Simon Kurzbuch put his quest to regain the Euro Nitro Series title he lost to Dario Balestri last season firmly on track by denying the Italian a home victory today in Bologna. Starting the season opener from 4th on the grid, Balestri the Top Qualifier, Kurzbuch would have a race long battle with the Capricorn driver ultimately securing the win in the pits. Picking up where he left off last season when he won the season finale ahead of the champion to be, Kurzbuch’s third ENS win capped off the perfect day for his Shepherd team – Dirk Wischnewski winning the 1:10 A-Main for the German manufacturer. With rain forcing the race distance to be reduced from 45 to 30-minutes, the race started on a slightly damp but drying track with a fast starting Mirko Salemi leading the way until a tyre stop at 8-minutes. While this left Balestri to lead, the stage was set for a duel between the two champions which appeared to be decided by a quick final stop from Kurzbuch but ultimately it was strategy that would decide the race with Balestri quickly fading in the closing minutes, his Capricorn down to the rims. Finishing on the same lap as Balestri, Robert Pietsch would complete the podium for the first of the championship’s four races with Salemi, who impressed many this weekend, getting fourth a lap further back.
‘Perfect’ was how Kurzbuch described the race, the World Champion particularly proud of his pitcrew’s final stop that got him ahead of Balestri. Contributing his victory to his father Christian and Alex Kempe, the 24-year-old said they ran a ‘different strategy’ making two tyre stops. Changing just the outside tyres on his first stop at 9-minutes, at 17-minutes they changed all four and it was this that gave him the edge over the single stopping Balestri as the race reached a conclusion. Starting off the race with a cautious approach due to the ‘still a little wet’ sweeper leading onto the straight, he said for the first 3-minutes he ran ‘safe’ after which he ‘then pushed’. With the biggest drama of his race being getting ‘a little sideways’ in the wet pitlane, he said while he ‘unfortunately couldn’t TQ yesterday, to get the win was more important’ making for a ‘great start to the championship’.
Balestri was quick to concede he made the wrong call with his tyre strategy. Having originally planned the same stops as Kurzbuch they changed it expecting tyre wear to be less than yesterday’s dry conditions. ‘We made a mistake with strategy, the tyre consumption was the same as the last days’. The second year running he has TQ’d the season opener but ended up second, he would do a single four tyre change at 12-minute but said the 18-minutes to run on the second set left him on the rims at the end explaining why having been running right with Kurzbuch he almost found himself getting lapped by the winner. Summing up the event, he said ‘with 2nd I am happy anyway as my car & engine was OK and it was just a wrong decision that cost me the win’.
After struggling to find a set-up in qualifying Pietsch was ‘satisfied’ to finish on the podium. ‘Changing the car (set-up) again’ for the final he said it was ‘honestly not too bad’. Running behind Salemi, in an attempt to avoid the Italian when he spun at the chicane he ended up touching the curb and went off track himself. Feeling without this he may have been able to challenge Balestri at the end of the race, he said the result was an OK given ‘the level is the same as the World Championship’. He added ‘the only drivers missing where maybe five Japanese drivers but their places where filled by fast Italian drivers’. Running the new MRX-6 at the Lamberto Collari owned track for the first time he said ‘until now bad weather in Germany meant there was no chance to test’, and ‘to finish on the podium having run just six 6-minute runs on the track was encouraging for the rest of the championship’.
Salemi while disappointed with the result said the weekend has left him ‘confident for the rest of the year’. Leading from the start until the first of two tyre stops, the BP Racing driver said ‘there was something wrong with the tyres’ and struggling with the handling he would make two mistakes. After a second tyre stop for new tyres his RS4 ‘was good again but the damage was done’ in terms of being a contender for the win. Happy with performance of his car and engines, he is already looking forward to the second round of the ENS which takes place in Ettlingen, Germany in June. Just behind Salemi, Toni Gruber would also put in an impressive showing taking 5th on his ARC debut with Carmine Raiola completing the Top 6 as the leading Infinity driver.
Dirk Wischnewski has won the opening round of the Euro Nitro Series, the Shepherd driver mastering wet conditions to take victory in Italy ahead of Alessio Mazzeo and Joe Kerry. Only eighth in qualifying having struggled with understeer around the high speed L.Collari RC Raceway, the German had no such trouble on the wet track taking up the lead 10-minutes into the half hour race where he would stay until the end. With the first few laps of the race looking more like a Z-Main as the drivers, all running on rubber wets, struggled to get to grips with condition. As things somewhat settled down it was Britain’s Kyle Branson who took the early lead but the Capricorn driver would succumb to engine problems. While Kerry and Mazzeo would battle for the lead, a change of fuel strategy after the first refuelling would promote Wischnewski to the front. A late mistake would almost undo all the advantage of the two saved stops allowing Mazzeo a last lap do or die opportunity to challenge for the lead but spinning his Serpent and getting collected by the 2-laps down Top Qualifier Bruno Coelho his race was done. Despite not making the finish he would still get second with Kerry claiming his first ENS podium 19-second in front of Coelho. For reigning champion Jilles Groskamp his race would last little more than 3-minutes leaving him 11th only because Eric Dankel opted not to start the wet race having not had time to prepare a wet version of his new Mugen.
Taking his first international race win since being crowned European Champion in 2009 when he won the German ENS round last year, Wischnewski was delighted to find himself on the top step of the podium. Having all but conceded any chance of a podium finish this weekend in qualifying saying track conditions didn’t favour his Velox V10, his reaction after the final was ‘finally no push’. Climbing to 2nd over the opening 2-laps, he said it was a good start but then a stupid mistake saw him end up on the grass. With his car ‘very easy’ to drive, with him able to control the car easily if it got into a slide, he said having started on a 5-minute fuel strategy once they got a handle on the mileage on the wet track, which was ‘a lot less’ they changed strategy. Going to 7:30 between refuelling his Orcan engine, this made his race. With a drying track making it more difficult towards the end of the race ‘another stupid mistake’ with 3-minutes to go allowed Alessio to close with him, just managing to hold on for the win which he summed up as ‘a good start to the season’.
