2000 World Champion Atsushi Hara sits in the overnight TQ position after dominating the opening day of qualifying for the Touring Car World Championships. Hara got his day off to the perfect start by topping the final practice and hasn’t looked back since, winning each qualifier in a faster time than the last. With three maximum scores to his credit, the current 1:8 Off Road World champion looks almost certain to start from the No.1 spot in Sunday’s A Mains. The only way the Hot Bodies/Team Orion driver can be denied this is if one of his rivals can win all three of tomorrow’s remaining heats and do so in a quicker time than the 19 laps in 05:09.045 he laid down in the third qualifier.
Having had the perfect day at the office, Hara says he is not yet finished and wants to TQ all six rounds of heats. The only driver that looks like having any chance of stopping Hara from taking the perfect TQ is fellow Hot Bodies driver Ronald Volker. The German is the fastest man around the RCS over a single lap having set a blistering 15.907 opening lap in Heat 3 on used tyres. The former European Champion has so far been the only one today to put pressure on Hara, something that the Japanese driver has acknowledged. Volker, with two second fastest run times to his credit, says it will be a tall order to deny Hara the TQ and will focus his attentions on securing P2 on the grid.
Third fastest in Heat 3 was Meen Vejrak, the Thai driver bouncing back after two disappointing runs earlier in the day. Running an Xray chassis, the 23-year-old feels he has the pace to run Top 3 again tomorrow and secure himself a place at the sharp end of the A Main grid. He currently sits 8th in the overnight qualification ranking.
Masami Hirosaka was fourth, equalling his best result from Round 1 but it has been a disappointing day for the man who led the way on Day 1 of this fifth Touring Car World Championships. The multiple 1:10 Off Road & 1:12 Onroad World title holder suffered with his nerves today but is aiming to topple his fellow countryman tomorrow by dominating Day 3 of the championships. He plans a number of set-up changes to help him mount his mammoth challenge.
Completing the Top 6 for the Round were Tamiya’s Marc Rheinard and Kyosho’s Shin Adachi. Rheinard only used one of the three permitted sets of control tyres today and lies 3rd in the qualification ranking but aims to use his fresh rubber tomorrow to deny Hot Bodies an all front row in the final. Adachi is carrying Kyosho’s A Main hopes and sits 9th overnight. Interestingly we saw the new 1:12 World Champion in the Top 10 for the first time this evening when he took his Yokomo BDM around the RCS track in the tenth fastest time. The 15-year-old could be one to watch tomorrow.
Also holding a provisional A Main grid position are defending Champion Andy Moore (5th), his Hot Bodies team-mate Hayato Matsuzaki (7th), Jilles Groskamp (6th) and the ever impressive Elliot Harper (10th). Unfortunately for Pre Worlds race winner Viktor Wilck his back luck returned in the third qualifier when he crashed out while on another strong run. The Swedish driver, who recorded the third fastest lap of qualifying, said tomorrow is going to be all about keeping it clean and steady. With two DNF results today he needs a minimum two good runs if he is to stand any chance of making the A Main.
Top 10 results from round 3
1. Atsushi Hara (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:09.045
2. Ronald Volker (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:10.565
3. Meen Vejrak (Xray/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:11.842
4. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:12.047
5. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:12.289
6. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:13.080
7. Shin Adachi (Kyosho/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:13.429
8. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5: 13.517
9. Andy Moore (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:13.970
10. Naoto Matsukura (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:14.638
Tomorrow drivers will start the day with a practice run before having three final opportunities to try an improve their starting position for Sunday’s all important finals. Once again we will bring you the news from Thailand as it unfolds with our continued live reports which are kindly supported by Speed Passion and LRP.
Atsushi Hara appears to be on a roll now here in Thailand, taking TQ honours for the second of today’s three qualifiers. A strong breeze made for cooler than expected conditions and times tumbled at the RCS track with the Japanese ace knocking 3 seconds of his Round 1 TQ time and 15/100 off his best lap.
Making it two former World Champions at the top, Marc Rheinard produced his first 19 lap run and is far more upbeat about the handling of his Speed Passion powered Tamiya. Running old rubber for the round, the German will run a new set of the Sweep control tires in the last of today’s qualifiers and is confident he can take it to Hara saying after the run ‘now I can start’.
Ronald Volker was running second for much of the heat but made two ‘stupid’ mistakes. The German said he tried a little too hard to catch Hara resulting in two driver errors. Despite the time lost he still managed third for the round and although annoyed with himself he is very happy with the handling of his car.
A stripped spur ended a very competitive run in Heat 1 but Viktor Wilck finally got to show us his true ability at the controls of the Tamiya TRF416 World Edition by setting the fourth fastest time. The Swede said his car was not as good second time round pushing a little on the front but he was happy to finally get a decent run in. His Tamiya team-mate Jilles Groskamp was next up just 3/100th slower.
