Bruno Coelho will again start a new season of the Euro Nitro Series from pole. Having TQ’d Round 1 in Italy last year, the Xray driver is the 1:10 Top Qualifier on the championship’s first visit to Mulhouse in France. The Portuguese driver was somewhat helped by his team-mate Leo Arnold, as the French driver took the fourth & final round of qualifying ahead of the Shepherd of Eduardo Escandon. Having TQ’d the second qualifier, the Spaniard was the only one who could deny Coelho the overall TQ and he came close to jumping position at the top of the timing screens with Arnold. Setting the fastest lap of the heat, Arnold would get the job done to secure second on the grid for his home race with Escandon third. Behind, Kyle Branson, Eric Dankel and reigning champion Teemu Leino complete the top half of what will become a 12 car grid once the Top 2 in the B-Main get bumped up.
Putting his P3 in the final qualifier down to a number of mistakes, Coelho was happy to kick off his first nitro race of 2017 with the TQ but went on to air a level of caution for the final due to the high tyre wear. He said, ‘the final will be difficult and for sure there will be 2 stops, there is no other way’. Highlighting the higher chances of a 1:10 tyre change going wrong as a result of the wheel nuts, he said his plan for the ‘long race’ was to ‘drive smooth’. He continued he would try to make no mistakes as ‘one flip and you can break the tyre’.
Describing his car as ‘super good’ for Q4, Arnold said changing the front shock position on his NT1 had made it more stable on braking and it was ‘now ready for the final’. A driver who has the most experience of the track, Mulhouse his home track, he said deciding tyre strategy was the main thing for tomorrow. Undecided on how many changes to make, needing to still check his tyre wear, he expects most drivers will have to make 2 if not 3 stops but still needs to weigh up the risk of an extra stop. Highlighting the length of pit lane and its tricky exit he joked he also needs to get his father training hard to change wheels for tomorrow.
Coming very close to the TQ, a very happy looking Escandon summed up Q4 with ‘I was too nervous this one’. The Spaniard’s best qualifying performance of the ENS, he said, ‘I have a really good car and feel really comfortable so I will try to keep it clean tomorrow’. On strategy for the final, he said, ‘We will test in the final practice and calculate how much wear but I already know that we will have to make more than 1 stop for sure’. Wishing to thank his Coten Escuderia team, the Shepherd driver added, ‘the pitlane is dangerous and if you try to go fast out it could destroy the car so I will be sure to control my speed’.
Qualifying fourth, the qualifiers not ending as strongly as it had started, Branson said, ‘when I try to find more steering the rear is too loose and when I try to fix that I have no steering’. The Capricorn driver continued, ‘I’m a little bit behind the other guys going into the final but I hope to get it figured out in the final practice. The car is ok to run the final but just isn’t fast enough’. One thing he plans to try in practice is moving the mounting of his bodyshell and the position of the wing.
Changing to a softer front diff for Q4 and getting a P4, Dankel said ,’it definitely gave me more steering but it was difficult to drive so I’m not sure if I will use it in the final’. A two time ENS race winner, the Mugen driver feels the key to tomorrow’s final is ‘we need to make good tyre changes’. Predicting ‘everyone needs to change at least 2-times’, he concluded ‘its a long final so everything can happen’.