For 30 years Yuichi Kanai has combined
the roles of designer and race driver
RC Car Designer Yuichi Kanai
The work of an RC Car Designer
RC (radio control) cars designed by Yuichi Kanai are not sold in general merchandise stores with toy RC cars. Kanai-designed RC models are advanced, high-end machines that are only sold through specialized retailers. These buggy-type racing cars are about 50cm in length, weigh about 3kg, and are equipped with a 2-stroke 3.49cc displacement engine that produces 2 horsepower at 4000RPM to reach speeds of up to 100km/h on dedicated off-road racing circuits.
The ultimate test for racing machines in this category is the World Championship, which has been held every second year since 1986 when the first event was held at Grenoble, France. More than 200 challengers from around the world compete through one week of qualifying rounds with the top 10 earning the right to contest the final. The Kanai-designed chassis for this category races under the ‘KYOSHO Inferno’ brand. At the present time, the Inferno has won the World Championship 8 times. Yuichi Kanai was crowned World Champion in year 2000 at the World Championship held in Las Vegas.
Twin roles in the RC industry
The rare combination of RC car designer and racing driver form the two-edged combination of the Inferno’s success.
Control of the end to end process: Design – Parts Procurement – Road Testing with assembled machine – Racing; enables the same hand used in drafting the design drawings to control the machine through the transmitter and feel the results on the track. Almost no drivers in the top 10 at the World Championships are also professional car designers. Most drivers at this level have sponsorship contracts with manufacturers of the chassis, engine, RC system and fuel. Amongst these, Yuichi Kanai has maintained his twin roles as designer and driver for more than 30 years.
To create a fast machine, race feedback is essential.
Developing the fastest machine around is not easy and feedback from racing activity is essential. As the race driver, Yuichi Kanai understands quickly and unambiguously the results under true racing pressure. This also enables Yuichi Kanai to listen to the feedback from other KYOSHO Inferno drivers as well. The ability of the car designer to see and feel the machine’s performance first hand as well as stand alongside other KYOSHO Inferno drivers for broad exposure to driver feedback has played a critical role in the Inferno’s eight World Championship victories.
The true test is when the machine is out of the box. After service support is critical.
The Inferno undergoes a full model change every 6-7 years with minor changes made regularly in between. After the production model has been released, the supply of performance-enhancing optional parts and replacements for broken parts is addressed with particular care. For this purpose, research into the user experience with parts supply is gathered from the track (circuit). An Inferno owner can be lost if just one part is unavailable.
Made in Japan with an unrivaled record of eight World Championship titles
To make a fast machine, focus on easy maintenance and minimize the number of parts used.
To create the fastest machine in the world, it is essential to use as few parts as possible but made with the greatest precision. Yuichi Kanai believes that Japan’s craftsmanship and production technology are the best in the world. Subtle curves and R marks that cannot be expressed in the design drawing are discussed face to face with the craftsman and thoroughly incorporated into the finished product. There are design elements that cannot be captured on CAD design drawings. Collaborative communication with Japanese craftsman is the key point. Its convenient that ‘Made in Japan’ means we can meet directly and resolve any issues if needed.
All eight of the Inferno’s World Championship titles were won by different drivers.
The fact that all eight World Championship victories were won with different drivers proves that the excellence of the machine is the critical factor in its record of success. This is another key aspect of the KYOSHO Inferno.
Not limited to a single machine for racing. The KYOSHO Inferno brings the pinnacle of design technology to everyone.
KYOSHO Inferno racing team works drivers mainly use production components when competing at the World Championship. The Las Vegas track where Yuichi Kanai won his World Championship title was like a Supercross track with elaborate jump sections that damaged many cars. The KYOSHO Inferno established at reputation for extreme durability and Kyosho received requests from other teams to share Inferno components. It is highly unusual to give rival teams components, but as the KYOSHO Inferno was nearly a production model, the KYOSHO Inferno parts were already available to the public.
Independent and innovative
I do not test drive other manufacturer’s cars.
There are about 20 manufacturers in this car category and 7-8 compete at the highest level. Thorough study of competitors is undertaken across all categories but Yuichi Kanai absolutely does not do this. If he drives another manufacturers car just once, Yuichi Kanai thinks he will remember points about it subconsciously. There is no point in imitating to stay at the top, its better to pursue performance independently.
To be a race winner
Take up residency at the race venue.
What does it mean to take up residency at the race venue? Eliminate stress factors by arranging good food and sleep so you can focus on racing in good physical condition. Find a hotel with nice staff that is close to the race circuit, restaurants, supermarket, hospital and home goods stores. Also, try to get along with people at these places as they can provide good advice and help if needed.
Do not fear failure.
The more you worry about making flawed components, the more likely it is you will fail. Even during the race, the more you think about losing the more difficult it is to maintain your own pace. Mistakes happen when you loosen control of your pace, so practice and mental conditioning is required.
Have an aura of control of your surroundings
Practice leads to confidence and the development of an aura of control over the conditions. A driver with an aura of control has seen many times how the machine can win, even if the machine is not performing optimally.
I like what I do so I don’t give up, that’s why I can continue
At the end, the question remains.
It seems there was more pain than reward, why did you continue?
Racing machines in this category reach speeds of 100km/h along off-road straights and fly 3m over jumps. In real scale terms, that is like driving at 800km/h and jumping 24m high. 1/8 scale means everything is 8-times what you are seeing. I can experience this realistically, not virtually, and I like the race community I can share this experience with. RC cars allow you to feel this sensation and I like the high-performance categories. Although I deal with model hobby products from design to racing, this is still a business with after-sales support etc. and is quite challenging. My enthusiasm never wanes and I can share this with others.
How do you react when you hit a roadblock?
Negatives tend to come in consecutive events so I just try to relax. Going for a drive to a hot spring bath is good. When driving a real car I’m not racing so it’s quite relaxing. This is how I can reset after a negative chain of events. Once you reset, you can see the solution to the problem.
Born: January 1965 (Tokyo)
Occupation: RC car designer
Experience: 30 years
Company: Automodel Corp.
Yuichi Kanai’s first RC car was a second hand one given to him by one of his neighbors when he was in junior high school. After that he worked part time to save enough money to buy his own RC car. After graduating from the mechanics department of the industrial high school, he worked as a designer at a radiator manufacturer. Three years later after watching Kanai race, the Chairman of Automodel Corp asked Kanai to work at Automodel. Since then he has been at the forefront of RC car design for 30 years, with eight World Championship trophies under the Inferno brand. With his own World Championship trophy in 2000, Yuichi Kanai has fulfilled both roles as the leading designer and driver in the RC industry.