The fact that only one driver has ever won the IFMAR 1/8-Scale World Championships more than once (Maurizio Monesi in 1988 and 1994) is one of the most famous stats in RC racing. The race is difficult enough to win as it is, let alone to be able to do it again. A few drivers have come close - in fact, Atsushi Hara came within just a few feet of backing up his 2008 title when Cody King beat him on the final lap in 2010. A long week, tricky track conditions, incredible parity among so many manufacturers make for one of the toughest and most grueling RC experiences ever - not to mention there’s a healthy dose of luck required.
Another reason why there has only been one winner is the simple fact that a racer’s career doesn’t last forever. When the race is only every two years, the attrition rate of former winners even racing at an elite level anymore significantly lowers the chances of a previous champion returning to the top of the podium. Of the thirteen drivers who’ve won the fourteen titles, only four are here competing this weekend.
1986, Frederic Veysseyre - Not in attendance
Frederic Veysseyre was the first-ever World Champ driving a Yankee with a Cipolla engine and Techno tires. He won in his home country, as the race was hosted in Grenoble, France. Veysseyre finished fifth in 1990.
1988, Maurizio Monesi - Not in attendance
Maurizio also won in his home country, as the 1988 Worlds took place in Mantova, Italy. Monesi drove a Garbo buggy powered by a Mantua engine and, like Veysseyre, used Techno tires. Monesi didn’t make the final in 1990, but he finished third in 1992.
1990, Koji Sanada - Not in attendance
Koji Sanada was the first Japanese driver to win the title, behind the controls of a Mugen Seiki buggy with Novarossi engine and Mugen Seiki tires. The race that year was the first outside Europe, in Bangkok, Thailand.
1992, Kunihiro Toge - Not in attendance
Sanada and Kanai were the heavy favorites in 1992, but Sanada’s transmitter failed in the rain and Kanai flamed out several times. An unknown driver named Kunihiro Toge set off an unprecedented streak of six straight world titles for Kyosho with his win in Usingen, Germany. His Infero was powered by an O.S. engine and shod with SLD tires. Toge never made another IFMAR final.
1994, Maurizio Monesi - Still not in attendance
Monesi’s victory in Krichschlag, Austria was his second in five tries, though this time he was driving a Kyosho buggy with an OPS engine and Cournon tires. Monesi never made another final after that.
1996, Alex Laffranchi - Not in attendance
Laffranchi gave Italy its third championship when he won in Beaulieu, England. His Kyosho buggy had a Picco engine and Medial Pro tires. Laffranchi never made another Worlds final.
1998, Daniel Reckward - Not in attendance
Previous titleholder Laffranchi was the Top Qualifier but failed to make the final. German Daniel Reckward, driving an RB-powered Kyosho buggy with Medial Pro tires, beat Frenchman Phillippe Lachat by less than four seconds for the win. Daniel finished second in 2000 and 7th in 2002.
2000, Yuuichi Kanai - Finished fifth in 1/32 Odd Final (did not bump up)
The designer of the legendary Inferno series contributed to its legacy when he won with his own design on a temporary track built in the Silverton Hotel parking lot in Las Vegas, Nevada. His Koysho buggy was outfitted with an RB engine and Pro-Line tires, kicking off a string of five straight titles for the American tire manufacturer. Kanai finished fifth in 2002 and is the earliest winner competing at this year’s race, but hasn’t made a final in the twelve years since.
2002, Greg Degani - Not in attendance
The race in Punta del Este, Uruguay was the strongest showing yet for American racers with four drivers - Degani, Wheeler, Saxton, and Bradley - in the final. The elder three Americans broke away quickly, but Chad Bradley’s pipe exploded while leading early in the race. Saxton, the TQ, failed to pit when his mechanic called him in for a stop, and he ran out of gas. Degani picked up where those two left off and won. Running an O.S. engine and Pro-Line tires, this was the last win in Kyosho’s unprecedented string of six straight titles. Degani missed the final in 2004, finished 9th in 2006, and that was it.
