Having conquered the 1:8 Onroad World Championships in France one year ago, our team travelled across the Atlantic to Miami to put 12-months of preparation for the 1:10 200mm Onroad World Championships to work. The newer of the two nitro onroad categories, 1:8 being the founding class of our sport, the 8th running of the nitro touring car Worlds would be our second attempt. Putting a car in the final as a brand new 1:10 project 2-years ago in Italy, the team arrived at the Homestead RC Raceway much more experienced and with much higher expectations for the IF15.
For some of the team, the International Practice Days would be their first opportunity to get a feel for the typical US boards style track. A tight infield layout that required precision driving and punished mistakes, the track also featured a long 100 metre straight. For our drivers who attended the World's Warm-up race earlier in the year they could only spectate during the two IPD days and once they did hit the track they realised it was like starting from scratch. A difference in the tyre compound compared to what they used at the Warm-up and a bigger difference between front and rear shores had created lower traction. Also overnight rain washed off any traction that had been laid down by 120 competing cars on the first day of free practice. At the end of the first day of practice, track conditions at their best, it was Jesse who led the Infinity challenge with the third fastest time. Following the overnight rain, things went better in the more challenging conditions with Naoto topping the times for the day ahead of Tadahiko and Lamberto as more rain forced the cancellation of the 8th & final free practice. With this strong perform, the trio went into the four rounds of controlled practice on Tuesday feeling very confident of a good seeding. For Dario he was less happy as he was still trying to find his way having had to discard 90% of the set-up data he compiled at he Warm-up Race due to how much the traction had reduced.
Naoto, a 200mm racing virgin, got Controlled Practice underway with the fastest 3-consecutive laps with Tadahiko and Lamberto also showing well with a P5 and P6. In the next of the 7-minute runs, Lamberto improved to go fastest as the IF15 filled the Top 3 times. In the third run, Naoto posted the 2nd fastest time but it was the final practice that was the most impressive. Both Naoto and Lamberto set an identical fastest time which were also to be the quickest three-laps of the day. Not a scenario anticipated by the creators of the timing software, once a tie breaker was written into the coding it was Lamberto who came out of the day as top seed for qualifying even admitting himself to be surprised by his pace given 3-consecutive laps are not his speciality. Joining him in the top heat, this being Lamberto's first attempt at 200mm World Championship, Naoto would carry No.2, Tadahiko No.3 and Teemu No.9 with Dario just making the cut with P10.
With the arrival of Wednesday morning, there came a distinct change of atmosphere as qualifying time had arrived. Unfortunately for Lamberto the No.1 seeding status for qualifying was not to bring much success. A plug issue left him 12th in Q1 before issues prevent results in the next two. In contrast, Dario was back with a bang having finally find a workable set-up allowing him to TQ the first round ahead of Naoto. In Q2 it was Dario again this time ahead of Andy. Running in the second fastest heat, Andy then went on to cap off the day with an impressive TQ run in Q3 ahead of the reigning champion Dominic Greiner. A great first day. The guys continued that form into the final day of qualifying. Naoto registered his first TQ run in Round 4 to join Andy as the main challengers to stopping Dario from taking his third consecutive overall World Championship TQ in as many years. Setting the pace in Q5, Naoto was on target to force the decision of pole position to go to the final round but at the halfway mark he made a mistake handing Dario the round and the first direct spot into the final. Finishing off qualifying with a TQ run ahead of Teemu in Q6, Naoto would end up 2nd and Andy third meaning they would both take part in Super Pole while in the overall Top 16 we had a total of 10 cars. Luckily for Dario he would suffer a battery connector failure Q6. Why was this?, well due to the timing because it was better to happen now than in the final.
Following a short break after Q6, the 4 drivers qualifying from 2nd to 5th faced into Super Pole - 6 attempts each to set the fastest single lap time to secure the second direct spot in Saturday evening's 1-hour Main. Sadly, unlike in France at the 1:8 Worlds, it wasn't to be a Super Pole success for us. Going last, the fading light at the track prevented Naoto from bettering the lap of Robert Pietsch, the difference just 0.028 of a second - that is a tenth of the time it takes the average human to blink! A somewhat disappointing finish to an otherwise brilliant qualifying, an IF15 having topped all six rounds. For the majority of the team, Friday was a down day and the opportunity to have an easy morning before heading to the track to go over everything on their cars with a fine tooth comb in preparation for the finals.
After the long journey of preparations, the day that would create the latest chapter in the 1:10 200mm World Championship history books was here. Getting underway with the 1/8 Finals, the 1/4 Finals saw Shimo boost the Infinity line-up in the two Semis to 50% of the grid as he bumped up. In the first of the 30-minute Semis, Andy led the field from pole position until suffering brakes issues that dropped him down the order. Tadahiko took over control of the race to win by half a second from Jilles for both to progress to the Main. On pole for the second Semi, Naoto had the 'perfect' race winning comfortably from Greiner. Teemu, despite getting crashed at the start, completed the Top 3 giving himself a chance to add the World title to the European title he won for the first time earlier this year. The grid was now set for an intense 60-minutes of racing.
With the cars going to the grid it was to be a troubled start for Dario. Due to long wait following the cars being placed down on the track, to prevent his engine cutting, Dario had to give some throttle which resulted in his car jumping forward. Although he stopped before the start tone, it was deemed a jump start and he had to visit the pits to serve a penalty. Having made a great start to get ahead of Pietsch, who together with Greiner was also penalised for a jump start, Naoto was quickly able to take control of the race. By his first fuel stop he already had a 6-second lead. Refuelling earlier than his rivals with 4:30 stops, such was his pace that by his tyre stop in the middle of the race he already had over a lap on the entire field. With this advantage, Miura was able to switch to an even safer 4:00 fuel strategy allowing Naoto to focus on driving a controlled second half of the race. After his issues at the start, attempts to recover would come undone for Dario when he suffered a flame out with Tadahiko's race also hampered by engine cuts. They would be classified 6th and 7th in the final result. At the end however we achieved the one result all the team had strived for for the last year - the World title.
Another special moment in our short company history, it was also an amazing day for Naoto to win as a complete class rookie and join a very exclusive club for drivers to have won World titles in three different disciplines. Such results don't come easy and without a lot of hard work. To everyone in our family who was part of the IF15's journey to being crowned World Champion we are deeply thankful. Of course we can enjoy a few days to celebrate the result but we are already set to begin working on the journey to defending our titles!