V-One R4, the story

The Story behind the R4 (prototype) at the World Championships

Inside report on the IFMAR 1/10 World Championships.

22nd July-2nd August 2010, Gulf Coast Race Way, Texas, USA


Here's how the day unfolded

This is the official title of this event. The 4th GP Touring Car World Championships were held from 22nd July – 2nd August 2010 at the Gulf Coast Raceway in Texas, USA. Our Kyosho team has won two of the last three championships. Adrien Bertin presently of Team Orion won the first world championships in Brazil while Daniel Ielasi won the third in Portugal. Takaaki Shimo was runner-up at the first and also the second championships held in Australia. The depth and strength of the Kyosho team has been proven beyond doubt. At this year’s fourth 2010 World Championships, a small but formidable team comprising of Adrien Bertin and Takaaki Shimo were joined by an emerging 15 year old talent from Okayama named Shoki Takahata, for Kyosho’s challenge at another world title. With the combined power of the entire team focussed on the perfection of setup and driving technique, we gathered at Tokyo airport on the 20th July to leave for George Bush International Airport in Houston, Texas. A barrage of heat and humidity greeted us on arrival with unsettled weather after some rain. We guessed the pressures on chassis and engines would be more intense than originally expected.


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There are concerns about how the hot weather would affect the concentration of the drivers. On the 21st, we cut several dozen sets of tires at trackside then prepared the machines at the hotel. Next day, Adrien Bertin arrived from Switzerland. We were looking forward to seeing his specially modified V-ONE RRR that had performed so well across Europe. Takaaki Shimo and Shoki Takahata installed the prototype upper deck that was designed to lower the center gravity and improve weight balance. This also enables the handling characteristics to be manipulated through a number of screws securing the independent carbon front bulkhead plate. Also, we prepared two types of rear shock stay with higher rigidity and different shock mounting positions. This was done mostly on advice from Adrien Bertin. This was to be the V-ONE RRR’s 4th world championships campaign. Someone commented “Are you guys still running that old car?” But we didn’t care. We had confidence in our machine.

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There are concerns about how the hot weather would affect the concentration of the drivers. On the 21st, we cut several dozen sets of tires at trackside then prepared the machines at the hotel. Next day, Adrien Bertin arrived from Switzerland. We were looking forward to seeing his specially modified V-ONE RRR that had performed so well across Europe. Takaaki Shimo and Shoki Takahata installed the prototype upper deck that was designed to lower the center gravity and improve weight balance. This also enables the handling characteristics to be manipulated through a number of screws securing the independent carbon front bulkhead plate. Also, we prepared two types of rear shock stay with higher rigidity and different shock mounting positions. This was done mostly on advice from Adrien Bertin. This was to be the V-ONE RRR’s 4th world championships campaign. Someone commented “Are you guys still running that old car?” But we didn’t care. We had confidence in our machine.

 

Shimo was running with an elite group and there was plenty of activity from the other teams including: European champion Dirk Wishnewski; American Scott Kimbrow, equipped with a new rear suspension on his Serpent; electric touring car finalist Alexander Hagberg and Ralph Burch who Shimo regarded as the one to watch. Any one of these drivers could have posted a super fast lap. Shimo clocked a super lap of 17.0 seconds. This was his announcement to the world he was a serious contender for the title. Expectations and pressure were building for the heats on tomorrow.

Adrien Bertin also started well. Proceeding to the heats, he was a little off the pace but the world champion knows how to battle. He was fine tuning his machine and engine. Then disaster struck on the last lap. His modified 2-speed transmission developed a problem with the 1st gear one-way on the back straight. While people were shouting to avoid the danger, the yellow RRR stopped on the outside of the back straight. But Dario Balestri of the team NOVAROSSI plowed straight into it at full speed. The both cars were broken apart. “What the hell!” Adrien Bertin yelled, accompanied by a commotion on the control stand. Something probably flew there. RC should be a fun hobby, but the world championships are different. It is a battleground for pride and being competitive is natural. Strong friendships are born in the heat of serious competition but I think that the world championships have risen above being just a hobby.

