Bruno Coelho has set the pace in controlled practice in the Modified EP class at the 2019 SIGP here in Xiamen, China. With drivers getting 2 runs of controlled practice today, it was the current World Champion that took his Xray to the top of the times with his CP1 time. Yokomo driver Meen Vejrak from Thailand was second overall, having topped CP2, with last season’s OneTen Series Champion Akio Sobue in 3rd for Infinity. Gary Huang and Dominic Quek completed the top 5 for Xray. Asked about his feelings following practice Coelho said that his new mid motor Xray T4’20 is working well, that is despite this weekend’s race being their first event on asphalt. Trying something different in CP2, the Portuguese driver said it didn’t work how they expected and so they will continue to explore different set-ups in the following runs, his CP1 time some 4 tenths clear over 3 laps from 2nd place.
Meen Vejrak topped the 2nd controlled practice, putting his run down to being just more consistent, saying his car was the same speed as before. The former nitro World Champion who is also running 1/8th this weekend for Maxima declared that the hotter temperatures are better for him and also for the handout Sweep 36 tires. Asked his thoughts on the ARC track, the Thai driver last having run here as practice for the ISTC Worlds in Beijing in 2016, he said the layout is good but the traction is strange as it never seems to change, whether its changes temperature or if more or less cars run on it.
Complaining about his car pushing in the corners, Infinity driver Akio Sobue who is running a prototype of the company’s mid motor touring car put it down to the conditions being different to yesterday. With the temperatures hotter today this is affecting his car, but also the fact that the electric and nitro classes are running separately and at different times of the day, compared to all running together yesterday, seems to also be having an effect. On his car the former TITC champion mentioned that this is their first time testing on low traction and so he will continue to try different things each run to learn as much as he can.
Fresh from his podium finish at last weekend’s OneTen series race at AMA in Guangzhou, Gary Huang completed practice in 4th place, Having tested all week here in Xiamen the multiple Chinese national champion only received the 2020 car on Tuesday from team mate Coelho, who brought him the car directly from Slovakia, with his mechanic Gavin Kwok having to build it prior to running it for the first time on Wednesday. The effort seems to have been worth it with Gary declaring himself very pleased with his new ride.
Young Singapore driver Dominic Quek completed the top 5 for practice saying his new Xray felt amazing, helped by having a big Xray, Hobbywing and Sunpadow team around him all sharing setup data. Liking the layout used this year, Quek is doing double duties this weekend in EP, also running in the Stock class where he topped the times. While he is heading up proceedings in 13.5, he said his main focus is however on Modified. Behind him Stick King from Hong Kong put the new Serpent chassis in 2nd, followed by ETS race winner Max Machler, who is making his first trip to China, in 3rd.
Track Name – Xiamen ARC International Raceway Host – 3-Circles Country – China Location – Xiamen Direction – Anti-clockwise Surface – Asphalt
Hosting their annual SIGP international onroad race at their impressive facility in Xiamen, China, Sunpadow parent company 3-Circles have once again attracted a solid entry for their flagship race. Now in their 4th year, the offroad section of the compound hosted the 2017 IFMAR Offroad EP Worlds and each year the dirt track is the venue for the offroad version of the SIGP, usually run in March. Located next to the company’s battery factory, the facility along with its huge three level driver stand was built 5 years ago with not much changing in that time, with the airconditioned pit cabins, covered pit space, lunch room and the ‘media room’ all still present in the area behind the track.
Asked his feelings on the onroad track this weekend, current touring car World Champion Bruno Coelho said ‘I like the track, it has an open layout, we are more used to running on technical tracks’. With the track sugar watered every morning he commented that the traction was medium but that overall it was fun to run on. In free practice prior to official running getting underway today both Nitro onroad and EP touring cars shared the track throughout the day but now EP runs in the morning while Nitro in the afternoon and some drivers have commented that this has caused the traction to drop off slightly. With drivers in all classes getting 2 controlled practice runs today, tomorrow will kick off with the first qualifying runs for all classes, each driver getting 4 chances prio t,o moving on to finals which will begin on Saturday.
‘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 braking 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.
