Jilles Groskamp and Merlin Depta complete the 1:8 A-Main line-up for the opening round of the Euro Nitro Series in France. Starting fourth on the grid, Groskamp would run most of the 20-minute encounter in second behind Infinity team-mate & pole sitter Jessie Davis until the Australian ran out of tyres with four minutes to go. Nursing his car around the track and dropping 3-seconds a lap, Davis would drop to fourth with Serpent’s Merlin Depta the main benefactor. Running the race without stopping for tyres, the former 1:10 ENS Champion said he knew tyre wear would be a factor towards the end of the race and even though he had lost ground early on his tactic was to drive smooth and save the tyres for the end. It worked and now he is in for a busy afternoon as he runs both the 1:8 and 1:10 A-Mains at Mulhouse. Depta declared himself ‘a little lucky’ to bump up due to Davis’ issues. A multiple ENS finalist, the German, who started sixth, would also not have a good start with a trip onto the grass dropping him a place. Opting to only change his left side tyres, he said it was ‘on the edge’ at the end but the gamble had paid off. Behind Depta, former World Championship finalist Carmine Raiola would finish 3rd ending his event with the race also the end of the road for former ENS race winner John Ermen and reigning European Champion Robin D’hondt.
Chassis – Xray RX8 2017 Engine – Max Power RP9S Fuel – Runner Time Tires (handout) – MR33 Radio/Servo – Sanwa/Savox Body – SRC DTRS Evo
Remarks – Bruno Coelho is using the new for 2017 RX8 from Xray, his first time driving the new car, he started the event with a setup from team mate Alessio Mazzeo. Having not made many changes to the setup, he has just made some small adjustments to the camber and sway bars as well as playing with different bodies and mounting positions, he believes on this track more time can be found with the driver rather than the car.
Chassis – Infinity Engine – OS Speed 2102R Gold Edition Fuel – Runner Time Tires (handout) – MR33 Radio/Servo – Sanwa Body – Protoform R18
Remarks – 4 time EP World Champion Naoto Matsukura is running 1/8th scale for just the 2nd time, the decision to attend the ENS made only last weekend at the ETS in Italy. Given a car with a setup from 1/8th specialist Takaaki Shimo, seeing that 1/8th is very similar to his specialist class 1/12th scale, he made his own changes to the Infinity car to get more steering such as harder rear sway bar and more caster in front and now really enjoys driving the car around the very technical Mulhouse track. Also trying different bodyshells he tried the R19 from Protoform in practice but found the R18 was more stable in the corners.
Quentin Leroux and Alex Thurston complete the 1:10 A-Main grid at the season opener of the Euro Nitro Series in Mulhouse, France, after bumping up from the B-Main. Joining the back of the 12 car grid it will be both drivers’ first time to make the A-Main at an ENS event, this the championship’s 13 events since its creation in 2014. Starting from 2nd on the grid, Leroux’s Capricorn would take an early lead from the Xray of pole sitter Marco Kaufmann, the Frenchman only dropping off the lead during fuel stops. Starting out on a 4-minute fuel strategy, the 25-year-old would switch to 5-minute stops for his Orion engine but said afterwards the biggest challenge was the tyre wear. Describing his car as difficult due to the fact it ‘uses a lot of tyres’, he said with a gap over second place he could drive ‘safe’ to get to the end of the 20-minute encounter.
While Leroux was making his own race out front, there was a good battle for second between Thurston and Kaufmann but with 3-minutes to go Kaufmann would have to pit for fuel allowing Thurston to take second. Despite a charge from the German, Thurston kept his position to the end. Commenting on the race, the 18-year-old, said, ‘I had a messy start and I got a body tuck and then ended up the grass which left me half a lap down but I kept my head in it’. Having been signed up to Serpent’s factory team this year, the result is a huge boost for the British driver who wanted to thank his father Martin who he said has been working hard on his pit stop technique. The improved stops he said was key to the bump up given the start to the race he had had. On tyres Thurston said, ‘I expected it to be worse especially as I was pushing the whole race. They lasted pretty well’. Along with Kaufmann other ENS A-Main Finalist’s whose event ended in the B-Main included 2016 podium finishers Patrick Nähr and Joe Kerry.
Remarks – Top French racer and local track specialist Leo Arnold is running the 2017 NT1 from Xray. Having done extensive testing prior to the ENS, he received new flex parts just ahead of the race and so had to change his setup completely. Moving to a harder rear spring and shorter front spring, he also made changes to the shock position. The new flex parts include updated rear bulkheads and a new chassis plate that allows the mounting of a brace in the front, the result being a car that is more stable in direction change.
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’.