 

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Super lap time of 17.0 seconds. This was the "Takaaki Shimo is here" statement to the world

 

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I went to Adrien Bertin’s pit to cheer him up. Michael Salven from team Serpent was already there and he had started to calm down and was smiling a bit. These people have been battling in Europe for a long time so they understand each other perfectly well. Adrien Bertin tried to fix his broken machine with his special mechanic, but it was such a disaster he came to tell me that the “car is finished”. He asked me “Can you organize a machine exactly like Shimo’s?” To tell the truth, Shimo was a bit confused. He had put his heart and soul into setting up his machine. It was not easy to just give it away to someone else. Adrien Bertin is a fellow team member but also a great rival as well. “I drive for Kyosho to win! I’ll support Shimo!” said Adrien Bertin.

From the position of the developer, I was interested in seeing them both drive the same machine. Shimo knew that I was thinking “I can build the machine over night”. So without me having to ask, he said unhappily “We have no other choice”. I asked Adrien Bertin “Your tires are completely different to Shimo’s so I can’t guarantee that it will drive like the his machine. Is that OK with you?” And he said “OK, no problem!” I built a new car overnight.


At the first controlled practice that morning, Adrien’s new machine underwent a shakedown. With too much roll it seemed difficult to control but amazingly the lap times were fast. After the run, Adrien confirmed “Control is very difficult! I’m surprised the times are that fast!” I guessed this was somehow due to his driving style. I explained the details of the settings to him and I left him with the choice of the making any changes or not. Shimo was also doing well at this controlled practice. He was trying some last fine-tuning to suit the surface conditions. He was confident of a strong showing at these championships too. Also, Shoki Takahata cancelled his first run but he showed amazing speed in his second. Conditions provided better grip, but his time of 16.7 seconds was still the fastest of the championships so far. I was working his pit and thinking if the conditions are right, he could make the final. The heats are starting from tomorrow so now it’s just a matter of waiting. The heats have begun. Shimo is solid as usual. But he had to run against Ralph Burch in the same group, which provided an enthralling battle of overtaking and passing. This proved not very helpful for either of them as the heats are determined by lap time. Shimo took a hit by Burch and came in second. Top was Euro champ DirkWishnewski. Adrien’s car hasn’t been fixed. It rolls too much and there’s not enough traction. His lap times are not stable so he didn’t make it into the top group. So I check his machine each time from now on and order the changes. Takaaki Shimo’s second round was a continuation of his battle with Ralph Burch. Even when Shimo caught Burch, he was blocked and couldn’t get past. While trying for an inside run, he nudged Ralph’s car and was given a drive through penalty for his efforts. The standout on this day with the fastest lap time was the first time challenger 17 year old Shinnosuke Yokoyama from Team Central of Japan. Unfortunately he ran out of fuel on his 35th lap so couldn’t finish. But his strong performance certainly grabbed the spotlight.


On the second day of heats, Shinnosuke Yokoyama posted even faster times. Shimo had to be aware of this as Yokohama brought the stands alive with his 35th lap. However, Shimo marked consistently fast times from his 2nd lap and always maintained his place among the top seeds. “I am not aiming for the TQ” said Shimo. But I could see the determination in his eyes. The last heat was held at night under lights that reflected on the oil sitting on the track surface. Sometimes visibility was poor so drivers were unable to post faster times. Still Shimo tried audaciously to take the provisional TQ from Team Mugen’s Robert Pietsch. Inside lines were more dominant than during the daytime sessions and Joe Pillars from Kyosho USA (Team Kyosho off-road driver Jared Tebo’s pit man) had the crowd energized with every lap. Even so, he fell just short of the top goal and had to settle for 2nd place on the grid behind Robert Pietsch. Adrien Bertin was struggling. He replaced the servo and receiver battery and there was nothing left to check and change. Still he couldn’t post a fast time. If he placed above 32 in the heats, he could have the Friday off. Otherwise he would have to compete in the lower final on Friday. But Adrien came in 46th after the 1/8 final. If he doesn’t win through in three races, he will have no chance to compete in the final. I could only feel sorry for Adrien who came to tell me the result. “I am sorry, but I just don’t understand why I can’t get your speed back with those changes.” Anyway, I had to check each part again and prepare for tomorrow. Shoki Takahata didn’t go well. He was competitive right up until the final stage of the heat but had 2-speed gear trouble and fell off the pace. After that heat, he was on fire with 9 minutes 30 seconds but dropped back again after a crash. It the last heat, he had the faster time but he came in 33rd overall. Still, he qualified for the 1/8 final on Friday. He has the enough speed to compete with the best in the world. What he needs is mental strength and stability, which was clearly highlighted during these qualifying heats.


