2024.2.17-18  Chubu International airport「Centrair」


Chubu International airport was the stage for the 2023 Final Championship!

Every year the excitement builds up to the final race that decides the MINI-Z champion. The 2023 final championship was held over two days on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2024.

The hot topic of this year’s championship was the host venue, Chubu Centrair International Airport in Tokoname City in Aichi Prefecture. Centrair is the gateway to the Chubu region for many air travelers and Centrair Hall is the multipurpose venue that hosts a variety of events. This is where a special MINI-Z circuit was constructed for the MINI-Z Final. Easily accessible from anywhere in Japan and overseas, Centrair hosted 159 entrants including the racers who won the right to represent Japan from the qualifying rounds and the 23 entrants from Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Thailand. In addition to its convenience for transport and proximity to accommodation facilities, the venue opened the door to Aichi’s local gourmet food scene, allowing the racing group to enjoy the best of Aichi’s hospitality as well as the racing.

Beijing Team

Bangkok Team

Seoul Team

Hong Kong Team

In addition to racing, there were other events and attractions such as the drift-driving experience and interesting products to buy.

The special race circuit made with urethane mats used for the MINI-Z Cup was constructed at Centrair Hall, which is connected to the Chubu International Airport main building via a breezeway. Kyosho merchandise was available from the Kyosho booth setup next to the circuit as well as drift-driving instruction using the MINI-Z AWD, showcasing the appeal of R/C model racing not only to the competing drivers and their teams but also to the spectators. In addition to Kyosho, race sponsors and R/C equipment brands Kondo Scientific (KO PROPO) and Futaba Electronics Industries (FUTABA) also set up booths to provide support to racers and information to spectators. After watching the MINI-Z in action, this was a good opportunity to discover the fun of driving R/C models and make purchases at the event.

Kondo kagaku Co., Ltd.

Futaba Corporation

Who will wear the crown in each of the 5 race classes?

There were five classes at the Final Championship. The ‘EVO Novice’ class was newly established in 2023 and open to racers that had never qualified for the Final Championship previously, meaning that every racer in this class was competing in the Final Championship for the first time. The other four classes were ‘Narrow Touring’, “Wide Touring’, ‘Open’ and ‘AWD’. Only the EVO Novice class held both qualifying and finals on day 1 of the championship, 17th February. The other four classes held practice sessions and two rounds of qualifying on day 1. On the second day, a further two rounds of qualifying and the B Main was followed by the A Main Final in each class, which was comprised of the top six qualifiers plus two additional racers.


EVO Novice Class

[ Final A Main ]
Ren Ueda
Kouhei Matsuda
Sirou Takahasi
[ Final B Main ]
Naoto Nakamura
[ Final C Main ]
Miyuki Takemoto
[ Final D Main ]
Takashi Hamada

Pos.Driver NameLapTotal Time
1Kouhei Matsuda438'05.230"
2Ren Ueda428'03.680"
3Sirou Takahasi428'06.430"
4Miti Kageyama428'08.780"
5Norihisa Matida428'09.370"
6Eisaku Ushiku428'09.570"
7Tomohiro Matsuda418'02.210"
8Naohisa Kotani418'03.130"

The 29 racers in the EVO Novice class competed through two 3-minute qualifying races to decide the top eight drivers to contest the 8-minute A Main final race. From the start, Kohei Matsuda who qualified in 1st place, got away to a flyer. However, all the other racers crashed on the opening lap allowing Matsuda to open a big lead and drive relatively conservatively for a comfortable win, finishing about 10 seconds in front of 2nd place Ren Ueda. Shiro Takahashi took third place, approximately 3 seconds behind Ueda.

