He is the protege of Masami Hirosaka, he is back to back Japanese Champion and is rated very highly by the likes of Atsushi Hara, 15-year-old Yokomo hot property Naoto Matsukura is the Top Qualifier for the 2008 IFMAR 1:12 World Championship here in Bangkok, Thailand. Driving an Associated RC125R, Matsukura won the final qualifier to secure himself a place in the history books as he becomes the youngest ever World Championship Top Qualifier. Winning four of the six qualifiers the only one to come close to challenging to emerging world star was his Finnish 1:12 scale team-mate Juho Levanen who TQ’d Heat 3 & 4 giving the US manufacturer total domination here at Radio Control Speedway.
While Associated rule the front row of the grid, four other manufacturers will join them in the final but going on current form they are going to be battling for the final podium placing unless the two certain drivers trip one another up. Heading that fight is Hupo Honigl with his CRC chassis who will line up third on the grid ahead of European 1:12 Champion Marc Rheinard. Hot Bodies have four cars in the final with Rheinard joined by Hideo Kitazawa (5th), Daisuke Yoshioka (9th) and Andy Moore (10th). A big blow for Hot Bodies is pre event favourite Atsushi Hara’s failure to make the A Final. The 1:8 Off Road World Champion & former Touring Car World Champion will line up in the No.1 spot for the B Final where he his joined on the front row by Touring Car Pre-Worlds winner Viktor Wilck.
Also in the A Final for CRC is Dutch ace Jilles Groskamp who starts 6th with his Speed Passion powered example. Row four is made up of Simo Ahoneimi who carries the mammoth task of trying to retain the World title for Team Corally while Teemu Leino carries the hopes of Xray who must already be very pleased at having made the A Main on their 1:12 debut.
So three 8 minute final legs seperate us from finding out who will become the 14th holder of the 1:12 World Champion title. Are we about to see history in the making? Time will tell.
Top 10 qualifiers
1. Naoto Matsukura – JPN [Asso] – 465pts
2. Juho Levanen – FIN [Asso] – 463pts
3. Hupo Honigl – A [CRC] – 454pts
4. Marc Rheinard – DE [HB] – 453pts
5. Hideo Kitizawa – JPN [HB] – 453pts
6. Jilles Groskamp – NL [CRC] – 451pts
7. Simo Ahoniemi – FIN [Corally]- 447pts
8. Teemu Leino – FIN [Xray] – 445pts
9. Daisuke Yoshioka – JPN [HB] – 445pts
10. Andy Moore – UK [HB] – 444pts
Naoto Matsukura claimed yet another TQ this morning in the penultimate qualifier for the 1:12 World Championships which will be decided here in Bangkok later today. The 15-year-old Japanese star ran a very close heat with Associated team-mate Juho Levanen eventually claiming the fastest 8 minute run time of the event to put himself in the provisional overall TQ position.
Matsukura said after the run that he had to control the pace and hold back a little on the throttle to ensure he made the full run time. Running the same set-up as yesterday when his car dumped in the dying moments while on target for a 41 lapper, the controlled driving paid off allowing the reigning Japanese Champion to record 40 laps in 08:04.181. Having intially set the pace, 6 minutes in Levanen’s RC12R5 started to get loose causing the Finn to spin out twice which allowed Matsukura to close in and then pass to claim the round. The Team Associated team will rebuild the diff on Levanen’s car for the final qualifier which he needs to win in a sub 8 minute 4 second time if he wants to claim overall TQ honours.
While the two Associated drivers continued their reign up front Teemu Leino took Xray’s best run posting the third fastest time with 40 laps in 08:12.214. The surprise pace setter in Controlled Practice the Finn benefited from running a harder tyre on his prototype XII. Having run an 11.6 second lap in practice this morning his car was only good for 4 minutes but a switch to the harder compound, while slower in lap times, made it more consistant over the full run.
Setting the fourth fastest time and heading the large Hot Bodies entry was Daisuke Yoshioka with his LRP powered Cyclone 12X. The Japanese driver was happy with his car unlike his team-mates who are struggling to get a good balance around the asphalt RCS track. Atsushi Hara, who was a pre-event favourite, just can not get his car to work and will be need to pull out all the stops in the final heat if he is to make the A Final.
Despite dumping on the last lap CRC lead driver Hupo Honigl took fifth for the round. The Austrian who was running a 4.5 version of the new LRP Vector X12 will switch to a 5.0 for Heat number six. Simo Ahoneimi completed the Top 6 for Team Corally.
Day 2 of the IFMAR Electric Onroad World Championships has come to a close and yet again the final 1:12 scale qualifier of the day saw Juho Levanen and Naoto Matsukura crush the opposition. The Associated duo managed a 1-2 in Heat 4 despite both of them dumping at the end of the run. Producing the fastest lap of the event with a blistering 11.675 second lap during the heat, Levanen put his dumping down to the increased traction but the Yokomo team pointed blame for their young star dumping down to the pair battling throughout the heat for the TQ. Running 40 laps in 08:07.965 the Finn was a little under a second ahead of his Japanese team-mate despite nursing their cars to the line but such was their advantage that third placed Jilles Groskamp was too far behind to capitalise and end the RC12R5’s reign in Thailand.
