May 20, 2017

Kurzbuch takes Q1 ahead of Matsukura at Mulhouse

Simon Kurzbuch has taken the opening 1:8 qualifier at the season opener of the the Euro Nitro Series in France but its his closest challenge Naoto Matsukura who is the biggest surprise.  With seeding practice throwing up a bit of a surprise as Bruno Coelho posted the fastest 3-consecutive laps ahead of Matsukura with Kurzbuch third, the 1:8 World Champion resumed his more regular position when he TQ’d the opening round of qualifying.  The Shepherd driver would top the time by 7/10ths of a second from the 1:12 World Champion with 1:10 Offroad World Champion Coelho completing the Top 3.  Behind the assortment of World Champions, ENS debutant Takaaki Shimo would post the fourth fastest time with Lars Hoppe and 1:10 World Champion Dominic Greiner rounding out the Top 6.

‘Perfect, its great to start with a TQ’, said a very happy Kurzbuch after his run adding, ‘I don’t know what else to say’. Asked whether he was surprised by Coelho and Naoto’s pace in practice, he replied, ‘I already knew from Thursday Bruno would be fast.  In seeding I just didn’t get 3-laps together.  The speed was there but I lacked consistency but I was able to improve that for qualifying’. Building up ‘a good gap over the first 2-minutes’, he said he then just had to ‘finish off the run’ adding ‘there is still room to go quicker’.  Describing his car as good, adding the team had worked hard in the off season, he said the only change he might make for Q2 is to get 2nd gear to change a little later.

‘1:8 is super fun’ was the reaction of very happy looking Matsukura. With the decision on him making his ENS debut only made during last weekend’s ETS encounter in Italy, the Japanese driver likened 1:8 to 1:12. A 4-time 1:12 World Champion, he said he is really enjoying the driving style of the cars but added there is still a bit of fine-tuning he needs to do in terms of his driving. With his car unchanged from Thursday’s free practice, the former EP Touring Car World Champion said the only changes for Q1 came from him. Having been using ‘too much throttle’, he said he had learnt to be ‘more steady’ with adjustments to the tuning of his OS engine also helping him to get ‘better throttle control’. Also a fan of the handout MR33 foam tyres, he described the Mulhouse track as being more like a 1:12 layout concluding it is ‘super fun’.

Summing up his P3 having TQd the first round of 1:10, Coelho said, ‘It was very good until I had a mistake at the beginning of the straight which lost me 2-seconds. Without this I was on point but it was my own mistake’.  Expected to be a front runner in 1:10 but not previously considered a main contender in 1:8 when asked if the improvement was down to the new Xray 1:8 chassis, he replied, ‘for sure the car is improved from last year but this track is super particular so we need to see how we go at other tracks but here is it working really well so it looks promising’.

Another Japanese driver making his ENS debut, Shimo said while his car was not bad it had an overall lack of grip.  Describing the track as ‘a little difficult’, the new for 2017 Infinity signing reported having to deal with a ‘little understeer’ and due to his lack of traction was having to be ‘very smooth’ with his throttle inputs.  To try improve his set-up so he can push harder in Q2 he will run a harder rear set-up.

Making the switch from ARC to Shepherd over the winter, Hoppe was much happier with his car compared to Thursday.  A former podium finisher, the German said, ‘now its better to drive, we have improved the car every run since Thursday when it was not so good’. His first international event with Shepherd, he said he was very happy to start out the event in the mix adding his time should have been better but for a ‘stupid mistake’ on the second last lap.  Pleased with his car and how the team is working together the only change he is considering for Q2 is a rear wing adjustment.

‘I’m very happy’ was how 1:10 specialist Greiner summed up his first attempt at an 1:8 ENS qualifier.  The German, who is again working with his thrusted 1:10 pitman Thomas Günsel, continued, ‘the first two minutes were good but then I had a few small mistakes but still I was close to P4’.  Still getting used to how aggressively the 1:8 can be driven compared to the 1:10, he knows there is still more time to come from adapting to that adding his current pace is ‘not bad for the moment’.  Feeling his Novarossi engine was a little bit too lean they will try to improve the tuning for the next run.

View complete event results here.

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