Matsukura tops free practice
Defending World Champion Naoto Matsukura has got his ambitions of winning a third consecutive 1:12 title off to an encouraging start by putting his Yokomo top of the free practice time sheets both in terms of outright lap time and total laps completed over 8-minutes. Recording a fastest lap of 12.211 and 38-laps in 8:04.488 in the third of the four free practice rounds, the 18-year-old set the pace ahead of his Yokomo touring car team-mate Ronald Volker with Onpoint’s Jilles Groskamp and CRC’s Simo Ahoniemi the only other drivers to manage 38-laps of the indoor carpet track.
Matsukura was pleased to top the opening proceedings of this the 16th running of the 1:12 World Championships but in FP4, in which he was outpaced by Ahoniemi, he said the track changed to what he described as ‘loose carpet’ with his Reedy powered prototype R12 suffering from slight understeer. Moving now into two rounds of controlled practice, which will bring day 1 of the event to a close, the Japanese ace will try a different set-up for the first of the runs which he said should give him the turn in he lacked in the final free practice.
Volker, who is running an Associated chassis fitted with LRP electronics, said his car was also better in FP3 when he too recorded his best time. Although easy to drive in FP3 he said the car felt slow but trying a different compound of Jaco tyre in FP4 he said the earlier combination was better overall. The former European Champion plans to use the controlled practice rounds, which will only be used to reseed major discrepancies in the current heat order, to try fine tune the compound & diameter of tyre he will use for tomorrow morning’s opening qualifier.
Having only had one day of practice prior to today with his 1:12 chassis sponsor Onpoint Racing, Groskamp was pleased with his early pace. Having made quite big set-up changes for each run the Dutch ace said he has found a set-up that is easy to drive and now plans to use the controlled practices to find the best compromise between making the car faster at the cost of it being easy to drive. Having not raced 1:12 since last year, Groskamp said that lack of mileage makes running a faster but less stable car that bit more difficult over the 8-minutes which he said is highlighted by Matsukura’s pace. Runner-up at the last World Championships, he said he and everyone else are again racing for the second spot.
Ahoniemi said his CRC was at its best in FP3 but a number of driver errors meant that was not reflected in the timing as he set a 37-lap run. Breaking into 38-laps in FP4, the reigning European Champion said the conditions were strange with the car sliding while still having good grip. Happy he has a good base set-up for his regular CRC chassis, he will use use the controlled practices to decide on which CRC tyre he will use for the first of the 6 scheduled rounds of qualifying.
Factory Associated driver Rick Hohwart was fastest of the drivers on 37 lap runs which put him fifth overall at the end of free practice. With his R5 feeling very loose in the opening practice, the American said they worked on the front end set-up and continuing in that direction they have been able to make the car faster every run and he now feels quite comfortable at the controls. Team-mate and reigning US National Champion, who set the pace in the opening practice, end FP 11th fastest. The Canadian said the car feels decent but is not exactly where he wants it and for the final two practice runs this evening he plans to revert back to the set-up he started the day with.
Running a prototype Corally chassis, Japanese driver Hideo Kitazawa completed the Top 6 as he set his fastest run in the final free practice. Finding the track very different and more tricky than what he is used to running on back in Japan, he said he was now starting to find his rythm. Responsible for R&D at Futaba, his car fitted with a Futaba speedo, Kitazawa was upbeat that he can improve his pace further in today’s remaining two practices.
Elsewhere British driver Chris Kerswell was quickest of the Serpent team drivers with the 8th fastest time with team-mate Marc Fisher completing the Top 10 just behind former European Champion Juho Levanen whose Associated ended the free practice in 9th.
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