Just as he was at the season opener at ENS Netherlands, Simon Kurzbuch is the 1:8 benchmark going into qualifying at Round 2 of the Infinity Euro Nitro Series in Germany. The Shepherd driver was fastest over 3-consecutive laps around the Minidrom Ettlingen track at the end of controlled practice topping the times from fellow World Champions Dario Balestri and Robert Pietsch. On his first outing of the 2018 season, Toni Gruber would settle into the event with the fourth fastest time with Round 1 find Jeffrey Rietveld fifth fastest ahead of fellow Dutchman Rick Vrielijnck who made it six different brands of cars in the Top 6.
‘It was just two more practice sessions. There was quite a lot of practice for everybody and I’m ready for qualifying’, was Kurzbuch’s reaction to topping the seeding practice. Also fastest at the end of the 1o rounds of free practice, the reigning ENS Champion continued, ‘I am thinking of making a little change to my front shock oil but it’s nothing big. My engine and everything else feels very comfortable so I’m ready’. Asked about changes in track conditions from the overnight rain, the Swiss driver replied,’ the track is much slower than yesterday but it is still good for me but lap times like yesterday are not possible anymore’.
Balestri also seemed keen to get down to the more serious business of qualifying. The Infinity driver said, ‘practice was ok so we are almost ready. Today we needed to change to set-up because the track changed. Yesterday the traction was maximum, today it is normal which is a little better for us’. Looking to Q1, the reigning World Champion said, ‘it is important to be consistent but it is not easy on the track because you have a lot of front traction’.
‘The car is super good, it is only a matter of my driving it. The car for sure has the pace’, was how Pietsch summed up his practice pace. The Mugen designer said, the track is completely different to yesterday. I prefer the higher traction but still today it is ok. It wasn’t only the track that was different it is a lot more hot today. When clouds come my car is faster than when in the sun’.
Gruber described his P4 in practice as ‘not bad so far’. The WRC Racing driver continued, ‘the temperature is a little high today so the lap times are slower but it is the same for everybody. The balance of the car is good also for the hot weather so we will see how it goes for qualifying but I feel pretty good going into Q1’. Asked about finding a set-up for the track, the German replied, ‘from the start the car felt good and we just made the usual small changes and it was quickly got to a good set-up’.
‘It is going really good today’, was Rietveld’s reaction after practice. Qualifying a surprise fourth in Rucphen, he said, ‘yesterday we struggled a bit. The traction was really high and I am not used to that’. Making his ENS debut here last year, returning to racing after a number of years away from competition, he continued, ‘We made a few set-up changes and they worked out well so I will leave it now for qualifying. It is easy to drive which is good for the 4-minutes of qualifying. I will try to keep it clean’.
Jilles Groskamp has topped practice at Round 2 of the Infinity Euro Nitro Series in Germany. Winner of the season opener in the Netherlands, the Infinity driver was fastest around the challenging Minidrom Ettlingen track from Dominic Greiner. Groskamp set his fastest 3-laps in the first of the two controlled practices while Greiner found improvement in the final practice round, all drivers reporting overnight rain had changed the track from yesterday’s free practice. On his first outing of the 2018 championship, Eric Dankel made it three different manufacturers at the top of the time sheets ahead of Mugen team-mate Dirk Wischnewski who also missed the season opener. Behind, Rucphen podium finisher Eduardo Escandon completed the Top 5, the entire field very closely matched with 4/10ths covering the Top 10.
With Infinity owner Kenji Taira joking his driver hasn’t stopped smiling all day, Groskamp said, ‘I’m really happy with the car. We had a pretty good free practice yesterday too when we were quickest but today the track feels to have a little less bite, I guess because of the overnight rain’. The Dutchman continued, ‘It was really nice yesterday (his car) but still feels good today just there is not as much grip as yesterday’. Trying two different engines over the two controlled practice, which he called a qualifying engine and finals engine, he said the one from CP1 was better and this is what he intends to use for this evening’s opening qualifier which will bring the day to a close. Expecting Q1 to be ‘a little cooler’ due to the evening timing he said ‘maybe this will go more my way but deciding tyre strategy will be important. Smaller were better in controlled practice but I need to decide if I go with used or new. The traction is not as much now so new could work’.