Groskamp described his run as decent when you take the dominating AE drivers out of the equation. The Dutch driver was happier with his CRC, in which he is running a 4.5 turn Speed Passion motor, in the cooler conditions and was happy to record his first 40 lap run. The only other driver to break the 40 laps today was Hideo Kitazawa who has a 5.5 Speed Passion motor installed in the rear of his Hot Bodies Cyclone 12X.
Viktor Wilck enjoyed his first decent run so far clocking up 39 laps in 08:06.340. The Swede has been struggling to get his car to work but isnt quite sure if its the car or tyres that are the problem. Encouraged by his fifth position he is hoping he can continue on a similar pace in tomorrow’s final two qualifiers as he needs two good runs if he is to have any chance of securing a spot on the grid for the A Mains. Hupo Honigl, who is running in the second last group of heats, was annoyed that he got collected by backmarkers twice on his way to topping the group. The CRC driver eventually took sixth overall for the round.
Xray driver Steven Weiss was very pleased with his run to 9th making him the fastest of those running the new prototype XII. A change of tyre compound resulted in a big improvement in the cars handling and allowed the German to claim his best run ahead of fellow Xray driver Paul Lemieux. Elsewhere Marc Rheinard was on for the 3rd fastest time when a rear tyre parted company with the wheel, while Atsushi Hara’s bad luck continued as a chunked tyre ended his run for a second time today.
Two more qualifiers await the 49 drivers tomorrow morning before the finals get underway and the 14th 1:12 World Champion is crowned. Our live coverage, which is supported by Speed Passion and LRP, continues tomorrow when we will see if anyone can respond to the Associated domination.
Juho Levanen has TQ’d Round 3 of qualifying with the first and so far only 40 lap run of the 2008 IFMAR 1:12 Worlds. The Finn recorded 40 laps in 08:12.355 to beat a much improved Atsushi Hara who made 39 laps in 08:05.640. Levanen who is running a 5.0 turn version of LRP’s new X12 motor described his RC12R5 afterwards as near perfect as he maintained Associated’s reign at the top of the time sheets. Only his second big 1:12 race this year, his other outing being the IIC in Vegas, the 23-year-old will leave the car the same for Round 4 but may try running his tyres for a second time. Hot Bodies team leader Hara said his change of tyres was an improvement but his car was still not super fast and he plans to try another compound for the final heat of the day. Hideo Kitazawa completed the Top 3.
Top Qualifier in Round 1 & 2, Naoto Matsukura’s great run came undone when he made a mistake while swapping the TQ time with Levanen. The protege of 5 times World Champion Masami Hirosaka, the Japanese driver reported his car as suffering from slight understeer. Using Nosram electrics the youngster is running a 4.5 turn motor with the speedo set to the lowest power setting so as to save his tyres.
Normally touring car team-mates at Tamiya, Marc Rheinard, at the controls of a Hot Bodies, and Jilles Groskamp, driving for CRC, completed the Top 6 for heat number 3. Groskamp’s team-mate Hupo Honigl who was third in the two earlier heats struggled, eventually crashing out with an ill handling car. For defending World Champion manufacturer Corally, Simo Ahoneimi was fastest of the SP12X WC Edition runners in 8th while fellow Scandinavian Alexander Hagberg was top Xray in 10th.
Its a case of who can catch Team Associated here in Thailand as Naoto Matsukura and Juho Levanen again topped the time sheets by an impressive margin in the second qualifier. Matsukura narrowly missed out on a 40 lapper recording 39 lap in 08:00.902 while Levanen considerable narrowed the gap to the young Japanese star stopping the clocks at 08:03.632. While the Finn was able to close the gap on his fellow RC12R5 driver thanks to the sharing of tyre information, behind them the field have their work cut out if they are to do anything about stopping the duo. Hupo Honigl took his CRC again to third but the IIC Champion was 10 seconds, or 3/4 of a lap, off the TQ time and admitted that it was almost impossible to match the pace of the back to back Japanese Champion who has the distinct advantage of regularly racing on asphalt.
Starting to show better form with fourth fastest in Heat 2 was Marc Rheinard. Driving his Speed Passion powered Hot Bodies, the European Champion is far from happy with his pace so far and appears to be struggling to get a good feeling with the car, a complaint shared by his 1:12 scale team-mate Andy Moore who with 38 laps was seventh.
Running Futaba’s new prototype ESC in his Cyclone 12X, Hideo Kitazawa recorded fifth in Heat 2 but the Japanese driver is not feeling well suffering from a suspected cold. Completing the Top 6 was Jilles Groskamp with his Speed Passion/CRC combination. The Dutch ace is a lot happier with his car now after trying different additive which is turning out to be the key to getting a car to work right on the asphalt surface which is being used for the first time at a Worlds. One just has to look around at the huge selection of tyres some of the teams have turned up here with to see the importance that has been put on the black foam.
Elliot Harper headed the Xray challenge in Heat 2 with eight place just ahead of team-mate Alexander Hagberg. Atsushi Hara rounded out the Top 10 suffering from two much front end grid on his Orion powered Hot Bodies. Hara will switch compound for Heat 3 and admitted to being relieved that its three of the six heats that will decide the final qualification ranking.