August 20, 2016

Matsukura tops opening day at 12th Worlds


Naoto Matsukura has topped the opening day’s action of the 1:12 World Championship in China where the biggest story is the lack of traction. Setting his fastest time in the fourth of the 8 rounds of free practice around the large technical indoor track in Beijing, the Japanese driver was fastest from Alexander Hagberg and Marc Rheinard with none of the top three able to improve over the second half of the day. The final practice would see slight improvement from Akio Sobue ad Keven Herbert, Sobue maintaining fourth and Hebert moving up to fifth but it was JJ Wang who would find the most time with a strong time in the penultimate practice that saw him complete the Top 6.


With Matsukura’s Roche clearly looking the fastest car on track despite his failure to better his best 3-consecutive lap times, the 3-time World Champion declared himself happy with the start to his quest to regain the title he lost to Rheinard two years ago. Summing up his day he said, ‘I’m happy, I have a super good feeling with the new car’.  Running a prototype chassis from the Hong Kong manufacturer, he said while the car is working the problem is the traction.  Describing it as ‘medium traction’, he continued ‘but I need high (traction)’ adding that the only way the traction could be improved is if they used a different additive, the race running a hand out controlled additive. Clearly still struggling with the rear of the car getting loose towards the end of the run, the practice runs 9-minutes long, he said he will not change his car set-up but instead run a large rear tyre for the first of tomorrow’s two seeding practices rounds.


‘Going backwards’ was Hagberg’s reaction after the final practice.  The reigning 3 in a row European Champion said he is ‘struggling to pace for 8-minutes’ adding ‘the track has no bite’.  Asked about the traction levels, the Swede said there was ‘no improvement’ saying it might in fact be ‘getting worse’ and that was ‘making it harder’ to find the right direction to take with set-up.


Rheinard shared a similar frustration with Day 1.  The Yokomo driver said, ‘we’re absolutely lost and have no idea what to do’.  Having got his car ‘super stable in the rear’, the German added it ‘understeers like a truck’.  Describing the traction as ‘strange’, he said they, ‘need to find the right tyre’ adding that the low traction means the event is going to be ‘pretty much a tyre game’.


Making front end changes to his CRC, Sobue said the car was ‘more consistent’ but for tomorrow he needs to find more steering. Planning to rebuild the car after its 8 practice run, the Tamiya touring car ace said a fresh diff should help give him some of the extra steering he is looking for.  In addition the Japanese driver will make a camber adjustment.


Changing to a softer centre spring and a harder rear tyre, Herbert said these made his Associated ‘definitely better’.   ‘Better balanced’, the Canadian said the negative of the change was it ‘now pushed more’.  Overall ‘much easier to drive’ he said the found the right direction with the set-up but ‘maybe went a step too far’.  Looking to tomorrow, when the first of the qualifiers will take place after controlled practice,  the Canadian said, ‘it’s all about 8-minutes without crashing, it so tough out there’.


Driving his Xray for the first time, having previously raced Roche, Wang put his improvement down to trying ‘different tyre combinations’.  Having not changed his set-up much over the day, the Chinese American said, ‘tyres are everything’.   Feeling his car is getting there in terms of where he would like it to be he said, ‘I’m not really worried about pace because it’s the 8-minutes that counts’.  Behind Wang, Hideo Kitazawa would end up 7th fastest failing to improve on his P4 time while behind him Japanese Champion Hayato Ishioka slightly improve in P8 but stayed 8th followed by Toto Ebukuro and Andy Moore.

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