November 14, 2008

First round TQ honours for Hara

Atsushi Hara has TQ’d the opening round of qualifying for the 2008 Electric Touring Car Worlds.  Heading a trio of Hot Bodies at the top of the time sheets, the former Champion was the only driver to repeat a 19 lap run as higher temperatures made for slower track conditions.  Hara said his car was very stable and allowed him to run very consistent lap times but will make a few small changes for the second heat when conditions will be even hotter here at RCS.

Former European Champion Ronald Volker, who drives a Hot Bodies but is lead driver for LRP, was second fastest.  The German said his car was a little difficult to drive at the beginning but once the new set of tyres came in he was able to get a good rythm and at the end is pleased to start off with a second.

Defending Champion Andy Moore, who is running in the second fastest group, described his run to third for the round as ‘safe’. ‘Getting there slowly but surely’ was the comment from the Englishman who is still struggling with understeer thats gets worse over the five minutes.

Masami Hirosaka said that nerves got the better of him in the opening heat but reported his Yokomo as working well.  The Japanese driver really wants to add the Touring Car title to his list of World Championship successes and is very focused on the job in hand.  With the early nerves now behind him he is confident of taking the challenge to his fellow countryman next time out.

Marc Rheinard was top Tamiya for the round with the fifth fastest time but could have been higher.  The 2004 World Champion got caught up with 2002 Champion Surikarn as he tried to pass the Thai driver who was running at a slower pace.  Rheinard said his car is working better today with track conditions now more like those when the Tamiya Racing Factory squad tested here.  Making it two TRF416 cars in the Top 10, Austrian Hupo Honigl set the 8th fastest time just ahead of current 2wd EP Buggy World Champion Hayato Matsuzaki.

The biggest surprise of the first qualifier was Australian Champion Simon Nicholson.  The Corally driver, who is a running a Quark speedo and 07 Orion motor, says he is still getting there and feels he can get his RDX Phi to go even quicker. He will change dampers for Heat 2 to try make his car more stable.

Completing the Top 10 and heading the Xray challenge, Paul Lemieux said his run was clean but he expected it to be better.  The US National Champion had been struggling yesterday but after ‘throwing everything’ at his Trinity powered T2 009 he is starting to get it to his liking.

Two drivers that looked set for very fast runs only to come undone were Pre Worlds race winner Viktor Wilck and Kyosho’s Shin Adachi.  Wilck’s Tamiya was on for a 19 lap run when it suffered a spur gear failure while Adachi’s car once again dumped costing him a Top 3 run time.  Top Associated for the round was Juho Levanen with the 18th fastest time.

Top 10 results after Qualifying Rd1
1. Atsushi Hara (HB) – 19 Lap 5:15.777
2. Ronald Volker (HB) – 18 Lap 5:00.719
3. Andy Moore (HB) – 18 Lap 5:01.139
4. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo) – 18 Lap 5:01.335
5. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya) – 18 Lap 5:01.983
6. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya) – 18 Lap 5:02.138
7. Simon Nicholson (Corally) – 18 Lap 5:02.375
8. Hupo Honigl (Tamiya) – 18 Lap 5:03.267
9. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB) – 18 Lap 5:03.319
10. Paul Lemieux (Xray) – 18 Lap 5:03.584

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November 14, 2008

Hara tops final practice in Bangkok

‘I think no more B Main’ was the reply from Atsushi Hara after he topped the final practice session of the 2008 IFMAR World Championships here at RCS in the fastest time we have seen yet. The Hot Bodies team leader produced 19 laps in 05:13.010, laying down a fastest lap time of 16.306 to head fellow Cyclone TC driver Ronald Volker who stopped the clocks at 05:14.025.  Both Hara and Volker said track conditions were a lot better than yesterday and that can be seen on the time sheets as five drivers managed 19 lap runs.

2000 World Champion Hara said his car actually had a little too much traction but was much happier with the handling today.  German Volker was pleased also with the improved feeling of his car this morning and thinks it will be even better when he runs new rubber in the first heat.

