Live RC’s Eric Swanson’s top 10 favorites after practice, as he sees them…
1. Jörn Neumann — Everyone knows his 4WD is better than his 2WD. He helped prove that hypothesis in practice today. Remember, Neumann (arguably) should have won the 2011 title, but was plagued by electronic failures while leading. By the end of the day today, he was on another level. Clearly the class of the field in the seeding round. He will start first in qualifying.
2. Ty Tessmann — It will be tough to beat the man and car who won the national championship on this very track just over a month ago. He will have to calm down and drive consistent if he wants to win this weekend. Up until Jörn Neumann’s dominant final practice round, Ty had looked the best for a majority of the day.
3. Lee Martin — Lee looks fast and confident. He will surely benefit from his strong performance in 2WD when approaching the 4WD class. He is one of the few drivers who doesn’t even attempt the long jump line at the end of the straightaway. He has smooth and consistent speed.
4. Ryan Cavalieri — He had speed that was on par with Tessmann, but is a little more predictable. If he isn’t contending for the win on Sunday, I will be surprised.
5. Ryan Lutz — Ryan looked awesome today. Team Durango clearly has their 4WD working well. Lutz with a good car can be extremely dangerous. He is a guy that could easily jump up to the podium or even win, should things go his way in the mains. If his runs were a little more consistent, he would be in the No. 2 spot behind his teammate Jörn Neumann.
6. Ryan Maifield — If he drives like he did in the 2WD mains (smart, aggressive, not reckless) during qualifying and the mains, he instantly becomes a favorite to win. However, given his track record, counting on him taking that approach to this weekend’s racing isn’t a sure bet. He will have to prove he can maintain that approach throughout the entire weekend to capture his first world championship.
7. Neil Cragg — Cragg wasn’t showing the same speed as the Durangos in the final practice round, but his consistency and experience will make him a contender.
8. Jared Tebo — The WC wasn’t hot lapping anyone today, but he has the smooth, consistent speed that kills on this track…just like it did in 2WD. Expect him to climb these rankings under race conditions.
9. Naoto Matsukura — With this much traction, Naoto must be considered a threat. Like always, his battle will be maintaining his ballistic driving style for five minutes amongst a field of ten other cars. That isn’t likely to happen.
10. Tyler Vik — Kind of off my radar until the final race of the day. Apparently Vik built a brand new XRAY in the middle of the night in order to race it today. He made quick work of adapting to the new ride because it was on rails in the final round of practice. It would be a “Cinderella” story if Vik made his way anywhere near the podium this weekend, given the nature in which his 4WD program has evolved over the course of the last 24 hours. But, numbers don’t lie. He had the pace…even if it was only for a few laps. He will be someone we will have to look at further tomorrow.
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