Three years ago he was taken under wings of one of rc racing’s greats Masami Hirosaka and today aged just 15-years-old Naoto Matsukura has become the youngest ever IFMAR World Champion after a dominant performance at the 1:12 Onroad Worlds in Bangkok, Thailand. The Japanese driver came here with an already impressive CV with back to back titles in his National Championship but faced with the best in the world, including all four Touring Car World Champions, he rose impressively to the challenge.
Hot property of Japanese manufacturer Team Yokomo, Matsukura was running Associated’s RC12R5 and from the first practice his laps times were impressive. That pace was converted into overall TQ honours after he claimed the fastest time in four the six qualifiers, his only opposition coming from Associated team-mate Juho Levanen. Leading Leg 1 of the A Main, an incident while lapping cost him the win but the impressive youngster didn’t let the misfortune get to him and came right back with two superb drives in the second and third Mains to claim a very popular and historic win.
For mentor Hirosaka, himself a five times 1:12 World Champion, it was a very proud moment but one which he always believed would come for his young protege. Opting not to race himself in the 14th 1:12 scale Worlds, so as to focus fully on the Touring Car title which has so far illuded him, Hirosaka said from the first time he witnessed Matsukura at the controls of an rc car he knew this kid was special.
For Matsukura he descibed his first World title as being ‘like a dream’ and for sure it is going to take a few days for the reality of what he has just achieved to sink in. A true professional he is already thinking about the Touring Car Worlds which get underway on Thursday but said his win has given him a great boost for the event. Asked if he can challenge his mentor when the pair will lead Yokomo’s touring car hopes, he said it would be very difficult but he will trying.
While Matsukura was the star of the show Finland’s Juho Levanen’s performance was also impressive. Working closely with the new World Champion throughout the event, the factory Associated driver was really pleased with the runners up spot which was far greater than his expectations coming out to Thailand. The 23-year-old was equally happy to lose out to his younger team-mate on what was a great day for the RC12R5.
With the Matsukura & Levanen domination from the start, the rest of the field were always battling for the final podium place and that honour fell to CRC team driver Hupo Honigl. The Austrian had set himself the target of making the A Main coming here and despite finishing a lap down to his rivals was very happy to take third overall. After practice the IIC Champion looked far from making it into the A Final but come qualifying he turned things around to secure third on the grid. Leg 1 ended almost as soon as it started but two good runs, which saw him fend of serious attention from Marc Rheinard in Leg 2 and his CRC team Jilles Groskamp in Leg 3, helped him claim a well deserved place on the overall podium.
So the dust has settled on a historic 1:12 World Championship. One of the main talking points of the 1:12 World’s return to asphalt will be how critical tyres & additive were and that seems to have been reflected in the small 49 car entry. Hopefully lessons have been learned and in the interest of this great class measures will be put in place for 2 years time to make for a more level playing field. That said the 2008 Worlds will be best remembered as the moment the sport unearthed an exciting new talent. Enjoy the celebrations Naoto.
Final official results
1. Naoto Matsukura – 20pts (9,10,10)
2. Juho Levanen – 19pts (10,9,9)
3. Hupo Honigl – 16pts (1,8,8)
4. Marc Rheinard – 14pts (7,7,1)
5. Hideo Kitizawa – 12pts (8,4,4)
6. Jilles Groskamp – 11pts (4,3,7)
7. Simo Ahoniemi – 11pts (6,5,3)
8. Andy Moore – 11pts (5,6,5)
9. Teemu Leino – 9pts (3,2,6)
10. Dasiuke Yoshioka – 4pts (2,1,2)
Videos all 3 A Mains are being uploaded presently but due to the slow connection here at the track we ask you to bear with us a little.
Naoto Matsukura is the 2008 IFMAR 1:12 World Champion. The 15-year-old won the title from Associated team-mate Levanen after taking victory in A Main number 3 to become the youngest ever IFMAR World Champion.
Naoto Matsukura has won the second leg of the A Main here in Bangkok to force the fight to go down to the third & final leg. The young Japanese ace who suffered cruel luck in the opening race cruised to a comfortable win over his team-mate and Leg 1 winner Juho Levanen. Although Levanen had the fastest lap of the race he was never a serious treat to Matsukura who appears to have a better handling car over the opening minute of the race. Levanen has little experience on asphalt and is still trying to find the perfect technique to saucing his tyres while Matsukura has plenty of knowledge having won back to back Japanese National titles on the black stuff.
While the Associated team-mates put on a display of formation driving up front the big battle of the race was for third with Hupo Honigl and Marc Rheinard enjoying a really close tussle. Running side by side the German eventually ran wide coming onto the main straight and with dirt on his tyres spun at the hairpin allowing Hupo’s CRC to take the place.
Results A-main Leg 2
1. Naoto Matsukura – 41 Laps 8:07.710
2. Juho Levanen – 41 Laps 8:09.179
3. Hupo Honigl – 40 Laps 3:05.346
4. Marc Rheinard – 40 Laps 8:08.627
5. Andy Moore – 40 Laps 8:10.391
6. Simo Ahoniemi – 40 Laps 8:14.450
7. Hideo Kitizawa – 39 Laps 8:01.188
8. Jilles Groskamp – 39 Laps 8:01.759
9. Teemu Leino – 39 Laps 8:03.912
10. Dasiuke Yoshioka – 39 Laps 8:08.297
In the second B Main Viktor Wilck won from US driver Rick Hohwart and Leg 1 winner Atsushi Hara. Young Finnish talent Christer Andersson had led for much of the race but was forced to retire after Hara challenged him for the lead and they made contact.
Juho Levanen has won the first A Main of the 1:12 World Championships after being handed the race lead when his team-mate Naoto Matsukura clashed with an out of shape Marc Rheinard. Top Qualifier Matsukura was holding a comfortable and steady lead over the Finn when with just over a minute to go he got collected by Rheinard who lost the rear end of his Hot Bodies in the hairpin at the end of the back straight. The young Japanese star’s car left the track after being hit by the pursuing Levanen who was able to continue and take the lead where he would stay til the end. Rejoining the track, such was the Associated team’s advantage over the field, Matsukura was able to hold on for second. Afterwards Rheinard was very apologetic for the incident which also cost him a certain third place finish. Instead his Hot Bodies team-mate Hideo Kitazawa claimed the position. Starting from third on the grid Hupo Honigl saw his podium hopes dashed on the first lap after a clash sent his car crashing into the barrier. The Austrian CRC driver tried to continue but had to pull up after 16 laps as the incident had tweak the car.
Results A-main Leg 1
1. Juho Levanen – 41 Laps 8:12.474
2. Naoto Matsukura – 40 Laps 8:06.675
3. Hideo Kitizawa – 39 Laps 8:00.704
4. Marc Rheinard – 39 Laps 8:01.157
5. Simo Ahoniemi – 39 Laps 8:01.726
6. Andy Moore – 39 Laps 8:07.080
7. Jilles Groskamp – 39 Laps 8:07.443
8. Teemu Leino – 39 Laps 8:08.810
9. Dasiuke Yoshioka – 38 Laps 8:04.293
10. Hupo Honigl – 16 Laps 3:20.836
Elsewhere Atsushi Hara won the B Final comfortably from Alexander Hagberg while former Touring Car World Champion Surikarn won the C Final.
He is the protege of Masami Hirosaka, he is back to back Japanese Champion and is rated very highly by the likes of Atsushi Hara, 15-year-old Yokomo hot property Naoto Matsukura is the Top Qualifier for the 2008 IFMAR 1:12 World Championship here in Bangkok, Thailand. Driving an Associated RC125R, Matsukura won the final qualifier to secure himself a place in the history books as he becomes the youngest ever World Championship Top Qualifier. Winning four of the six qualifiers the only one to come close to challenging to emerging world star was his Finnish 1:12 scale team-mate Juho Levanen who TQ’d Heat 3 & 4 giving the US manufacturer total domination here at Radio Control Speedway.
