Simon Kurzbuch has claimed the first win of his Euro Nitro Series title defence with victory at Round 2 of the championship in Germany. Running out of fuel at the season opener in France and finishing seventh, the Shepherd driver would register his 7th ENS career win with victory ahead of Round 1 winner Bruno Coelho with former champion Dario Balestri completing the podium. While Kurzbuch would lead the majority of the 45-minute final, it was another rough race for the World Champion with a not so perfect tyre stop and contact with a backmarker leaving him with a damaged exhaust that left him down on power. Coelho looked like he might once again beat the Swiss driver but bad communications between the Xray driver and his pit crew cost him the win as he ran out of fuel. There was also drama for Balestri as he made a late fuel stop but hit another car in pitlane resulting in him losing steering, the Infinity driver somehow limping the car to the finish line with a lot of trips onto the grass.
‘A final far from perfect’, was how Kurzbuch summed up his race. The two time ENS Champion continued, ‘The first 15-minutes it was good but the tyre stop wasn’t perfect’, the mounting of the new front left tyre giving his crew some issues despite the team repeatedly practicing stops last night after qualifying. He continued, ‘he still had the lead but then I hit backmarker and it destroyed the pipe and the engine got more rich and rich so I had to drive with no mistakes because Bruno was chasing but he had bad luck and in the end we could win’. A driver known for having a super quick pit crew, he said, ‘I won and I’m super happy as it put me back in the championship but need do better next time’.
In contrast to Kurzbuch, Coelho said, ‘It was a very good final, it was more stressful than the last time for sure but it was a very positive race so I’m not unhappy with the result’. He continued, ‘Bad communication between me and the pits were a problem. They called me in but I didn’t hear them and it cost me the win’. He added, ‘we had one less refuelling than him (Kurzbuch) and I was right behind him so in the end we would have been there’. Pleased with the performance of his RX8, he said the communications problem, a large number of drivers using headsets this weekend, ‘is easy to solve and get back on point again’. With today’s result keeping him at the top of the championship standings he concluded, ‘a second for the championship is very positive’.
Summing up his race, a marked improvement on the season opener, Balestri said, ‘The strategy was to take care of the right side tyres and push when we changed the ride side but Salemi was not looking and caused a crash in the pits’. The impact would brake the servo saver and his body, with Balestri just managing to get the car to the finish line. Despite the incident, the former Ettlingen race winner said, ‘I’m happy anyway because I am the first Infinity driver which has a lot of dream drivers and we know the gap with Simon (Kurzbuch) is really close and we will work on this for the World Championship’.
Balestri’s team-mate Alberto Picco would finish 4th. Bumping up from the B-Main, the Italian described his final as ‘a nice race’. He continued, ‘I started P11 so I was very careful at the start because with all the traffic there was a big chance to crash. My car was ok and I was building up my speed.’ With the race leader coming up behind him he said, ‘I let the leader passed but the car behind crashed me and I lost a lot of time. The car was still good but I think something was bent on the car but it was drivable so I just did my own race to the end’. He concluded, ‘I’m happy with 4th, I couldn’t do better’. Only 5-second behind Picco, former race winner John Ermen, who also bumped up from the B-Main, finished 5th with Robert Pietsch, who suffered a flame out, completing the Top 6 at Minidrom Ettlingen.
Eric Dankel has finally ended a three year Euro Nitro Series victory drought by taking the win in an incident filled Round 2 in Germany. Having qualified second behind Top Qualifier Bruno Coelho, the ENS’ inaugural champion would take his third career win ahead of first time podium finishers Eduardo Escandon and Marco Kaufmann. Originally the results of the race would show reigning champion Teemu Leino as having claimed third but he had benefited from his car crossing the loop as it was returned to the pits after suffering a flame out. Losing the lap, the Infinity driver would end up fourth. For ENS France winner Coelho the race would ultimately end with a broken belt but while leading at the 10-minute mark he would have an off that would damage his rear wing with the repairs together with a tyre change costing him 4-laps.