Having dominated yesterday’s controlled practice Masami Hirosaka was third fastest this morning but the Yokomo driver said he was using the session to try a number of things and so wasn’t too worried about Hara and Volker outpacing him.

People were pointing at his name on the time sheets in free practice and asking ‘who is this guy’ but now the name Meen Vejrak is rolling of the tongues of his rivals as the Thai driver continues to impress with his fast pace.  Driving his LRP powered Xray the 23-year-old was fourth fastest and top Xray this morning with his T2 009 placing just ahead of factory driver Alexander Hagberg who was the only other driver to break in to the 19 laps.

Interestingly Jilles Groskamp, who was second fastest yesterday, was so pleased with the handling of his factory Tamiya that he pulled in early in the final practice.

So practice is over but its now that things get serious and times really count as the first round of qualifiers here in Bangkok get underway. Three heats lie ahead for the drivers followed by three more tomorrow with the best three deciding the grids for Sunday’s Finals.  Only 10 drivers can make the A Main and with such a quality line up here the fight for a place on the grid that will decide the 2008 World Champion is set to be intense.

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November 13, 2008

Masami reseeded No.1

Masami Hirosaka has claimed the No.1 spot in the reseeding of the heats after a blistering run saw him become the first and only driver to break into the 19 laps on Day 1 of the IFMAR Worlds in Thailand.  The Japanese master predicted better traction for the second controlled practice and increased the punch on his speedo accordingly to once again top the time sheets and claim an important early mental victory over his rivals as he will now lead away the fastest group of drivers for the heats.

Describing his run as ‘really good’ the long time Yokomo factory driver used the session to run a second example of his Nosram 4.5 motor to ensure he has two good motors at his disposal over the next three days. Asked if faster times are yet to come, Masami said maybe not tomorrow but come Saturday he will be aiming for 20 laps.

Jilles Groskamp put in a great second controlled practice to go No.2 in the reseed. The Tamiya/Speed Passion driver was clearly very happy with the run.  While his team-mates are struggling with the set-up on their TRF416 World Edition, the Dutch driver has his working well.  Although describing the run as far from perfect, Groskamp admit to finding most of his time from watching Masami’s lines around the RCS which he said are ‘perfect’.

Pulling off the biggest shock of practice was Kyosho’s Shin Adachi.  The Japanese driver could only manage 22nd in the first controlled practice but a change of steering system on the Stallion transformed things. Despite dumping on the last lap Adachi pulled off 18 laps in 05:02.473.  Making it four different brands of car at the top of the time sheets Atsushi Hara is fastest of Hot Bodies star line-up with his time from the first controlled practice.  An electrical problem caused his Cyclone TC to run roughly in the second forcing him to head for the pits.

Germany’s Ronald Volker described things as being ‘so close’ but with his car getting better with each outing he was feeling pretty good & happy to put it into the top heat with the fifth fastest time ahead of 2002 World Champion Surikarn and 2004 title holder Marc Rheinard.  The latter is struggling to get any consistancy into his car but his Swedish team-mate Viktor Wilck, who won the Pre-Worlds, is having an even worse time and finds himself in an unexpected 17th in the reseed.  An indication of how close things are here in Bangkok is that Wilck is less than 4 seconds off his team-mate Groskamp but finds 14 drivers between them.

Rick Hohwart heads the Associated challenge at the end of Day 1 after team leader Juho Levanen had a problem with his front spool, a problem that also befell his young Finnish team-mate Christer Andersson. American Hohwart was on target for a very fast time but crashed and as a result will line-up in the second fastest group after posting the 15th best time.

