Naoto Matsukura topped the final round of practice at the Touring Car World Championships in Florida recording both the fastest 3-consecutive laps of the day and the first 18-laps run of the Kissimmee track. The Japanese driver headed the third controlled practice from Yokomo team-mate Ronald Volker with Xray’s Paul Lemieux third and defending World Champion Jilles Groskamp fourth. With the heats for qualifying already set after the first two rounds of controlled practice, Volker topping that, by setting the pace in CP3 Matsukura will lead away the top heat in this evenings opening round of qualifying.
Pleased with the ‘clean’ run, Matsukura said his ‘car was good’ and with the driver ‘feeling good’ he was looking forward to qualifying getting underway. With a car that seems to have an edge over team-mate Volker when the conditions are cooler, the 21-year-old is confident about his chances in the first of the six scheduled qualifiers which will bring Day 2 of the Kissimmee event to a close.
Volker felt his car was ‘a tiny bit better’ in the previous practice and said only Matsukura was a bit faster the rest of the field was bigger so all was still good. Planning to discuss with his engineer Yukijiro Umino if they can get the car to run as it did in CP2, the European Champion said he ran a clean 5-minutes and he was happy with that. For the opening qualifier he added he would ‘step up things a bit’ in terms of his driving.
While his three laps improved, Lemieux said he needs to improve for the first qualifier. Really good at the beginning, the RC America driver said he worked his tyres too much and he was struggling by the end. Not sure whether its the set-up or his driving which is at fault, for Q1 he will leave the car as is and try to drive differently with the big focus being to put in a clean 5-minutes so as to try and get a decent first round result.
‘Not too bad’ was Groskamp’s summary of the final practice. Suffering one crash that cost him 4-seconds, he said this allowed him to run behind Volker adding it was good to see the lines the German was running. Apart from the crash, he said this was the best he has driven so far in the event and he hopes to carry that through to qualifying.
Raising a few eyebrows with his P2 pace in the second controlled practice, Bruno Coelho backed it up with a 5th in the final practice. The Portuguese driver described the round as ‘so so’. A good first half the sun then started to effect his view causing his eyes to water up. Behind Coelho Tamiya’s Akio Sobue completed the Top 6 followed by team-mate Viktor Wilck.
Tamiya’s 3-time Touring Car World Champion Marc Rheinard would post the 10th fastest time. Mistakes on the entry to the main straight on the opening two laps ruined a good 3-lap time but the German said changes to his set-up for the run left the car not as good. While his driving improved for the rest of the run, his engineer Kiyo Suzuki will change the TRF419 back to the set-up used in CP2.
European Championship Top Qualifier Bruno Coelho caused a bit of a surprise in the second round of controlled practice with the Xray driver setting the second fastest time behind Ronald Volker. In general a slower practice, due to it taking place during the hottest time of the day, the Portuguese driver’s time was good enough to put him third overall in the reseed for qualifying. Topping the time sheets, Volker couldn’t improve on his CP1 pace due to the hotter conditions but also compounded by an issue of his opening lap starting early due to position of his car on the start line. Race officials have since moved and marked out a new starting line further back around the corner on which the loop is positioned.
Having not contested the last World Championships, Coelho found himself in Heat 1 of 12. Putting him at a disadvantage in CP1 this morning, it would play to his advantage in CP2 as he was able to run in slightly cooler conditions that those in the top two heats. None the less as very impressive drive from the 21-year-old, for whom this is his first every time to run at Full Throttle RC Raceway, he said his T4 has been good from the first time he put it on the track with learning the track being his biggest focus. Now set to run in the top heat he said running with cars all of a similar speed should help him further improve on his driving of the track.
Volker said while he had some issues with the loop on his first lap his goal for CP2 was always on running a 5-minute time. Running just 1-second slower than his morning total time, the 4-time Euro Touring Series Champion said he could feel the track was not as fast but still his lap time average was ‘good’.
Setting the fastest lap of the round with a 17.420, Naoto Matsukura would post the 3rd fastest time of the round which claim 5th overall in the seeding. Managing only 2-laps in CP1 due to making contact with the boards, the Yokomo driver would have a ‘spin out’ on his opening lap. Unlike team-mate Volker, Matsukura’s BD7 seems to be at it best in cooler conditions with the 21-year-old saying the track was too hot for his car this time round.
Tamiya filled fourth through to sixth for the round. Fourth and sixth respectively Viktor Wilck and Marc Rheinard failed to improve on their morning times but World Champion Jilles Groskamp was able to find over 3/10ths over his best 3-laps to book his spot in the top heat for qualifying. Reducing the turbo delay on his Orion speedo, he said this cut out the corner overshoots he suffered in the first round. Happy with the car’s improvement, the Dutch ace was also encouraged by the fact while others went slower he improved.
Another improver in CP2 was British National Champion Olly Jefferies. Only 22nd in the morning, the Xray driver posted the 7th fastest time of the second run. Copying the set-up of team-mate Alexander Hagberg, Jefferies switched over to Xray’s ARS (Active Rear Suspension) set-up which gave his T4 more steering. Pleased to have made a big step forward for the final practice he will make some small tweaks to get the set-up better suited to his driving.
