Simon Kurzbuch is the Top Qualifier at the second round of the Infinity Euro Nitro Series in Germany. The reigning champion secured his 10th ENS career TQ when he topped the fourth & final qualifier at Minidrom Ettlingen and will start tomorrow’s race in front of Round 1 victor Dario Balestri. With Balestri taking the opening qualifier yesterday in the fastest time and despite Kurzbuch taking Q2 & 3 it all came down to the final encounter between the pair. While Toni Gruber would take up the early pace in Q4, a mistake from Balestri would allow Kurzbuch to go full attack for the TQ which he duly snatched it from Gruber on the final lap. For Gruber, P2 in the final qualifier means the WRC Racing driver will start the 45-minute Main from 3rd on the grid ahead of Robert Pietsch. Pietsch had an altercation with Jeffery Rietveld as they both went to start their runs resulting Pietsch running off the track. While Rietveld would run 4th for a time he would also fail to finish the qualifier but still the Serpent driver completes the top half of the grid behind the Infinity of Carmine Riola.
‘It is very good to get the additional championship point’, was Kurzbuch’s reaction to becoming the only driver across all ENS classes to achieve a double figure TQ tally. The Shepherd driver continued, ‘the last round it was still open between me and Dario but because of his time yesterday he had a little advantage. Me, Dario and Toni were all the same pace but when Dario was out I could push more. I am really happy and now we start our preparations for tomorrow. My father will also do pit practice’. Asked about the final the Swiss ace replied, ‘the tyre wear is not that high but we haven’t decided yet what to do. Fuel is the critical point, on this track the engine needs lots of fuel but I think most people will have the same strategy’. Asked if following Gruber’s pace in Q4 if he believed he was a threat for the win, he said, ‘Yes I think he is and so will Robert. I had him direct behind me and he was also very fast. All four of us have the same speed, it is going to be interesting tomorrow’.
On the final qualifier, Balestri said, ‘I tried something strange on the car because I knew if it didn’t work it changed nothing in my starting position. With the change the car was too hard to drive and that is why I had my mistake’. The Infinity driver added, ‘the track was different again and my car was not perfect like yesterday. It is really sensitive this track because of how smooth the asphalt is so we need to see how the track is tomorrow and see what we do for the final but we can take the fight to Simon’.
Commenting on his Q4 performance, Gruber said, ‘That was pretty good. It was a really close fight with Simon. I love this close racing but my last 3-laps were not so good and Simon could take the TQ. I’m happy with 2nd but I was looking for first’. Finishing runner up to Kurzbuch at this same race in 2016 having started 7th, the German said, ‘to start 3rd overall I am happy with that for the final and I will just freshen up the car for tomorrow’. On the final he said, ‘we have to look but I think we will do one (tyre) stop but it depends on tomorrow, the car was good in today’s temperature. Hopefully there is no rain’.
Explaining his first lap off, Pietsch said, ‘Jeffrey was starting in front of me. He went full throttle so I left a gap but then he slowed again so I went to pass him but he went full throttle again. Again I tried to leave a gap and we both went again but then he almost stopped in front of me. Then he was stopped in the middle of the corner and I had no were to go and ended up on the grass. I think the starting system is not good’. He added, ‘it was a pity this happened because the car is super super good, the best it as all day and it cost me 3rd place (on the grid)’. Looking to the final, the former World Champion said, ‘I have the car so all is possible. I think the tyres will be a standard 1-stop but not sure if it will be all four or one side’. Asked about fuelling he replied, ‘we need to see the weather. If it is cold it might be possible to go longer but if it is hot like today it too risky’.
In the 1:8 40+ class Round 1 winner Arie Manten has extended his lead in the standings by taking the TQ. The Infinity driver came good in the second half of qualifying to TQ both Q3 & 4 which will see him start at the front ahead of the Xray of Hartmut Rose. Having taken the opening qualifier, Olaf Engelmann will start 3rd third for the half hour final followed by Q2 winner Bo Nielsen.