Home > Racing News > AOC Finale – Yatabe Arena, Japan

AOC Finale – Yatabe Arena, Japan

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Japan to compete in the AOC finale race at the historic Yatabe Arena in Japan. I have always wanted to visit Japan and Yatabe, and the planets aligned earlier this year when Jetstar announced some cheap airfares and the Australian Nationals turned out to be a massive non-event. It worked out great and I didn’t spend any more money than at the Nationals last year!

I travelled to Japan on Wednesday and arrived at the hotel in Tsukuba on Wednesday night, which was also when many people arrived like Scotty Ernst, the Live RC guys, and many of the other travelling competitors. Yatabe Arena had organised a shuttle bus to and from the track each day which made getting around easy.

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Arriving at the track I was blown away by the awesome facility! In addition to the main on-road track there is a smaller carpet sport track, a large drift track, a small drift track, a large off-road clay track and a small astroturf off-road track. There is also a fully stocked hobby store, kids play area, and cafe with Japanese chef.

Thursday was my first chance to hit the track and I focussed mainly on getting my power right and finding a base setup as the track layout was being changed that night so everyone would get equal track time on the race layout. Things went pretty well, and I was very impressed with the Ride REX30 LT tyres being used, although the wear was slightly higher than the RE32 LT we used at the Melbourne round.

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On Friday we were greeted with the new layout which was about 80% common with the layout from Thursday, but ran in the opposite direction and now with a large on-power sweeper onto the back straight and an on-power fast chicane which was a real test of setup. As the grip climbed I found a setup that was fast and easy to drive so I was feeling good for Saturday.

Saturday morning was an earlier start, and the day began with practice for those who couldn’t attend Friday and a drivers meeting. The event a large with over 170 entries across a range of classes, and the modified field was very impressive including Ronald Volker, Naoto Matsukura, Hayato Matsuzaki, Andy Moore, Shin, Steve Weiss, EJ Evans, Meen V, Chavit S and a host of extremely quick locals. Also in attendance was Yokomo designer and Ronald’s mechanic Umino Yukijiro, HB Designer Toshihiko Hara, my friend and Andy’s mechanic Hiro Kasuya, and Kyosho designer Chikuba. In terms of chassis in use, it was about 80% Yokomo, and 20% everything else with Kyosho, TOP and HB the next most popular. I only saw 4 Tamiyas including my own and 2 Xray.

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I was in the 2nd heat of 4 for Q1 and it went quite well with a very safe round netting me 15th overall with 98% consistency. For the next heat I decided to scrub in a second set of new tyres, which turned out to be a mistake as most people ran used tyres which were faster. I still managed another clean run and with some setup changes suggested by Hiro I put in a 21 lap run and regraded to 8th in the B heat. Q3 and Q4 both went to plan as well, and I bettered my time from Q2 by over 7 seconds, however while I had managed 4 top 20 times I still dropped to 22nd overall.

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Sunday was to see the 5th and final round of qualifying and I was still a chance of making the B final, with JJ Wang, Hei Fang Wang, Charlee P, and Chavit S all being very close on points. Unfortunately for me 2 laps into Q5 I traction rolled coming onto the straight and the others had excellent runs leaving me 21st and CQ, just in front of Chavit. The finals did not really go to plan, 3rd in C1 and DNF (spur gear) in C2.

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Simon on the other hand had an EXCELLENT run, and with strong finishes in Q4 and Q5 he made it into the A main lining up 8th on the grid, awesome! The good thing about being in the C is that I could watch the A without having to marshal, and what a race it was by Simon picking his way through the carnage and finishing 3rd in A1, meanwhile Ronald took an easy win. A2 and Ronald again took the win to seal the overall victory – great work and a super nice guy! A2 was less good for Simon, finishing where he started. A3 went better for Simmo, with another great drive and midfield result meaning he finished 5th overall. An excellent achievement and well deserved.

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The other classes were sensational to watch too with A1 of 12th scale being a standout race as well as the cool Japanese GT500 class A1. Check both these races out online, they are definitely worth watching.

With AOC run and done we had a day to see the sights of Tokyo – no where near enough time in hindsight. We made it to a load of hobby stores in Akihabara followed by shopping in Harajuku and Shibuya before heading to the airport for my flight home.

A few takeaways from my trip:
1. Yatabe Arena is amazing and their hospitality was great
2. There’s nothing like racing on carpet. It’s with regret that I hear AOC Melbourne is going to be on asphalt next year
3. It’s best not to ask what you are eating if you are out with Hiroshi
4. Overseas there are no speeches at presentations. Even Ronald just collected his trophy and went and stood on the podium
5. The lack of Tamiyas was a real worry
6. Canned hot coffee from a vending machine is surprisingly good

And now here are some random shots from around the place

Control tyre additive – the best idea in RC this year

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There were stalls by Lee Speed, TOP, Yokomo, and Trion. Yokomo were showing their new BD7 2014 black edition as used by Ronald – a very sexy piece if kit!

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Delicious food from Yatabe Arena Cafe

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The on-road sport track – I wish we had one of these at home

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The drift GP track. They held a huge drift meeting while AOC was on, seriously cool to watch but I think I’ll stick to touring cars

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Masami’s trophy room including all his championship winning cars

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My wife’s idea of heaven

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Japan’s most famous intersection. It wasn’t quite peak hour so not as impressive as in the movies

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