With the first official day of the Euro Nitro Series third round in Austria starting out looking like a Simon Kurzbuch affair, the second part of the day’s qualifying changed things up as Robert Pietsch and Bruno Coelho posted TQ runs to set the stage for a TQ shoot out tomorrow should the weather permit. Having taken Q1 and Q2, top seed Kurzbuch would make a rare driver error in the third round and Coelho would hit trouble also suffering a big crash while working his way through traffic. This left a much improved Pietsch to TQ ahead of Kurzbuch, Silvio Hächler and Dominic Greiner, Coelho ending up 10th. Suffering a bent chassis in the impact, Coelho would surprise nobody more than himself when due to a lack of time to fit a new one he would take his damaged car to a TQ run in the fastest time of the day. Finishing just 4/100ths of a second ahead of Kurzbuch, to deny him claiming an early TQ championship point, the result sets up a three way battle tomorrow to decide the Top Qualifier. With rain forecast for overnight and the morning, both the organisers and drivers are confident that the remaining two qualifiers can be run.
Smiling at the fact he was able to TQ the round, Coelho said, ‘in the previous qualifier I had a hard crash and bent the chassis but we had no time to change but actually the car worked better. The round was perfect’. Running behind Kurzbuch throughout the qualifier, the Portuguese ace said, ‘I knew it was super close between us so I pushed even more at the end and got it’. Asked what he planned to do about his damaged chassis, he laughed and said, ‘we will discuss whether to stay on it or change it’. A surprise challenger to Kurzbuch this year, 1:10 having been his stronger class previously, Coelho said, ‘I think we have a good chance of the TQ here. Ok Simon is super strong but I have the fastest time now. I hope that the weather will allow that we can get to fight it out on the track tomorrow’.
Ending the day with a P3 run, Pietsch said, ‘I was getting close to Dominic (Greiner) but he was not much slower so it was difficult to pass but even without this I had not chance of another TQ’. On his TQ in the previous round, he said, ‘my car was much better because it was cooler. I was running close to Simon and then he had a mistake in front of me so I knew I had a chance of the TQ’. Summing it up as a ‘decent day’, the 2015 Top Qualifier of the event said, ‘of course I will try for the overall TQ tomorrow but it will be very difficult’ concluding, ‘it is very close so everything is possible’.
‘Shit’ was how Kurzbuch reaction to Q3 & 4. The Shepherd driver continued, ‘I had a very good last run but in the end I finished behind Bruno. It was not a good last lap and that’s cost me the TQ. I was surprised at the end but it makes things interesting’. On his Q3 error he said it was simply a ‘driver error’. Asked about tomorrow the Swiss driver who is chasing a hat trick of Aigen wins, said, ‘now we have to look at the weather but I expect we will drive and I will prepare for that. I just have one more (TQ run) to take and its done’.
Sitting fourth in the overnight qualification ranking, Hächler described his day as having been ‘not too bad’. The ARC driver added, ‘everything is super good with the car but it seems other guys have good cars too’. Fourth fastest in Q4, he said he had two mistakes over the 4-minutes but even without this adding it is ‘not possible to catch the first 3 guys’. Making a rear wing adjustment and toe-in change for Q3, he said these helped the stability of his car. Enjoying one of his most competitive ENS outings for some time he said, ‘lets hope we can get some dry rounds tomorrow. I am really looking forward to the final for sure’.
Finishing the day with a P5 run to hold that position overnight, Toni Gruber said while ‘the lap times and overall result are not bad’ things are ‘not good’. The WRC driver is having problems with the cars steering which he said on throttle out of corners is trying to continue the rotation of the car. Third overall in last year’s ENS standings, the German said they are still looking for a solution to give him more confidence in the car and in particular how it steers. Behind Gruber the Serpent’s of Merlin Depta and Dominic Greiner hold 6th ad 7th respectively ahead of Infinity’s Jilles Groskamp.
In 1:10, Coelho like Kurzbuch in 1:8 would throw away an early overall TQ with a mistake. Having taken the opening three qualifiers from team-mate Leo Arnold, he would flip his car on the curbing at the end of the main straight. This allowed Arnold to TQ the round while behind Coelho with Shepherd driver Melvin Diekmann completed the Top 3 as team-mate Thilo Tödtmann hit problems ending his run of P3 results.