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By Aaron Waldron
Having reigned for years as the most popular form of on-road racing, four-wheel drive touring cars have come a long way from their humble, off-road-based beginnings. What started as a lower-cost, more accessible alternative to pan-car racing that was right at home in hobby shop parking lots around the world morphed into something completely within a decade. Manufacturers quickly began pushing the design envelope and creating large factory teams that turned racing into serious business. The speeds rose, too - with LiPo and brushless-powered cars regularly touching freeway speeds at larger tracks over the last few years.
Tamiya deserves the credit for kickstarting touring car racing all the way back in 1991, when they converted the TA-01 Manta Ray off-roader into a road-going vehicle with shorter suspension arms, narrow wheels, and treaded radial tires. Sold initially with a Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R body, Japan’s most famous supercar, the TA-01 is best known as the first kit with intentions of being a 4WD on-road touring car, opening up the market for a wide array of realistic shells that looked like everyday drivers. Fast forward over 20 years, and the Tamiya Racing Factory is the only brand to have won more than one title.
The segment absolutely exploded. Within a couple of years, several manufacturers had released electric and nitro touring cars.
If Tamiya was responsible for creating the class, HPI Racing triggered the turn toward track-specific racing models with the RS4 in 1995. With a transverse-mounted stick pack and gear-driven rear differential, the RS4 outshone everything that came before it - even though it was a far cry from today’s chassis standard.
Schumacher launched the SST in 1996, with a carbon fiber chassis that used a saddle pack (though not in the manner we’d consider them mounted today). The SST helped elevate the racing aspect of touring cars, and the market exploded with offerings from nearly all of RC’s marquee manufacturers - Kyosho’s TF line, Team Associated’s TC series, and more.
IFMAR first recognized the International Scale Touring Car division in 1998 as a provisional class that ran alongside the existing 1/12-scale competition (a constant since 1982) and Electric Track PRO 10 pan cars (which ran only from 1992 through 2000). To complete the sweep of all three classes, David Spashett won with a Team Losi Street Weapon, an on-road conversion of the XX-4 buggy. The winners of every touring car World Championship since has been an official IFMAR title, and includes some of the biggest names in the industry’s history.
Year Driver Country Chassis Motor Location 1998 David Spashett UK Team Losi Trinity Newcastle, England 2000 Atsushi Hara Japan Yokomo Reedy Tsukuba, Japan 2002 Surikarn Chaidejsuriva Thailand Tamiya Reedy Krugersdrop, South Africa 2004 Marc Rheinard Germany Tamiya Orion Kissimmee, Florida 2006 Andrew Moore England HB Orion Collegno, Italy 2008 Marc Rheinard Germany Tamiya Speed Passion Bangkok, Thailand 2010 Marc Rheinard Germany Tamiya Speed Passion Burgdorf, Germany 2012 Jilles Groskamp Netherlands Tamiya Orion Heemstede, Netherlands
Most wins all time:
Only Marc Rheinard, with three titles, has won more than once
Germany - 3
UK - 1
Japan - 1
Thailand - 1
England - 1
Netherlands - 1
By car manufacturer:
Tamiya - 5
Team Losi - 1
Yokomo - 1
HB - 1
Orion - 3
Reedy - 2
Speed Passion - 2
Trinity - 1