Marc Rheinard is the new 1:12 World Champion after a stunning recovery drive in the second A-Main of the Florida event saw him take the win and enter the history books as the first driver to hold both a 1:12 and Touring Car World title. Ending the 6-year reign of Naoto Matsukura, the 3-time Touring Car World Champion becomes only the 7th different winner of IFMAR’s longest running electric World Championship and with it brings 1:12 stalwart chassis manufacturer CRC their first World title.
Winner of A1, Rheinard’s chances of deciding the 17th running of the championships early appeared to end very prematurely when on lap 3 he got hit by a hard charging Alexander Hagberg. Needing to be marshalled and dropping to 5th, while everyone turned their attention to Matsukura up front what was to come was nothing but spectacular from the German. Over coming a second incident on lap 9 which dropped him a further position, he found his rhythm working back to second by lap 33 before closing down on the outgoing champion forcing the Yokomo driver into a mistake on lap 43 of 54. Visually drained after the race by his ‘push to win’, Rheinard said it was the hardest he had ever driven. ‘Pissed’ at the incident with Hagberg, he said with 7-minutes still to run he knew it was all still to play for and he just took the approach of going for ‘all or nothing’. Taking ‘huge risks’, he said he ‘couldn’t have got any closer to the boards’. With Frank Calandra’s response to his driver’s amazing recovery unpublishable, the CRC boss finally getting the title he came close to winning two years ago with Andy Moore, Rheinard said the incident with Hagberg was just something that happens in 1:12 due to the speed of the cars with everything happening so fast and he acknowledged that there was no bad intentions from the Xray driver.
Again the fastest driver on the track further lowering the outright fastest lap time, Hagberg took the full blame for the hitting Rheinard. The Swede said he knew he had the fastest car on the track and his downfall was he was too eager to get to the front. Although he waited on Rheinard after the contact, the Swede was served with a Stop & Go penalty. Summing up an event that started off so strong, the European Champion said ‘thats how it is’ and it was ‘not meant to be’.
A understandably disappointed Matsukura, who has held the 1:12 World title since making his debut at the age of 15, said he had no response to Rheinard describing his friend as being ‘huge fast’. Having to ‘overdrive’ his R12 to try at stay ahead he said the car was a little difficult to drive resulting in his mistake that let Rheinard through for the win. Finishing the race in 4th position, the 21-year-old said he has no choice but to change his set-up as he needs the A3 win if he is to salvage at least a podium finish.
Behind Rheinard, Hideo Kitazawa took second place putting him strongly in contention to take the overall runner-up spot. Starting from 9th on the grid Team Associated’s Keven Hebert had an impressive drive to finish third having ran 2nd for a time before being passed by Rheinard and then Kitazawa.