AOC Race Report Rnd #5 Final Round – Yatabe Arena
Since 2013, the Asian Onroad Championship has grown through the years and has become the premiere onroad racing event in the Asia Pacific. Making 5 stops throughout the calendar year in various regions across Asia, the AOC continues to grow and gain momentum from each and every event bringing with it a world class level of competition wherever it goes. The final stop on the 2016 schedule was held at the historic Yatabe Arena in Tsukuba, Japan on the weekend of November 26th and 27th.
With heritage and history like the Yatabe Arena, the final AOC event was sold out within a few days and has become the biggest race in Japan attracting many international racers from across the world including from countries like Germany, France, America, and other neighboring Asian countries like China, Taiwan, Korea etc. Not only were racers on hand, the event attracted over 20 RC vendors that setup a display/support booth and transformed the atmosphere into a mini RC Expo.
Friday kicked off with controlled practice giving all racers a chance to dial in their cars and adjust themselves to the massive 21 x 38 meter track dimensions as well as the super high grip surface. This year’s layout was technical as it was fast providing challenge to all drivers of any skill level. With 3 qualifiers on Saturday plus one more ran on Sunday before the mains, the schedule was tight as racers would qualify using best 2 of 4 runs to sort for the 10 car main. In addition, the racer favorite ‘bump up’ system was used to allow the top two finisher of the lower mains advancing into the next main giving drivers a possible 2nd chance to make the coveted A-main.
The Formula One class saw a bit of resurgence with the class fielding out to a D-main. However in the end it was dominated single handedly by one young and talented individual, Yokomo’s Toto Ebukuro. Ebukuro went on to TQ 3 of the 4 rounds and pull himself out of harms way early in the 5 minute A final and deliver a flawless race taking the win by a secure 9 seconds. This left Satoshi Yamazaki and former 1/10th scale offroad World Champion, Hayato Matsuzaki duel it out for the 2 remaining spots on the podium. For the entire race, Matsuzaki was trying to find a clean way around Yamazaki, but was unable to make the pass happen and as the pair would cross the line with .2 seconds between them. Yamazaki would finish 2nd and Matsuzaki 3rd on the podium.
Growing in popularity, the 1/12th Stock class saw 40 drivers contest for the win, but came down to two drivers during qualifying. Splitting qualifying rounds was Morotech’s Yoshi Yanagisawa and Kyosho pilot, Usui Seigi. The overall would be decided by the tie-breaker giving the top spot to Seigi. During the A-main, Seigi’s steady and smooth style proved too strong for the young speedster, Yanagisawa. Every time Yanagisawa would close the gap to Seigi, he would make a costly error just as he was about to attack. With 3 chances and 3 mistakes for Yanagisawa, Seigi would cruise to an easy win after the long 8 minute main. Kazushige Tomita would go on to finish 2nd just ahead of Yanagisawa in 3rd.
In a class some consider too fast, the field was stacked with top Japanese modified 12th scalers from all over Japan including the reigning and 4 time 1/12th scale World Champion Naoto Matsukura. However, stealing the show this weekend was Yokomo’s Toto Ebukuro, who was razor sharp and perfectly consistent all weekend. Ebukuro would go on to TQ 3 of the 4 rounds and lead from tone to tone for the entire 8 minute A final. Once Ebukuro found his rhythm, he would go on to slowly pull a comfortable gap and manage it until the finish. 3rd place qualifier, CRC’s Kosuke Suzuki would pursue after Ebukuro, but could only close the gap down to 1.5 seconds and claim 2nd. Morotech’s Toshinobu Yanagisawa would put in an excellent drive and finish with a strong 3rd to round out the podium.
The FWD class saw some competitive racing between the top 5 drivers during the 5 minute final, but it was Shogo Eida taking the win with relative ease as he as he did in qualifying with the fastest time in 3 out of 4 rounds. With a good gap to 3rd, Mamoru Ishikawa had 2nd on lock down while the real battle was for 3rd between Okawa Takayuki and a hard charging Yoshikatsu Namba, who was battling back from a poor start. In the end, Takayuki would finish 3rd for the final podium spot.
After a great effort in qualifying in the 17.5 stock sedan class, TQ Akihiko Ogiwara would make a crucial mistake during the main that would give 2nd place qualifer, Yoichi Kojima the lead and enough space to take home the win. Ogiwara would recover to finish a respectable 2nd with Yoshikatsu Namba taking home 3rd.
Making the trip from Germany, Xray’s Jan Ratheisky showed magnificent form in the 13.5 boosted sedan class by TQ’ing 3 out of 4 rounds and a tone to tone win in the 5 minute A final. The ETS Champion was able to dial his car in early and maintained a comfortable distance from his competitors during the A final to take the win with a big smile on his face. His closest competitors were Tsutomu Ikeya, who would finish 2nd and Kiyoto Kanno, would dropped a spot from his qualifying position and finished 3rd.
The most interesting race came from the Modified Sedan class with a very rare qualifying overall finish with 4 different drivers TQ’ing each of the 4 rounds, resulted in a 3-way tie-breaker between Yokomo’s Ronald Volker, VBC’s Lucas Urbain and Destiny’s Jin Sawada. Current ISTC World Champion Ronald Volker had a slow start to his AOC campaign, but was able to finally get things going early Sunday morning and carry the momentum from his final round TQ, into the 5 minute intense A final. From start to finish, Volker was able to clear himself from the elite pack and drove at his own comfort level and was able to pull a comfortable gap from him and the field. Fighting till the end, Lucas Urbain was constantly lurking from attack distance keeping Volker honest the entire race. Without a mistake from the WC, Urbain would finish only 1.5 seconds behind and lock up a satisfying 2nd. Unfortunately for young Japanese rising star, Destiny’s Jin Sawada would suffer a mechanical resulting in a 9th place finish. Sawada, who was able to TQ one of the four rounds in qualifying, was in 3rd place at the time of his wheel nut failure. Benefiting from Sawada’s misfortune, 3rd on down would be gifted a spot and with a terrific crowd pleasing late race pass, Yokomo’s Naoki Akiyama would edge out his teammate, Yugo Nagashima for 3rd and final spot on the podium.
Thank you to everyone that was a part of making the AOC in Japan happen, especially the fantastic staff at Yatabe Arena and Team Yokomo. Thanks to all the racers that were able to join us on this marvelous weekend of racing.
Note: Special thanks to Scotty Ernst for sending in this race report…