Top 10 after controlled practice
1. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Laps 5:16.066
2. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 18 Laps 5:01.999
3. Shin Adachi (Kyosho/Team Orion) – 18 Laps 5:02.473
4. Atsushi Hara (Hot Bodies/Team Orion) – 18 Laps 5:02.491
5. Ronald Volker (Hot Bodies/LRP) – 18 Laps 5:02.813
6. Surikarn C. (Hot Bodies/Speed Passion) – 18 Laps 5:02.938
7. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya/Speed Passion) – 18 Laps 5:03.139
8. Elliot Harper (Xray/Nosram) – 18 Laps 5:03.385
9. Meen Vejrak (Xray/LRP) – 18 Laps 5:03.415
10.Alexander Hagberg (Xray/LRP) – 18 Laps 5:03.545

Drivers will now be reseeded and given one more controlled practice session in the morning before we get down to the serious business of qualifying with three heats on tomorrow’s schedule.  Red RC’s live coverage, which is brought to you in assocation with LRP and Speed Passion, continues in the morning.

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November 13, 2008

Masami makes intentions clear

Masami Hirosaka has made his intentions clear here in Thailand by setting the fastest run in first controlled practice.  Having won multiple World titles in all the other electric categories the Japanese Yokomo driver wants this one badly and made this clear with an 18 lap run in 5:01.604 to beat fellow countryman & former Touring Car World Champion Atsushi Hara.

Hirosaka said the hotter conditions had made for less traction but he had made allowances for this by turning down the punch on his Nosram speedo which made the car more manageable.  Paying attention to every little detail, the sport’s legendary driver has monitored the weather conditions over the past few days and charted it out by time allowing him to choose the best setting for the particular time of day he is running at.  For controlled practice no.2 he will ‘turn on punch button’ as the track will be much cooler for the last run of the opening day.

Hara described conditions as being a little worse than this morning’s free practice runs but said his Hot Bodies was good.  The 2000 World Champion admitted Hirosaka was ‘pretty fast’ but said for the moment he was happy with his own pace.  Making it an all Asian Top 3 for the session Hara’s team-mate Surikarn, who would love to regain the World title on home soil, said his car was fast but suspects his chassis is slightly tweaked.

Former European Champion Ronald Volker was fourth fastest with his Cyclone TC.  The LRP team driver, who is running a 4.5 version of the new Vector X12 motor, was not so happy with the set-up of his car but said it was consistent and his run to fourth was an OK start to the event.

Heading the Tamiya challenge with the fifth fastest time was Jilles Groskamp.  A member the Tamiya Racing Factory team, the Dutch driver was pleased with what was only his second run, his first free practice lasting just one lap due to a speedo failure.  Groskamp’s Speed Passion powered TRF416 World Edition felt good at the beginning of the run but then started to feel loose.  Having lost five minutes of track time to his rivals this morning he said he is still playing around with finding the best racing line.  Current 1:10 2WD World Champion Hayato Matsuzaki driving a Hot Bodies completed the Top 6 just ahead of Andy Moore.

Heading Xray’s challenge is Teemu Leino, a driver many are tipping as a possible winner come Sunday evening.  The Finn said the track feels completely different to when the Slovak team tested here.  Running a 4.0 Orion motor in his T2 009, Leino says he is still playing around with the set-up but he wasn’t going to make an major changes. His team-mate Alex Hagberg was tenth fastest running the set-up from pre-event testing but the Swede’s car doen’t feel nice to drive and he is unsure of what to change to improve it.

One of the stars of the 1:12 Worlds earlier this week, when he became Vice-Champion, Associated team driver Juho Levanen was happy with ninth fastest time.  The Finn’s TC5 feels good over five minutes and with some fine tuning for the next outing Levanen is confident he can improve but the 23-year-old thinks we could see a repeat of the 1:12 practice when on Day 2 the track conditions changed completely and turned everything on its head.

Elsewhere the highest placed Kyosho was Shin Adachi in a lowly 22nd while top Corally was Australian Simon Nicholson who recorded the 28th fastest time.

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November 13, 2008

Vejrak tops 2nd Free Practice

Second free practice is complete and once again the fastest man over 5 minutes is Meen Vejrak.  The relatively unknown Thai driver just pipped former World Champion Marc Rheinard to the fastest time posting 18 laps in 05:03.843 compared with the German’s 05:03.891.  The reigning FEMCA 1:10 Nitro Touring Champion, Vejrak is delighted with his early performance reporting his Xray T2 009 as working very well on the controlled Sweep tyres.