Narrow Touring Class

[ Final A Main ]
Taisei Koizumi
Yukio Nakata
Kouki Tanaka

Pos.Driver NameLapTotal Time
1Yukio Nakata438'00.840"
2Taisei Koizumi438'00.890"
3Kouki Tanaka428'00.130"
4Tsutomu Kaneta428'05.310"
5Shunsuke Mamizuka428'05.670"
6Tsutomu Fujihara428'07.300"
7Daiki Watanabe428'07.810"
8Noriyuki Nishimura428'08.110"

In the ‘Narrow Touring’ class which mainly uses Japanese sports car models, the field for the A Main final was earned by the top 8 of 32 racers. Although there was no catastrophe at the start, Daiharu Koizumi, who qualified 1st, made a mistake on the second lap and was overtaken by Yukio Nakata, who started 2nd of the grid.
The high racing intensity continued for the next five minutes as Nakata and Koizumi battled for the lead. Nakata made contact with a trailing car that was lapped and was passed by Koizumi, who then made an error and swapped the lead back to Nakata. At one stage the lead blew out to 3 seconds, but Koizumi never gave up and continued to pressure Nakata, closing in with just a few minutes left in the race. With the finish line in sight, the two racers were almost level, but Nakata managed to hold off the fast-finishing Koizumi to win the ‘Narrow Touring’ class championship title by a mere 0.05 seconds. In his post-race interview Nakata said “I thought there was still one lap to go so I was surprised when the race ended. I am very satisfied that I was able to move up from 2nd place. The car ran perfectly for the full 8 minutes”. Koizumi excited the crowd with his fast-paced and clean driving to finish second, while third place went to Koki Tanaka.

Wide Touring Class

[ Final A Main ]
Kinji Amano
Kazuhisa Katayama
Tomokazu Nakao

Pos.Driver NameLapTotal Time
1Kazuhisa Katayama478'04.150"
2Kinji Amano478'08.320"
3Tomokazu Nakao478'09.550"
4Hideyuki Sugawara468'00.880"
5Kosuke Maehara468'01.150"
6Hidekazu Uematsu468'02.440"
7Ichinan Hai468'03.200"
8Ryuto Itsuka458'06.940"

34 racers competed for the ‘Wide Touring’ class title. In the A Main final, Kinji Amano, who was the fastest qualifier, got away to a good start and built a solid lead over second place and the rest of the field in the early stages. Kazuhisa Katayama, who qualified in 2nd place, made a slight error at the end of the first lap, allowing Tomokazu Nakao, who qualified in 3rd place, to move into 2nd. However, about one minute into the race, Nakao's machine came into contact with the fence, allowing Katayama to move back into 2nd place. After two minutes, the gap between Amano and Katayama widened to 1 second, but from this point Katayama began to close the gap with each lap. From the third minute onwards, a tight battle ensued between the top three, Amano in 1st, Katayama in 2nd and Nakao in 3rd place. After 5 minutes, Amano made a slight mistake allowing the unrelenting Katayama to seize the lead. From this point on the already close battle intensified, but the faultless Katayama prevailed, applying pressure from the front to force Amano and Nakao into mistakes that resulted in crashes. Katayama ultimately crossed the finish line about 4 seconds ahead of Amano. “I was cautious at the start of the race, but when I realized that the car was in good shape, I picked up the pace around the 3-minute mark. Once I was in the lead, I was careful not to make any mistakes and it worked out well”, said Katayama. With his superb control and coolness under pressure, the 60-year-old veteran became the ‘Wide Touring’ class champion, with Amano in 2nd and Nakao in 3rd place.