A stunning drive has put former Champion Simon Kurzbuch in the 1:8 Onroad World Championship Final in California. Suffering an engine flame out on the grid, the pole sitter for the second of the Semi Finals missed the start and had to be returned to the pits to be restarted as the rest of the field got underway and the general feeling of the stunned onlookers was the Swiss ace’s event was done. Kurzbuch however defied the odds, driving at 110% he started to put himself back in contention for a bump up spot as the crowd watch on in awe. Setting the fastest lap of the race he crossed the line in 3rd position to ensure he gets another chance to do battle with his great rival and reigning champion Dario Balestri. Up front in the Semi Odd, Jesse Davis made the race his own, leading home fellow Australian Jeff Hamon to secure both drivers their first 1:8 Worlds Final start. In the first of the Semi Finals, Dominic Greiner led from start to finish despite struggling with his engine with Shoki Takahata a close second and Toni Gruber third. Unfortunately for Lamberto Collari he fell just three minutes short of making the Main Final on the 10th Anniversary of his last World title after he suffered an engine flame out. With the second Semi the faster the finals, the two drivers to book their place in the main event at the 22nd running of IFMAR Worlds would be Takaaki Shimo and Carmine Raiola.
Reacting to his dramatic Semi, Kurzbuch said, ‘my father went to the starting grid and the engine flamed out. The engine setting was good so I don’t know what happened but in the end we had a lucky outcome’. He continued, ‘We had to work hard for it and show everything we had. I’m sure my father was the fastest in the pits in the final’. Looking to the main final, the Shepherd drivers said, ‘everything from now on is a bonus. I will just enjoy the 60-minutes but the car in the Semi was amazing. We matched the set-up to the conditions. Apart from the flame out the package is perfect for the final. Lets see’.
Winning with a good buffer, Davis said, ‘This is my first IFMAR A-Main, I’ve made five Semis in a row but had bad luck but today we did it finally’. On his Semi Final, his fastest time securing him 3rd on the grid behind Infinity team-mates Dario Balestri and Naoto Matsukura, he said, ‘It was the perfect race. We stuck to our fuel stops and knew the tyres would do the distance. I just raced the clock’. Regarding his World final debut, he said, ‘I think the car is so good I just need to keep circulating for 1-hour and see what I can do’.
Having made his first final at the 1:10 Championships last year in Miami, Hamon said, ‘It went pretty good. It was a pretty solid and clean race. My pit crew was solid even if I was stressing a little over them fully fuelling the car so that if I had more up my sleeve if I needed it’. A new signing to the Serpent team this year, starting 4th on the grid he said his goal is to better his 5th place finish from Miami.
Despite winning his Semi from the pole, a very concerned Greiner said, ‘I had a problem with the engine. I had to make one more fuel stop than planned. Something is not right’. Having quickly pulled clear of the field at the start, the Serpent driver had just 3/10ths on Takahata at the end of the 30-minutes and looking to the final the German said, ‘For sure we will change the engine but maybe also the pipe and the tank. Something is not working with the power’.
Takahata said he made a ‘super safe drive’ to book his second consecutive Worlds Final start. Starting third on the grid, the Mugen driver had to use caution at the start to avoid crashing. Describing his pace as ‘quite good’ he said he will ‘try my best’ to better his 2017 podium finish. Asked about strategy, the Japanese factory Mugen driver said that based on the car’s performance both his run time and tyre wear are safe and these should be factors in the 1-hour final.
Securing his first World Champion Final appearance, Toni Gruber said, ‘This track is really difficult. It changes every time so I hoped the car would work for the conditions and it did’. The Shepherd driver did however suffer a gearbox issue in the second half of the race which causes him some difficulties. He explained, ‘Sometimes the car was getting stuck in second gear, one lap it would be fine, the next lap it would get stuck so we need to check this for the final’. Battling with Collari during the race, the German said, ‘I was having a close fight with Collari but I had some luck when he had a problem with his engine. Asked about the final, he said, ‘When you bump up from the Semi Final I think your only goal has to be to push, this is the World Final. One hour is a long time, a lot can happen but we will see what we can do’.
Chassis – Serpent 989 Engine – OS Speed R2104 Fuel(handout) – VP Racing Tires (handout) – Hotrace Radio/Servos – Sanwa M17/Sanwa Body – Xtreme Super Diablo
Remarks – Winning his Semi Final to book his spot in the main event here in California, Dominic is running Serpent’s new 989 with the car featuring just a few modifications for the high traction at Steel City RC Raceway. The car’s uprights have been modified to allow weights to be mounted to them, extra weight the order of the week. To stiffen up the car, a thicker 2.5mm radio tray has been fitted to the car. Another common feature throughout the pits, the car has a carbon brace across the front of the radio tray.