Having already wrapped up the overall TQ last night, Dario Balestri completed a clean sweep of qualifying in Fiorano this morning by making it 3 from 3 in the final round of 1:8 qualifying at the ENS season finale. The Capricorn driver took Q3 ahead of Toni Gruber and Simon Kurzbuch with Lamberto Collari posting the fourth fastest time. The result means it will be Gruber who will start behind Balestri for the 45-minute A-Main with Collari third ahead of Kurzbuch and Andrea Pirani.
Balestri, who was also Top Qualifier for the race last year but lost out to Kurzbuch for the win, said a different body position was the only change he made to his Tesla powered LAB-C803 from yesterday. Asked if the more forward mounted body improved the car, the Italian replied, ‘I don’t know’ adding ‘the track is faster and better than yesterday so it was hard to tell but the overall feeling was OK’. Looking to the final, the 2015 ENS Champion said, ‘we need to check our strategy for tyres and of course I need to adjust the car to run on small tyres’. He continued, ‘for me the problem is that the front tyre wear is high so we must try something so we don’t repeat last year with Simon’, a reference to how running out of front tyres allowed Kurzbuch to take the win from him.
Securing his best ever ENS starting position, Gruber said, ‘It’s nice to qualify 2nd and the car is ready for the final so I’m very happy with how everything is going’. The ARC driver, who is battling with Balestri to become this year’s ENS Vice-Champion, continued, ‘we still must look at what strategy we will take but my goal is to ensure we end up with podium placing in the overall championship’.
Lining up third on the grid, Collari described his final qualifier as not too bad highlighting, ‘our focus is our strategy for the final and we still have some details to finalise’. The Team Infinity driver will use the A-Main practice to test another body saying the car is ‘a little slow to change direction’. Currently running a Blitz body he will try Protoform’s R18. Famed as the master of race strategy in terms of tyres stops he said, ‘we must check again the tyre wear but here it is normally low so usually only 1-stop is needed’. Collari is a previous ENS race winner at the Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter track taking the win in 2014, a victory that was achieved with just one tyre stop.
Equalling his worst qualifying of the season, having also started the season opener from 4th on the grid, Kurzbuch said his rebuilt car was ‘ok but not perfect’ for the final qualifier. Damaging the chassis in the opening qualifier after an off but not having time to rebuild it for Q2, he fitted a new chassis this morning but said the set-up needed some tweaks. Describing conditions this morning as ‘much better than yesterday’ he joked ‘I’m a daylight driver’. On strategy for the final he said, ‘the tyre wear is quite low compared to Aigen but still we will need one stop and that’s one extra thing that can go wrong, but we are normally strong on this point’. Chasing a clean sweep of the championship, which he wrapped up in Austria, on his starting position he said, ‘I’m only 8-metre behind Dario so it’s not a problem. We just need to have no troubles at the start. I will not be worried if I’m not in the lead at 10-minute because it’s a 45-minute race so there is plenty of time to get to the front but for sure I want to make it four out of four’.
Having hoped to better his starting position after struggling in the flood light conditions last night, although he would post a P2 run in Q2, Pirani wouldn’t get to better his Q1 P6 as his manifold cracked a minute into the final qualifier. The WRC driver, while disappointed not to get a run ‘in daylight’ said he hoped the manifold failure was his bad luck out of the way and he was looking forward to the final, 5th on the grid his best ENS starting position since the season opener two years ago when he would go onto to claim a podium finish. Behind Pirani, Francesco Tironi completes the top half of the grid ahead of Robert Pietsch and Alberto Picco, with Silvio Hächler and Jesse Davis the other two direct qualifiers with the final two grids spots to be filled by the Top 2 finishers in the B-Main.
Dario Balestri is Top Qualifier for the Euro Nitro Series season finale. The Capricorn driver booked pole position for the Round 4 A-Main after he backed up his opening qualifying run with another TQ run in the second of the three scheduled qualifiers. Again racing under flood lights as they did for Q1, the 2015 ENS Champion would go 1.5-seconds faster this time, topping the times from practice top seed Andrea Pirani after Toni Gruber threw away another P2 run with a mistake on his final lap. Dropping the ARC driver to P6 for the round, it was Lamberto Collari who would again complete the Top 3 ahead of Simon Kurzbuch, the 2016 champion struggling with a bent chassis.
Claiming his fourth overall 1:8 TQ of the ENS, Balestri was much happier with his second run in the night conditions. He said, ‘I changed the rear toe and it was ok but I really had a super engine’. Again setting the fastest lap of the round, it 7/1000ths slower than his Q1 fastest lap, he said, ‘with Simon at the start I pushed a lot but I was able to drive safe from half way because my pitman told me the gap was enough’. Looking to secure the runner-up spot in the overall championship behind Kurzbuch, the bonus championship point for the TQ now puts him clear of Gruber with whom he shared second in the standings coming into the weekend.
After struggling with his eyesight in Q1 on his way to a P6, Pirani said ‘I just drove in a safe way and it worked out very well’. He continued ‘my aim was to make the A-Main so I am happy for that’. Leaving his WRC GTX unchanged, the car’s designer said now ‘with nothing to lose I will push more tomorrow in the light and try to improve my grid position’.