‘What a strange race’ was Mazzeo’s reaction to the race, the Italian looking mentally drained after the encounter. Winner of the 2015 ENS Season Finale when he took the win on the last lap from champion to be Jilles Groskamp, the Serpent driver said, ‘I tried last lap like last year with Jilles’. Knowing his second was secure the 24-year-old said ‘I tried to arrive first but came into the corner very fast and it was over’. Starting 3rd on the grid this was, ‘Only (his) 2nd or 3rd time to race in the rain’, adding ‘for an Italian racing in such conditions is very strange’. With ‘2nd a good start to the championship’ he complimented Wischnewski on doing ‘A good job’ adding ‘he knew how to deal with the conditions better and was able to do two less stops while we continued with our dry fuel strategy’. For Mazzeo’s team-mate Dominic Greiner the race who see him finish 9th, 10 laps down. Starting on rubber tyres but changing to foam wets, the German would end up in the pit wall saying ‘the straight was still too wet’ for the foam tyre.
Having bumped up to the back of the grid from the B-Main, Kerry was very happy with his podium. While organisers waited for a break in the weather before starting the final, Kerry said he changed his Capricorn ‘a lot’. Adding weight to the car and switching to softer springs he said in the warm-up it ‘felt quite good so (he) saved it for the start’. Admitting to being ‘a bit shocked to hear (he’ was in the lead after 5-mins, he ‘just drove around steady’. In terms of his fuel strategy he said they were unsure what to do and not wanting to push it they opted to run the race as originally planned had it been dry by stoping on 5-mins.
‘No point to that race’ was Coelho’s reaction to the race, the Portuguese ace’s Xray team boss Martin Hudy clearly not happy with his star drivers performance. Having last raced in the wet ‘more than 10-years ago’, he said leaving aside his own result ‘ the race was no fun for anyone in it and it was only fun for the guys watching because of all the crashes’. He finished by saying congratulations to Dirk, he made a good job’. Winner of the event last year Coelho manages to leave Bologna joint 3rd in the standings thanks to his TQ bonus point. Having bumped up after winning the B-Main Xray team-mate & reigning World Champion Alexander Hagberg would finish 5 with Branson recovering somewhat from his engine problems to complete the Top 6.
Groskamp’s potential to win was short lived, an early impact when he spun and got collected by another car resulting in a broken body post. This lead to him having to stop a number of times, as the front of the bodyshell on the Capricorn chassis the Infinity driver was using this weekend kept getting tucked under. The Dutchman said ‘even with full wets it was so slippery and maybe like Eric (Dankel) I should have sat out the race. It was a like a war zone and nobody was actually racing. It was like driving on ice’. In the end suspected water in his receiver which caused him radio glitches forcing him to call it a day.
Chassis – Xray NT1 2016 Engine – Max Power Fuel – Runner Time Tires (handout) – Contact Radio/Servo – Sanwa Body – Protoform SRS
Remarks – Top Qualifier for the event here in Bologna, top Xray driver Bruno Coelho is running a standard 2016 version of the NT1 from the Slovakian company. Fitted with a set of titanium screws, the car’s also sports a lightweight 2-speed axle.
Silvio Hächler and Jilles Groskamp join the A-Main grid for the opening round of the Euro Nitro Series in Italy. Finishing 1-2 in a rain effected B-Main they complete the 12-car line who will battle it out for the 1:8 victory at L.Collari RC Raceway. Starting from 7th on the grid and not looking like a race contender early on, a light rain shower would turn around the ARC drivers fortunes, the Swiss driver helped by a call from his pit crew to pit for wets with just four & a half minutes to go in the 20-minute encounter. Starting from pole, Bruno Coelho would pull out an early lead but 12-minutes in the Xray driver would go off spectacularly on the main straight while battling with Alberto Picco – the screw in his steering servo horn having fallen out. Groskamp would then take up the lead but with 6-minutes to go a drizzling of rain left cars struggling to get around. Hächler and Marco Vanni made the call to pit for wets and for a moment both looked to be moving up however Vanni would crash, handing the final spot on the grid to Groskamp.
Hächler, still looking somewhat surprised at how his luck turned out, said, ‘In the dry conditions I was struggling as my engine was not good but then I had luck as it started to rain’. Making a stop on the highly abrassive track at 8-minutes for new tyres, a call by his pit crew with 4:30 remaining for wets would be the making of the Swiss drivers race. Joining team-mate Toni Gruber, who has been impressive this weekend on his ARC debut, Hächler said the biggest thing for him for the final was to get a new engine fitted.
Losing a position off a start, Groskamp said ‘I saw Bruno was pulling away and knew I had to settle for second’. Battling with fellow Dutchman John Ermen, until the ARC driver ran out of fuel and Picco, the Infinity driver said having got the lead when it rained he had no choice but to continue after the rain as he had no wets to stop for. Falling to third he said ‘luckily it started to dry at the end and I knew if I kept it on track I would be OK’. Finishing 2-seconds behind Hächler, he would have a 3-second advantage over third placed Vanni. Only stopping for 2-tyres, he said he almost got caught as the car ‘pulled maximum to the left’ because he forgot to adjust his radio trim. Looking to the reduced distance 30-minute A-Main, he said coming from the B-Main had its benefits especially in relation to managing tyres.