By Aaron Waldron
This year’s IFMAR World Championship, to be held in Xiamen, China, will mark the 20th anniversary of a special highlight in the RC world, particularly for two of the biggest stars the RC world has ever known: Brian Kinwald and Masami Hirosaka.
The Ranch Pit Shop in Pomona, California, which was owned by the Losi family and had previously hosted the 1/8-scale nitro on-road world championship in 1987 and the electric on-road world championship in 1992, was selected as the host. By that point, Trinity owner Ernie Provetti had purchased a stake in Team Losi and the partnership poured a lot of resources into trying to stop the RC10 platform’s winning streak. They also hired a video production crew to document the event, which you’ll see below.
The 2WD world champion from 1993, Brian Kinwald, had switched from Team Associated to Team Losi in 1994 but failed to make the 2WD main event at the Worlds in 1995 (though he did finish second in 4WD driving a Yokomo). Kinwald entered the 1997 Worlds as a heavy favorite, not only due to the Losi team’s home-track advantage, but because he had won all three Modified classes at both the ROAR Nationals and NORRCA Nationals earlier that summer.
Kinwald wasn’t the only driver with something to prove. Masami Hirosaka — already a five-time off-road world champion — had failed to win either class in 1995 despite the race behind held at Yatabe Arena in Japan.
The 1997 IFMAR Worlds was the first time the event used the now-standard points-based system to determine the starting order for the finals. After battling glitching problems earlier in the week, Kinwald turned the fastest single run during the five rounds - but Hirosaka was more consistent, and after recording the best time in the final round claimed the overall Top Qualifying spot. The final grid was evenly split, with five Team Associated and five Team Losi drivers. This was the starting order:
- Masami Hirosaka - Team Associated
- Greg Hodapp - Team Losi
- Brian Kinwald - Team Losi
- Scott Hughes - Team Associated
- Scott Brown - Team Losi
- Mark Francis - Team Associated
- Jason Ruona - Team Associated
- Mark Pavidis - Team Associated
- Brian Dunbar - Team Losi
- Gabe Boudreau - Team Losi
Hirosaka and Hodapp took off at the start of A1, with Hodapp making his way past to take the lead. Hirosaka muscled his way back to the top spot with some controversial contact, and shortly afterward Mark Pavidis and Scott Hughes also got by. Hirosaka rolled over on the tabletop turn with 1:30 remaining in the race, and Pavidis got by for the win. Hirosaka held on for second and Hughes finished third
At the start of A2, Hodapp got the jump again on Hirosaka — who ran into him in the first S-turn and took over the lead. Hirosaka traction-rolled before the double, which let Kinwald by for the top spot with Scott Brown in second and Pavidis third. Pavidis reeled in Brown for second, but spun out and Brian Dunbar took over third. Dunbar caught and passed Brown for second, and closed the gap to Kinwald, but a late-race mistake cost him a shot at the win. Hodapp recovered to finish third by the end of the race.
With the title on the line, Kinwald dove to the inside of teammate Hodapp and title rival Hirosaka at the start of the race to take the early lead, with Hughes following behind him in turn two to move into second. Just a half a lap later, Hughes tried to pass Kinwald but crashed and collected Hirosaka, which allowed Mark Francis and Brian Dunbar — who had another brilliant start — into second and third. Just before the one-minute mark, Francis crashed in the center of the track and Dunbar moved into second with Gabe Boudreau up to third. Hirosaka caught back up to the pack and passed Boudreau after the two made contact. Meanwhile, Dunbar caught and applied pressure to Kinwald but never forced the issue, eventually settling for second in A3 and overall as Kinwald clinched the title.