While Associated rule the front row of the grid, four other manufacturers will join them in the final but going on current form they are going to be battling for the final podium placing unless the two certain drivers trip one another up. Heading that fight is Hupo Honigl with his CRC chassis who will line up third on the grid ahead of European 1:12 Champion Marc Rheinard. Hot Bodies have four cars in the final with Rheinard joined by Hideo Kitazawa (5th), Daisuke Yoshioka (9th) and Andy Moore (10th). A big blow for Hot Bodies is pre event favourite Atsushi Hara’s failure to make the A Final. The 1:8 Off Road World Champion & former Touring Car World Champion will line up in the No.1 spot for the B Final where he his joined on the front row by Touring Car Pre-Worlds winner Viktor Wilck.
Also in the A Final for CRC is Dutch ace Jilles Groskamp who starts 6th with his Speed Passion powered example. Row four is made up of Simo Ahoneimi who carries the mammoth task of trying to retain the World title for Team Corally while Teemu Leino carries the hopes of Xray who must already be very pleased at having made the A Main on their 1:12 debut.
So three 8 minute final legs seperate us from finding out who will become the 14th holder of the 1:12 World Champion title. Are we about to see history in the making? Time will tell.
Top 10 qualifiers
1. Naoto Matsukura – JPN [Asso] – 465pts
2. Juho Levanen – FIN [Asso] – 463pts
3. Hupo Honigl – A [CRC] – 454pts
4. Marc Rheinard – DE [HB] – 453pts
5. Hideo Kitizawa – JPN [HB] – 453pts
6. Jilles Groskamp – NL [CRC] – 451pts
7. Simo Ahoniemi – FIN [Corally]- 447pts
8. Teemu Leino – FIN [Xray] – 445pts
9. Daisuke Yoshioka – JPN [HB] – 445pts
10. Andy Moore – UK [HB] – 444pts
Naoto Matsukura claimed yet another TQ this morning in the penultimate qualifier for the 1:12 World Championships which will be decided here in Bangkok later today. The 15-year-old Japanese star ran a very close heat with Associated team-mate Juho Levanen eventually claiming the fastest 8 minute run time of the event to put himself in the provisional overall TQ position.
Matsukura said after the run that he had to control the pace and hold back a little on the throttle to ensure he made the full run time. Running the same set-up as yesterday when his car dumped in the dying moments while on target for a 41 lapper, the controlled driving paid off allowing the reigning Japanese Champion to record 40 laps in 08:04.181. Having intially set the pace, 6 minutes in Levanen’s RC12R5 started to get loose causing the Finn to spin out twice which allowed Matsukura to close in and then pass to claim the round. The Team Associated team will rebuild the diff on Levanen’s car for the final qualifier which he needs to win in a sub 8 minute 4 second time if he wants to claim overall TQ honours.
While the two Associated drivers continued their reign up front Teemu Leino took Xray’s best run posting the third fastest time with 40 laps in 08:12.214. The surprise pace setter in Controlled Practice the Finn benefited from running a harder tyre on his prototype XII. Having run an 11.6 second lap in practice this morning his car was only good for 4 minutes but a switch to the harder compound, while slower in lap times, made it more consistant over the full run.
Setting the fourth fastest time and heading the large Hot Bodies entry was Daisuke Yoshioka with his LRP powered Cyclone 12X. The Japanese driver was happy with his car unlike his team-mates who are struggling to get a good balance around the asphalt RCS track. Atsushi Hara, who was a pre-event favourite, just can not get his car to work and will be need to pull out all the stops in the final heat if he is to make the A Final.
Despite dumping on the last lap CRC lead driver Hupo Honigl took fifth for the round. The Austrian who was running a 4.5 version of the new LRP Vector X12 will switch to a 5.0 for Heat number six. Simo Ahoneimi completed the Top 6 for Team Corally.