‘Compared to yesterday I am much happier’, was how Greiner summed controlled practice. The Serpent driver continued, ‘we got lost with the set-up yesteday and I couldn’t drive 1 clean lap but now we have a completely different set-up and today I am almost in the 1st place. I’m not super happy with the car but it is getting better. I am close to Jilles who is super fast’. The German added, ‘the track being slower today is good for me, our car is not so good on the asphalt but we will fix that hopefully’.
Setting the fastest of his times in CP1 as radio problems caused him to stop early in the second run, Dankel said, ‘I don’t know what the problem is. I don’t know if it is the receiver or the battery, I really don’t know what it is’. Asked about his car set-up the 2015 champion replied, ‘it is pretty ok, it’s not perfect but ok. Last year conditions were a bit more easy but there is more in the set-up for sure’.
Wischnewski said, ‘yesterday went quite good but the track changed hugely after the (overnight) rain and we needed to adapt the set-up so I struggled in the morning’. Getting his seeding time in the second run, the 2015 winner continued, ‘the change in traction messed up everything. We had a good car in the high traction yesterday but that last one was good after we changed back my set-up for lower traction’.
Summing up practice ahead of Q1, Escandon said, ‘It went OK, I’m happy’. The Shepherd driver continued, ‘it takes more time than usual to adapt to this track and get used to the grip which is completely different to any other track’. He added, ‘we changed the car every time to get it better. A change we made for the second one was not better so I will go back for Q1 but the important thing will be to have a clean run because it is super tight at the front’. Behind the Spaniard, Francesco Tironi rounded out the Top 6 ahead of Infinity team-mate Lamberto Collari who clearly enjoyed his 1:10 debut at the Dutch ENS encounter and is back for more.
Track Name – Minidrom Ettlingen Club – Mini Car Club Ettlingen Country – Germany Location – Ettlingen (SW of the country) Direction – Anti-clockwise Surface – Asphalt No. of ENS Races hosted – 3 (2015 – 17)
Joining the Euro Nitro Series calendar in 2015, a year after it was resurfaced, 2018 marks the fourth visit of the championship to Minidrom Ettlingen in Germany. A traditional nitro track layout featuring a banked sweeper at the end of the straight it is the surface which has become the track’s unique feature. Resurfaced with a very fine asphalt the surface is super smooth presenting a unique feeling between the car and track that presents some set-up challenges although now an established venue for the championship, most drivers have now have three years of experience to work from. 265 metres in length, the track came into existence in the 1990s and in that time has had just had one change made to its original layout with the addition of 25 metres in 2014 when undergoing its resurfacing.
Since holding the ENS for the first time, the first international race since the track underwent a resurfacing, the race has produced a new winner each year in 1:10 and two different winners in 1:8. The only man to take victory in Ettlingen more than once, Simon Kurzbuch described the track as ‘very challenging to find a car set-up’. The Shepherd driver who has TQ’d on every visit, said while the track is getting ‘more and more normal’ with each year he comes it still presents a unique challenge saying ‘it is very direct in the steering so you feel the slightest of inputs and then you have not so much grip in the rear’.
Winner of the 2018 season opener, Jilles Groskamp, who was 2nd on the championship’s debut here, called the Minidrom Ettlingen ‘a unique track for the driving feeling’. The Infinity driver said, ‘the balance of the car is different. It tends to oversteer here more than other tracks. You have so much steering the car tends to suck into the curbs but they are quite high. It is hard not to touch them. It is difficult to get a good set-up but you have to make the car easy to drive. I like this track more for 1:10 than 1:8 (which he raced here last year) because you have too much steering so it is hard to get into that rhythm you need. It is not easy to go around this track’.
