Marc Rheinard is the new Touring Car World Champion after a dramatic victory in the final Leg here in Thailand. The German, who becomes the first double World Champion, battled intensely with Top Qualifier Atsushi Hara eventually squeezing his way past his great Japanese rival. The real drama unfolded when Hara rolled his Hot Bodies in the last minute dropping to fourth and handing Rheinard the title. Finishing second Ronald Volker becomes Vice Champion with Masami Hirosaka completing the podium.
After the drama of the opening Leg, the second A-Main here at the RCS in Bangkok was a far more straight forward affair with Atsushi Hara taking a comfortable win over Marc Rheinard. The result means the outcome of the fifth Touring Car World Championships will go down to the third and final leg.
Based on the performance we have just seen Hara certainly looks on target to become the first driver to win the Touring Car world title twice with his main rival Rheinard almost admitting defeat saying if the opportunuity arises he will go for it but that he must also be careful so as to protect second spot as a mistake could cost him a podium.
Third for the Leg was Ronald Volker, the German having to throw his LRP powered Cyclone TC across the line to fend of intense pressure from Leg 1 winner Masami. Andy Moore finished fifth ending his reign as World Champion while fellow countryman Elliot Harper completed the Top 6.
So five minutes of racing seperate us from finding out who will enjoy the rewards of holding the World title for the next two years but right now it looks as it is going to be the same guy that hold the same crown for 1:8 Off Road.
A-main leg 2 results
1. Atsushi Hara (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:04.334
2. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:05.719
3. Ronald Volker (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:07.388
4. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:07.562
5. Andy Moore (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:08.427
6. Elliot Harper (Xray/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:11.304
7. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:14.178
8. Meen Vejrak (Xray/LRP) – 18 Lap 5:01.676
9. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 17 Lap 4:46.103
10. Viktor Wilck (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 10 Lap 2:46.960
There was a big surprise in the opening Leg of the A-Main here in Thailand with Masami Hirosaka taking the win after title favourites Atsushi Hara and Marc Rheinard touched on the third lap allowing the Yokomo driver to take an early lead. Once out front the Japanese legend never looked back to head home Ronald Volker and ever impressive Elliot Harper.
‘Very lucky’ was Masami’s reply when asked about how the first A Main went but a win is a win and with his car looking much better today his ambitions to lift the one title that elludes him are very much alive. Having suffered with tyre choice during qualifying, Masami said his car was now very easy to drive and he is feeling confident for the next Leg.
‘Just a racing incident’ was how Hara, who eventually finished fourth, described the incident that could be the main talking point of many a discussion on the 2008 Worlds depending on the outcome here later today. The Japanese driver said Rheinard was a little faster in the opening part of the race and that he was just trying to hold the inside line when the Tamiya touched the back of his Hot Bodies. Holding a lot of respect for one another, Rheinard waited for Hara to retake the position but Viktor Wilck got involved in the incident allowing the trio of Masami, Volker and Harper to take up the lead battle.
Hot Bodies driver Volker was very happy with second in the opening leg after making a bad start. Benefiting from the clash between the two former World Champions, the German said it was a tough race as Harper, who set the fastest lap of the race, pushed him all the way to the finish. Having changed the set-up on his Xray after this morning’s practice Harper said his T2 009 was ‘amazing’ but couldn’t find a way past the German who drove flawlessly.
Defending Champion Andy Moore had an early ‘throw away round’ after he finished seventh following a rough opening race. Having got muscled out at the first corner, the Englishman found himself last at the end of the opening lap. Trying to make his way back up the order he then made contact with his Hot Bodies team-mate Hayato Matsuzaki ending any hope of a good result.
A-main leg 1 results
1. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:03.464
2. Ronald Volker (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:04.003
3. Elliot Harper (Xray/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:04.182
4. Atsushi Hara (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:08.224
5. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:08.559
6. Viktor Wilck (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:08.934
7. Andy Moore (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:10.350
8. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:10.550
9. Meen Vejrak (Xray/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:13.679
10. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:16.502
The Top 10 touring car drivers in the World have just completed their practice final here in Thailand with Hara leading home Masami, on the time screens that is. As expected Hara and Rheinard battled up front from the start followed closely by Volker and Masami but catching a kerb Rheinard rolled his Tamiya onto its roof. Once up right again the German waited for Hara to come round slotting back into second just ahead of Masami. Sandwiched between Hara and Masami, who got passed Volker when he too rolled after riding a kerb, Rheinard closed right up on the bumper of his great rival. While he failed to get passed we suspect that neither driver was showing their true hand saving that extra 5% for when the results will really count.