Having made radical set-up changes to his Xray after discussions with the cars designer Juraj Hudy, 15-year-old emerging British talent Elliot Harper put in a stunning run to record the six fastest time and believes that with some small fine tuning his T2 009 can go even quicker.
Hayato Matsuzaki and Andy Moore posted the 7th and 8th fastest time respectively for Hot Bodies while Shin Adachi made the full run time to record the 9th fastest time for Kyosho. Making it all four former World Champions in the top 10, Surikarn was tenth just ahead of Masami who made a mistake and rolled his Yokomo coming onto the back straight.
Top 10 results after Qualifying Rd2
1. Atsushi Hara (HB) – 19 Lap 5:12.755
2. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya) – 19 Lap 5:15.286
3. Ronald Volker (HB) – 19 Lap 5:15.608
4. Viktor Wilck (Tamiya) – 19 Lap 5:16.050
5. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya) – 19 Lap 5:16.088
6. Elliot Harper (Xay) – 19 Lap 5:16.302
7. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB) – 19 Lap 5:16.686
8. Andy Moore (HB) – 19 Lap 5:16.707
9. Shin Adachi (Kyosho) – 18 Lap 5:00.694
10. Surikarn C. (HB) – 18 Lap 5:00.860
Atsushi Hara has TQ’d the opening round of qualifying for the 2008 Electric Touring Car Worlds. Heading a trio of Hot Bodies at the top of the time sheets, the former Champion was the only driver to repeat a 19 lap run as higher temperatures made for slower track conditions. Hara said his car was very stable and allowed him to run very consistent lap times but will make a few small changes for the second heat when conditions will be even hotter here at RCS.
Former European Champion Ronald Volker, who drives a Hot Bodies but is lead driver for LRP, was second fastest. The German said his car was a little difficult to drive at the beginning but once the new set of tyres came in he was able to get a good rhythm and at the end is pleased to start off with a second.
Defending Champion Andy Moore, who is running in the second fastest group, described his run to third for the round as ‘safe’. ‘Getting there slowly but surely’ was the comment from the Englishman who is still struggling with understeer thats gets worse over the five minutes.
Masami Hirosaka said that nerves got the better of him in the opening heat but reported his Yokomo as working well. The Japanese driver really wants to add the Touring Car title to his list of World Championship successes and is very focused on the job in hand. With the early nerves now behind him he is confident of taking the challenge to his fellow countryman next time out.
Marc Rheinard was top Tamiya for the round with the fifth fastest time but could have been higher. The 2004 World Champion got caught up with 2002 Champion Surikarn as he tried to pass the Thai driver who was running at a slower pace. Rheinard said his car is working better today with track conditions now more like those when the Tamiya Racing Factory squad tested here. Making it two TRF416 cars in the Top 10, Austrian Hupo Honigl set the 8th fastest time just ahead of current 2wd EP Buggy World Champion Hayato Matsuzaki.
The biggest surprise of the first qualifier was Australian Champion Simon Nicholson. The Corally driver, who is a running a Quark speedo and 07 Orion motor, says he is still getting there and feels he can get his RDX Phi to go even quicker. He will change dampers for Heat 2 to try make his car more stable.
Completing the Top 10 and heading the Xray challenge, Paul Lemieux said his run was clean but he expected it to be better. The US National Champion had been struggling yesterday but after ‘throwing everything’ at his Trinity powered T2 009 he is starting to get it to his liking.
Two drivers that looked set for very fast runs only to come undone were Pre Worlds race winner Viktor Wilck and Kyosho’s Shin Adachi. Wilck’s Tamiya was on for a 19 lap run when it suffered a spur gear failure while Adachi’s car once again dumped costing him a Top 3 run time. Top Associated for the round was Juho Levanen with the 18th fastest time.
Top 10 results after Qualifying Rd1
1. Atsushi Hara (HB) – 19 Lap 5:15.777
2. Ronald Volker (HB) – 18 Lap 5:00.719
3. Andy Moore (HB) – 18 Lap 5:01.139
4. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo) – 18 Lap 5:01.335
5. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya) – 18 Lap 5:01.983
6. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya) – 18 Lap 5:02.138
7. Simon Nicholson (Corally) – 18 Lap 5:02.375
8. Hupo Honigl (Tamiya) – 18 Lap 5:03.267
9. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB) – 18 Lap 5:03.319
10. Paul Lemieux (Xray) – 18 Lap 5:03.584
‘I think no more B Main’ was the reply from Atsushi Hara after he topped the final practice session of the 2008 IFMAR World Championships here at RCS in the fastest time we have seen yet. The Hot Bodies team leader produced 19 laps in 05:13.010, laying down a fastest lap time of 16.306 to head fellow Cyclone TC driver Ronald Volker who stopped the clocks at 05:14.025. Both Hara and Volker said track conditions were a lot better than yesterday and that can be seen on the time sheets as five drivers managed 19 lap runs.
