By Aaron Waldron
After the "Red Army" struggled a bit in 2WD qualifying at the Worlds Warm-Up at Yatabe Arena, Kyosho drivers came storming back in 4WD qualifying to sweep the top three positions. Leading the charge was new-for-2015 driver and 2013 Worlds runner-up Naoto Matsukura - and it wasn't even close.
The defending Japanese National Champion set the fastest time in all four rounds of qualifying by convincing margins, with the smallest gap back to second place coming in the first round - when he edged teammate and countryman Yusuke Sugiura by over 2.5 seconds. Sugiura was second-quick in both the first and second rounds, which was enough to secure the second spot on the grid for Sunday's final despite finishing outside the top ten in rounds three and four.
Defending 2WD World Champion Jared Tebo had a much better day than his 20th-place showing on Friday, finishing third in the first round and then recovering from a DNF in Q2 to end up with five points and third place overall.
The top non-Kyosho driver was XRAY's Martin Bayer in fourth. The former European Champion also suffered a DNF, dropping out before the halfway mark of the first round, but scored two solid finishes in Q2 and Q3 to tie Tebo on points. He lost the single fastest round tiebreaker by five seconds.
Lee Martin, the TQ of the 2WD portion, was strong all day long but not quite close enough to challenge for TQ. Still, the top Yokomo driver finished the first three rounds inside the top four - and his worst finish was just seventh.
Behind Martin was EOS round winner Michal Orlowski's Schumacher, Martin's Yokomo teammates Masatsugo Ido and Marc Rheinard, three-time former 4WD World Champion Ryan Cavalieri in the lone Team Associated B44.3 to make the final, and one final Yokomo belonging to Kai Kikuchi to round out the field.
(thanks to Joe Pillars for the photos)