Track Name – Yatabe Arena Organisers – JMRCA Country – Japan Location – Tsukuba (70km East of Tokyo) Direction – Anti-clockwise Surface – Astro turf Previous events hosted – 1995 1:10 Offroad Worlds, 2000 Electric Touring Car Worlds
The 16th running of the IFMAR 1:10 Offroad World Championships takes place at the World famous Yatabe Arena with the Japanese venue’s second hosting of the bi-annual event sparking much debate and divide within the offroad racing circles. With the World’s best drivers having fought it out for the sport’s greatest prize on dirt since the championship was first held in 1985, 30-years on the week long event will be run without a bit of dirt in sight. After receiving a proposal from the Japanese hosts seeking to use an artificial surface, the sport’s governing body IFMAR accepted, allowing the Yatabe Arena to create the first astro turf World Championship track. With many purists opposed to allowing an Offroad World Championship to be decided on a ‘touring car track with jumps’, 7-time Offroad World Champion & legend of the sport Masami Hirosaka sees a place for both dirt and astro turf tracks in the sport.
The Electric Section Chairman of FEMCA (Far East Model Car Association) and the legendary face of track owners Yokomo, Masami said the key reason for creating an astro turf track was to ‘bring something new’ to the Offroad World Championships. With artificial track surfaces popular in Europe, the multi-round carpet surface Euro Offroad Series establishing itself as a competitive high profile championship, Masami feels this track type has great potential bring the sport to new places and help it grow grow adding its ‘very easy maintenance’ and much easier to bring astro or carpet to a shopping mall than dirt.
Originally built in October 1989, the track is this time round housed in the newest extension to the facility which was erected in 2011. Covering an area of 21.5m deep by 38m wide, the track has been extensively redesigned since the Warm-up race held in June. A track that was widely viewed as lacking obstacles, the new track design is a combination of driver and industry inputs with Masami saying ‘reactions from the internet’ also taken into account pointing out we ‘couldn’t ask just one person to design the track’. The biggest noticeable addition is the large tabletop which was built for the Warm-up race but left out as the JMRCA didn’t like the size of it. The other change is the roller which has been redesigned giving it a better angle which JConcepts’ Jason Ruona has now officially named as the ‘ high elevation roller’. One somewhat contentious addition to the track is the ‘washboard section’. Made of five widely spaced rubber strips, drivers are expressing concerns over the height but Masami said the height was intentional so as to make the cars run more offroad than touring car ride heights. Another key change is the moving of the main straight from in front of the drivers stand to the opposite side. The timing loop has also moved to the straight which Masami said should leading to ‘exciting final laps’. One of the key people reasonable for ensuring the preparation of the track for the 150 drivers was facility manager Hiroshi Suzuki. Following the Warm-up race the track had to be completely taken up so a touring car carpet track could be laid which then had to be removed to make way for the Worlds track. Under the astro turf are are two layers of wooden sheeting running criss-cross the depth allowing all the piping, strips and corner dots all to be screw securely into place.
While drivers will not get their first feel for the track until free practice tomorrow, defending 2WD World Champion Jared Tebo was positive about the new layout saying ‘it looks pretty good now that they added more obstacles’. The Kyosho diver added ‘it looks fast but I’m ready to get on it’. Asked about the addition of the rubber strips, the American said, ‘I don’t know till I get to run on them but hopefully it adds a spot where if you get reckless you’ll crash’. Winner of 2WD at the Warm-up Race, Lee Martin echoed Tebo’s views saying ‘It looks good’ but adding he was ‘not sure about the strips, they could be good or bad’. The Yokomo driver said the up face of the table top is a bit blind which could be a problem if a car crashes there but otherwise should be fine’. Feeling having the straight at the back is better, he predicts the astro is going to need a few runs to break into the new layout.