2004, Guillaume Vray - Not in attendance
The big story at the 2004 Worlds, held on an on-roadish course not unlike the Naxos World Track, was when convincing TQ Yannick Aigoin was disqualified after absolutely dominating the semifinals. After qualifying, the fuel line on the buggy was replaced, and he measured barely over (less than 1cc) the limit. His fellow countryman Guillaume Vray had the only drama-free sixty minutes, breaking Kyosho’s win streak with a 19-second gap over Miguel Matias. Vray returned to the podium in 2006 but finished third, and hasn’t made it back since.
2006, Mark Pavidis - Won the 1/32 Even, flamed out and finished 10th in 1/16 Even
Pavidis was the top qualifier and handily won his semi in Jakarta, Indonesia. After a good start he crashed off the back corner of the track and had to fight his way back from last, with help from better fuel mileage than anyone else. He stretched the advantage long enough to reach the front of the pack and held off a late charge by fellow American Scott Hughes to win the final. Like Degani four years prior, Mark’s Kyosho buggy was powered by an O.S. engine with Pro-Line tires on all four corners.
It wasn’t Mark’s first run at the championship. He finished 5th in 1994, 9th in 1996, and TQ’d before finishing 4th in 2000. He missed the final in 2002, and finished 4th in 2004 before finally getting the title he had been chasing for over a decade. Like many other Worlds winners on this list, Mark hasn’t made a final since winning the championship - and failed to make it out of yesterday’s lower mains.
2008, Atsushi Hara - Qualified for today’s Odd 1/8 final
After a rain-soaked week made a mess of the track, Hara snuck into the semifinal having qualified only 14th. As one of just a few drivers running the brand new Hot Bodies D8 (yours truly included!) Hara and his mechanic, Miura, decided to run the new Pro-Line Caliber having not tried it ever before; once again, it was the winner’s ideal fuel strategy that allowed him to take advantage of Ryan Maifield’s late flameout, and the Japanese driver kept it on all four wheels to take the title. Hara’s championship was the most recent for Pro-Line, with his Hot Bodies buggy powered by an O.S. engine - which helped the Japanese manufacturer break its tie with RB for most titles, now with four.
Hara finished just two seconds behind the winner two years later, coming up short in a last lap battle making him the closest ever to repeating as World Champion. Hara made the podium for the third race in a row in 2012, the longest such streak by a fair margin. He’s in the first race this morning, so his quest for a second world championship is still alive.
2010, Cody King - Qualified for today’s Even 1/4 final
Held on perhaps the most intense track in the race’s history, the race in Thailand featured eight different chassis manufacturers. Cody qualified straight into the semifinals and bumped into the main for the second time in two tries in his career. Simply put, he made no mistakes throughout the 60 minutes and put himself in position to race for the win. After an hour of surviving the track’s tough conditions and big jumps, Cody outdrove Hara on the final lap to win by less than two seconds.
Driving a Kyosho MP9, Cody’s World Championship was his first as well as that for both engine manufacturer Team Orion and AKA tires. Cody finished seventh two years ago, nearly three laps behind the winner, and will run in today’s Even quarterfinal as he tries to make it back to the main event for the fourth event in a row.
2012, Robert Batlle - Qualified for today’s Odd Semifinal
Robert Batlle’s run at the 2012 title wasn’t his first, having finished 8th two years prior and 9th in 2004. He was simply dominant in Buenos Aires, Argentina, however, and won a 60-minute final that ranked among the most uneventful, running up front nearly uncontested for the duration.
The win gave Mugen Seiki their third championship and Novarossi its second, but was the first for new tire manufacturer Procircuit - making the third different company to win in the last three races. Perhaps most important for Robert on a personal note, however, it was the first ever for a Spanish driver in any class. Robert has been one of the fastest drivers here in Italy and he’ll start sixth in the first semifinal. This year, Robert may be the best shot we have at seeing the first driver to win twice in twenty years.
With only three former world champions still alive in this year's championship, it's looking more and more likely that Maurizio Monesi's record will stay intact for two more years.