Multiple Electric Onroad World Champion Naoto Matsukura has added a Nitro Touring Car World title to his tally with a very convincing performance at the 1:10 200mm World Championships in Florida. After a messy start which saw Top Qualifier Dario Balestri, Super Pole winner Robert Pietsch and reigning champion Dominic Greiner receive penalties, the Infinity driver quickly stamped his authority on the 1-hour final. By the first round of fuel stops the 200mm rookie, who stopped early at 4:30, had already pulled out over a 6-second lead and such was his lead at the mid race tyre change his crew was able to switch to 4:00 stops ensuring his massive lead was never at risk. At the end the Japanese driver becomes the 8th different World Champion of the class by almost 2-laps. Battling with Tadahiko Sahashi for second place before the Infinity driver suffered a flame out in the final minutes of the race Capricorn’s Kyle Branson would finish second with Team Shepherd’s very quick Eduardo Escandon coming through from the back of the grid to complete the podium at Homestead RC Raceway. Half a lap back Pietsch would recover from his penalty and a bad tyre stop to finish fourth ahead of Mugen team-mate Jeff Hamon, with Greiner, who got a second penalty completing the Top 6. Ending up 9-laps off the lead after running out of fuel, Balestri ended up 7th but his biggest frustration was the length the cars were held on the starting grid. He said his penalty was a result of him trying to make sure his engine didn’t cut.
‘Perfect. Perfect car, perfect speed, perfect mechanic’, was how Matsukura summed up becoming the nitro touring car World Champion at his first attempt. The former Electric Touring Car World champion, who also won that title in Florida at the nearby Kissimmee track, continued, ‘We made a really fast tyre stop and after this the gap more than a lap so I then just tried to control my race. Before we were refuelling at 4:30 but to be save we make 4-minutes’. Having led the final on his 1:8 Onroad Worlds debut in France last year, but succumbing to a flat receiver battery, he said ‘around 55-minutes I started to get nervous and starting think about things going wrong. I even asked Miura if we could go to 3:30 for the last fuel stops but he told me don’t worry. Miura and Bank did a perfect job. I also want to thank my boss Mr. Kenji and my family who all stayed in Japan to watch the race’.
Reacting to his race, having bumped up twice after starting the day in the 1/4 finals, Branson said, ‘I didn’t expect that’. The British driver continued, ‘We were all bunched up for a while at the start and I had to hold back. I didn’t want to do anything stupid so I waited for the pack to spread out. I know I had to do 2 extra (fuel) stops I think but for the final my car was perfect. I could drive it so easy. I didn’t have to push to be in the pack’. His first Worlds podium having made his first worlds final last time out, he added, ‘thanks to everyone who has helped me and congrats to Naoto. Fair play to him, he was on another level’.
‘First I have to say a massive thank you to Shepherd Micro Racing and Coten Escuderia because I am only here because of their support. Without it I would not be celebrating this podium’, said a delighted Escandon. The Spanish driver, who first made a name for himself in the ENS after joining Shepherd last season started out the day in the 1/4 finals, continued, ‘ (Takaaki) Shimo hit my car in the last lap of the Semi so we had to rebuild the car and I had to get a bodyshell from Thilo. After that my plan was to have fun with the top drivers in the World for 1-hour but when I realised I was running in the main pack I started to push and at the end I am third place. It’s amazing from where we started the week struggling to what we finished. For sure this was a team effort’.
Asked about his fourth place in the final, Pietsch replied, ‘the start was a big problem. Dario jumped the start and I followed him so I also got a penalty. Then after Dario took his penalty he touched me at a bad angle and I rolled’. Winner of his 1:8 World title at the same track 7-years ago, the German continued, ‘The tyre stop was bad and we lost 6-seconds but the car was also difficult to drive. It was not on the same pace as before’.
Summing up his race outgoing champion Greiner said, ‘I don’t know what happened at the start. I didn’t jump the start but I got a penalty. They said I put my car too early on the ground so I got a penalty’. Not happy with the decision, the German said, ‘I don’t know what Masami was doing. I touched a guy and rolled my car and got a penalty. Dario hit Robert and got no penalty’. Ultimately running out of fuel would end Greiner’s chances of retaining his title. He said, ‘At the second fuel stop we ran out of fuel and then it was over. For sure Naoto was fast but out front he could drive his own race’.
Dominic Greiner will defend his 1:10 200mm World title from 4th on the grid in Miami later this evening. Starting second in the Semi finals, the Serpent driver maintained that position behind pole man Naoto Matsukura to progress to the 1-hour main event at Homestead RC Raceway. In the first of the two Semi finals, it was Tadahiko Sahashi who took the win ahead of Jilles Groskamp and Kyle Branson. Starting from pole and holding an early lead, Andy Moore’s impressive campaign came undone when he lost the brakes on his car. After his demise, No.2 starter Shoki Takahata took control but after building up a lead the Mugen driver’s race faltered when he had the first of a number of flame outs. Flame outs also ended Vice-Champion Alessio Mazzeo’s event while former Champion Meen Vrejrak’s attempt at a second title ended when he had issues with wheels coming off his car. In the second of the 30-minute encounters, Matsukura led home Greiner by a comfortable gap of 4.7 seconds with Teemu Leino completing the Top 3. With their fourth & fifth place times the next fastest two times outside the Top 3 of both Semis, Jeff Hamon and Eduardo Escandon, both having bumped up from the 1/4 finals, complete the Top 10 that will battle to become the 1:10 200mm’s 8th World Champion. Unfortunately for former 1:8 World Champion Simon Kurzbuch there will be no repeat of the result as he came the second 2016 podium finisher to fall by the wayside in the Semis after suffering a number of flame outs.
