Simon Kurzbuch is the Top Qualifier at Round 3 of the Euro Nitro Series in Austria. The Shepherd driver secured his third TQ start of the season when, after a delayed start to Day 2 of qualifying at Aigen, due to overnight rain, he was fastest for a third time in Q5. An important bonus championship point for the reigning champion, starting behind him on the grid for the 45-minute A-Main tomorrow will be points leader Bruno Coelho who took Q4. The only other driver to TQ one of the five qualifying rounds, the return of rain causing the cancellation of Q6, Robert Pietsch will line up third ahead of a competitive looking Silvio Hächler. Qualifying fifth, Toni Gruber makes it five different manufacturers at the front end of the grid with Lars Hoppe completing the Top 6.
‘One more step closer to getting to the top of the standings. We reached our first goal of the weekend and I hope we can end with a good result’, was Kurzbuch’s reaction after claiming his 7th ENS career TQ honours. Commenting on his run that secured him pole for the final, he said, ‘It was a really good run but at the end it was a little wet which made it difficult. I was afraid that I lost it on the last lap because it was bad again’. Yesterday a bad final lap prevented him from wrapping up the overall TQ in Q4 as Coelho beat him by 0.046 of a second. Chasing a hat trick of wins at the Aigen track, having clinched the title with his win here last year, looking to the final the Swiss ace believes tyre strategy is the biggest opportunity to find an advantage. The factory Novarossi driver said fuel consumption is ‘good’ but with the new surface changing the track from a tyre eater to one where wear is quite low he feels it important to have a good strategy for this change. Asked if he had decided on when and what tyre change he would make he replied, ‘I have to discuss it with my father this evening’.
Summing up his qualifying, finishing 6-tenths of a second off Kurzbuch in what was to be the final qualifier, Coelho said, ‘the car was very good on the track but we made a bad tyre decision’. He continued, ‘we used small tyres but at the end it was difficult to drive because they were too low’. Asked about his chassis, his Q4 TQ coming with a damaged chassis because of a lack of time to change it after a big off in the third round, he said, ‘we checked it and the damage doesn’t effect it so we have kept it’. Chasing his first Aigen win, this only his second visit to the Austrian track, the Xray driver added, ‘I am confident for the final. My car is really good. We still need to discuss tyres. The wear is super low but for sure we need to change. It is not easy to calculate because we don’t have information from before and we don’t have this wear anywhere else.’
‘I’m ok with P3’ was Pietsch’s reaction following the announcement Q6 wouldn’t run due to the rain. Top Qualifier here in 2015, he said, ‘I was unlucky in the last qualifier as I had an unglued rear tyre so I could have got a better position’. Asked about his approach to tomorrow’s final he said, ‘It is hard to say now because we are not sure about the rain. Cooler conditions are better for me but I think it might be warmer again. We will check tomorrow in practice what we will do’. Asked about the low tyre wear, the 2013 World Champion replied, ‘tyre wear is not a problem, it might be possible to do the race with no stop’.
Securing his best ever ENS qualifying position Hächler said, ‘P4, I’m really happy with that’. The ARC driver was less happy with his final qualifying attempt however saying,’I had no grip once the rain drops started. It really affected my car more compared to the others’. Overall pleased with his car this weekend in the hot & dry conditions, the two time ENS podium finisher said, ‘I hope the sun is back tomorrow and the track is warmer. If its like that I change nothing for the final’. Asked about strategy he replied, ‘I have really good fuel consumption and I think I can save 1 or maybe 2 stops on some other drivers. The tyres I have to discuss but it would probably be hard to drive 45-minutes without changing’.
Fresh from winning the 1:10 European Championship last week, Gruber said, ‘P5 is not bad but it is not what I wanted to get’. The WRC driver continued, ‘we still have the problem with the steering but we will test a lot of things in the practice tomorrow to try find the problem. If we can fix it then the car will be complete’. The German will go into the final as he would any other saying, ‘I will start the final like all finals, I drive safe at first. We think a lot about not changing tyres but maybe one change will be better, we will see tomorrow’.
With the big focus on the 1:8 title fight, with the 1:10 field having less depth than normal due to last week’s Euros in France, it is Bruno Coelho who will start on pole. With drivers getting in all six rounds of qualifying, Coelho wrapped up the TQ in Q5 and capped off the day with a fifth TQ run in Q6. The only driver to top the winner of the season opener when he took Q4, Leo Arnold made it an Xray 1-2 on the grid. Shepherd’s Thilo Tödtmann secured 3rd ahead of team-mate Melvin Diekmann with ENS Germany podium finisher Marco Kaufmann completing the Top 5 ahead of Austrian Gerhard Kandelhart.