The third round of free practice has been completed here at the Speed Passion supported DHI Cup where it is defending Champion Viktor Wilck who is setting the pace. The Swede tried two TRF416s in the latest 5 minute practice run which featured different chassis plates to move around weight distribution. Admitting to suffering with pain in his hand at the start of the runs, once he is up to full concentration all is ok.
With many drivers changing cars during each practice run we are using each driver’s four fastest consecutive laps to give us a true indication of who is doing what and after Wilck that puts Kyosho factory driver Steen Graversen second. The Dane is very happy with his car describing it as ‘Super easy to drive’ and thinks his car will get much better as the traction comes up. Having finished on the podium here last year, Graversen is aiming for a repeat performance at his big home event.
Alexander Hagberg is third fastest ahead of Xray team-mate Teemu Leino. Hagberg says his car is feeling quite good and he likes the high speed open track layout. The Swede plans to use the final practice to srub in new tyres for the first qualifier which is set to get underway here in Odense at 18:30. Leino described his car as alright and is really hoping the fluff clears up as he is having to spend an hour after each run cleaning the car of the grey stuff!
World Champion Marc Rheinard, who has not raced since taking his second Touring Car World title in Thailand back in November, tried a lightweight body on his Tamiya in P3 but found the car became too aggressive and so the German will revert to a standard shell.
Heading the Team Associated challenge is Finn Christer Andersson. The youngster has been practicing hard at his local track ahead of this event and is really pleased with his TC5 describing it as ‘super good’. Andersson will leave the car set-up the same and wants to let the track come to him as traction improves with each run. One concern for the youngster is run time as the fluff build up is draining extra power.
In Pro Stock it is German domination at the moment with the SMI Motorsport team looking very strong as their four drivers complete the four places for the third practice run. All running Xrays it is Matthias Lang who is fastest from 2007 DHI Cup winner Bastian Henning, last year’s Top Qualifier Christoph Thiele and Meik Niemann. All of team are reporting that track conditions are remaining difficult despite the best efforts of the race organisers to regularly clear the track of the fluff build up. Henning described it as ‘very difficult to drive’ with the fluff causing the car to pull off to the side as the build up on the drive shafts effects the car. Thiele is complaining of a lack of corner speed but hopes a change of springs for the final round of practice will improve things.
Tommy Bergfeldt is the fastest non Xray driver in Pro Stock with the Swedish Hot Bodies Cyclone TC driver fifth fastest just ahead of fellow countryman Christopher Sodergren who is driving a Serpent S400.
Its only the second week of 2009 but already the best drivers in the World are back down to the serious business of racing as the DHI Cup here in Denmark once again gets another new season of international Electric Touring car action underway. Race organiser Kim Moldt Bendiksen and his team have again put together a great racing facility at the Odense Congress Center which is hosting the event for the second time.
Heading the 207 strong entry for the 8th edition of the DHI Cup is defending Champion Viktor Wilck who following a recent snowboarding accident is sporting a bandaged left hand, but the Tamiya Racing Factory driver’s throttle finger remains functional. Wilck’s biggest challenger is sure to be his own team-mate and newly crowned World Champion Marc Rheinard. Unfortunately the DHI’s most successful driver Atsushi Hara, winner in 2004 and 2005, is abscent from the entry list but former Champions Jilles Groskamp (2002), Juho Levanen (2003), Rheinard (2006) and Ronald Volker (2007) are all here along with all the other big names in the sport including former World Champion Andy Moore.
In the Pro Stock class we are without defending Champion Jimmy Maddison but we still have a quality line-up with German Christoph Thiele, the Top Qualifier here last year, heading the entry.
Drivers have just completed their first of four free practice runs scheduled for today however new carpet made it a fluffy affair but the organisers have been out with the vaccum cleaners which should now allow drivers to start laying down some decent times in preparation for the first qualifier later this evening. As a result of the track cleaning things are now running approximately 15 minutes behind.
Marc Rheinard is now officially the best electric touring car driver in the World after he became the first double title holder by winning the 2008 IFMAR Electric Onroad World Championships here today in Thailand. The German was always one of the favourites coming into the event along with his great rival & friend Atsushi Hara but no one could have predicted such a dramatic finish to the event.
