Matsukura confident of 3rd consecutive 1:12 title
Reigning 1:12 World Champion Naoto Matsukura says he is confident of securing a third consecutive title this week as the 16th running of the IFMAR 1:12 World Championships got underway in the sleepy Dutch town of Heemstede this morning. Setting the fastest lap of the opening round of practice before contact with the boards resulted in a broken wheel bearing on his Yokomo, the young Japanese star is the pre-event favourite and should he pull off the feat will equal the achievement of legend of the sport Masami Hirosaka who had a run of success from 2000 to 2004. David Spashett, who is a three time champion, was the last non Japanese World Champion winning the last of his three World titles back in 2006.
Based on a track originally created for the r/c racing simulator VRC and then made a reality by the game’s founder Pieter Bervoets, who has done a superb job in presenting a track worthy of hosting the sports most important race, the feedback from the majority of drivers after the first 8-minute practice was very positive.
Setting the fastest pace of the full 8-minutes of that opening run of four scheduled rounds of free practice was reigning US Champion Keven Hebert who completed 37 laps. Describing the track as one of the best he has ever raced on, the factory Associated driver said his R5 felt really good and it was a very positive start to the event. Finishing 9th at the last Worlds in Burgdorf, Germany, the Canadian said the traction in the opening practice was quite good and based on how much it came up after just one round of heats he thinks it should mean a high traction event which will suit his driving as that is what he is used to racing on in the US.
Behind Hebert was reigning European Champion Simo Ahoniemi who was the only other driver to complete 37 laps. The Finnish driver said his car felt pretty good and he will leave it as is for his second practice as this should be a better indication of how the track will be for the rest of the event. A team driver for CRC, who have come to the event with an all new and very impressive looking narrow chassis, Ahoniemi ran the regular chassis from the American manufacturer saying he didn’t want to risk changing from something he knows well and is comfortable driving but added if the other members of the team quickly find a set-up with the new car he may try it in a later practice run.
CRC have a large team here in the Netherlands including two new high profile signings for the event in Marc Rheinard and Andy Moore. With 2008 podium finisher Hupo Honigl missing the event due to offroad commitments and Jilles Groskamp switching to Onpoint the way was opened for reigning Touring Car World Champion Rheinard and the 2006 Champion Moore to join the team as neither Tamiya or HB make a 1:12 car. Rheinard’s last 1:12 outing was the last World Championships 2-years ago in Germany while Moore ran the class at last years IIC which after the worlds is probably the biggest 1:12 race there is. Both are former 1:12 European Champions but didn’t have great opening runs this morning. Running the new narrow chassis Rheinard had a troubled run as his car kept shutting down due to a suspected receiver problem while Moore who is running the standard car said he could could feel his lack of 1:12 running in his driving.
Making his debut for Onpoint Racing, 2010 Worlds Runner-up Jilles Groskamp tried two different chassis in the opening practice and having been over a year since he raced 1:12 was happy with his early pace especially when compared to Matsukura’s lap times. This is very much a home event for Groskamp as he grew up in the area and worked for a number of years at the events title sponsor MyLaps who are based just down the road. Now based in Thailand, Groskamp is one of the sponsors of RedRC’s coverage with his new venture JG Racing which will shortly release a range of products aimed at the pro racer.
Owned by Paul Ciccarello, this is the Worlds debut for Onpoint racing and for Paul himself who is a very capable 1:12 driver having finished on a the podium at the US Nationals earlier this year. Also on the team is 1:12 specialist Marcus Mobers who has been responsible for much of the design work on the Associated R5 derived chassis.
Setting the third fastest 8-minute run was Ronald Volker. The star of Yokomo’s touring car squad, unlike Matsukura the German doesn’t run a Yokomo in 1:12 but an Associated chassis. The Euro Touring Series Champion, who was Top Qualifier at last year’s 1:12 European Championship said the reason for running the Associated is nothing more than than that this was the car he ran before signing to Yokomo and Japanese company have been happy to allow him to continue to run it. Just driving the car with his famed mechanic Umino Yukijiro and LRP’s Reto Konig preparing the car, something he said based on his last 1:12 outing at the IIC in Las Vegas is probably for the best, he was happy with how the opening practice went with the car particularly good in the second half of the run.
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