March 4, 2018

Sobue wins TITC spectacularly by 3/1000ths of a second

Akio Sobue has claimed the biggest win of his career with one of the smallest margins possible, the Infinity driver winning A3 by 0.003 of a second from Alexander Hagberg to be crowned champion of the 16th running of the TITC.  With a win a piece, it was Sobue and Hagberg along with Marc Rheinard who went into the final race with a chance of the title after reigning champion Bruno Coelho crashed out of title contention in A2.  Hagberg needed the win, Sobue having the advantage of the faster winning time.  Starting second behind his Xray team-mate Coelho, the Top Qualifier quickly opened the door to put Hagberg where he needed to be.  With Naoto Matsukura and Coelho clashing at the next corner, Sobue and Rheinard made up the Top 3, the stage set for the 3-way showdown.  After an initial challenge on Hagberg, Sobue dropped back with Hagberg looking like Xray would retain the title but over the final 3-laps the race came alive again as the Japanese driver reeled in the leader. On the last run through the sweeper, Sobue went for a pass getting out of shape in the process before attempting a pass on the inside of the Swede and there was contact, both cars spinning out.  With Hagberg resuming in the lead, with a bigger gap than before the contact, it looked as the race was decided with three turns to go but Sobue wasn’t conceding that easily and launching his car at the finish line he managed the perfect line to snatch a win that left everyone in amazement.  Behind Meen Vejrak crossed the line third securing the Bangkok driver the final step on the podium ahead of Marc Rheinard.

‘I’m so happy for the team’, was Sobue’s reaction to winning Asia’s most famous race.  The unassuming driver continued, ‘I joined the Infinity team last year at this race and to mark it with the biggest win of my career I’m so happy’.  On the deciding A-Main he said, ‘As I expected Bruno opened for Alex.  My car in the beginning was not so fast, Alex was a little faster.  Then my car started to get better and I push the last minute and started to catch him’.  On the contact in the sweeper he said, ‘It was too much of a push from me but I wait for him to take the back the lead’.  Asked if he thought the incident cost him the win he replied, ‘I never give up and made full punch to the line.  I never made podium here before’.

An understandably frustrated Hagberg said, ‘everything was going well until the last lap.  Akio tried to pass me and crashed into me.  Basically he won the race from me because of this which is definitely not fair’.  Having started out the event looking untouchable with Coelho dominating all six qualifiers, TITC 2018 turned on its head today for the Slovakian manufacturer with Coelho finishing 8th.  The result is one that even his rivals agree highlights the race organisers need to address the tyre situation for the future.

With the weekend proving tough for Yokomo, last year’s podium finishers Nicholas Lee and World Champion Ronald Volker both failing to make the A-Main, Vejrak was delighted to make the podium at his home race.  Qualifying 6th on the grid, the former nitro touring car World Champion said, ‘I knew I needed to finish ahead of Marc and I almost traction rolled trying to keep up with him at the start.  Then I could hear some sound coming from Marc’s car and I get by him’.  He continued, ‘last year no A-Main, this year I’m on the podium, it is the best result I could have expected. I’m super happy for Yokomo and also to be the only Protoform driver on the podium’.

Explaining the noise that Vejrak heard and that forced him to retire from A3, Rheinard said, ‘I went wide slightly on the straight and hit the outside pipe.  I wasn’t hard but it felt like the C-hub was broke but the tyre had come off completely. It was my fault I hit the pipe but the tyre should not come off like this’. He continued, ‘anyway the team took the win which is most important.  I would like to have got a podium, the pace was there in the end’.

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