Naoto Matsukura is the 1:12 World Champion for a fourth time. The Japanese ace, who burst onto the international r/c scene when he won his first World title in 2008 aged 15, took back the sport’s biggest prize with an impressive recovery drive to make it 2 wins from 2 in the second A-Main in Beijing. Starting P2, China being his first Worlds not being the Top Qualifier, Matsukura came out best from a third lap pile up involving the Top 3 to go to the lead but almost immediately threw it away with a mistake of his own dropping back to fifth. With Sobue the new leader, Matsukura set about his recovery with his Roche clearly the fastest car on the track. On the limit trying to keep his lead and under pressure from Matsukura, Sobue would too lose the lead with a mistake and once passed Matsukura took complete control of the race to win ahead of Rheinard to put himself into the history books as the first driver to hold both the 1:12 and Electric Touring Car World titles simultaneously. A win of a very entertaining A3 would give Rheinard the overall runner-up spot with 1:12 Worlds debutant Sobue completing the podium for the 18th running of the championships.
‘I don’t remember any of the 8-minute, I know I made a mistake one time’, was Matsukura’s reaction after the race. The protege of Masami Hirosaka, from whom he is now only one title away from matching the 1:12 legend’s world title tally, the 22-year-old continued, ‘the feeling of this win is the same as when I won my first World title, I am so happy to take back the title’. Making this title even more sweet he said was the fact that this is his first race having his father as his mechanic, his dad clearly overcome by the win as he congratulated his son after the race. His first world championship since his shock departure from Team Yokomo, Matsukura thanked Roche owner Max Ma and Patrick Poon, along with his team-mates, for making today’s win possible. He said he also owed a huge gratitude of thanks to his family and his girlfriend for their ongoing support. With the historic significance of today’s win, he said he was now more determined than ever to complete the 2016 Worlds by doing the double come Saturday, when the Touring Car World title will also be decided at Fengtai Sports Centre with the racing moving outdoors on to a brand new asphalt track.
Commenting after another disappointing race in A2 Rheinard said, ‘I had no grip. I was just sliding around trying to hold the car on the track. I think the breaks before the final are effecting the traction’. Asked about the early incident with Matsukura and Sobue, of which he came off the worst, the German said, ‘Somebody touched me but I don’t really know what happened’. With Rheinard taking the 1:12 win from Matsukura before the then Yokomo driver went on to win his first touring car World title, the 3-time Touring Car World Champion said , ‘I lost this one so all I have to do now is win later in the week’. Finishing the event by winning the closing race and reflecting on the finals as a whole he said, ‘It was not my day but I didn’t drive good’. Even though he won A3 he wasn’t happy with his early driving over the 8-minutes, ‘I spun out and dropped to fifth and thought I am not even going to make the podium but got my head down and got back to the front so it worked out’.
‘I’m happy to finish on the podium for my first time (doing 1:12 Worlds) but its not the best result, I wanted the win’. Commenting on A2 which he led, the CRC driver said, ‘my car was difficult to drive, the track as loose and I was super on the limit trying to keep the lead’. Losing that lead with a mistake when he tapped the corner pipping, he said ‘Naoto was faster’ adding it was only going to be a matter of time before he would take the lead. Switching for A3 to the same set-up he used yesterday when he TQ’d the opening qualifier, he said this gave him a ‘super good car’ adding it was a ‘maximum close race’. Making a mistake while trying to get passed leader for much of the race Hideo Kitazawa as they battled for second, Sobue would drop to 7th in the final 2-minutes of the race recovering to 5th by the finish. With 2014 podium finisher Kitazawa getting second it was Sobue’s P2 race time in A1 that would give him the tie breaker over Kitazawa for the final podium placing.
With Kitazawa taking fourth ahead of fellow Japanese driver Toto Ebukuro, Japan the power house nation at this year’s championships filling 4 of the to 5 spots, Juho Levanen would be the best Team Associated driver finishing 6th ahead of team-mate Keven Hebert. Shanghai based American JJ Wang gave the locals someone to cheer on finishing his first 1:12 Worlds in 8th with Masatsugu Ido and Hayato Ishioka completing the Top 10 of what is the sport’s original electric World Championship class. With China doing an impressive job in hosting the World Championships for the first time, and while the 50 entry count was up slightly on the 2014 numbers, with all A-finalists clearly the best in the world, it is clear that in the best interest of keeping 1:12 alive, IFMAR, the drivers and all involved manufacturers need to collectively work together in finding solutions that make the class more appealing and try and return it to it hayday when far more World Championship touring competitors took part.