HPI takes 3rd place at the
1999 Reedy Modifieds Touring Car Race of Champions!
Over the weekend of May 29-30, 1999, Ripon R/C Speedway hosted the 1999 Reedy Modifieds Touring Car Race of Champions, which consisted of 160 Open class touring car racers and 32 of the world's fastest drivers in a series of races that excited the crowd that watched throughout the two full days of racing.
Drivers from teams like HPI Racing, Yokomo, Team Losi, Schumacher, Tamiya and Kyosho showed up to defend titles and take on the best of the best! Yokomo brought drivers like Barry Baker, Masami Hirosaka (9-time IFMAR World Champion), Brent Wallace (last year's Reedy TC Invitational Race winner), John Orr, Mark Pavidas and many more (about 12 total). Team Losi showed up with current ISTC Champion David Spashett, Josh Cyrul, Joel Johnson (winner of over 22 National titles), Brian Kinwald (IFMAR World Champion and multiple Nationals winner also), Jukka Steenari and a few others to compete. Tamiya flew in a couple of their drivers from Japan to run with David Jun (former ROAR and NORRCA National Champion), and all ran the new Tamiya dual-belt drive prototype car. Kyosho brought five racers all from Japan, running their brand new TF-4 Type R car. Schumacher brought JR Mitch, Dave Loftin and a couple of other drivers from Florida and Southern California to race in the Invitational and Open classes.
Showing up with just two people in the Invitational class against huge factory efforts from the other race teams, Masayuki Murai (who won the Hong Kong International Touring Car Championship) and Daisuke Yoshioka (who came in a very close 2nd to Masami in last year's Japan Touring Car Nationals) of HPI Japan literally came out of nowhere (to most of the racing spectators) to take a few wins over the other drivers during their 8 races. The race announcer, Mike Revo, mentioned more than once the surprising way that Murai was able to take off around the track and commented on the 'dark horse' nature of the two man HPI team!
For the first couple of Invitational races, all eyes were on Masami Hirosaka, expecting him to make a good show, and he certainly didn't disappoint! Masami literally only made a couple of mistakes all weekend long. Call him "Mr. Zone!" Barry Baker won three of his first four races, and Murai won three of his four races on Saturday, and Yoshioka took one win (there were four races each day, with three of them counting to the final score).
Basically, Murai and Yoshioka stunned most of the spectators and even the other factory drivers with their speed and skill. No one there expected a two-man team to be able to hang with the big boys of R/C racing! All of the Invitational drivers were fast, but most of the track (which is pretty big) consisted of tight turns and very short straight shoots. The longest that the modified drivers were at full throttle was about a second on the back straight.
The early lap time to beat was a 14.7 (set by Masami), and most drivers were making 15.0 second laps and higher. As the races went on and the drivers learned the track better under pressure, the lap times got lower and lower, down to the 14.3 and even 14.2 mark. 14.2 seconds was the track record for much of the day Saturday, set early by Mark Pavidas when he was trying to catch up to the racing pack after a bad crash with another racer. Murai was tied with this record for at least two races! In one race, Murai was ahead of the pack and managed to pull off three consecutive 14.4 lap times, which helped him get one of his three wins on the first day of racing. Going into Sunday, Murai was tied for third, with Masami solidly in second and Barry in first spot with three wins. Yoshioka took two wins on Saturday, setting himself up for points battle with drivers like David Spashett, Joel Johnson and others.
Most of the racing was very clean, with little or no bashing in the races, and not a single car broke from crash damage with another car (in the Invitationals, at least!). The race directors of Ripon R/C Speedway ran a tight set of races, keeping everyone in line as best they could. They even gave out warnings and restarted more than one race that had a terrible first corner start.
When given a clear track ahead and smooth running, there usually wasn't anything that could stop Yoshioka and Murai, especially when starting from the front row (or a lucky break from the first corner pile up).
Murai pulled off another win on Sunday, and in his last race was ahead of Barry Baker, trying to prevent a perfect set of wins for him, but the slightest mistake made Murai roll over on the berm and set him back a couple of seconds, and the race finished like that.
When the points were totaled and the dropout races subtracted, Murai was definitely in third position with HPI Racing and Team Orion power! Not too shabby for what the race announcer called "the dark horse contender"! Masami Hirosaka finished second and Barry Baker took the overall win.
Yoshioka came in 13th out of about 32 racers, and only the top 15 took home plaques. The top three received mounted silver bowls, perfect for placing the cars on!
With the number of racers flown in from other countries (Japan, Finland, England) and from across the USA for the Inviational class of the International Reedy Modifieds Touring Car Race of Champions, it really was a pleasant surprise to see HPI take home a plaque and a podium finish behind two of the biggest names in R/C racing today. Considering this encompassed our entire team, we can't be anything but happy about the outcome! Congratulations, Murai and Yoshioka!
Invitational Class results: