Having already wrapped up the overall TQ last night, Dario Balestri completed a clean sweep of qualifying in Fiorano this morning by making it 3 from 3 in the final round of 1:8 qualifying at the ENS season finale. The Capricorn driver took Q3 ahead of Toni Gruber and Simon Kurzbuch with Lamberto Collari posting the fourth fastest time. The result means it will be Gruber who will start behind Balestri for the 45-minute A-Main with Collari third ahead of Kurzbuch and Andrea Pirani.
Balestri, who was also Top Qualifier for the race last year but lost out to Kurzbuch for the win, said a different body position was the only change he made to his Tesla powered LAB-C803 from yesterday. Asked if the more forward mounted body improved the car, the Italian replied, ‘I don’t know’ adding ‘the track is faster and better than yesterday so it was hard to tell but the overall feeling was OK’. Looking to the final, the 2015 ENS Champion said, ‘we need to check our strategy for tyres and of course I need to adjust the car to run on small tyres’. He continued, ‘for me the problem is that the front tyre wear is high so we must try something so we don’t repeat last year with Simon’, a reference to how running out of front tyres allowed Kurzbuch to take the win from him.
Securing his best ever ENS starting position, Gruber said, ‘It’s nice to qualify 2nd and the car is ready for the final so I’m very happy with how everything is going’. The ARC driver, who is battling with Balestri to become this year’s ENS Vice-Champion, continued, ‘we still must look at what strategy we will take but my goal is to ensure we end up with podium placing in the overall championship’.
Lining up third on the grid, Collari described his final qualifier as not too bad highlighting, ‘our focus is our strategy for the final and we still have some details to finalise’. The Team Infinity driver will use the A-Main practice to test another body saying the car is ‘a little slow to change direction’. Currently running a Blitz body he will try Protoform’s R18. Famed as the master of race strategy in terms of tyres stops he said, ‘we must check again the tyre wear but here it is normally low so usually only 1-stop is needed’. Collari is a previous ENS race winner at the Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter track taking the win in 2014, a victory that was achieved with just one tyre stop.
Equalling his worst qualifying of the season, having also started the season opener from 4th on the grid, Kurzbuch said his rebuilt car was ‘ok but not perfect’ for the final qualifier. Damaging the chassis in the opening qualifier after an off but not having time to rebuild it for Q2, he fitted a new chassis this morning but said the set-up needed some tweaks. Describing conditions this morning as ‘much better than yesterday’ he joked ‘I’m a daylight driver’. On strategy for the final he said, ‘the tyre wear is quite low compared to Aigen but still we will need one stop and that’s one extra thing that can go wrong, but we are normally strong on this point’. Chasing a clean sweep of the championship, which he wrapped up in Austria, on his starting position he said, ‘I’m only 8-metre behind Dario so it’s not a problem. We just need to have no troubles at the start. I will not be worried if I’m not in the lead at 10-minute because it’s a 45-minute race so there is plenty of time to get to the front but for sure I want to make it four out of four’.
Having hoped to better his starting position after struggling in the flood light conditions last night, although he would post a P2 run in Q2, Pirani wouldn’t get to better his Q1 P6 as his manifold cracked a minute into the final qualifier. The WRC driver, while disappointed not to get a run ‘in daylight’ said he hoped the manifold failure was his bad luck out of the way and he was looking forward to the final, 5th on the grid his best ENS starting position since the season opener two years ago when he would go onto to claim a podium finish. Behind Pirani, Francesco Tironi completes the top half of the grid ahead of Robert Pietsch and Alberto Picco, with Silvio Hächler and Jesse Davis the other two direct qualifiers with the final two grids spots to be filled by the Top 2 finishers in the B-Main.