November 19, 2011Matsukura sets early pace at Asian Touring Series Categories - Racing,Report , trackback
Current Japanese Touring Car Champion Naoto Matsukura is the early pace setter at the Asian Touring Series pilot race that is being held this weekend at the world famous Yatabe Arena as part of the grand opening of the recently extended facility that features no less than four indoor tracks. Organised by the same crew that are behind the hugely successful Euro Touring series which kicked off its fifth season two weeks ago in Germany with a record entry, the first ATS event has attracted drivers from 15 countries including a number of Europe’s top drivers and official factory entries from Xray, Yokomo, Kyosho and Awesomatix.
The home track of the back to back 1:12 World Champion, who makes use of the facility almost every day after school, Matsukura said his Yokomo had a little understeer but otherwise it was ‘all good’. Running on a track layout that was designed for the event by Toni Mateo and Toni Rheinard and laid down Thursday night, the young Japanese ace said the track is different to the faster layouts normally used here but he likes the more technical European feel of the track they have created.
Behind the Japanese ace was Team Associated’s Juho Levanen. The Finn who along with most of the European drivers has enjoyed a number of days testing on the new carpet track which he said was very beneficial as its not normal to get to have as much running back to back alongside on carpet alongside other factory drivers. Running new suspension parts on his TC6, Levanen said they allow for much finer set-up adjustments and in the opening controlled practice the former European Champion looked very good. The 2-time ETS race winner also said the extra stiffness of plastic used has also contributed to what he described as a ‘big step forward’ in the feeling and performance of the car.
Third fastest was 17-year-old Japanese talent Akio Sobue. The Tamiya driver who was a finalist at the Japanese Nationals in September, said his car was working well but he will make some small changes for CP2 to try and make the handling a little more aggressive.
Making the trip to Japan along with Xray’s designer Martin Hudy, Alexander Hagberg took his T3 2012 to the fourth fastest time based on three consecutive laps. The Swede said the run was ‘OK’ but he needs to make the car more aggressive along with improving his driving. Enjoying the opportunity to get in so much testing prior to the event, which is said is unusual to get at a big race, he added that the track layout put down Thursday night is a lot more to his liking as it is far more technical to that which greeted them on their arrival at Yatabe. Hagberg said one of the big challenges of the weekend is the temperature changes that occur over the day in the large hall that houses the track. Having been very pleasant during the day the temperatures drop considerably in the evening and as today it is raining outside this is the coldest it have been inside the hall during daylight hours. Team-mate Hudy managed only a handful of laps in the first controlled practice after he lost the pin from a front drive shaft in the warm-up but the Slovak driver said up to this everything has felt ‘quite OK’ and he should be able to run a decent time in CP2.
Taking a flight route that meant a 24 hour trip from France to Tokyo, Lucas Urbain was looking very upbeat as he set the fifth fastest time. The French ace has struggled this year but thanks to being able to do extensive testing here at Yatabe over the past few days will be looking to end what has been a tough 2011 season on a high note. Struggling with his Yokomo being very twitchy and prone to traction roll all season, team-mate Ronald Volker tried the car yesterday and described it as undriveable. The ETS Champion gave Urbain one of his own cars and instantly their was a smile on the French driver’s face as he took to the track. Further testing of the Volker car revealed a problem with Urbain’s radio. Toni Rheinard, who is competing in the Off road event that will run here on Sunday as part of the grand opening but opted to sit out Touring Cars, came to the rescue by loaning him his Sawna M11X for the remainder of the event. Urbain said the Volker car is so easy to drive and he is still getting used to it along with building back up his confidence but he is delighted that he has finally been able to put his problems behind him. Volker managed to set only the 8th fastest time after his run was cut short by a broken double jointed drive shaft but the German ace said everything feels good and he is in good shape for qualifying.
Completing the top 6 was Shin Adachi. The Kyosho designer described his TF6 as ‘just OK, not so good, not so bad’. Suffering from a little understeer, the Japanese star said he also needs to make it a little more stable but said he should be in good shape in time for qualifying.
In Pro Stock, which differs slighted to that of the ETS with cars running a handout Speed Passion 17.5T rather than 13.5T used in Europe, it was factory Awesomatix driver Ivan Laptev who set the pace ahead of Czech Yokomo driver Radek Flek and Swiss driver Sandro Kuriger who came here running a Tamiya but has switch to a Yokomo after back to back testing the two cars in yesterday’s free practice. In addition to the two regular touring cars classes the ATS pilot race also features the GT500 class which is a Yokomo controlled class that uses an extended 1:12 chassis fitted with very detailed body shells based on the full size Japan GT Championship. After the first controlled practice Atushi Hosoya holds a comfortable advantage over Tadashi Hattori and Isobe Noriyoshi.
Drivers have a second controlled practice to get their cars sorted before the first of the five rounds of qualifying of which the best two with determine the grid for Sunday’s finals.
View the event image gallery here.