Simon Kurzbuch completed the perfect weekend at the penultimate round of the Euro Nitro Series in Austria. Having maintained 100% TQ record, the Shepherd driver pulled off his second win of the season ahead title rival Bruno Coelho. With Coelho running out of fuel during the 45-minute Aigen encounter, making things a lot easier for Kurzbuch to claimed his third ENS Austria win in a row, the result sets up a title showdown between the two great drivers for the season finale at Fiorano in Italy. Behind them Lars Hoppe would complete the podium ahead of a battling Jilles Groskamp, John Ermen and Robert Pietsch, the latter recovering from an early crash with Silvio Hächler.
‘Perfect work by my pitcrew and good work from me. I didn’t drive perfect but in the end we won’, was how Kurzbuch summed up his 8th ENS career win. He continued, ‘of course it was bad luck for Bruno but we are back in the championship now and that was our goal this weekend’. The World Champion would take note of Coelho’s fuel short coming and with no serious threat of the Portuguese driver catching him would make an additional fuel stop in the last 3-minutes of the race to be sure he wouldn’t suffer a similar faith. With ENS Austria the last major event before he defends his World title next month in France, Kurzbuch said he was very happy with his performance as well as for the ‘whole Shepherd team’ who with four cars in the final was the best represented manufacturer.
Coelho, who stunned the 1:8 runners with his performance at the season opener in Mulhouse and backed it up with a P2 in Ettlingen, said, ‘everything was going perfect until we had the flameout’. Running 5-minute stops he said they couldn’t explain why he ran out of fuel because it happened at 4:30, a considerable difference when all previous stops had shown up no issues. On that he said, ‘Maybe it was not refuelled fully but we need to look back at the lap times and see what happened’. Chasing his first ENS title as he goes for the triple crown of E championships having already been crowned the latest ETS and EOS champion, the Portuguese driver felt he didn’t have as good a car for the first half of the race as he did the second. He said, ‘My first set of tyres where not so good but the second set was perfect’. Setting the fastest lap of the race on the second set, he said the lat 25 minutes of the race was perfect and had he not had his flame out it would have been a very close finish between himself and Kurzbuch. While the World Championship will be the immediate focus of all the drivers for now, asked about the final ENS title decider in Italy, Coelho said, ‘It will be difficult. Fiorano I don’t like so much because it is a big open track but for sure I will go there to fight for the win’.
‘I’m very happy. Third was more than I expected before the final’, was the reaction of a very pleased Hoppe, the 2017 Shepherd signing enjoying his second podium finish at the Aigen track. The German continued, ‘the final was the best the car was all weekend. I had a crash a the beginning and had to put the trim completely to the left side but after that it was a clean race with no problems’. Making a complete tyre change during the race, he said having started out with a 5-minute fuel strategy once he had a gap over 4th they switched to 4:30 stops to be safe. Hoppe’s podium finish marks the first time since the inaugural ENS season that Shepherd have had two cars on the podium, he also a part of that when he finished 3rd behind Kurzbuch in 2nd at the Hockenheimring in 2014.
Flying the flag on his own this weekend for Infinity, Groskamp said, ‘From 10th to 4th is nice but the performance was not perfect’. The Dutchman continued, ‘Finally we found out our car works on small tyres but not on big tyres’. He said with his car on big tyres for the start he was more concerned about not getting in the way of other drivers because his car was difficult and as a result he was not able to get into his rhythm. Opting to change only the outside tyres at 15-minutes into the race, he said on rejoining the car was ‘really terrible, almost undriveable’ but then they came in and the car got better and better and all this considered he declared himself, ‘maximum happy with 4th’. Choosing to come Aigen as his preparations for the World Championship, he said, ‘I am very happy to be here because we learnt a lot about strategy. Changing only 1 side is not a good way, you save 5-seconds but you lose it on the track (in performance)’. He concluded, ‘we also know we need to work on the car’s performance on big tyres’.
A former winner in Aigen, John Ermen said his 5th place result was the ‘maximum possible’. The ARC driver said, ‘At the start my car was perfect. Its good on big or small tyres. My engine was on the rich side at the beginning but then on the second refuelling it was so rich to keep on the pace was impossible so I had to stop to tune it. Then 2 laps before my stop it ran out of fuel and one more time I had to have the engined tuned’. The Dutchman added, ‘With all this we lost too much time which was too bad, we had Top 3 pace’. For ARC team-mate Hächler, after a great qualifying performance that gave him his best ever starting position of P4, his hopes of a good race ended quickly after a crash with Pietsch in which his fuel tubing got nicked causing him engine tuning issues. After repairs the Swiss driver would go on to set the second fastest lap of the race, his pace some consolation for his P8 finish.