Ronald Volker topped the first round of controlled practice at the Touring Car World Championships in Florida, the Yokomo driver fastest over 3-consecutive laps from the Tamiya’s of Marc Rheinard and Viktor Wilck. Having set the pace in yesterday’s open practice Volker’s team Naoto Matsukura had a very short lived start to Day 2 as he managed only two timed laps before hitting the boards at the end of the straight and popping a tie rod.
Also recording the fastest 5-minute time, again Rheinard being his closest rival, Volker said he ‘wasn’t too happy with (his) driving’. Starting off with a ‘perfect lap’, he said he drove too aggressively resulting in him hitting the boards on lap 2 so that effected his outright 3-lap pace. Following the early error, the German said he switched his focus to running the practice like a qualifier but felt he ‘pushed too hard’. Very happy with the performance of his LRP powered BD7 2015, he said while they will just make some ‘tiny’ tweaks to the set-up for the second of the three controlled practices the big focus will be to work on his driving.
Rheinard said as an overall run ‘it was pretty good’ but a spin at the end of the straight on the first lap effected his 3-lap pace. The 3-time Touring Car World Champion believes the spin was due to his set of controlled Hot Race tyres slightly bigger than normal centre line. Not permitted to trim this before the run he said for the future he will need to consider doing some extra warm-up laps. Team-mate Wilck said while he was able to find a bit more steering than he had yesterday, his TRF419 was ‘a bit loose’. Putting this down to the hot temperatures for CP2 he will change shock oil.
Japanese TRF driver Akio Sobue set the fourth fastest time, the 19-year-old very happy with his 3-lap pace. Looking to make his car a little easier to drive for the second practice he will go up in with the front roll centre as well as going from 45 to 47.5 weight shock oil.
‘A lot better’ was how Alexander Hagberg summed up his run to the fourth fastest time. The Xray driver said his T4 was much better today but added he didn’t drive very well as it took some time to get used to the set-up change. Changing the cars rear suspension geometry this gave the car better high speed steering and the Swede was confident they were now ‘definitely going in the right direction’.
Kyosho’s Christopher Krapp completed the Top 6, the German saying his new car was fast but a little difficult to drive. Fourth fastest over 5-minutes, He changed to a thicker diff oil which during the run he felt he needed to change back but on reflection plans now to run it again and try to adapt his driving to ‘work with it’. Giving the car good steering but at the loss of rear traction he will instead make a rear end set-up adjustment to try cure that.
Seventh fastest, Yannic Prumper said he drove better than yesterday and it was just all about track time. Unlike his Yokomo team-mates, the German didn’t get to test at the Kissimmee track prior to the event, and he said he is still trying to get the lines perfected in particular which sections of blue painted curbing you can and cant drive on. In terms of his BD7 he said it was ‘pretty good’.
‘Think its OK’ was Paul Lemieux’s reaction to his 8th fastest time. The American said while he is working to make his Xray a little less sensitive, it was ‘mainly all about driving out there’.
In between Lemieux and Canadian racer Andrew Hardman, who completed the Top 10, Atsushi Hara said his Yokomo was not as good as yesterday. Re-adjusting his roll centres, the former World Champion said this was better but going to a softer shock spring made the car ‘too easy to drive.’ For CP2 he will revert back to the standard spring set-up he ran yesterday.
Defending Champion Jilles Groskamp could manage only the 12th fastest time behind Meen Vejrak. The Tamiya driver said’ for 3-laps not so good but overall no so bad’. The Dutch ace felt he ‘didn’t drive very well in the beginning’ and while he was faster at the end of the 5-minutes he needs to find more pace from his driving. Suffering a number of overshoots in corners he will change his Orion speedo profile to slightly less power for the next run.
Tamiya’s large factory team here in Kissimmee are running the recently announced TRF419, the latest in a long line of World Championship winning touring car chassis from the Japanese manufacturer. Only some very small detail changes over the TRF 418, the new car has the motor mounted slightly further back, meaning new belts, and sports an all new rear gear differential. The diff has updated internals with a bigger pitch crown gears that make the car more stable and help improve the car’s corner speed.
Like the other new cars it has a one piece motor mount and included flex options thanks to multiple mounting holes in the chassis and block. There are slightly larger bore shocks and the lower suspension mounts have pins for locating them and preventing them from shifting in a crash. The mounts also have differently positioned mounting holes, in an L configuration instead of straight accross the mount, which helps increase flex in this area. The car is expected to be released in early December.
Kyosho are making their debut with their new touring car platform, the as yet unnamed chassis (TF7?) sports a number of neat new features. Said to be 85% new the most notable feature is the floating battery mount which is mounted to the centre line by 2 screws which like the popular floating servo mount stops the battery from interfering with the chassis’ flex. A single piece motor mount and central axle mount ensures that there is equal flex left and right and offers mounting holes on the chassis plate to adjust the cars flex in this area. The motor has been mounted 8mm further forward and the belts have been changed to cater for the new larger diff and spool.
Other new updates include a one-piece anti-roll bar mount, a new carbon steering brace as well as lower shock towers and slightly larger bore shocks. Finally there are new shorter suspension arms to help the car turn better and the option to install their active rear suspension system. The car should be available at the beginning of next year.