Naoto Matsukura is the new Electric Touring Car World Champion. Just days after relinquishing the 1:12 World title he held for six years, the Japanese driver becomes the sixth winner of the sport’s biggest accolade achieving something that eluded his mentor & RC legend Masami Hirosaka. The 8th running of the championships, four drivers went into the third A-Main at the Kissimmee track in contention for the title. Despite an intense challenge from pre-event favourite Ronald Volker, Matsukura took the A3 win and with it his fourth IFMAR World title. Finishing the leg third behind the Yokomo team-mates, Xray’s A1 winner and star of the Florida event Bruno Coelho would finish second overall leaving a disappointed Volker to complete the podium.
With the Yokomo pairing pulling clear of the field, the Japanese manufacturer’s quest to regain the title they last won in 2000, the first year of the championships, with Atsushi Hara, things almost came undone on lap on lap 8 of 18. With Volker on his tail, Matsukra would clip the boards through the section leading on to the straight. Collecting the No.1 BD7, Volker would come off worst but luckily both survived to maintain station at the front such was their lead. The incident dropped Volker almost a second off Matsukura, but a charge saw him close back up but setting the fastest lap of the race the impressive Coelho, a title contender, was also on his way to the front. Unfortunately a mistake on the last lap ended Coelho’s challenge opening the door for Volker to attempt a pass for the title the European Champion so desperately wants. Going for a move at the hairpin following the sweeper at the end of the straight, Volker just could get it done with Matsukura able to hold on for the last few corners to claim the World title.
‘So happy, 1:12 didn’t work out but that doesn’t matter now’, was Matsukura’s reaction to his victory. Having continuously held a world title since making his Worlds debut in Thailand in 2008 when he took the first of three 1:12 World titles, he said his team-mate made him work hard for this one. Admitting that luck was on his side in relation to his ‘little mistake’, the 21-year-old said he expected Volker’s last lap attempt to pass but he was able to see it off. Thanking Yokomo boss Tom Yokobora for having made it possible for him to race at the top of the sport he also paid compliments to the BD7 2015’s designer Yukijiro Umino for providing him with ‘a great car’. Having ‘let down’ his many supporters who stayed up all night back in Japan to follow his 1:12 title defence he said he hoped this more than made up for that and he thanked them for their messages of support.
‘Huge disappointment’, was Volker’s reaction to finishing 3rd overall for a second time at the Worlds. Having been really unhappy with his driving in A2, he said he ‘was sharp for A3’ adding he drove the best he could and it was something he could be proud of. ‘Slightly faster than Naoto’, he said the lap 8 incident was also identical to Lap 1 of A1. Running on his team-mates ‘tail’, he said he could also see Coelho coming and with that in mind he didn’t want to do anything stupid that might cost Yokomo the title. Seeing the No.3 make a mistake on the last lap and with Umino giving him ‘a really good car’ he ‘gave his all’ and tried to pass, ‘almost’ making it happen. Congratulating Matsukura on his win, he said they pushed each other hard throughout the event. Describing Coehlo’s second overall as ‘unexpected’, them both tying on points, he said the World’s debutant is an ‘upcoming star of the future’. Thanking his sponsors Yokomo and LRP and Umino, he said while the event was personally ‘a big disappointment’, he was going to have some beers tonight and try again in 2016.
Making a huge impact with his pace throughout the Full Throttle RC Raceway hosted event, with many manufacturers taking note of the previously little known talent, Coelho said after again making a mistake at the start it was difficult to challenge for the win. Finishing A3 fourth, he said ‘I did my best and to end up fighting for a Top 3 place in the world feels very good’. A very cool operator, the 21-year-old said he came to his first touring car World Championship with little expectations. New to the class, he said every day he is learning with the last few days being a ‘big education’. While all the top teams tested extensively at the track numerous times, Coelho drove the track for the first time on Thursday. Already looking forward to 2016, when the race will take place in Bejing, China, he said he will try to go one better next time.
Finishing fourth overall, having taken third in A3, Tamiya’s Marc Rheinard said he knew he had to go for the win to have any chance of a podium or a chance at a fourth Touring car title. Hitting the boards on Lap 6, he said it ‘went downhill from there’ with his steering going out of alignment with suspected damage to the servo gearing. Without this the German was confident he had a similar pace to the Yokomos but said ultimately he ‘did not drive good’. A single race held only every two years, he said ‘everything has to be perfect to win it’.
Outgoing Champion Jilles Groskamp would finish 6th, the Dutch driver declaring himself happy with the result having started the finals from 10th on the grid. Feeling he drove good finals, the Tamiya Racing Factory driver said he knew from the start of the event he wasn’t in contention. He said it was time for Yokomo to win having been so close before, adding they deserved it. Happy for Matsukura to win he said on the other side he feels bad for Volker, a driver widely acknowledged as being the fastest in the World.
Top Qualifier Naoto Matsukura took a straight forward tone to tone victory in the second A-Main of the World Championships with the title set to be decided among four drivers in A3. Setting the fastest lap of the race, the Yokomo driver led home team-mate Ronald Volker and A1 winner Bruno Coehlo, the Top 3 finishing as they started. A much faster encounter, the winning pace a full lap quicker than the opening leg thanks to better track conditions, for defending Champions Tamiya the race saw their main contender Marc Rheinard have a tough race with the 3-time Champion coming together twice with former Champion Atsushi Hara, the pair finish 9th & 10th respectively.
‘Perfect’ was how Matsukura summed up the race. Having spun out on the opening lap of A1 and being collected by Volker, the Japanese driver said with a ‘good track’ this time round he was able to put in a clean 5-minutes. Running his own pace at the start focusing on just keeping the back behind him he said once he got into his rhythm he was able to pull clear adding he ‘just need(s) one more’ such run today.
‘Still in the game’ was Volker’s reaction to his second in A2. The German said he struggled with his driving not putting in a very good first lap and then again towards the end of the run. Catching up to his team-mate, having got on to his ‘tail’, he said he over drove missing his lines and letting Matsukura pull away again. Predicting that, like in qualifying, the overall win could be decided on fastest race time due to a tie break he said his plan for A3 is to ‘just go for the perfect drive’.
Pulling off an impressive move to get by Rheinard who passed him early on, Coelho said had to push hard finding it difficult to keep pace with the Yokomo. The Xray driver said this lead to a moment that let both Rheinard and Hara by but after getting back passed the two World Champions after they got together, he eased off a little deciding to settle for a third rather than take further risks. Mixing it up with the sport’s full time professional drivers and going in A3 with a chance of winning the World title against Matsukura, Volker and Rheinard, the Portuguese talent said he would ‘just see what happens’.
Starting from 8th on the grid, Coelho’s senior team-mate Alexander Hagberg finish 4th. Improving his T4 from A1, the Swede said it was now much easier to drive and while he benefited from other’s mistakes and was able to get around them, he is aiming for a repeat performance in the last A-Main. Behind Hagberg, outgoing World Champion Jilles Groskamp worked his way up from the back of the grid to 5th.