OPEN Class

[ Final A Main ]
Ryohei Tsukamoto
Rintaro Kobayashi
Naoya Iwata

Pos.Driver NameLapTotal Time
1Rintaro Kobayashi508'08.690"
2Ryohei Tsukamoto498'02.330"
3Naoya Iwata498'04.690"
4Jun Mitsutome498'05.690"
5Takahashi Ryota498'07.450"
6Mikio Yamaki478'00.160"
7Shingo Uchida478'00.890"
8Takashi Katsuta193'12.870"

The fastest lap times in the MINI-Z Cup are usually recorded in the ‘Open’ class. Like the other race classes, the A-Main final is an 8-minute race and features high-level racers. While all cars made a mistake-free start, the early stages featured a breakaway by the top two qualifiers, Rintaro Kobayashi and Ryota Takahashi. Under pressure from Takahashi at the 1 minute 40 second mark, Kobayashi went wide and Takahashi made contact resulting in a crash, allowing Kobayashi to open up a substantial lead. “Takahashi is a good driver and races clean so I was able to race with confidence. Once the gap between me and 2nd place opened up, all I could think about was driving conservatively and avoiding mistakes to keep my lead,” said Kobayashi. In the end, Kobayashi finished comfortably in 1st place, winning by 4 seconds to Ryohei Tsukamoto in 2nd and Naoya Iwata in 3rd place. After his spirited start and recording the fastest lap time of the championship, Takahashi finished back in 5th place.
Open class champion Kobayashi will be invited to compete in the MINI-Z Cup Hong Kong Final at the end of 2024 with air tickets and accommodation included. The race event is hosted by Kenny, Kyosho Hong Kong representative and Hong Kong team leader.

AWD Class

[ Final A Main ]
Hiroshi Kamibayashi
Yuuki Yoshida
Shoichi Morita

Pos.Driver NameLapTotal Time
1Yuuki Yoshida478'02.260"
2Hiroshi Kamibayashi478'07.950"
3Shoichi Morita468'07.230"
4Kouji Yamamoto468'07.230"
5Hitoshi Ohno458'03.840"
6Masaki Komino458'04.220"
7Tohru Kawakami458'06.550"
8Manabu Koizumi458'07.760"

The last race of the event was the A Main final of the AWD class. As the only AWD model competing in the MINI-Z Cup, the MINI-Z AWD requires different driving techniques and settings to the standard RWD models. The critical point of the A Main happened on the very first lap! Top qualifier Yuki Yoshida got off to a clean start from pole position, closely followed by 2nd place qualifier Hiroshi Kanbayashi. At the mid-point of the first lap, Kanbayashi executed a daring inside pass to take the lead until Yoshida switched to an inside line at the final turn to reclaim the lead at the end of the lap. With two changes of the lead in the opening lap, the crowd was on the edge of their seats. Yoshida maintained a steady pace and gradually put space between himself and the rest of the field. Yoshida said, “I knew Kanbayashi would go on the attack from the start so even though I was overtaken, I didn’t panic and was able to squeeze past him to take the lead back. Also, I had to maintain high speed through to the end as Kanbayashi always produces a fast-paced second half.” Yoshida ran a flawless race and was crowned winner of the AWD class, with Kanbayashi finishing in 2nd. The next two cars finished with the same finishing time, but Shoichi Morita took 3rd place on the podium based on a better qualifying position.

Concours d'Elegance

Ooiwa Hideyuki(OPEN Class)

Rock-Paper-Scissors competition was also held

After the racing was finished on day 1, all participants gathered for a commemorative photo and a hotly contested rock-paper-scissors battle. With exciting prizes from event sponsors and Kyosho, the rock-paper-scissors contest was as heated as the racing itself! These events are all part of the fun at R/C car races.

Hiroe Maisaki & Radio Control Magazine follow up

Kyosho brand ambassador Hiroe Maisaki was on-site and posting coverage of the event on social media and also to present at the awards ceremony. This event will also feature in the May issue of Radio Control Magazine (released in April 2024), so please check that out as well.

And the stage is set for the 2024 season!

With the races run and won, and five new champions crowned, the provisional regulations and race schedule for the 2024 MINI-Z Cup were announced at the event venue. As Japan’s largest MINI-Z model racing program, racers now have their sights set on the new season and are ready to start another year of fun and speed.

We look forward to continuing the MINI-Z Cup and welcome the participation of everyone!