Steven Hartson is the 2013 4WD Electric Buggy World Champion, the American claiming the 15th IFMAR title in a thrilling 5-minutes of racing at the Silver Dollar R/C Raceway in Chico, California. Having been a surprise winner of the opening A-Main from fifth on the grid, the factory Team Associated driver was one of five drivers in with a shot of the title going into the deciding third A-Main but came out on top to win ahead of Naoto Matsukura and Ty Tessman, the same order as how they would line up on the final podium. Once again Top Qualifier Joern Neumann would drop out of an early lead, a problem with the front shock leaving the German with a very difficult buggy, and the 2011 Runner-up would only end up 7th for the leg to finish 4th overall ahead of outgoing champion Ryan Cavalieri.
A driver who much prefers to do his talking on the track, Hartson’s reaction to becoming World Champion was what one would expect had he just won a club race but the 21-year said making his first World A-Main and winning it felt ‘really good’. Having won A1 and then finishing 5th in A2, he said he knew he had to win or beat Matsukura to win the title and that’s exactly what he did. Fourth at the end of lap one, he soon found himself shadowing the leader Cavalieri and Tessmann. Knowing he had a faster car he said he played a waiting game and that paid off first as Cavalieri had a bobble just as they came up to complete lap 7 and then two laps later when Tessman landed badly off the quad at the end of the straight. Getting down the inside of the HB driver, Hartson looked to have the race under control but two laps later traction rolled allowing Tessman back to the front and into a title winning position.
Unfortunately for the Canadian on the next lap, just as it was announced 10-seconds remained, he too would traction roll right in front of the rostrum. While he pulled off an impressive save, Hartson was through as was the fast charging Matsukura both of them just crossing the line ahead of the 5-minutes, Tessmann and Cavalieri missing the cut, to set up a last lap shoot out for the World title. Running behind Hartson and with the sport’s biggest prize on the line Matsukura went for it trying to jump over the Associated but the buggies collided in the air both landing on their roofs. Hartson got going first but it was for a parade run to the finish and Associated’s 27th World title as the Yokomo was broken. Such was the intensity of the race afterwards when asked about the traction roll that almost cost him the title Hartson said he had no recollection of it. Having missed out on the 1:8 Buggy World Championship, finishing runner-up in Argentina, while holding the reign of US Champion and to come so close to the title today as reigning electric Champion, Tessmann was understandably emotional after the race.
Having come very close to his first World title in Finland and looking on target for reparation of that motor failure, Neumann again had to deal with mechanical failure. The former European Champion, said in the warm-up his DEX410 ‘felt perfect’ but in the opening lap his front right side spring managed to push over the spring retainer. Causing the front of the buggy to drop a number of millimeters resulting in the nose diving bobble that cost him the race lead on lap 2. Commenting on the earlier Legs, he said the wind caused him ‘big problems’.
A new 4WD World Champion is to be crowned in California after leg 2 of the A-Main saw reigning Champion Ryan Cavalieri retire with a broken car on lap 2 in an incident that also saw his Associated team-mate Ryan Maifield eliminated. Starting from 8th on the grid, it was Team Yokomo’s Naoto Matsukura who took the win 1.5 seconds ahead of Durango’s Ryan Lutz and Joern Neumann. The win puts the 3-time 1:12 World Champion, who was 3rd in A1, in strong contention for the title as A1 winner Hartson could only manage 5th second time round.
Top Qualifier Neumann again looked to be handed the win when a challenging Cavalieri spun out just as the field came around to complete lap 2. This resulted in A2 second place finisher Ty Tessmann collecting the wrong way facing B44.2 with the HB in turn being hit by Maifield, the Associateds coming off the worse with both cars breaking arms. Leading for half the race a number of bobbles allowed Matsukura to catch up Neumann eventually moving to the front on lap six. Winning the opening Main, Steven Hartson could only manage 5th in between Tessmann and TLR’s Dakotah Phend. The result means that going into the final race Matsukura, Hartson, Tessman, Lutz and Neumann have a shot at the title but the most pressure is on Neumann as even if he wins he needs to do so in a better time than Matsukura’s A2 winning time.