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On the day of the lower final, I sent Adrien Bertin off with wishes for his success. Car movement during warm up didn’t seem much different to yesterday. His lap times weren’t much better so he was holding 5th or 6th during most of the race. But he moved up to 4th on the last lap and when Teemu Leino from the Team X-Ray ran out of fuel, Adrien came in 3rd to progress to the 1/4 final tomorrow.After the race, Adrien Bertin came and asked an unexpected question. “Is Shimo using a lightweight body? I am using the regular weight which runs well at my home course in France.” I felt like I was smacked on the head! Both drivers were using the SRC Chevy Cruser. There is about 30g weight difference between the body types and body weight is a very important aspect of GP Touring Car performance as it influences the amount of roll, exactly as Adrien Bertin said. Even a world champion cannot compete at the highest level with this setup. I was focussed on the chassis and didn’t realize the difference was in the body weight. It was a big mistake.


The grand final was underway! Shimo safely maintained his 2nd place from the starting grid. There was something going on back in the field. Where is Ralph Burch? When I saw his machine, he had dropped back to 8th or 9th. It seemed he had contact with another car. I supposed he was out of contention. Now, when to overtake the leader Robert Pietsch? But his machine was running well, even better than in practice. His driving is calm and Shimo wasn’t able to close the gap. I started to get frustrated. Part of Shimo’s race strategy was preserving his tires. Considering the length of the race, his tire diameter was 3mm larger than what was used in the heats. The negatives are the chassis height is higher and the balance isn’t as good so this requires great caution. Here comes the ambush. It came from Mugen’s Terauchi. His lap pace picked up and is faster than Shimo’s. As Terauchi started his charge, there was no time to think about preserving tires. Both cars made light contact with the left side of the track but Shimo’s machine sustained some damage. The rear wing mount came loose and the wing started fluttering, making the rear unstable. His pace started dropping little by little but somehow kept third position. In this one hour I only had thoughts about winning. There would be no easy victory but losing never entered my mind! But then the nightmare scenario started to unfold. The first was fuel supply. When coming out of the pits, there is no slow exit. Pit lane is fully open and attacking the pit road chicane is normal. That is how world class drivers do it to pick up even just 0.1 seconds. Shimo came out hard after refuelling. But in that instant I saw 1st place Robert Pietsch’s white machine out of the corner of my eye. Shimo crashed into Robert Pietsch’s side and Shimo’s car ended up on the fence. Pietsch’s pit team accidently sprayed his receiver when refuelling and he had to stop. In any crash at full speed there is no way to avoid some damage.With the machine back on the road, it was a little unbalanced and so patience and concentration was fully tested. My strategy was breaking apart little by little. Ralph Burch had shown overwhelming pace to move up the field and into 1st. Would replacing Shimo’s tires give him a chance of winning? I just had to put my trust in Yugami and Tsukamoto of OS Engines who were working in Shimo’s pit. Of course Shimo is a driver with skill to be reckoned with, so I couldn’t give up.


