By Aaron Waldron
When the 2016 IFMAR World Championships for the 1/8-Scale Nitro Buggy division kicks off next week in Las Vegas, it mark the first time the race has been held in the U.S. since 2008 - marking perhaps the most significant eight years in the history of the class in terms of competition and advancement. The cars are stronger and faster, the engines are more powerful and efficient, the tires last longer and grip better, and there are perhaps more drivers capable of winning than ever before.
Though the pre-race talk about next week’s race will likely be dominated by track conditions, team switches, and new products, none of that truly matters come race time - the fastest drivers in the world will rise to the top of the heap and battle for the title. Including the 2008 Worlds, the last four IFMAR title races have given us four very different outcomes - and four different winners.
2008 - Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Winner: Atsushi Hara (Japan)
Margin of victory: 1.4 seconds
TQ: Mike Truhe (USA)
Competing in his first IFMAR Worlds for nitro off-road, Atsushi Hara was one of four HB Racing (then Hot Bodies) D8 buggies to make the final - with only five cars in attendance (fun fact: I was the fifth. Oops). Hara came out of nowhere in the final as TQ Mike Truhe, along with fellow Americans Ryan Maifield and Jared Tebo, had the pace to win but fell behind as the 60-minute encounter wore on. Maifield flamed out with less than ten laps to go, Truhe closed the gap in the waning laps as Hara kicked it into cruise control, but Hara held on for the surprise win and TQ Truhe had to settle for second
2010 - Pattaya, Thailand
Winner: Cody King (USA)
Margin of victory: 1.9 seconds
TQ: Jared Tebo (USA)
Maifield and Tebo set the early pace with King and Hara in tow. Maifield flamed out at the 30-minute mark while leading, handing lead to King with Hara and Tebo behind. Tebo flamed out with ten minutes remaining, leaving Hara and King to battle it out. Hara took the lead with less than three minutes remaining but opened the door with a late mistake and King capitalized, holding off the defending champ by less than two seconds at the line and adding to Kyosho's record win total. Jared Tebo was TQ after setting the fastest time in the final three rounds, but finished third.
2012 - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Winner: Robert Batlle (Spain)
Margin of victory: Over 15 seconds
TQ: Elliott Boots (England)
Though Ty Tessmann started from the pole position after winning the faster of the two semifinals, he’d have to wait two more years to score his first World Championship. Tessmann held the lead for just ten minutes of the one-hour final before Robert Batlle swept past, and the Spanish Mugen Seiki driver never relinquished the top spot - driving off to an undramatic finish that broke the mold of the previous two races. TQ Elliott Boots didn’t make it out of the semis due to mechanical issues.
2014 - Messina, Italy
Winner: Ty Tessmann (Canada)
Margin of victory: Over 30 seconds
TQ: Ty Tessmann (Canada)
After coming close to the hobby’s highest honor two years prior, Ty Tessmann left no doubt who the fastest driver on the planet was when the nitro off-road scene headed to the shores of Sicily in 2014. He was a front-runner throughout practice, earned overall Top Qualifier honors, won his semifinal (albeit with a slower time than Ryan Maifield, who won the other semi and started the final at the front of the grid), then grabbed the lead early in the race and disappeared, giving HB Racing its second win in four tries.
To recap, the four races turned out like this:
2008 - Surprise winner shocked the faster drivers with narrow come-from-behind victory
2010 - Surprise winner battled tooth and nail with defending champion for entire race
2012 - Two-time European champion dominated the final
2014 - Previous runner-up crushed everyone all week long
Which of those descriptions do you think will most accurately describe the 2016 Worlds? Will we see a surprise winner, or a seasoned veteran expected to run up front? Will it be a close battle to the finish, or a runaway snoozer? And will anyone join Italian Maurizio Monesi (1988, 1994) as a two-time winner of the race?