November 12, 2022

Sahashi gains elusive ‘Double Champion’ status with victory in Thailand

Tadahiko Sahashi has gained elusive ‘Double Champion’ status with victory at the 1:10 Nitro Touring Car World Championship in Thailand.  Starting 5th on the grid, the Infinity driver becomes only the second ever driver to win both the IFMAR 1:8 and 1:10 Nitro Onroad, Adrien Bertin’s feat finally being matched 18-years after the Frenchman became the first to achieved it in 2004.  A final that would see a number of drivers take turns at the front, when it counted most it was 2013 1:8 Champion Sahashi that lead them home.  Behind, there was an intense  battle for second as Dominic Greiner came under pressure from long time leader Jilles Groskamp but the only non-Infinity driver in the final was able to stave off the challenge.  Making his first Nitro World final, Electric Touring Car ace Viktor Wilck had an impressive race to fourth, his trademark colour scheme having been out front during the race.  Another finalist chasing ‘Double Champion’ status at RC Addict this week, Dario Balestri had the title in his grasps until he suffered a flame out as he left the pits following his tyres stop.  In the end the Italian would finish 5th.  Outgoing champion and Top Qualifier here in Bangkok, Naoto Matsukura was pulling clear early on. The tricky conditions however caught him out a number of times. The flip coming onto the main straight that sent his car into the bushes lining the outside of the track ultimately ending his chances of becoming the first driver to defend the title with 8th his final position at the end of the 1-hour encounter.

With the normal reserved Japanese driver’s winning reaction on the driver stand summing up exactly what the result meant, after Tadahiko said he was ‘super happy’, the double having been a ‘long time goal’ for the onroad nitro specialist.  While conditions where difficult leading him, like most of the grid, to flip during the race he said he ‘never gave up’ even while it looked like the race was going the way of others.   Going with a strategy to change only the outside tyres on his IF15 Prototype, he managed the tyre wear perfectly even managing to set the fastest lap of the entire event well into the closing stages of the final. Eventually crossing the line finish with a 3.5-second advantage over Greiner, asked about his nerves over the final few laps the 33-year-old said his ‘1:8 experience’ of winning the World Championship helped his ‘stay calm’ and bring it home.

‘Close’, was how Greiner summed up the final.  Suffering a number of costly flips early in the race, the Capricorn driver explained, ‘we changed the car a lot in the practice before the race but I still flipped four times and lost a lot of time.  The car felt good but it was on the edge.  I traction rolled two more times and maybe with two less flips we would have made it’.   The only driver to put it up to the Infinity team, the 2016 World Champion said, ‘We did our best but Tadahiko was better today.’   Asked about his tyre strategy which saw him change all four tyres at 28 minutes, race announcer Scotty Ernst even making comments on how perfectly it was executed, he said, ‘my tyres were done at the end so I don’t know if I would have made it just changing the outside.  I was also afraid of the gap difference with only doing 2 but Tadahiko showed it was possible’.

Having once again put his hat in the ring from the very start of the action at this World Championship, Groskamp said, ‘I am super happy to be competitive and on the podium at the World Championship.  On the other hand I missed the big chance to win’.  Talking through his race he said, ‘I only changed one side on my tyre stop and one time flipped.  Tadahiko was the man to beat, he had the fastest laps of the event.  He drove good man so to be 5-seconds off after a one hour race I’m happy.  I am also happy for Infinity’.  Changing his flight home to the Netherlands to tonight as his third child is due to arrive in the coming days and the rain day was not needed, he added, ‘On a personal level I am happy with the work I did to prepare for the race as well as preparing for our new addition to the family.  I’m happy I got the result because I think I deserve it’.

Wilck was very happy with the race he ran in the final.  The Swede said, ‘It was nice to be in mix but you never know what happens’.  He explained, ‘the first half of the race before my tyre change the car was very good and so was my engine and clutch.  I was on one pit stop less but then because we changed both sides in the tyre stop I lost a lap’.  Saying the 4-minute 30-second stops were ‘safe for us’, he said his clutch ‘went soft’ towards the end of the race leaving his engine ‘too slow’ to challenge for the podium, something he said was down to his lack of expertise with the engine and clutch.  He vowed to improve that knowledge for the future.

Winner of the Super Pole, that success that clearly was a massive relief for the Italian who openly admitted to finding the unique track conditions of these World very challenging & draining, Balestri said, ‘we had a strategy to run two less stops and I was managing the pace and it was all good’.  Changing all four tyres, it was during this stop that he was denied a shot at the title double, the 2017 1:8 World Champion explaining, ‘after the tyre stop I flamed out.  The race was finished then’.

Matsukura said it just took ‘a little mistake’ to derail his title defence.  He said, ‘on small tyres my car was difficult to drive and I just made a little mistake and flip’.  Surviving his first flip while in the lead with second place also flipping at the second time allowing him to maintain position, he said his chances of a result ended when he flipped coming onto the main straight sending his yellow IF15 into the local vegetation and needing to be marshalled.

View our event image gallery here.


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