A half hour has passed. Finally we were into the second stage and it was the time to replace the tires. Unlike the Japan Nationals, electric screw drivers are not permitted for tire replacement so we had to use a standard screwdriver. If Shimo couldn’t leave the pits within 2 laps he stood no chance of reversing the situation. I watched anxiously while they were working away in the pits. He hasn’t come out yet. What’s going on? The pit area is close to 40 degrees and that level of heat and intense pressure wouldn’t help the pit crew keep it smooth. From one lap behind Ralph Burch, Shimo dropped down to the 6th. There was nothing left of our “plan” or “strategy”, we just had to hope for a miracle. But miracles don’t happen very often. Shimo’s machine’s behaviour gradually became more erratic. Just retaining his place in the field was proving a challenge, even with his superior technique. Suddenly his machine lost control and made hard contact with the fence and rolled over. The rear wing that was only fixed on one side separated completely. Shimo couldn’t continue anymore. Tadahiko Sahashi who was watching beside me shouted “Body!” I understood that Shimo needed a spare body. But then I realized there was no spare Chevy Cruser body. Shimo normally doesn’t damage the body much at all and so was not expecting to need a spare. There was nothing I could say except “Kikuchi-san! Body Change!!” Adrien Bertin shouted at me and burst through with a body. This was the body that Adrien borrowed from Shoki Takahata for the 1/4 final. Tadahiko Sahashi knew what he had to do and acted first.

He guessed that if a body change was required, a number sticker would also be needed so he was ready with Shimo’s No.2 sticker. Thanks! Anyway, the spare body came from the back of the pit. The body color changed but there was no giving up

and Shimo rejoined the fray, in what position I had no idea. The machine should be more stable now, but the rear was still moving all over the place. As control deteriorated, the nightmare moved into its last chapter. When I saw Shimo coming down from the control stand, I had to accept that it was all over. He was doing so well at the beginning. I could never have imagined it ending like this. I discovered that at the world championships, anything can happen. He retired at 47 minutes.


What happened with the machine? Did the rear belt that I replaced before the start split? I could only imagine the worst. The machine came back for a post mortem after the race. I was silent because I couldn’t find the problem straight away. Ralph Burch was dominating from the front and preserved his tires to claim his first world title. After 30 years of racing activity, he finally became World Champion. Team Mugen’s Terauchi drove superbly to take a well earned second. The current electric touring car world champion Mark Rheinard drove a steady and patient race to come in third. I was now more concerned about the cause of the problem than the race result. I checked each part of the machine individually and couldn’t identify any problem in the drive train and suspension. I couldn’t detect anything that would have caused serious trouble, but I noticed an unnatural scar inside the right wheel. When I touched the tire, I understood the problem instantly. It’s loose. Shimo and I stared in disbelief. A loose wheel nut... That was it? A simple wheel nut caused all this pain. I will regret it forever. But it seemed Shimo was trying to resolve himself to this realization. Anyway, the race is finished. Self-examination? What should be revised? The potential of the car was obvious. The driver showed his speed. The machine was built with the advantages needed to win the final. What else is required? Maybe just some good luck.


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From the position of the development team, the race event hasn’t finished. The spare day on Sunday is going to be used for “Review” testing. The night after the final, we prepared the machine again in Shimo’s room. I could almost hear him thinking; “How are we going to improve the V-ONE RRR?” He has no time to relax because the Japan Nationals are coming up in a month’s time. As soon as we land in Japan, it’s a fresh start. Next morning when I arrived at the track, most of the main manufacturers were there. We were all there for the same reason. Adrien Bertin was putting Shimo’s car through its paces. “Easy drive!” he said, so I was sure the direction we were taking with the development machine was right. Then Shimo drove Adrien Bertin’s machine. “It doesn’t turn as easy but it’s almost the same” he said. I asked Adrien Bertin how he was feeling and he said “I was doing well in the 1/4 final. Feels good today too. I just crashed out in the race.” This gave me some peace of mind. I was able to see the direction for future development. The cars from rival manufacturers have been getting faster. But we’re not standing still. I would like to report about the daily modifications to the 3D design data that I brought with me on a USB memory key. With data collected at these championships, Kyosho has the evidence to proceed to next stage of development.

 

source Kyosho