MAR 1-4 BANGKOK, THAILAND
TITC 2018 marked an important milestone for Infinity as one year earlier at Asia’s most famous race we had unveiled to the world our entry into electric touring car competition. Returning to Bangkok, Thailand, the team was ready to again battle it out with the best drivers in the world, only this time they were now armed with a valuable 12-months of experience with the IF14. As always the heat and humidity presented additional challenges in terms of ever changing track conditions with the layout at RC Addict having also undergone a makeover since the 2017 edition.
With massive rain halting proceedings during testing in the days leading up to the race, once the 16th running of the TITC got underway on the Thursday it was a dry track all weekend. In controlled practice the team made an encouraging start with Naoto and Akio seeding 2nd and 3rd fastest with Marc, Jilles and Jesse also joining them in the top heat for the first day of qualifying. With 6 rounds of qualifying run over 3-days, Q1 would see Naoto & Akio swap their seeding order with Marc completing the Top 5. The second qualifier again saw Marc complete the Top 5, the only change at the top of the time sheets being Naoto getting the better of Akio to post the 2nd fastest time behind reigning champion Bruno Coelho. Having made early mistakes in the opening two qualifiers, Naoto concluded the day with a clean Q3 run to record another P2 while a diff change on Marc’s car helped to the 3rd quickest time. Akio had a costly last lap error in the chicane that would drop him to P6 but overall it was a good Day 1 of qualifying.
With the Modified drivers having a free Saturday morning, two qualifiers were on the schedule for the afternoon. Akio lead the way for Infinity in Q4 posting the 2nd fastest as both Naoto and Marc had mistakes. With the overall TQ decided in the fourth round, how the rest of the grid would be formed was still wide open. Akio helped his cause in Q5 with a Top 3 just ahead of Marc who was happy to end the day with a P4 as he secured his place in the A-Main having found himself in the B-Main a year early. While Naoto had his worst run so far, a mid race crash giving him a P5, he held second on the grid overnight sharing the same points as Akio but having the quicker time.
With the arrival of Sunday morning drivers had one last qualifier to go before the triple A-Mains. With Modified first to run, a dusty track would result in low grip and it was Akio who made the best of the conditions with the 3rd fastest time. Knocking a rear shock off his car on the last lap of his final attempt, this mistake would cost Naoto second on the grid. With himself, Akio and Alexander Hagberg all ending up on the same points Hagberg’s P2 in the final qualifier demoted Naoto to 3rd on the grid and Akio to 4th. Marc would line up 5th while Jilles made the IF14 the best represent car in the A-Main by qualifying 10th.
In the first of the finals, there would be drama on the first lap. With Top Qualifier Coelho getting out of shape and spinning in front of the pack, unfortunately for Naoto he could not avoid him dropping him down the order. This left Akio as the lead Infinity chasing new leader Hagberg. Putting him under intense pressure, despite being the fastest car on track Akio couldn’t find a way passed. Trying to get down the inside of the leader it resulted in contact but Akio waited to allow Hagberg resume his lead which is how they finished. At the end they crossed the line just 17/100ths apart. After his earlier incident Naoto recovered to 4th.
After an exciting opening race, A2 would also have its dramas. With Hagberg and Naoto battling for second they would touch with Akio taking advantage to move up to second but it quickly became the lead. Coelho had pulled out a small lead but clipped the curb at the end of the straight flipping this car and handing Akio the lead. Behind Marc made it an Infinity 1-2 putting both himself and Akio in the hunt for the overall win going into A3.
Will everything on the line in A3 you could feel the tension with a loud crowd adding to the atmosphere. With Coelho having no chance of the overall win, he quickly moved aside after the start to allow team-mate Hagberg to the front but with Naoto trying to follow through he and Coelho had contact and once again Akio took advantage. Now it was a battle of winner takes all. Having dropped back slightly, Akio put in a huge charge in the final minute. Right with Hagberg on the last lap, he went for a pass in the sweeper but getting slightly out of shape he made contact causing both cars to spin but as he had done in A1, he waited and allowed Hagberg to resume his lead. To everyone watching it looked like the race was decided with only 3-corners to go but ‘never give up’ Akio wasn’t done. Going ‘full punch’ into the final corner in which the loop is positioned he would take the biggest win of his career in one of the small margins possible - 0.003 of a second. What a way to mark your first year with the team! Unfortunately having glanced off the outside track piping during A3 this would cost Marc from joining Akio on the podium as his rear tyre came completely off leaving him 4th overall. Naoto ended up 7th and Jilles 9th. With the team showing the prototype of our upcoming IF11 Formula car, we also enjoyed success in that class with Jitse finishing the single 10-minute final on the podium with second place. It was a team effort with Jilles doing a super quick job in the pits on the mandatory tyre change all Formula drivers had to complete.