AOC Round 1
APRIL 14-16 SHANGHAI, CHINA
Shanghai was the venue for the opening round of famous race promoter Scotty Ernst’s 2017 Asian Onroad Championship. Fresh from competing at ETS Spain, after a quick visit home to Japan to restock their suitcases Akio Sobue and Naoto Matsukura travelled on to the indoor carpet event where they were joined by Andy Moore.
The fifth year the AOC race has been held at the impressive RCI V2 facility, Naoto would top a very close seeding practice. With the Top 3 drivers all setting a best 3-consecutive lap time of 31.2 seconds around the tight track, Naoto would have a 0.07 of a second advantage over Alexander Hagberg with Akio just a further 0.02 off. Andy would post the 7th fastest time for the single round of seeding practice which brought Day 1’s action to a close.
With three rounds of qualifying, the grids for the finals determined by rocket round, Naoto would take full advantage of leading away the top heat of Modified to TQ Q1 ahead of Hagberg. Akio would net a P4 with Andy taking his pre production IF14 to the 6th fastest time. With Saturday’s weather hotter and more humid than that experienced in Friday’s practice, the second qualifier was expected to be faster and it was. Going a full 3-seconds quicker than Naoto’s Q1 time, Akio would head a 1-2 for Infinity. Also improving on his opening time, Andy would complete the Top 5. While Q2 would bring an end to the R/C action for the day it wasn’t the end of ‘racing’ with track owner Rick Wang, always a great host, organising a karting night. A great night out, the experience highlighted that our drivers are best sticking to R/C!!
While the final qualifier on Sunday morning was predicted to be not ideal conditions to better the TQ time from Q2, Akio defied this. With the traction levels more to his liking, he managed to post the only 30-lap run of qualifying to secure pole for the triple A-Mains. Unfortunately for Naoto and Andy, they couldn’t capitalise on the faster track. Four laps into the 5-minute qualifier, Naoto would make an error that put him out on the spot while Andy also failed to finish. Having to rely on their Q2 times, they would line up 3rd and 8th respectively on the grid.
In the finals, Akio would take full advantage of his pole position. Winning A1 from Hagberg and Naoto, he went on to win A2 by a bigger margin to wrap up his second major Asian race win in less than a month. With Naoto having a DNF in the second encounter, A3 would prove vital to him making the podium. Battling hard with Hagberg, as they pulled away from the field, a mistake from Hagberg over the dots on Lap 5 would result in contact between the pair. Both drivers would get swallowed up by the field but Naoto would eventually find his way back to the front to take the win and make it a 1-2 for the team on the podium. Despite coming back from a DNF in A1 to finish 4th in A2, and setting the fastest lap of the finals in A3 on his way to a 6th, Andy would be classified 8th.
Picture credits to Asian Onroad Championship.