Sand Marble Rally is on hiatus until 2021 and Marble League is in the off-season, so the time has come for Marbula One! A lot has changed for season two in regards to format, so let’s go over the changes:
- First off, this season sees twenty teams competing rather than sixteen, unlike season one.
- This is not the effect of four teams being added; instead, we have six new teams (Bumblebees, Crazy Cat’s Eyes, Jungle Jumpers, Kobalts, Minty Maniacs, and Oceanics), and two which appeared in season one opting out of the series (Hornets and Rojo Rollers).
- Very strange to see these abstentions — while it makes sense that the Hornets were relegated as a result of their last-place finish in season one, the Rojo Rollers finished 13th last year and are known as a speed-oriented team. Unusual to see them not participating.
- This season will feature twelve races instead of only eight.
- Qualifiers have received a complete overhaul. Rather than each marble getting a single lap to determine pole position, there are now three separate rounds of qualifications.
- The first round is familiar, with all twenty racers going, two at a time, for a single lap and being seeded by best time. The slowest four are eliminated from contention in the race itself, and finishers from ninth through sixteenth are locked into those positions for the start of the race.
- The second round pits the top eight finishes from round one against each other in a two-lap race. This provides a little additional fluff to the usually-vanilla qualifiers, although this round is only meant to determine the starting positions for the fifth- through eighth-place finishers. As a result, this race has low stakes and low excitement levels.
- The third and final round of qualifiers is high intensity, as not only does it determine pole position but also who receives a bonus point for winning the qualifier. Again, it is a two-lap race, this time between only four elite competitors.
The Minty Mania GP is a treacherous course, and features a brand-new element for the world of Marbula One. Its first section runs the marbles through a whopping seven turns, all back-to-back, before sending the racers into a wide turnaround and a straightaway in section two. Finally, section three is highlighted by a very wide and daunting banked turn before returning the competitors to the conveyor belt.
The first qualifying round begins with last season’s victor and MVP, Speedy (Savage Speeders), and newcomer Yellow Eye (Crazy Cat’s Eyes). Both strongly set the pace, finishing with the overall second- and first-best finishes in the round, respectively. The only other notable pair is Razzy (Raspberry Racers) and Minty Drizzel (Minty Maniacs), with Razzy finishing well enough–or more accurately Minty Drizzel finishing poorly enough–to pass up its cohort. (Drizzel’s time is over a second slower than any other racer in the qualifiers — the Host’s Curse returns!)
Our first look at the new rounds in qualifiers features all three medal-winning teams from season one: Savage Speeders, Hazers, and O’rangers. Fan favorites the Green Ducks and a resurgent Team Primary also appear in the top eight as well. Barely anything changes compared to the initial laps, as no marble jumps from spots five through eight into the top four. A nothingburger of a qualifying round.
Round three, however, is where things heat up. Rivals Speedy and Smoggy (Hazers) face off, alongside Mallard (Green Ducks) and rookie Yellow Eye. Speedy holds its lead all through the first lap, but a poor entry onto the belt allows Smoggy to jet into first. Speedy’s poor conveyor belt play continues as it falls back into fourth place coming off of the belt and never recovers. Meanwhile, Smoggy runs a clean race from start to finish and finishes with pole position for tomorrow’s finale at the Minty Mania. Yellow Eye earns second and Mallard finishes third.
- That banked turn is a beautiful element. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it separates the pros from the also-rans. Smoggy, especially, shows off how to best utilize good entry and exit angles to propel their acceleration throughout the curve. If they maintain that form tomorrow, they will be looking at another first place finish.
- Snowy, last year’s runner-up by individual results, has a poor showing here. First nearly eliminated in the first round, but only just qualifying for the big show with a fifteenth place finish.
- The second round of these qualifiers needs to go. It’s just filler. Either make that the determiner for order for everyone from the top eight, or pare down the list to four after the first qualifying round. Personally, I am partial to the latter option, as getting four high-quality racers going head-to-head(-to-head-to-head) with one another is immensely appealing.
- Regarding Team Primary, who had an, um, interesting first foray into Marbula One: Prim returns, deservingly, after last season’s individual fourth place finish. Mary, who failed to finish better than fifteenth in any race last season, has been replaced by Rima. If Rima proves to be a strong competitor this season, Team Primary could be on a rocketship to a podium. No matter what, they can’t do worse than their predecessor.
- No Rolldo in this video. That appears to be following last season’s pattern, as Rolldo only appeared on the race videos, not the qualifiers.
- Presentation notes: I love how clean everything involved with Marbula One is. Indoor events allow clean lighting and static cameras, which immensely improve the viewing experience. The one negative note is that the camera angle down the straightaway results in the track showing up behind the graphics on the left side, which isn’t a big deal but seems like it would be a simple fix.