November 17, 2012

V is for victory, Meen is World Champion

KM Racing’s Meen Vejrak, or as he is more commonly referred to as Meen V, is the 1:10 Nitro Touring Car World Champion, the Thai driving becoming the country’s second ever IFMAR World Champion after a stunning performance at the RC Addict track in Bangkok saw him win the rain shortened race from HB’s Atsushi Hara and Capricorns’s Francesco Tironi.  For Top Qualifier Teemu Leino engine issues ended what was looking like a dominant run for the rapid Finn who would eventually crash out 7-minutes before the race ended 56 minutes into the scheduled 1-hour distance.

Having been disappointed at missing out on securing the overall TQ honours in the final round of qualifying 2-days ago, today the 27-year-old was clearly elated by what he had just achieved, the moment being made all the more special by the huge crowd of locals who were on hand to witness the biggest moment of a career that has always shown great promise & potential for the multi discipline international racer.  Choosing to only change the left tyres on his Novarossi powered H-K1 Vejrak said this was the right call and it was thanks to his pitman, who was clearly one of the fastest refuellers in the pitlane, that made the result possible.  Falling behind Hara after his tyre stop but moving back to the front once the Japanese driver made his tyre stop, Vejrak said he knew at this point that the win was possible adding he felt relaxed and in control from that point on.  Not taking any unnecessary risks, on a umber of occasions the factory KM Racing driver pulled up or moved aside to allow recovering drivers to pass rather than jeopardize his lead, as one incident would have been enough to allow Hara close to within striking distance.  Having went out of the last 1:10 World Championship in the Semi while holding a bump up position to the Main after his then prototype KM Racing lost second gear, Vejrak said it was a huge testament to company owner Kenny Ng and the staff for the development they have done in the two years since.

The third World Championship that Hara has finished runner-up since winning his 1:8 Offroad World Championship title in 2008, the legend of the sport was clearly disappointed at having come so close to what would have been his third World title in three different disciplines.  Runner-up to Jilles Groskamp at the electric Touring Car World Championships in the Netherlands earlier this year, Hara said everything in the race was perfect for the win but a late gamble to try and run one extra lap so as they could do one less stop than Vejrak did not pay off with the OS Speed powered R10 flaming out.  Based on his experience from the KM Cup at the track last month, Hara said his tyre strategy of running 40 minutes, for which he had set a target lap time of 15.4 as any faster would have created too much wear, and then only changing the left side also played out perfectly.

Joined in the final by the only other 2 R10’s in the event Hara’s HB team-mates Leino and Andy Moore had contrasting races.  Starting from pole Leino was a DNF but starting from the 10th  & final spot on the grid Moore, who has only raced nitro once before at this year’s European Championship, finished fourth.  Able to build up a massive early lead, Leino’s race took a turn in the second five minutes of the race as he needed to make an unscheduled stop as his LRP engine had gone lean.  Suffering a flame out on the track and a further two more in the pitlane Leino said his car felt really good and while he was able to recover well from the lost time they cost him any chance of the win.  Such was Leino’s pace he was planning on two stops, the first for a full change of tyres and a second with 10-minutes to go for just the left tyres.  While they made the first stop his pit crew opted against the second but with the tyres having worn too low the car eventually bottomed out causing Leino to crash and retire.  Moore said he while he never had the pace to win he feels he could have been third had his engine not flamed out during his tyre stop.  Just a two tyre stop the engine stopping added a further 10 seconds to time he was in the pitlane.

Although one of the best known international drivers in 1:10 Nitro Touring Car, Tironi’s 3rd place today is his best result in a World Championships. Having started out the day in the first of the 1/8 Finals from where he progressed to the 1/4 Final the Italian’s path to finishing on the podium was and will be at a major talking point of the event.  Having been classified 5th in the 1/4 Final, a result they protested, the popular character was allowed progress to the Semi Final as the 11th car on what the rules state will be a 10 car grid.  From there the 2008 World’s finalist finished second to Alexander Hagberg to secure 8th on the grid for the Main.  Tironi said he was ‘very happy’ with the result as having to ‘start the day racing at 9 o’clock’ he never expected to end up on the podium.  Only changing left tyres on his factory LAB-C02 he said his race plan was consistency rather than speed and in the end this helped him to a ‘great result’.

Driving for outgoing champions Xray, Alexander Hagberg was unlucky not to come away with at least a podium finish.  Having put in a great performance to win his Semi and secure his first nitro Worlds Main, the Swede once again had a really good pace, battling with and passing Hara.  Unfortunately during his tyre stop when his pit crew were changing the right hand tyres on his Orcan powered NT1 they blocked the exhaust causing the engine to stop.  Requiring a new glowplug before it could be started, the incident was costly and left the sole Xray to finish 7th ahead of Jilles Groskamp who also lost time after needing a plug change.

One of the pre-event favourites along with Hara, Groskamp’s race went wrong at the first corner.  With Leino running wide in the sweeper at the end of the main straight, the Dutch ace said he had to back off in the corner and this caused him to clip the kerb flipping his Maxima powered Capricorn.  Leaving him last, the incident chunked a rear tyre and while he tried his best to keep up it was difficult but his race was to get worse. While running behind Moore, the HB driver spun in the corner leading onto the straight which Groskamp couldn’t avoid sending him crashing to the outside of the main straight and into the trees where it flamed out.  Back in the pits the engine needed a new plug further adding to the amount of time lost.  Changing tyres on 35 minutes Groskamp, who set the fastest lap of the race, said his LAB-C02 felt really good and he thinks the pace was there to match Meen but the race just wasn’t to be.

After 8 days of competition the fifth running of the Nitro Touring Car World Championships has been completed with Meen V becoming its fifth different World Champion. Red RC would like to thank new world champion manufacturer KM Racing and Matrix tyres, who finished on the podium with Tironi, for making our coverage from Thailand possible. We would also like to thank Jarb Ratanarat and the crew at RC Addict for all their hospitality during our stay in Bangkok.

Final Result
1.(4) Meen Vejrak – KM Racing/Novarossi – 208/56:35.312
2.(3) Atsushi Hara – HB/OS Speed – 207/56:30.902
3.(8) Francesco Tironi – Capricorn/Capricorn – 204/56:33.302
4.(10)Andy Moore – HB/Maxima – 203/56:26.846
5.(7) Chavit Sirigupta – Mugen/Maxima – 202/56:26.715
6.(6) Keisuke Fukuda – Mugen/Picco – 202/56:32.394
7.(5) Alexander Hagberg – Xray/Orcan – 202/56:33.002
8.(2) Jilles Groskamp – Capricorn/Maxima – 201/56:30.134
9.(9) Cheung Hang Hung – KM Racing/Murnan – 196/56:17.902
10.(1)Teemu Leino – HB/LRP – 181/49:57.460

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