Completing the Top 6, Pietsch initially looked to have got away with the contact with Hächler but during his first fuel stop the INS Box which was unknowingly dislodged from the impact flew off in the pitlane. Others to have issues included newly crowned 1:10 European Champion Toni Gruber. The WRC driver had a heavy off in the warm-up and with damage to his car called the 10-minute delay. In the race however things didn’t improve for the Round 1 podium finisher as he continued to struggle with the cars steering as well as having to stop for repairs when the belt managed to get over the side of the pulley. He would finish 9th, 16 laps down on the leader.
After his DNF in Germany, Bruno Coelho has moved back to the top of the Euro Nitro Series standings with a dominant 1:10 win at Round 3 of the championship in Austria. Taking his third TQ start of the season at Aigen, the Xray driver controlled the race from start to finish, even with his rivals getting a second chance after the first attempt at running the 45-minute encounter was stopped by a rain shower. In the first running, second place qualifier Leo Arnold would suffer a flame out while Thilo Tödtmann would lose drive due to a loose set screw. With cars struggling to make it around the track due to the passing shower, the race was stopped but having just failed to reach 25% distance it meant a complete rerun, luckily for Arnold and Tödtmann. After a wait to allow the track to dry, Coelho led the field away again and never looked back while behind Tödtmann made good use of his second life to secure second with Marco Kaufmann completing the podium as Arnold again had engine issues.
Only missing out on taking all six qualifiers through his own driving error in Q4, allowing team-mate Arnold to take the round, Coelho summed up his final by saying, ‘Everything worked perfect, the tyre change, refuelling, everything’. He continued, ‘We came here for first place because the last race was bad for me and I need to drop a 10th place. The TQ & win are good for the championship and we will try to do the same at the last one. We need to get the title.’
‘I’m a lucky guy’, was Tödtmann’s reaction to his second place. Explaining his issue in the first running of the final, the Shepherd driver said, ‘the set screw came loose in the pulley. I always check them before the race but I will double check them for the future’. On the race proper, the German described it as ‘a safe final’. Choosing to change just the outside tyres, the new surface having very little wear, he said everything worked really good and with a comfortable gap over 3rd place he could drive easy to the finish. A podium finisher last year in Aigen, when he was third for Capricorn, second is his best ENS finish which he said is great for his first season with Shepherd and also after just missing out on bumping up to the Main final at the European Championships in France last week.
Making it two podiums in a row having claimed his first ENS Top 3 at Ettlingen, Kaufmann said the result in Aigen was ‘for sure not bad’. The Xray driver continued, ‘I tried to crash with nobody and do my own race and it paid off in the end’. Like Tödtmann, Coelho changing all four tyres, the German only changed his outside tyres 13-minutes into the race. With a comfortable lead over Gerhard Kandelhart who would finish fourth, he said ‘I was 1-lap up on 4th so at the end I knew I just had to keep the car on the track and I would be safe to the end’.
The final grid line-up for the A-Mains at Rounds 3 of the Euro Nitro Series at Aigen are complete. In 1:10 it was Shepherd driver Franz Engel who took the win in the 20-minute B Final to secure 11th on the grid for the main event. Behind the Austrian, 12-year-old IYRCA International Youth Champion Oliver Havránek would take a very popular second place ahead of pole sitter Leonardo Varga to book his first ever ENS A-Main appearance. In the 1:8 encounter it was Shepherd driver Timo Schröder who took the win but only after the company’s owner Patrick Schafer had a flameout while holding the lead. It would still be a Shepherd 1-2 however as 8th place starter Michael Kammer took second ahead of Nejc Mihelic.
Chassis – WRC GTX 1.3 Engine –Novarossi Mito 35 WC Fuel – Runner Time Tires (handout) – MR33 Radio/Servo – KO Propo Body – Blitz
Remarks – WRC’s star driver Toni Gruber has come to Aigen with a number of new features on the latest version of the GTX. Choosing to run a more flexible chassis for this track, the car has been fitted with a new battery plate and new carbon discs that sit mounted inside the wheels.