2017 IFMAR 1:8 ONROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
SEPTEMBER 8-16 MONTEUX,FRANCE
Each time the Infinity team sets off on the journey to a race the goal is always the same - battle for the win. Every two years however one event takes the intensity of that desire and hunger for victory to an even higher level. Why? Because the event in question is the World Championships and winning makes you a life member of a very exclusive club. Making the 1:8 Onroad World title even more special is it is the founding class of RC Racing, it is what the Marathon is to the Olympic Games. For both driver and manufacturer winning the Worlds is an official endorsement that you are No.1 in the World. Like all of the top prizes across the sporting world even making the final is an arduous task with preparation starting months before boarding the flight in this case to Monteux, France.
Since the start of 2017 ever aspect of testing and racing has been undertaken as a step to achieving the ultimate goal and doing so as a team. While only one driver can ultimately claim the title, it would be a team effort to put every small detail in place so we could take on the efforts of the established manufacturers. First run in 1977, we faced into the 21st running of the IFMAR World Championship with the list of winners reading just 12 names. As a track, Circuit Jean Nougier presented a high level of difficulty but all the drivers unanimously agreed it was a track on which the winner would be a deserving World Champion.
An event that runs for over a week, the first indicator of our pre-event preparations was promising as Dario topped the times for the first day of free practice but what was more promising was the general pace of our car with it filling the Top 7 spots. On a slightly different pre-race programme opting instead to contest the Austrian round of the ENS, Jilles would open the second day with the fastest time for the sixth round of free practice from Naoto although Dario’s FP5 time would stand with no one able to better it over the remaining 4 rounds.
On to controlled practice and Jesse marked himself as a strong contender as he set the fastest 3-consecutive laps in CP1 ahead of Naoto as spirits ran high within the team. Reigning World Champion Simon Kurzbuch would top CP2 but it was slower than Jesse’s time however over the day’s final two rounds, points awarded for position per round, it was Naoto who took charge. Hitting the top of the time sheets for the first time in CP3 he would better his own pace in CP4 to become the Top seed for qualifying. With 15 heats, he was joined in the top group by Jesse, seeded 4th, Carmine (6th) and and Dario (9th).
With the arrival of qualifying on Wednesday morning there was a clear change in atmosphere as the stakes started to rise. Simon Kurzbuch claimed the first round ahead of Dario with Naoto 4th. Declaring the start of qualifying as a come back after his troubles the day before, Dario’s run was hampered by confusion over positioning between his pitman and that of Robert Pietsch. With no such issues in the Q2 and 3, Dario would TQ both and leave the track that evening as the overnight provisional TQ holder. Looking to have picked up where he left off on Day 2 of qualifying, Dario would top his heat from Kurzbuch but a surprise earlier run from Yuya Sahashi meant it was a P2 run with Jilles posting a P3 having run in the same heat as Sahashi.
With wind an issue drivers had come accustomed to dealing with, the arrival of rain during Q5 would catch everyone by surprise. Short in time, the rain made up for it in volume with the entire world of who's who in nitro onroad stranded in the various pit areas as the tail end of the weather front passed. With blue sky in pursuit, the track's banking and elevation changes meant the newly laid asphalt would dry relatively quick. With a number of heats remaining to complete Q5, it was decided to resume qualifying by running the sixth and final round before returning to finish out Round 5. With Kurzbuch taking Q6 ahead of Dario, both drivers having the highest of respect for each others abilities, it was all going to come down to the final heat of the day. You could not write a better movie script! Dario would rise to the challenge posting a third TQ to give him the perfect 0 score and the honour of being Top Qualifier. Stage 1 was complete.
A new feature of this year’s 1:8 Worlds after its successfully introduction at the 1:10 Worlds a year earlier, one of the drivers qualifying 2nd through 5th would get the chance to join Dario as a direct qualifier for the final through Super Pole. Naoto and Jesse would fly the flag for Infinity going up against Kurzbuch and Bruno Coelho. As the 5th place qualifier, Jesse would go first and threw everything at it unfortunately crashing out on his last lap, reminding everyone of the difficulty of the track. With Coelho up next it was then Naoto’s opportunity to set the fastest lap over the 6 attempts given to each driver. He would do it with a time of 15.715 with just Kurzbuch to go. An anxious wait for the entire team and in particular Naoto & his pitman Miura-San, Kurzbuch's best lap would stop the clock at 15.728 sending Naoto jumping with joy in the pitlane as he earned the description ‘1:8 Onroad World Championship Finalist’ for his CV on his championship debut.
With 8 places left to be filled for the 1-hour decider, the two 30-minute Semis would determine those drivers with six places in those duals still open. Finding himself in the 1/8 Final, Lamberto was looking poised to progress until suffering a plug failure while leading. Racing can be cruel and unfortunately Lamberto’s quest for a 10th title was ended by elements outside his control. The 1/4 Finals would prove more rewarding for our drivers with Shimo-San progressing from the B encounter and Alberto & Carmine going forward from the 1/4 A for a total of 6 Infinity’s on the Semi grids. Starting 9th on the grid, Shimo would win his Semi to claim P4 for the main event. In the other encounter Jilles would finish second behind Kurzbuch netting him the No.6 for the final while Alberto bumped up for a second time to make it five Infinitys on the grid for our first shot at the sport’s ultimate prize. Having pushed Kurzbuch hard in the Semi, Jesse wouldn’t be rewarded for his efforts, problems on two of his pit stops denying him his first World’s final start.
After months of preparations and a week of intense track action, the time had finally arrived and with every vantage point filled around the track by a passionate crowd it was game on. With a 10-minute time-out delaying the original start, at 16:26 the French flag was raised. Unfortunately for Dario he was slow away and as the lap progressed things only got worse as he ended up on the grass and needed to be marshalled. Starting second, Naoto led and while 1-hour racing was something he never experienced before he quickly found his rhythm and started to extend a lead over Kurzbuch. Putting a lap on all of the entire field at the half way distance, an error on exiting the pitlane saw that impressive lead evaporate as his car went across the grass, hit the barriers, and needed to be marshalled. Completing two laps his car didn’t feel right so he had to pit again further reducing his lead. All the time Dario was working his way back to the front laying down the fastest lap of the race. With 50-minutes complete and just 10-minutes remaining Naoto would exit the pits as the leader but at the next corner went straight on relinquishing his lead for the first time with Dario going to the front. Unfortunately for Naoto his off was the first signs of worse to come, his receiver battery loosing power and ending a superb performance that has earned him many new fans. After his bad start, something he said afterwards was completely his own fault, Dario wasn’t going to give up being at the front of the pack for a second time and after years of trying finally achieved his dream crossing the finish line 5-seconds clear of Kurzbuch for a truly memorable moment in the short history of Infinity. Nobody could deny that one of the nitro racing’s fastest and most talented drivers had finally been rewarded after years of trying and coming so close.
The reality of being a World Champion manufacturer is going to take a while to fully sink in. As Dario said in his media interviews afterwards, the win was achieved through team effort. We are very proud of all the Infinity Family and thank them for their dedication that led to this moment that will be hard to surpass.