Simon Kurzbuch has notched up the first championship point of his title defence by securing the overall TQ at the Euro Nitro Series season opener in France. The Shepherd driver went into the final qualifier up against unexpected TQ challenger Bruno Coelho with the Xray driver needing to take the round. A super close encounter at the end of the 4-minutes however it was Toni Gruber that would post the TQ run ahead of Naoto Matsukura confirming Kurzbuch’s 5th ENS career TQ. For Gruber, his TQ run will result in him starting in the position he finished up in last season’s overall standings as he demoted ENS debutant Matsukura to a still impressive 4th on the grid. Former champion Robert Pietsch would make for a very diverse line up of cars at the front of the grid as his Mugen will occupy 5th on the grid ahead of last year’s vice Champion Dario Balestri.
‘It is a great way to start the first race. The performance of the whole team has been great’, was how Kurzbuch’s reacted to being Top Qualifier at the season opener for the first time. Commenting on the final qualifier, the defending two time ENS Champion said, ‘the first 3-minutes was good, it was really close between 3-4 cars but then I made a little mistake and Matsukura was right behind me so I let him passed so he could TQ, I knew I only had to watch Bruno. In the end Toni won which is great for him’. Looking ahead to tomorrow evening’s 45-minute final, his pitman & father Christian known for being one of the best in the pitlane, Kurzbuch said, ‘The tyre wear is high so I think this gives some room for different strategies’. He continued, ‘Fuel consumption is very low here so that also allows for a different strategy’ adding, ‘the pitlane is very long here so thats a factor as you will earn more time if you can do less stops and on the exit it is very easy to damage your tyres or body’. On the number of tyres stops he expects to do, the World Champion simply replied ‘100% more than one’. In terms of his changes to his car, he said he was ‘not sure yet but probably I will change the rear roll centre to give me a more stable car on small tyres’.
Commenting on his career best 1:8 qualifying, Coelho said, ‘Its a great result as I haven’t raced 1:8 since last ENS’. He continued, ‘Fighting with the guys who always race nitro is the perfect result for our new car’. On his final qualifier, he said, ‘I tried to force too much which cause me to lose control a few times but it was super close’. On his strategy for the final, he joked, ‘I don’t have so much experience so we will have to try copy some of the other’s strategy’. He continued, ‘The tyre wear is quite high so our strategy is super important but my engine has good power and run time so I think in this area we are OK’.
‘To qualify third overall is a good start with a new team’, was Gruber’s reaction. The WRC driver said other than change to a new body which was the same type as the one he ran in the earlier qualifiers his car was unchanged but for him the grip was better than in Q3 allowing him to TQ. Asked about the final, the 21-year-old replied, ‘I guess I will try to have fun with the car’. On tyre consumption he said one stop would be ‘too difficult’ and ’15-minutes per set’ was the most he feels could be realistically expected. ‘Happy with the car’, he plans no changes to the set-up.
Considering he didn’t even know he was doing the race this time last week, Matsukura said, ‘I happy but would have been more happy if in Top 3’. As an electric racing specialist, when asked about racing for 45-minutes, the 1:12 & 1:10 World Champion simply replied, ‘I hope to finish’. Setting the fastest lap of the final qualifier, he said he was pleased with his car set-up for qualifying and they would think it over tonight if they need to change anything. Asked about set-up he said his 1:12 experience meant he had a 50% say in the set-up they have arrived at. Asked about strategy he said, ‘My goal is to finish so I will let someone else decide the strategy because I don’t know enough yet but I want to race 1:8 more’.
‘Could be better but we’re pretty close’, was Pietsch’s summary of his qualifying. The Mugen designer & former World Champion was to get lost with his set-up following a battery issue. The German said, ‘I had a problem with a low voltage battery. I was changing the car because it was not doing what I expected. Then we realised it was the battery but it mean’t we were starting again from zero. He said since then the car has been getting better and better adding were it is at now he is ‘confident’ for the final. Admitting ‘the first guys are super fast’ he said the final presents a number of challenges with the pit lane one of them. With the exit a place were a lot of time can be made or lost he said the high tyre wear will also effect this as it will get more difficult as the tyres get smaller.
Simon Kurzbuch and Bruno Coelho are set to battle it out for the first TQ of the new season at ENS France. Having taken the opening qualifier, engine trouble for Kurzbuch would see Coelho post his first ever 1:8 TQ in the second round bettering the class master’s Q1 time. With the fastest time the deciding factor should qualifying come down to a tie breaker, Kurzbuch would fight back in the penultimate qualifier with a second TQ run that improved on Coelho’s pace by 6/10ths. For Coelho mistakes in the round would leave him with a P3 with Naoto Matsukura just pipping him by 0.003 of a second, the 1:12 World Champion looking to have taken to 1:8 Onroad like a duck to water. On current form the Japanese driver is on target to start tomorrow’s 45-minute Main at the difficult Mulhouse track 3rd on the grid although a TQ in the final round could see him split Kurzbuch and Coelho.
