The 2016 Dragon Stone Asian Nitro Buggy Championships took place in Liaoyang, in north eastern China last weekend. Organised by Scotty Ernst, and with a lot of top international racers attending, joining the regional and national racers, there was a great turnout for this first annual event. The track was located in a beautiful park and all attending racers were bussed in everyday from the official hotel with a police escort. Unfortunately the weather decided to throw a curve ball, with the outer edge of a typhoon providing plenty of rain throughout the week.
On Friday, following a large scale opening ceremony which saw the great and good of the local city in attendance, racers finally got on to the track for some ‘dry’ track running. With no official timing sessions, it was left to the driver’s fastest individual lap to help judge pace and it was French TLR driver Reno Savoya who set the pace ahead of Australian Associated superstar Kyle McBride, who had topped the time sheets for most of the day. Up next was a trio of Japanese drivers with Wataru Takashiro outpacing fellow MP9 driver Atsushi Hara, the former World Champion back racing offroad after a few months off in preparation for the TC worlds the week earlier. Serpent driver Shin Adachi would complete the top 6 in the rain shortened practice.
Saturday morning would start wet following overnight rain however the local track team lead by Harry and Scotty Ernst, applied saw dust and dug some ditches to get rid of the water and racing got underway around 11am. Round 1 of qualifying kicked off with Truggy which saw young Gage Peters from New Zealand set the pace with his Mugen from Nelson Woo and Clemente Pancho. 1/8th EP Buggy was next up and it was RC Concept team mates Reno Savoya and Jerome Treignier that set the pace, the Canadian actually leading the heat until a mistake saw him lose the spot to the 3-time European Champion. Australian Ben Sterling with round out the top 3 ahead of Felix ‘More Powa’ Law in 4th.
In the opening 1/8th Nitro Buggy round it was Atsushi Hara that came out on top, but only because Kyle McBride would flameout while leading, dropping him out of contention. Hara would have a clear advantage over Savoya in 2nd in the tricky track conditions. Korean driver Dani Choi would claim 3rd for the round ahead of Kyosho team mates Takashiro and Sterling. Truggy would manage to get their second round in with Edward Sio taking the round ahead of Peters and Pancho, but Peters would take the overall TQ honours. Then the rain arrived and with biblical amounts of water falling the racing was stopped and everyone went back to their hotel.
Sunday morning arrived and after some stellar work from the track crew and a truck load of sawdust the track was in great condition for racing when the 2nd and final round of qualifying recommenced. It would kick off with Nitro Buggy and this time around Kyle McBride could bring his Associated buggy home without any troubles to take the round and with it the overall TQ spot for the 45 minute main. Hara would claim second for the round to start the main just behind the Australian. Savoya was 3rd for the round, just 2 tenths behind the former World Champion, with Takashiro bringing his Kyosho to 4th for the round ahead of 10-time Taiwanese National Champion Chen Guan Xian.
In the triple A-main finals for the electric 1/18th buggy class, A1 saw a clear and easy win for Savoya as he dominated the field to win by over 20 seconds in front of Jerome Treignier with Felix Law bring home 3rd in a close battle with Zhang Xiao Qi. A2 looked like more of the same for the Frenchman but a broken shock would see the race wide open and it was Law who would pick up the pieces and take the win to setup a showdown in A3. Luna Zhi Xing was second ahead of Ben Sterling with A2 runner up Treignier recovering to 4th after a difficult start. A3 would be business as usual for the TLR star as Savoya took another dominant victory and the overall victory, this time ahead of Yuan Zhi Xing and Treignier, but it was Law who would take the runner up spot on tie break with Yuan Zhi Xing, who would have to settle for 3rd.
Next up was the 30 minute Truggy Main Final which would see 15 year New Zealander Gage Peters put in a solid performance from start to finish to win by 2 laps ahead of Kiwi Dave Watts. Watts who had trouble in qualifying would work his way up through the field from 8th on the grid to take the runner up spot. Filipino driver Clemente Pancho would take the final podium spot in 3rd.
Finally it was time for the 45 minute Nitro buggy A-main. Pole sitter McBride would get the holeshot off the grid and never look back, the Australian having the pace to pull away from the chasing pack which was being led by Savoya. The Frenchman would suffer a flame out that dropped him down the pack as well as a long pit stop to change tires and with Hara having trouble on track caused partly by a bent shock shaft, it was Wataru Takashiro that took up 2nd and with a steady drive that is where he stayed. McBride would win by 3 laps from the Japanese driver with Savoya battling his way back to a podium spot a lap further back. Hara and Adachi would complete the top 5.
View the complete event coverage (in Chinese) here.