‘Not so good at all’ was how Collari summed up Q2. The Team Infinity driver added, ‘it cant be good because the track was worse’. He said with the increased humidity he was getting ‘wheel spin on throttle’ adding it felt a ‘not perfect tyre’ may have also contributed to this issue. Only changing the carb on his OS Speed engine after his temporary performance drop off in Q1 he said the problem didn’t occur again with his ‘pace consistent from start to finish’ but now that they have more time, the time between Q1 and Q2 just over an hour, he said they still need to check that it wasn’t a car issue.
Kurzbuch was another to suffer from the lack of time between qualifiers. Concerned over his chassis following a heavy impact with the blunt inside edge of the curbing after an off in Q1, the Swiss driver said it turned out to be damaged but even if he had of picked up on that before going back on track there wouldn’t have been enough time to change it. Planning to rebuild his Novarossi powered Velox V8 for the third and final qualifier which takes place tomorrow morning, sitting 8th in the overnight qualification ranking he said ‘we will get the car right again and use Q3 to get ready for the final’. Behind Kurzbuch, Francesco Tironi would again take his Team Infinity to the fifth fastest time to book a direct qualifying spot in the A-Main.
Dario Balestri has TQ’d the first qualifier at the fourth & final round of the Euro Nitro Series in Italy. Racing in what all drivers described as difficult conditions, last year’s champion was in a close battle with Simon Kurzbuch for the fastest time until the newly crowned champion went off on the penultimate lap. Just 3/10ths off the Capricorn driver, Toni Gruber would post the 2nd fastest time continuing his impressive practice pace. Racing under flood lights Lamberto Collari would complete the Top 3 with practice top seed Andrea Pirani posting the 6th fastest time.
‘Very difficult’ was how Balestri summed up the opening qualifier adding ‘racing in the night is totally strange’. The Capricorn driver continued, ‘you also have the humidity so it very hard to drive in this situation’. Despite not enjoying the conditions, commenting ‘we (drivers) all made mistakes (because of the track conditions)’, the former European Champion would post the fastest lap but with another qualifier to run today he will ‘try to make the car easier to drive (for Q2)’ admitting ‘but I don’t how how’.
Gruber, who is battling with Balestri to become ENS’ Vice-Champion, was very happy with his result. Describing the experience of racing at night as ‘special’, the German said he had no issue with seeing and he was happy with the performance of his ARC saying ‘all was ok I had no problems’ and he plans to leave it the same for Day 1’s closing qualifier. Asked if he went for a safe round given the conditions, after pausing to think about his response, he said, ‘it was safe but I was pushing too’.
‘Personally it was not bad’ was how Collari described Q1. The Team Infinity driver reported that in the middle of the qualifier the car dropped off pace for around 40-seconds before feeling good again to the end. ‘Not sure of the cause’, the 3-time ENS race winner plans to check over the car to see if he can find a problem but given the short amount of time to Q2 he will change engine to eliminate that as a possible cause of the drop off which he feels is in the car. Commenting on track conditions, the Italian said, ‘I know this track very well but I am used to racing in the day not the night and its completely loose now’ adding ‘you can’t get the best of these cars in such conditions’.
With Kurzbuch ending up 14th for the round, Mattia Rinaldi would be the fastest Team Shepherd driver with the fourth fastest time. Not racing 1:8 since before the 1:10 World Championships in Gubbio he said given this he was very happy with his performance. Running in a much lower heat, the Italian, for whom Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter is his local track, he would have issues with traffic early on but once passed said the rest of the qualifier was good. Describing his car and Novarossi engine as good , having never raced under the track’s flood lights before he said his biggest issue was he struggled with his eyesight. Kurzbuch said he ‘had four or five small mistakes but then a big one’. The World Champion would end up on the grass as he tried to pass another car but it was the contact with the back of the curbing of the next corner which has the Swiss driver concerned as he has little time to change the chassis should the impact have bent or tweaked it but on quick inspection he said it ‘seems ok’.
‘I’m happy with the result but not the conditions, of course they were the same for everyone’, was Francesco Tironi’s reaction to setting the 5th fastest time. The Team Infinity driver said ‘it was difficult conditions but I got lucky I could overtake and didn’t lose too much time so for me it was a good run’. In terms of his car, the Italian said he feels he is lacking mid corner speed and so he will try to improve it for Q2.
Pirani put his performance very simply, ‘the car is good, the problem is my eyes’. The WRC driver continued, ‘my medium lap times are not regular. For sure all drivers found it difficult but for me its worse than other with my eyesight’. Looking to Q2, the former podium finisher said, ‘I will try to adjust my driving for Q2 and just aim for a safe Top 10 and then tomorrow I will try to better it in the sun’.
Remarks – Vice-World Champion Alessio Mazzeo is running the “WC” edition of the 748 which features new transmission, new differentials and new big bore shocks. Using his standard setup on the Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter track where he took his first ENS victory last year, he is switching back and forth between the standard and the hard anodised chassis with different weight distribution configurations.