Above is a video from the 5th round of qualifying which shows the action from Heat 13. This round saw Marc Rheinard take the win and overall round TQ, just beating out eventual top qualifier Atsushi Hara.
Although he’s a former World Champion he had never before TQ’d even a single round of qualifying at the bi annual event, but here in Thailand its a very different story for Atsushi Hara. Winning the final qualifier to confirm he will start tomorrow’s A Mains from pole, the Japanese ace topped the time sheets on 4 of the 6 occassions with his great rival Marc Rheinard the only one to denying him total domination.
Having ruled proceeding yesterday Hara’s run came to an end in the fourth round as he played with set-ups for Sunday’s finals allowing Rheinard to narrowly snatch the round TQ. The German repeated it again in the fifth heat but returning to his Friday set-up Hara resumed control to officially confirm himself as the Worlds Top Qualifier, a fact that was never really in doubt following his super fast time in the third heat.
Rheinard described his second spot on the grid as the ‘perfect position’ as he can apply the pressure rather than receive it. The German, who Hara acknowledges as being his toughest opponent, appears to be on a high about chasing down the first ever Touring Car World Champion. On pace the pair are very evenly matched but Rheinard has a reputation for being able to find 105% when needed. As 2006 podium finisher Paul Lemeiux put it ‘one good thing about not making the A Main is that I’m going to get to watch one hell of a dog fight’.
Third on the gird will be Ronald Volker. The German has been very fast throughout the event and has the speed to pick up the pieces if the two in front come undone. This is the second time the LRP/Hot Bodies driver has made the World final and he has set himself the goal of a podium finish. Turning things around today Viktor Wilck will start from fourth. The Swede will line-up directly behind his Tamiya Racing Factory team mate and says it is vital to make a quick get away so as to stop the front row making an early break.
Masami Hirosaka lines up fifth but still hasn’t given up hope of taking his first ever Touring Car World title. The Yokomo driver said his slump in performance after a stunning opening day was down to tyres. The Japanese legend said he made the wrong choice between new and used tyres for the different track conditions. Now that he has that figured out he said he is looking forward to a ‘clean race’ tomorrow.
Defending World Champion Andy Moore who TQ’d the last World’s will line up sixth. The British driver had an electrical problem in the last qualifier which cost him grid places but rekons thing are still wide open and it could all be decided at the first corner. Starting just behind him is fellow countryman Elliot Harper. Top Xray on the grid, this 15-year-old is sure to be on the shopping lists of a number of manufacturers for the 2009 season thanks to his impressive Worlds debut. Really happy to make his first Worlds final Harper, who unlike his rivals didn’t have the benefit of pre-event testing, said he would like to finish well but with everyone so close on times it will be tough racing.
Another big surprise finalist is local Thai driver Meen Vejrak who is also at the controls of Xray’s T2 009 chassis. A slipping belt cost him two good runs in the last two qualifiers but with this now fixed the FEMCA Nitro Touring Champion is aiming for a Top 5 finish.
Giving Hot Bodies the biggest share of the grid is Hayato Matsuzaki, the IFMAR 2WD Off Road World Champion claimed 9th ahead of Jilles Groskamp whose Tamiya takes up the final spot on the starting line-up.
Taking the unlucky honour of BQ (11th position) goes to Hupo Honigl but the Tamiya driver is joined in the B Main by some other unfortunate World Class drivers like Kyosho team leader Shin Adachi, 2002 World Champion Surikarn, TITC winner Teemu Leino, US Champion Lemieux and the newly crowned 1:12 scale World Champion Naoto Matsukura.
Top 10 results from round 6
1. Atsushi Hara (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:11.387
2. Ronald Volker (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:11.906
3. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:12.172
4. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:13.760
5. Elliot Harper (Xray/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:14.037
6. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:14.273
7. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:15.273
8. Steven Weiss (Xray/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:15.299
9. Hupo Honigl (Tamiya/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:15.886
10. Teemu Leino (Xray/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:16.559
So tomorrow is D day and with Scotty Ernst on the mic there is not going to be a more exciting place to be in the world than at the RCS in Bangkok. Drivers will have one practice session to settle the nerves before the 15 most important minutes of racing in their careers will determine who is the World’s No.1. We will try to share that excitment with you through our continued Speed Passion and LRP supported live reports from Thailand.