November 3, 2019

Takahata crowned World Champion as Matsukura denied once again

‘To finish first, first you must finish’ was a phrase that rang true at today’s 1:8 Onroad World Championships in California as a rather sedate Main was turned on it’s head with 12-minutes to go with Mugen’s Shoki Takahata eventually crowned the new World Champion.  The 1-hour encounter started out with Top Qualifier Dario Balestri leading from Infinity team-mate Naoto Matsukura but during his second fuel stop defending Champion Balestri would collect a badly released Greiner, the impact breaking the body on the Italian’s car and ending his quest for 2 in a row.  This allowed Matsukura to take control of the race.  Having shown the world the class of driver he is when he led in France on his nitro debut two years ago before a flat battery denied him the title, everything looked perfect for the reigning 1:10 Nitro World Champion to make history and hold both titles consecutively but it wasn’t to be. With just two fuel stops separating him from winning, a rear pulley stripped and once again there was heartbreak for the Japanese driver and his mechanic Masayuki Miura, his race was done.  Graduating to the lead it was another 1:10 World Champion who looked on target to finally match Adrien Bertin’s record as the only double champion in nitro onroad.  Having found himself almost a lap down at the start following contact at the on the first lap and then receiving a stop & go for his bad release in the pits, Dominic Greiner was out front.  Counting down the minutes he then hit trouble with just a little over 5-minutes left on the clock – the watching crowd in disbelief at the unfolding drama.  Always within sight of the lead, Takahata was now the fourth different race leader, well clear of now second placed Takaaki Shimo.  The manufacturer’s sole representative in the final, to the chants of ‘Mugen’ the 25-year-old crossed the loop to take a very popular first World title, while Balestri salvaged the final step on the podium behind the bridesmaid of nitro racing, Shimo.

‘It is like a dream’, was Takahata’s reaction to his win, the Japanese driver having made his Worlds debut on American soil in the 200mm class in 2010.  He added, ‘I always believed I could win it but it is still a surprise to do it’.  Making the podium in France two years ago, he said that having seen everyone else have problems he drove the final minutes of the race ‘very safe’.  Having missed out on making Super Pole after struggling in early qualifying, he said, ‘Today my car was perfect in both the Semi and the Final’.  Changing tyres on the left side only after just 20-minutes, he said this strategy was key to putting him in the position to be in sight of the win.  Takahata will get to defend his title on home soil in 2-years time with the announcement during the event here at Steel City RC Raceway that Infinity International RC Speedway has been award the 23rd running of the championships.

Matsukura said, ‘I was just driving safe, just watching where Dominic was. I wasn’t pushing and I knew I could have went quicker if I needed.  I was controlling the race’.  On target to win the World title of a fourth category, the 1:12 and Electric Touring Car World Champion said, ‘I don’t know why this happened to me again today, it’s the same bad luck I had two years ago’.

Asked what had cause his retirement a very despondent Greiner said, ‘Something broke’.  Explaining his poor start to the race the Serpent driver said, ‘It was very tight at the start.  There was no space and I crashed into Jeff (Hamon) and flipped over.  The marshal was not looking so I lost almost a lap’. After getting collected by fellow Aussie Jesse Davis with 10-minutes to go in the race and needing a lengthy stop for repairs, team-mate Hamon would recover to cross the finish 4th on his Worlds debut as a Serpent driver, bettering his previous best of 5th in Miami last year in 1:10.

Commenting on his title loss, Balestri said, ‘The race was under control for the first 7-minutes but then on the second refuelling Greiner’s car was released in my path and I hit it which completely destroyed my race.  The body was broken and because of the the hole for the pipe was moved the engine could not run properly’.  The Italian continued, ‘I got the podium but only because others had problems in the race.  It was bad day for me but that is racing’.  After a stunning drive in the Semi Final to come from last to a bump up spot, rival Kurzbuch summed up his race similarly to Balestri saying, ‘In the first corner I collected Dominic and from there it was not my race’.  In the end the Shepherd driver retired halfway into the race with engine issues.

Never in contention for the win over the 1-hour, Shimo said his rivals were ‘very fast’ and on this occasion he was ‘not so fast’.  The driver with the greatest number of podium finishes without being crowned World Champion, he said while second place was a good result it was one he would prefer not to be in, having had to settle for the runner-up so many times in the past.

View the complete event results here.

View our event image gallery here.


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