|Driver||Car||Front Tire||Rear Tire||Motor||ESC|
|1||Brian Kinwald||Losi XX 'CR'||Losi Silver Wide Body||Losi Silver X-Pattern 2000||Trinity 13x6||Novak Cyclone|
|2||Brian Dunbar||Losi XX 'CR'||Losi Gold Wide Body||Losi Silver X-Pattern 2000||GM 12x4||Novak Cyclone|
|3||Masami Hirosaka||RC10B3||Losi Silver Wide Body||Losi Silver Sprint||Reedy 10x2||Tekin M-Star Red|
|4||Scott Hughes||RC10B3||Losi Silver Wide Body||ProLine HoleShot||Reedy 11x5||LRP IPC V-6|
|5||Scott Brown||Losi XX 'CR'||Losi Gold Wide Body||Losi Silver X-Pattern 2000||Trinity 13x5||Novak Cyclone|
|6||Greg Hodapp||Losi XX 'CR'||Losi Silver Wide Body||Losi Silver X-Pattern 2000||Trinity 14x3||Novak Cyclone|
|7||Jason Ruona||RC10B3||Losi Silver Wide Body||ProLine HoleShot||Reedy 10x4||LRP IPC V-6|
|8||Mark Pavidis||RC10B3||Losi Silver Wide Body||ProLine HoleShot||Reedy 11x2||LRP IPC V-6|
|9||Gabe Boudreau||Losi XX 'CR'||Losi Gold Wide Body||Losi Silver X-Pattern 2000||Trinity 13x3||Novak Cyclone|
|10||Mark Francis||RC10B3||Losi Silver Wide Body||ProLine HoleShot||Reedy 11x2||LRP IPC V-6|
Hirosaka came out blazing in the 4WD class, setting the fastest time in all five rounds to lock up the overall TQ; meanwhile, Kinwald broke in three of the five runs and failed to make the final. Yokomo’s prototype MX-4 was the most popular car in the final, and Team Losi had three drivers (albeit in the back of the grid), with two Schumacher racers and one British driver, William Mitcham, driving a Tenth Technology Predator XK-5. This is what the starting grid looked like for the 4WD finals:
- Masami Hirosaka - Yokomo
- Mark Pavidis - Yokomo
- Teemu Leino - Schumacher
- Jukka Steenari - Schumacher
- William Mitcham - Tenth Technology
- Greg Hodapp - Team Losi
- Billy Easton - Yokomo
- Craig Drescher - Yokomo
- Rick Hohwart - Team Losi
- Matt Francis - Team Losi
Hirosaka got off to a clean start and ran away with the win in A1, while the race for second came down to a door-banging battle between Pavidis and Jukka Steenari, with Pavidis eventually taking the position.
The second A-Main was the same story for Hirosaka, who disappeared from the field and wrapped up the title early. Steenari finished second and Rick Hohwart raced his way into third.
Though he had already clinched the championship, Hirosaka lined up for A3 but set off a chain reaction crash over the triple on lap one. Billy Easton took over the lead from seventh on the grid, with Teemu Leino in second, but Easton also crashed over the triple jump and Leino took over the lead. By the end of the race, Craig Drescher passed William Mitcham for the third spot.
|Driver||Car||Front Tire||Rear Tire||Motor||ESC|
|1||Masami Hirosaka||Yokomo MX4||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Reedy10x2||Tekin M-Star Red|
|2||Jukka Steenari||Schumacher Cat 2000SE||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Corally11x3||LRP IPC V-6|
|3||Teemu Lieino||Schumacher Cat 2000SE||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Corally11x3||LRP IPC V-6|
|4||Craig Drescher||Yokomo MX4||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Reedy10x2||LRP IPC V-6|
|5||William Mitcham||Predator XK-5||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Maxtec11x2||LRP IPC V-6|
|6||Billy Easton||Yokomo MX4||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Reedy10x2||LRP IPC V-6|
|7||Mark Pavidis||Yokomo MX4||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Reedy10x2||LRP IPC V-6|
|8||Matt Francis||XX-4||Losi Silver X-Pattern 2000||Losi Silver X-Pattern 2000||Trinity11x2||LRP IPC V-6|
|9||Rick Hohwart||XX-4||Losi Silver BlockHead||Losi Silver Sprint||Peak11x3||Novak Cyclone|
|10||Greg Hodapp||XX-4||Losi Silver Sprint||Losi Silver Sprint||Trinity11x3||Novak Cyclone|
The race results at the 1997 Worlds were significant for several reasons. It was Team Losi’s first IFMAR title, and Brian Kinwald’s second - and last — Worlds win. It sparked Team Losi’s decision to release a limited number of Kinwald Edition XX ‘CR’ full-option buggy kits to celebrate.
The upset stunned Team Associated, which had won five of the first six 2WD titles, including the previous four straight. They ended up marketing the new B3 buggy being the “fastest car at the Worlds” based on its TQ spot, as well as having the fastest laps in the finals:
It was Masami’s fourth - and final - 4WD class victory, which still stands as a record among all off-road classes. It was also the last time Yokomo won the 4WD title, after earned five straight.
Here’s the video that Team Losi and Trinity put together, thanks to YouTube user Scott S.: