8-days on from making the shock announcement that after 13 years of racing for HB the had left the team, Atsushi Hara claimed a ‘special win’ today as he became the FEMCA 1:8 Offroad Champion after a near perfect day at Fengtai Raceway in China. Racing as a privateer with a Mugen that he went out to a hobby shop and bought himself, the Japanese ace won the 1-hour final easily from Top Qualifier Dani Choi and Sheng Chie Huang who had a great battle towards the end of the race.
Starting from pole position, 2008 World Champion Hara was the class of the 12 car field which saw 7 different nationalities represented. The only driver to record a 28-second lap in the main, he said afterwards he was ‘really happy’ with regaining the title he last held in 2010 as he said his announcement last week for sure brought a lot more attention to the event. While he had a different chassis to get used to, he said the biggest change was actually not having his long time and much trusted mechanic Masayuki Miura, one of the most famous partnerships in the sport. Working with the mechanic of top onroad nitro racer JJ Wang, he said while AI’s work was good it was having to communicate in English that was the biggest problem. With that improving each day of the event he said having Wang on hand for finals day helped a lot and he thanked them both for the input in today’s victory. In terms of the race Hara said his main worry was tyre wear. Feeling white compound HB Grid Lock would have been his best option for the final he said a lack of tyres meant he had to run the medium red compound and this played a little on his mind early in the race. Proving to last better than he expected he said once he stayed on the racing line running on the heavily worn tyres was no problem.
‘I was the fastest human in the race as Hara is not Human so I am very happy’, that was how Choi summed up his race. The Sweep employee and designer of the ‘Birdy’ bodyshell he ran all week here on his Kyosho said at the start of the race his MP9 steering was a little sensitive at the start of the race on the fresh set of Sweep Exagon tyres but then after was easy to drive. Mishearing a call from the pits which he thought was for him he had one botched fuel stop. On hearing the call he came into the pits but as it was not his crew who made the call they weren’t ready and so he had to exit the pits unfuelled returning a lap later to his now ready pit men. Trying to stay calm after the incident Choi was able to close up on long time second placed Huang in final stages of the race. After an entertaining battle, which was the highlight of the race, a mistake by the Taiwanese driver allowed Choi through for the runner’s up spot and his first international race podium finish.
Also claiming his first international podium finish, 28-year-old Huang was delighted with the result. Having looked strong for second position for most of the race, the HB driver said his red compound HB Grid Lock tyres were finished when he was caught by Choi and there was little he could do to defend the position from the Korean. Other than this he said the D812 and Alpha engine performed perfectly.
Suffering an engine flame-out, 17-year-old Japanese talent Wataru Takashiro finished fourth. Starting from 8th on the grid, the Kyosho driver was disappointed at missing out on a podium having got his MP9 up to second before suffering an engine cut. With fuel still in the tank, he said his MP9 felt really good and had his OS engine not stopped the buggy was good enough for a Top 3 finish.
Having missed out on the final at last year’s FEMCA Championship, which took place in Thailand, Sweep front man Ryan Lee was delighted to finish 5th overall with his TLR saying he ‘Maximum enjoyed’ the race. Finishing on the same lap as Lee, British racer Tommy Chung completed the Top 6 with his Kyosho.
The most significant retirement of the race was Yuichi Kanai, the Kyosho designer breaking a front suspension arm on his MP9 just after the mid point of the race leaving the 2000 World Champion to be classified last. For the two Chinese drivers to make the Main, it was Hu Wei Ping driving his S-Workz who took the honour of best placed driver from the host nation finishing 8th overall with the Hong Nor of Lin Le Hua finishing one spot behind him in 9th as the last driver to go the full distance.