Commenting Q2 & 3, Kurzbuch said, ‘we had an engine issue in Q2. In motorsport these things happen when everything is on the limit. We put in another engine for Q3 and I pushed hard to get a better time than Bruno and managed it. Now in the next one we will try to bring the point home’. With the overall TQ carrying a bonus championship point, the reigning champion is confident in his Shepherd/Novarossi package with only another 2nd gear adjustment planned to compensate for the reducing tyre size with the Swiss driver adding the ‘the grip levels are getting better and better each round’.
Summing up his two encounters, Coelho said, ‘I was having a good fight with Simon in Q2 but then he got a broken engine and after that I just tried to push to the end. The time was faster than Q1 was it was perfect’. On the third round, the Xray driver added, ‘I ran the same set-up but had two mistakes which cost me 1.5-seconds and the TQ so for the next one I will try to make no mistakes’. Asked about going for the overall TQ, the Portuguese driver replied, ‘For sure I will go for it but with 2nd or 3rd on the grid I am already happy because I don’t think I have ever directly made it to the A-Main This result is good for our new car’.
Somewhat overshadowing Coelho’s new found competitiveness in 1:8, Matsukura’s reaction after Q3 was ‘almost’. Finishing just less than 7/10ths off Kurzbuch, the Infinity driver is really pleased with how qualifying is going saying his own driving is improving everytime he gets on track. Making a set-up change to get his car to steer more through the rear of the car, he said this had induced a little bit of understeer which he hopes to dial out with a further change ahead of the final qualifier. With the Top 3 clearly making their mark in Mulhouse, outside of them new WRC Racing signing Toni Gruber is current best of the rest sitting fourth with a round to go. The German had engine issues in Q1 but came back with a P3 in Q2 and a P5 in his latest run. With a fourth in Q2, Mugen’s Robert Pietsch holds provisional 5th on the grid going into the fourth & final qualifier.
Eduardo Escandon has TQ’d the second round of qualifying at the season opener of the Euro Nitro Series in France. The Spaniard, who had transponder issues in Q1 but was later credited with a P5, topped the Q2 times from Leo Arnold with Kyle Branson once again completing the Top 3. With Q1 pace setter Bruno Coelho get hit by Eric Dankel on the last lap while on a target for a second TQ run, it was the Shepherd of Escandon who had the best pace to take advantage of the incident to finish just 7/100th up on Arnold. Having opened his ENS account as an Xray driver backing up Coelho for a 1-2 in Q1, like his team-mate it looked like another good run but half way through the Italian would make a ‘stupid mistake’ hitting the curbing in a slow corner and flipping his car. After a tough opening round, Q2 would prove more positive for reigning champion Teemu Leino as the Infinity driver posted the 5th fastest time behind Dankel.
Having made the switch from KM Racing to join Shepherd over the off season, Escandon was clearly pleased not just with his TQ run but also with his new team. Asked how the event was going, he replied, ‘I’m really happy with my new car and team are really good people to work with’. Having ‘played safe’ on his Q1 run, the second round would not start so well as he had a mistake on the first lap but putting in clean laps for the remainder of the 4-minutes he was ‘really happy’ to post the TQ time. Now with ‘two good runs’ that will lock him into tomorrow’s 45-minute A-Main, he said, ‘I a still discussing it with my mechanic but as I am safe in the A-main I will make a little change to see if we can get a little more steering’.
Having lacked rear traction in Q1, Arnold said, ‘the car was much better and had more traction but now the problem was I had a super shit setting on the clutch’. Setting the fastest lap of Q2, the Frenchman said ‘with this right it should be even better for the next one’. Another driver with two runs that will put him up towards the front of the A-man grid, he also plans to test for other changes in the remaining two rounds. Asked what happened to him in Q2, team-mate Coelho replied, ‘I was taken out by Dankel’. He continued, ‘he said I had got sideways but everyone watching said he took me out, anyway the car was still good so its no problem’.
‘I would say it was a bit better’ was how Branson summed up his car after Q2. Making changes to his Capricorn, he said it now had more steering and while harder to drive overall the steering ‘felt pretty nice’. For Q3, the World Championship finalist will ‘work on getting more on power traction’.
Having set the pace in Thursday practice, Dankel said, ‘the car was better before the rain’. The ENS’ inaugural champion, the Mugen driver who suffered a 3-second mistake in Q1 felt they improved the car for Q2 however in the last corner before the straight he can feel nothing with no feedback from the car as to what it is doing’. Asked about his incident with Coelho, the German said, ‘I let him by at the previous corner and then in the next corner he was slower and I just nudged him. There was no body tuck’.
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.