The eighth qualifiers of the second Marbula One season get underway at the home of Team Primary, Palette Park. This is our shortest course of the year so far at only 9.45m — nearly a meter shorter than the Minty Mania track, and more than two meters shorter than most other raceways.
A lack of length does not mean a lack of excitement, however. With a split 180 degree turn soon after the conveyor belt leading directly into a speed ramp and a banked turn, there is no shortage of elements that can make or break a marble’s lap time.
It seems that with such a low threshold for error, the early heats see several marbles take cautious routes, especially through the banked turn. Six of the first seven racers finish with times between 14.06 and 14.66, before Yellup (Mellow Yellow) shows the kind of speed this track is capable of and takes pole, momentarily, with a lap time nearly a full second faster than the rest of the pack.
The time stands until the eleventh racer, Tumult (Balls of Chaos), adds another masterful tactic, managing to take the inside split on the first turn. That, alongside a clean exit from the banked turn, helps them cut a half-second from the fastest lap time.
The wide range of outcomes continues throughout the first qualifying round, with a shocker in the final heats. The top overall teams in Marbula One run last, but Red Eye (Crazy Cat’s Eyes) and Billy (Green Ducks) disappoint with 15th and 17th place finishes, respectively. The Crazy Cat’s Eyes are at least alive to earn some points this weekend, but the Green Ducks will fall even farther behind the leaders with a big ol’ 0.
The second qualifier shows off how chaotic the banked turn and left-hand hairpin after will be with several marbles running at once — in the first lap, Orangin (O’rangers) takes a bad line and gets knocked around by the trailing marbles, losing a couple positions in the process.
Still alive by qualifier three are Yellup, Smoggy (Hazers), Tumult, and Pulsar (Team Galactic). This time, the opening split shows off its importance, as a close race heading into lap two sees separation after Smoggy goes to the outside while the other racers take the inside angle. That results in a disastrous finish, 3.65 seconds behind the leader and over two seconds behind third place. Meanwhile, Yellup takes the perfect line on the banked turn en route to pole position and a bonus point.
- There is a huge gap between lap times here, with Smoggy’s 12.494 running a full 3.547 seconds ahead of Ocean’s (Oceanics) last-place time. With lap times varying by nearly 30%, expect several big swings in position tomorrow, and possibly multiple overtakes of trailing marbles by the leaders. It will be a very different race than any other, I expect.
- The course itself is a beauty. Simple, fast, simple yet devious elements — Palette Park could be my favorite track yet.
- The Crazy Cat’s Eyes have their worst showing in qualifiers yet, but the Green Ducks missing out on qualifying entirely is nice. However, at this point, Crazy Cat’s Eyes can likely just play out the stretch. By my math, they can clinch the overall gold medal as early as tomorrow. (Sixth place or better gets them to 163 points, which is the number to pull ahead for good from the Green Ducks’ 82. If no other team is able to leapfrog the Ducks into second place overall and CCE finish in the top six, gold is theirs.)
- Presentation notes: No track overview and no description of the fantastic elements on this track is disappointing. I’d rather get more info on what the track is like than fluff about the sculpture built for this event by Team Primary (though it is admittedly pretty).