morning “a weird experience”.  After a week of jumping his way round a dirt track “the asphalt now seems too flat”.  He added, “everything happens super fast and you think with the speed the car is not going to make the corner but it’s all good”.

Admitting he feels the pressure coming into the event, he believes ‘nerves are a good thing as they make more focused”. He explained, “The pressure is always there – the World Championship is not a normal race. Everyone wants to win it and wants to put the Title on their portfolio”.  Not wanting to take from his World title, Bruno does agree that defending it will be harder this time. “There were less entries in South Africa but racing Volker it was still difficult, remember he took the TQ.  It going to be more difficult this time, we haven’t raced together for a long time and there will be more people in the flight in Gubbio”.

Explaining that his 2022 race program has included “a lot of Offroad and less Onroad than before” he admits, “we are less prepared than previous years”. He continued, ‘before we had TITC, ETS and other big races to gauge our pace against the others so we came to Worlds 100% prepared and ready.  This year our focus was Offroad and we did very few touring car races and many of the ones we did didn’t have many top drivers there”.

Asked about his relationship with his mechanic Francesco, one very reminiscent to that of Ronald Volker and Yukijiro Umino, he said, “Franci is not just my mechanic on a professional level, we really are friends and away from the track we share a lot of the same interests outside of RC. We really our best friends who enjoy working together at the track”.  A duo that go hand in hand at touring car races, Bruno said they only had a conservation over dinner when he eventually arrived in Nice about how they have had very little time working together this year except for the European Championship.  “Unfortunately we didn’t race much, we had no ETS and Offroad races meant the focus is not on touring car like previous years”.  This he said means they don’t start the race with the same experience, but he was quick to add they are “there to fight and get the best possible result”.

In terms of his car, he said they did test some prototype parts at the MonacoRC Race of Champions which did improve the car but they were not big changes and overall the car is largely unchanged from the Euros.  Having race the 200mm World Championship in 2016 when he just missed the podium he agrees Gubbio is ‘kind of a nitro track” but he is very comfortable on it.  Unfortunately IFMAR rules insist the track must be changed if entered drivers have driven on it within 100 days of the event.  This something he feels is ‘a pity’.  This a very iconic track, imagine F1 changing Spa because some driver got some extra laps.  The layout is so nice but now we will have to race with dots and not real curbs because of a rule, him hinting the rule serves little purpose. 

Unfortunately the weather doesn’t look like it is going to cooperate, with rain forecast for all four days.  “The weather looks really bad for the week.  I don’t know what they are going to do.  We never faced this situation before. I think we will drive in the rain”.   Wet or dry, our coverage which is being made possible by one of Bruno’s main sponsors MonacoRC, starts tomorrow (Wednesday).


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