Having pretty much dominated qualifying winning four of the six rounds of heats, Hara secured TQ honours from Rheinard’s Speed Passion powered Tamiya, setting the stage for a great battle between the two former World Champions. Leg 1 didn’t go as scripted as the pair touch on the third lap handing the legendary Masami Hirosaka the win. Leg 2 was a far more straight forward affair with Hara taking a relatively easy win over Rheinard. Although going into the third & final leg five drivers still had a shot at becoming the Worlds No.1, most thought the five minute race was just a formality for Hara as Rheinard appeared to admit defend after Leg 2 but instead we saw one of the greatest display’s of rc driving ever witnessed.
Pulling clear up front it was 2000 Champion versus 2004 Champion as the two ran like a high speed train lap after lap. With the crowd on their toes Rheinard’s persistence paid off in the final minute as he squeezed his way past Hara’s Hot Bodies Cyclone at the first hairpin. On the very next lap Rheinard got slightly out of shape at the opposite end of the track and Hara saw an opportunity to get down the inside but ran too tight and clipped a kerb rolling his car. With a clear lead and Hara falling back to fourth, Rheinard brought it home to become Champion of the world. Cruelly for Hara the result meant his months of preparation were not even rewarded with a podium. Those honours went the way of Ronald Volker, making it a German 1-2, and Masami, the man who wanted this title so badly.
After the race Hara was quick to praise Rheinard saying, ‘Marc is the best touring car driver in the world right now. He is my bigger little brother and he was faster than me today’. Such respect between these two world class drivers makes them truly great ambassadors for our sport and allowed the large crowd at the RCS in Bangkok to witness one of the greatest finals in the history of rc racing.
Ronald Volker came here looking for a podium and that exactly what he got and deserved. His fast clean driving style meant he was at the sharp end of the international field from the very first practice runs. The 24-year-old LRP team driver qualified third and kept it in the top three for all legs of the A-Main to finish overall runner up, a result he described as ‘fantastic’ as he collected his trophy.
Although Masami came here seeking nothing less than victory he was happy in the knowledge that he had given his best. Having set the pace on the opening day, in the end third was not the result he wanted but finishing on the podium for the third time, the only driver to do so, was some consulation for the long time Yokomo driver who has won every other electric World title.
One of the biggest discoveries of talent at this World’s was undoubtedly 15-year-old sensation Elliot Harper who on his championship debut finished an incredible fifth overall. Finishing third and setting the fastest lap in the first leg of the A-Main, the Xray driver is clearly set for greater things but for now, unlike professional racer Rheinard, must quickly return to normality which at his age means back to school on Tuesday morning to sit exams!
For out going Champion Andy Moore finishing seventh was obviously a disappointment. Gutted for his Hot Bodies team-mate Hara, the Englishman graciously accepted defeat saying the racing was so close between everyone but in the end Rheinard clearly deserved the win.
A-final Leg 3 finals result
1. Marc Rheinard (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:02.525
2. Ronald Volker (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:04.060
3. Viktor Wilck (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:04.612
4. Elliot Harper (Xray/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:05.693
5. Atsushi Hara (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:06.273
6. Hayato Matsuzaki (HB/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:06.525
7. Meen Vejrak (Xray/LRP) – 19 Lap 5:07.366
8. Jilles Groskamp (Tamiya/SpeedPassion) – 19 Lap 5:09.000
9. Andy Moore (HB/Team Orion) – 19 Lap 5:11.191
10. Masami Hirosaka (Yokomo/Nosram) – 19 Lap 5:11.657
So one week after arriving in Bangkok, Thailand the journey through two World Championship is over. Each of the competitors that took part leave with their own memories but in the history books the event will be remembered for the crowning of the youngest ever World Champion with Naoto Matsukura’s great 1:12 victory and the thrilling race that saw Marc Rheinard become the first double Touring Car World Champion.
Red RC would like to thank all the crew here at the fantastic RCS facility for their hospitality during our stay in Bangkok. We also thank the sponsors of our live coverage, Speed Passion and LRP, and congratulate them both on their respective motor and speedo becoming World Champions.
Marc Rheinard is the new Touring Car World Champion after a dramatic victory in the final Leg here in Thailand. The German, who becomes the first double World Champion, battled intensely with Top Qualifier Atsushi Hara eventually squeezing his way past his great Japanese rival. The real drama unfolded when Hara rolled his Hot Bodies in the last minute dropping to fourth and handing Rheinard the title. Finishing second Ronald Volker becomes Vice Champion with Masami Hirosaka completing the podium.