After a successful opening round to the 2018 Infinity Euro Nitro Series in the Netherlands last month, Round 2 of the high profile Onroad Nitro Championship is back on familiar asphalt as the world’s best drivers descend on the Minidrom Ettlingen track in Germany this weekend (8-10 June).With the championship’s debut in Rucphen adding two new winner’s names to the ENS roll of honour, Jilles Groskamp taking 1:10 and Robin D’hondt winning 1:8, Ettlingen is a track which presents its own unique challenges.The fourth year of inclusion on the ENS calendar, the track has a traditional nitro layout but has one particularly distinct characteristic, a very fine asphalt from the 2014 resurfacing of the track. In terms of winners, in 1:10, the class proving ultra competitive given it is a World Championship year for touring cars, the track has produced a different winner each visit. In 1:8, Simon Kurzbuch has won on the previous two visits with Dario Balestri winning on the track’s first appearance on the ENS calendar in 2015, but with the championship’s 17th race attracting over 110 entries the battle for victory will be as intense as ever.
Opening Season #5 with his first ENS career win, despite having been Champion in 2015, Groskamp comes into the weekend with high confidence. While the Infinity driver only raced 1:8 at the event last year, he is a previous 1:10 podium finisher at the track and he will be aiming to leave Germany on Sunday evening having extended his early championship lead. Team-mate Teemu Leino was one of Groskamp’s main rivals at Round 1 until a flame out ended the 2016 Champion’s challenge for victory.One of the previous winners at Minidrom Ettlingen, the Finn will be looking to become the first double winner there to get his title campaign firmly back on track and make Round 1 his dropped round.
Top Qualifier for the season opener but suffering engine issues in the final which left him P4 at the end of the 45-minute A-Main, Alessio Mazzeo again heads up the challenge from reigning champions Xray. Very disappointed at not being able to translate his qualifying pace into at least a podium finish in Rucphen, the Italian will be looking to finally register his second ever ENS career win. Enduring a tough debut at Ettlingen in 2016, when he failed to make the A-Main, last year the Italian showed well qualifying 3rd while team-mate & champion-to-be Bruno Coelho took the TQ, but the race didn’t go his way and he ended up 10th, Coelho fairing worse with his race ending in a DNF. The winner would be Erik Dankel, who having missed Round 1, returns this weekend along with Mugen team-mate Dirk Wischnewski who is the third of the track’s previous winners.
The world benchmark in terms of 1:10 pace, Dominic Greiner lacked in the luck department at Round 1. Qualifying 5th, low by his normal standards, the World Champion’s weekend in the Netherlands didn’t improve and he retired from the final. With 2018 marking his return to a full 1:10 campaign, the Serpent driver is a former Top Qualifier at Ettlingen but has yet to register a win here; something he will be aiming to put right this weekend so he can fight for the title which has so far eluded him.For Team Shepherd, having kicked off 2018 with a podium, Eduardo Escandon had a good run in Germany last year finishing second and the Spaniard will be looking to go one better this time round and secure his first ENS race win.
In 1:8, with work commitments preventing D’hondt from travelling to Germany, we are going to get our second different winner of the season. Kurzbuch comes into the event as the clear favourite.The Shepherd driver had a flame out at the season opener but recovered to finish on the podium and having TQ’d on all previous visits to Ettlingen he is the marker for his rivals. World Champion Balestri was his main challenger at Round 1 and the Italian will again lead Team Infinity’s high profile line-up of drivers.With the business of having just got married forcing him to miss Round 1, WRC’s Toni Gruber is back and the German should be right in the mix. At Serpent, Jeffrey Rietveld will be hoping he can back up his super impressive Round 1 performance, where he qualified 4th, while at Mugen Robert Pietsch will again lead the Japanese manufacturer’s assault.Having become the first winner of the newly introduced 1:8 40+ class, Infinity’s Arie Manten leads the growing entry this weekend.