Rheinard, who described today’s track conditions as having a lot less traction than when the Tamiya team conducted their Pre-World’s testing, says his car is pushing a little and he will change shock positions & camber links to try and increase steering.  Third fastest for the session, Andy Moore also suffered from understeer but the Englishman said its a compromise as having good turn in causes the tyres to overheat resulting in a loose back end.

On lap times Atsushi Hara was again fastest, this time producing a 16.469 with Rheinard second on a 16.569.  Describing his run as ‘much better than 1:12 scale’, Hara switched cars half way through the session. His first Cyclone TC had a harder front end and although he set his fastest lap with the softer set-up he preferred the feeling of the first car.  Third fastest on lap times was Masami Hirosaka with a 16.696.  The reigning Japanese Champion was another to switch car but his purpose was to try different motors.  Running first a Nosram 4.5 the Yokomo team leader switched to 4.0.  While the latter gave considerable more top speed the 4.5 proved quicker over a lap and this is what Hirosaka will run in the first controlled practice.  Another to switch cars was Xray’s main hope Teemu Leino. The Finn described the track as loose but found the setting on his second car the better of the two.

Controlled practice is up next and as this determines the reseeding for the six qualifiers we will be able to bring you a more indepth run down of who is at what with a full ranking list set to be issued after each of the two sessions.  From this we will also be able to bring you a summary of which drivers are leading the challenge of each of the manfacturers here in Thailand.

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November 13, 2008

Two year wait is over

The two year wait is finally over for the world’s best electric touring car drivers as the fifth IFMAR Electric Onroad Championships is go here in Bangkok, Thailand.  Heading the 115 entries from around the globe is defending Champion Andy Moore along with the three champions to go before him, setting the stage for what is certain to be an exciting four days of action at the RCS track.

For the past two world championships it has been the Top Qualifier that has gone on to the take the title.  Driving for Hot Bodies, Moore TQ’d in Italy in 2006 from where the Englishman went on to become the World’s No.1.  German ace Marc Rheinard achieved the same perfect result when he won the 2004 title in Florida for Tamiya.  2002 winner Surikarn,  who now represents Hot Bodies, won the title in South Africa for Tamiya beating pole sitter Barry Baker from the US who is abscent this time round.

Atsushi Hara was the first ever Touring Car World Champion winning the title in his home country for Yokomo back in 2000. Also now with Hot Bodies, Hara is statistically the most consistant driver over the four World Championships having been on the podium in three of the four events and this year the Japanese star added the 1:8 Off Road World title to his CV making him one of the sports all round greats.

Outside of those to have achieved the greatest accolade the sport has to offer, one driver to have come so close and who possess a serious treat here this week is Masami Hirosaka.  The five time 1:12 World Champion sat out 1:12 this year so as to focus on winning the title he has come so close to winning in the past but which has frustratingly illuded him.  In 2000 he TQ’d and finished on the podium and last time round he finished runner-up to Moore.

With such a pool of world class talent in the pits here picking the A Final line up is like trying to choose the numbers for the weekly millions lottery draw but two drivers that stand out are young Swede Vicktor Wilck and fellow Scandinavian Teemu Leino.  Wilck won the Pre-Worlds for the Tamiya team here while flying Finn Leino won the TITC event earlier in the year for Xray so they have shown they have what it takes to challenge the famous four and Masami.

Drivers have just completed their first free practice, which has been randomly grouped, with most just using the 5 minute run to settle in and get rubber down on the track which is a different layout to that used for the 1:12 World’s earlier this week.  In terms of laps it was Thai driver Meen Vejrak at the controls of an Xray who topped the charts from Wilck with 18 laps in 05:05.286 while the fastest lap was from Hara who posted a 16.531.  One more free practice followed by two controlled practices, which will determine the reseed for tomorrow’s qualifiers, make up the rest of today’s timetable.

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