‘I have never won something on this track, I can’t believe it’, was Dankel’s reaction after the race, the German would have his own moments running out of fuel once over the 45-minute encounter. Going over his race, the Mugen driver said, ‘the beginning was pretty good, Bruno was slightly faster but then he crashed so I got lucky but then I ran out of fuel’. Pleased he had improved his car from yesterday’s qualifying, he continued, ‘They had just called me in (to fuel) and on the straight it cut out. I think we miscalculated the consumption on used tyres because in qualifying it was always new tyres’. Delighted with the win, the first in 1:10 for Mugen, he concluded, ‘it is a long time since I won before so this feels really good’.
Reacting to second place an emotional Escandon said, ‘Finally I think the driver came good. I am delighted with second’. The new Shepherd signing continued, ‘I made changes to the car and made it more stiff in the rear and it was better but Alex (Kempe) helped the most as he talked to me before the race and that really helped me focus’. Making ‘just two mistakes’ during the final, one would result in a chunked tyre as he ended up the grass which would force him to pit for his tyre change 2-minutes earlier than planned but he said his crew did a great 4-tyre stop.
Having to wait some time to have his first podium finish actually confirmed as officials went over video footage of the race to decide if Leino’s car had triggered the loop, Kaufmann described his race as a ‘a good run’. The Xray driver said, ‘I was not the fastest but we were consistent, I had no mistakes and this worked out in the end’. Happy with how his car and engine worked throughout the race the 23-year-old said they benefited from a good strategy opting for tyres later than everyone else. Changing just the outside tyres he said this left him a better car towards the end of the race.
Having thought he had managed to salvage a podium having lost the race lead due to a flame out, Leino was understandably frustrated to find out he had lost 3rd place. Winner of this race last year, the Finn said, ‘I changed the set-up for the final practice because the car was too difficult to drive and this made it very easy to drive which is perfect for a final. At the start I just tried to follow Bruno and Eric but after racing 1:8 (in the B-Main just before the 1:10 A-Main) it took time to adjust my driving. When I see Bruno’s problems then I thought maybe I can race with Eric but then I had problems’. With his engine dying on the straight, contact from the following car would cause a body tuck and with his car limping around Kaufmann would unintentionally hit the slowing car sending it onto grass but as the marshal put it back on the track the engine cut. Having been the long time race leader before this the time lost given the car stopped just before the loop would end his hopes of a repeat win in Ettlingen.
Alberto Picco and John Ermen will progress to the main event at ENS Germany after a very close B-Main encounter at Minidrom Ettlingen. Starting from pole ahead of Infinity team-mate Lamberto Collari, Picco lead away the field only dropping off the top of the timing screen during pit stops but ARC’s Ermen was just 2/10th back at the end of the 20-minutes. Just a further 2-seconds back Shepherd’s Lars Hoppe would finish 3rd. Starting from 7th on the grid, former race winner Ermen drove a great race setting the fastest lap as he made his way to the front, the Dutchman clearly delighted to be back in the A-Main. The first big casualty of the race would be Collari, the Italian having a coming together with Serpent’s Merlin Depta. Needing to pit for attention to his bodyshell, Collari’s chances of bumping up were gone. Also hitting trouble in the race was ENS France podium finisher Toni Gruber. Having bumped up from the C-Main, the WRC driver ran as high as fourth but leaving the pit after a fuel stop his car suffered a front shock shaft failure with the car continuing straight onto the grass on the pitlane exit, his race done.
Round 2 of the ENS at Minidrom Ettlingen is to feature two A-Main debutants as Team Shepherd duo Melvin Diekmann and Marco Nenner bumped up from the B-Main. The two German’s complete the 12 car line at their home event after finishing first and second as contact between ENS France bump up drivers Quentin Leroux and Alex Thurston ended their race 5-minutes into the 20-minute final. Leading the race as he did at his home event, Leroux went to pass a back marker who would close the door sending the Frenchman across the grass and as he rejoined he got collected by Thurston, both drivers out on the spot – Leroux with a broken rear arm and Thurston with broken steering. Having started from pole, Diekmann’s race wasn’t without incident as he suffered a suffered a body tuck which forced the 18-year-old to push hard to get back into contention which he he did to claim his first A-Main start. Starting from 4th, 28-year-old Nenner described his race as ‘steady’ with ‘nice refuelling’ from his pitcrew contributing to him being able to complete the A-Main grid.