‘It was OK’, was Greiner’s reaction after the race. The German continued, ‘at the start me, Naoto and Simon pulled away a bit but having watched the previous Semi and seen a tyre stop was no advantage I then had to drive safe to save my tyres to the end’. He said, ‘It was a clean run and now the first step is done’. Asked about the pending final, he replied, ‘Management of the tyres is important.If you push too much they are finished. I think there will be many strategies but I think 1-stop for sure is needed’.
Matsakura described his race as ‘perfect’. The 200mm Worlds Rookie said, ‘the car is good and the speed is good but I also made a safe run for the tyres’. The Infinity driver, who will line up 3rd on the grid behind Top Qualifier Dario Balestri and Super Pole winner Robert Pietsch, added, ‘I had to make one extra (fuel) stop but I still lead. I have an engine that will do 5-minutes but the feeling of the Semi engine is better so I think I will keep (for the final)’. The multiple Electric onroad World Champion concluded, ‘Me & car today are good so I can go for the win’.
Describing his race, Leino said, ‘I had a shit start because two times I got taken out but I had a very good car and could recover. The next one with a better start all will be good’. The Infinity driver and reigning European Champion added, ‘After the bad start I then catch a lot the leaders so I’m very confident for the final’.
Winner of the first Semi, Sahashi said it was important to manage the tyres in the race. The former 1:8 World Champion, who along with Balestri and Pietsch will be vying to become only the second ever driver alongside Adrien Bertin to be both a 1:8 and 1:10 World Champion, said ‘I made a safe run’ adding on run time he was just making the 5-minutes but he was looking forward to a competitive showing in the final.
Commenting on his race Groskamp said, ‘I started super slow and let others passed. They were super aggressive at the start and maximum push’. The Infinity driver continued, ‘I drove really safe for the tyre because I knew 30-minutes was going to be critical. I also made my first stop one lap later than the others to have a clean stop. After my mechanic told me the fuel was good and that I could push’. The newly crowned Euro Nitro Series Champion added, ‘after the third pit stop I was already in the bump up position and started to be safe. I was surprised how close I was to Tadahiko. I had one spin at the end of the straight but my car was really good on small tyres’. The Infinity driver concluded, ‘I stayed out of trouble. It was one of my better races ever and I’m excited for the final’.
Having made his final debut at the previous Worlds in Gubbio, Branson was delighted to repeat the feat. The Capricorn driver said, ‘I knew once we found our set-up earlier in the week that it would be good for the finals. It was not the fastest but it was good for long runs’. The British driver added, ‘I drove my own race but I was down on run time compared to the others so I had to make one extra stop. It’s strange, the race is a bit like a mirror of Gubbio. I’m super happy I made it’. Looking to the 1-hour final he concluded, ‘I’m going to enjoy myself. You come to the Worlds looking to make the final and I have achieved that so I’m going to drive my own race’.
Chassis – Mugen Prototype Engine – OS Speed T12 03 Fuel(handout) – Maxima Tires (handout) – Matrix Radio/Servo – Sanwa/Sanwa Body – Xtreme Avenge
Remarks – Like team-mate and Super Pole winner Robert Pietsch, Shoki is running a prototype of Mugen’s upcoming 1:10 200mm kit release. The as yet unnamed car features the same front end as the MTX6R but has completely new rear end with both ends connected by a newly design chassis plate. Shoki said they are both using the same car, though the set-up of each the car is quite different.
1:10 200mm Vice-World Champion Alessio Mazzeo’s hopes of going one better this time around are still alive after the Italian won his 1/4 final to progress to the Semi Finals in Miami. Starting on pole for the 20-minute encounter, the Xray driver took victory over another Gubbio finalist Kyle Branson, the Capricorn finishing 4-seconds back. Setting the fastest lap of the race, 2010 Texas World Championship Finalist Shinnosuke Yokoyama completed the Top 3 to progress to the all important Semi’s which will determine who will join Top Qualifier Dario Balestri and Super Pole winner Robert Pietsch in the final. Significant names to end their quest in the first of the 1/4 Finals were 2010 World Champion Ralph Birch and 1:8 legend Lamberto Collari. Having bumped up from the 1/8 final Birch finished 6th after early contact with Yokoyama while Collari, having impressed by topping seeding on his 200mm World debut, had a crash that damaged a front arm leaving him to struggle to the finish in last position.
In the second of the 1/4 finals a delighted Eduardo Escandon took his Shepherd to the win from 3rd on the grid. The Spaniard and ENS front runner, had a 1.6-second advantage over multiple World’s finalist Takaaki Shimo. Australia’s Jeff Hamon secured the final bump up position to the Semi’s, his Mugen finishing almost 1/2 a lap in front of 2014 Vice Champion Yuya Sahashi. Unfortunately for Xray’s top driver in qualifying Leo Arnold, his race ended in retirement while holding a comfortable lead. Starting from pole and leading the race early on from team-mate Mustafa Alp, until he also retired, during the French driver’s first fuel stop the fuel tank lid stuck open leading to the end of his World Championships.