Robin D’hondt has claimed his first ever ENS victory today in the Netherlands, the Capricorn driver securing victory ahead of three of the 1:8 Onroad’s greatest drivers. Starting from fifth on the grid, the Belgian was able to capitalise on others hitting trouble but when they came back at him he kept is nerve together with running a flawless race both on the track and in the pits. Top Qualifier Simon Kurzbuch looked like he was on another of his Sunday drives but coming up to his second fuel stop the Shepherd driver’s car stopped. This allowed the Infinity of Dario Balestri to move to the front but he would have problems on his first tyre stop with a stray tyre in the pitlane which he thought had come from his car. All the while D’hondt was there to take control, and while Kurzbuch somehow recovered the 2-laps he lost early on, the European Champion kept the ENS Champion at bay. With thrilling battles throughout the race for the podium positions, Silvio Hächler in the mix until hitting problems, when all the final pitstops were done & dusted, the final 4-minutes would produce a great battle for second between Kurzbuch and Balestri, the latter holding off his rival. With Lamberto Collari a part of the battle but getting caught at the line he would just miss the podium.
‘It was a good race’, was D’hondt’s reaction after the race. The quiet Belgian continued, ‘at the first fuel stop I could feel we were at the last of the tank so for the rest of the race I didn’t push only when I had to. I was surprised Simon came so close given the problems he had but everything went perfect with the pitstops. It was a great job by my crew’. On his car, he said, ‘It felt really easy to drive throughout the final. My engine was a little rich but it was OK’. Notching up his first ENS win, when asked if he now had title ambitions he replied, ‘due to work I can’t drive all the rounds but today was really nice to drive these drivers’ – those drivers being the current World Champion, his predecessor and a 9-time World Champion .
Balestri said, ‘We had many problems in the pits. In my first tyre stop I hit a tyre in the pitlane and thought it was mine. Then in the second tyre stop there was trouble from my pit crew’. On hitting a tyre of another driver in the pitlane in the first stop, the Italian stopped at the exit of the lane thinking it was from his car and was brought back to his pit space costing him a lot of time. Despite his dramas in the pits, Balestri said, ‘It was a fun race with many overtaking and at the end we finished the weekend competitive. I have to thank Kenji-San for giving me this opportunity to race’.
‘The first 4-minutes was perfect but then all of a sudden we ran out of fuel before the second stop’, explained Kurzbuch after the race. The Swiss driver continued, ‘It took quite a long time to get back to the pit because there was no marshal where I stopped. After this I just tried to come back as best I can’. Dropping to the tail of the field, he would put in an impressive recovery before being hampered by a broken body in the final stages of the race. Having already made two ‘good’ full tyre stops, he said, ‘the body got broken on the curbs and was touching the ground so we had to make an extra stop for right side tyres only and that cost me the battle for the win’.
‘Tight’ was Collari’s reaction on missing out on an extra lap to battle for second by 6/10ths of a second. The Infinity driver continued, ‘At the start I crashed with other guys and the body came out’. Stuck under the right side he opted to wait until his first fuel stop to fix it but by that time had already gone a lap down to Kurzbuch. He said the race was about ‘recovery’ after that. Behind him, team-mate Chavit Saligupta would complete a great weekend by claiming 5th Hächler, Merlin Depta and Jeffrey Rietveld. Surprise of the weekend, unfortunately a flame out denied us the chance to see Rietveld’s full potential but the Serpent driver was well in the mix for a podium before hand.
In the new for 2018 season 1:8 40+ class, the Dutch had plenty of reason to celebrate with Arie Manten completing the perfect weekend. Taking the TQ, the Infinity driver would put in a dominant performance in the final to win ahead of fellow countryman Martin Zevenhoven driving a Serpent. Having qualified 2nd, Denmark’s Bo Nielsen lost 2nd early in the race but held on to complete the Round 1 podium with his Infinity.