2000 World Champion Hara said his car actually had a little too much traction but was much happier with the handling today. German Volker was pleased also with the improved feeling of his car this morning and thinks it will be even better when he runs new rubber in the first heat.
Having dominated yesterday’s controlled practice Masami Hirosaka was third fastest this morning but the Yokomo driver said he was using the session to try a number of things and so wasn’t too worried about Hara and Volker outpacing him.
People were pointing at his name on the time sheets in free practice and asking ‘who is this guy’ but now the name Meen Vejrak is rolling of the tongues of his rivals as the Thai driver continues to impress with his fast pace. Driving his LRP powered Xray the 23-year-old was fourth fastest and top Xray this morning with his T2 009 placing just ahead of factory driver Alexander Hagberg who was the only other driver to break in to the 19 laps.
Interestingly Jilles Groskamp, who was second fastest yesterday, was so pleased with the handling of his factory Tamiya that he pulled in early in the final practice.
So practice is over but its now that things get serious and times really count as the first round of qualifiers here in Bangkok get underway. Three heats lie ahead for the drivers followed by three more tomorrow with the best three deciding the grids for Sunday’s Finals. Only 10 drivers can make the A Main and with such a quality line up here the fight for a place on the grid that will decide the 2008 World Champion is set to be intense.
Masami Hirosaka has claimed the No.1 spot in the reseeding of the heats after a blistering run saw him become the first and only driver to break into the 19 laps on Day 1 of the IFMAR Worlds in Thailand. The Japanese master predicted better traction for the second controlled practice and increased the punch on his speedo accordingly to once again top the time sheets and claim an important early mental victory over his rivals as he will now lead away the fastest group of drivers for the heats.
Describing his run as ‘really good’ the long time Yokomo factory driver used the session to run a second example of his Nosram 4.5 motor to ensure he has two good motors at his disposal over the next three days. Asked if faster times are yet to come, Masami said maybe not tomorrow but come Saturday he will be aiming for 20 laps.
Jilles Groskamp put in a great second controlled practice to go No.2 in the reseed. The Tamiya/Speed Passion driver was clearly very happy with the run. While his team-mates are struggling with the set-up on their TRF416 World Edition, the Dutch driver has his working well. Although describing the run as far from perfect, Groskamp admit to finding most of his time from watching Masami’s lines around the RCS which he said are ‘perfect’.
Pulling off the biggest shock of practice was Kyosho’s Shin Adachi. The Japanese driver could only manage 22nd in the first controlled practice but a change of steering system on the Stallion transformed things. Despite dumping on the last lap Adachi pulled off 18 laps in 05:02.473. Making it four different brands of car at the top of the time sheets Atsushi Hara is fastest of Hot Bodies star line-up with his time from the first controlled practice. An electrical problem caused his Cyclone TC to run roughly in the second forcing him to head for the pits.
Germany’s Ronald Volker described things as being ‘so close’ but with his car getting better with each outing he was feeling pretty good & happy to put it into the top heat with the fifth fastest time ahead of 2002 World Champion Surikarn and 2004 title holder Marc Rheinard. The latter is struggling to get any consistancy into his car but his Swedish team-mate Viktor Wilck, who won the Pre-Worlds, is having an even worse time and finds himself in an unexpected 17th in the reseed. An indication of how close things are here in Bangkok is that Wilck is less than 4 seconds off his team-mate Groskamp but finds 14 drivers between them.
Rick Hohwart heads the Associated challenge at the end of Day 1 after team leader Juho Levanen had a problem with his front spool, a problem that also befell his young Finnish team-mate Christer Andersson. American Hohwart was on target for a very fast time but crashed and as a result will line-up in the second fastest group after posting the 15th best time.
Top 10 after controlled practice
1. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Laps 5:16.066
2. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 18 Laps 5:01.999
3. Shin Adachi (Kyosho/Team Orion) – 18 Laps 5:02.473
4. Atsushi Hara (Hot Bodies/Team Orion) – 18 Laps 5:02.491
5. Ronald Volker (Hot Bodies/LRP) – 18 Laps 5:02.813
6. Surikarn C. (Hot Bodies/Speed Passion) – 18 Laps 5:02.938
7. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya/Speed Passion) – 18 Laps 5:03.139
8. Elliot Harper (Xray/Nosram) – 18 Laps 5:03.385
9. Meen Vejrak (Xray/LRP) – 18 Laps 5:03.415
10.Alexander Hagberg (Xray/LRP) – 18 Laps 5:03.545
Drivers will now be reseeded and given one more controlled practice session in the morning before we get down to the serious business of qualifying with three heats on tomorrow’s schedule. Red RC’s live coverage, which is brought to you in association with LRP and Speed Passion, continues in the morning.