Remarks – The 2018 French National Champion is running a host of optional parts on his NT1 but only the brass battery plate is the specific to the Aigen track here in Austria. His first time to run it this season Leo says its has helped make the car more stable. Other optionals on the car, which he likes to run as his regular set-up, are a lightweight 2-speed shaft and brake disc, aluminium rear drive shafts and brake lever, hard plastic suspension arms and Xray’s new low-friction graphite composite belt pulley. The car is also fitted with an alu screw set from Hiro Seiko.
Track Name – Aigen-Schlägl Club – Modell Auto Verein Aigen-Schlägl Country – Austria Location – Aigen-Schlägl (50km Northwest of Linz) Direction – Anti-Clockwise Surface – Asphalt (new surface 2017) No. of ENS Races hosted – 4 (2014-17)
Over 600 metres up in the Austrian hills, 2018 marks the fifth visit of the Euro Nitro Series to the Aigen-Schlägl which together with Fiorano in Italy is the only track to feature on the calendar of every ENS Season to date. Situated near both the German and Czech borders, since hosting the world’s best nitro drivers for the first time in 2014, the host club MAV Aigen Schlägl has developed the track into a facility that has put it up there with the best in the world. For the 2015 ENS, the covered pits were doubled in size and for the 2017 visit the track as completely resurfaced. With a reputation for high tyre wear, the new surface eliminated that issue and has helped the club secure next year’s 1:5 Bike World Championships. The popular British electric touring car championship, the Essex Winter Series or EWS as it is better known, will make use of the facility when they host their first ever ‘EWS Abroad’ event here in September.
With the new asphalt still very fresh for the 2017 event, having now had almost 12-months of running on it this year’s laps times are already proving considerably quicker. The first resurfacing of the track since it was built in 2006, a lap of the track covers 290 metres with one of the features being the 5-degree inclined 65 metre long main straight.
One driver making the trip to the hilly Austrian countryside location for the first time, Alessio Mazzeo has a good first impression of the facility. The Xray driver said, ‘It is a really relaxed place and it is really nice. I like it’. Not just here for the scenery, on driving the track the 1:10 title contender said, ‘it is really fun but it is very technical so it is important to have a good balance in the car’. Asked the track’s most challenge section the Italian replied, ‘for me it is the end of the straight. You see one corner but in reality when you drive it is two corners and getting the braking position right is difficult. One lap you brake short and then the next you brake long. It is hard to get right every time’.
After a thrilling first half to the season that produced a different winner each round, the 2018 Infinity Euro Nitro Series travels to Aigen in Austria this weekend (6-8 July) for the continuation of the hotly contested battle for Season #5 title honours. The third & penultimate round of the championship, this will be the fifth visit to the picturesque track located high up in the Austrian hills with it a make or break event for a number of potential title contenders. Despite having won on the last three visits to the Aigen track, Simon Kurzbuch’s 2018 season is void of a victory and that is something the Shepherd driver needs to put right if he is to have any chance of going into the season finale to retain his 1:8 title. Winner of Round 2 in Germany last month, it is Dario Balestri who leads the points standings and the World Champion will be determined to make the trip to Aigen worth his while by registering his first win there having finished second to Kurzbuch there in 2016. Last year the Infinity driver opted not to contest the Austrian round and with the track having been resurfaced just ahead of the 2017 visit this will be the Italian’s first time on the transformed surface which was previously very hard on tyre wear.
In 1:10, the track had been a happy hunting ground for Teemu Leino with two previous wins there, however, illness has forced the former champion to withdraw from the weekend. Instead it is his Infinity team-mate Jilles Groskamp who will lead the challenge coming into the weekend as the championship leader at a track which the Dutchman quite likes. 1:10 is proving ultra competitive this season as it is a World Championship year for the class and the drivers have really been showcasing the category with some great racing. Taking the win at the previous round after issues at the season opener, reigning World Champion Dominic Greiner has the best track record of the drivers in attendance this weekend having won on his first visit and TQ’ing the following year.
Sitting second in the 1:10 points, just two points off Groskamp, Alessio Mazzeo has been right in the mix this season and is a very likely third different winner. This will be the Xray driver’s first visit to Aigen but as he showed at the season opener when the ENS made its debut at the Rucphen track in the Netherlands he doesn’t need long at a track to be quick with him securing the TQ. In Germany, the Italian would finish second behind Greiner and despite being one of the sport’s friendliest drivers he wants to reward his team for their hard work with the win. Mugen’s Erik Dankel kicked off his campaign with a podium in Germany having missed the season opener. Dankel has been to Aigen twice before and took second behind Leino in 2016. Representing 1:10’s fifth major manufacturer, Team Shepherd will be pinning their hopes on Thilo Todtmann who last year finished the event second behind reigning Champion Bruno Coelho.
In 1:8, World Champions Balestri and Kurzbuch are certainly the benchmark but they still face some serious threats to their reign namely in Toni Gruber and Robert Pietsch. Having missed the season opener due to the small matter of getting married, Gruber took his WRC to a podium finish in Ettlingen. While the German struggled somewhat at the race in 2017, qualifying 5th and finishing 9th, the former championship podium finisher is now in his second season with WRC and has a much better understanding of the car. Pietsch also showed really good speed in Germany and the Mugen designer is a former Top Qualifier in Aigen so expect him to be in the mix. While in the main 1:10 and 1:8 classes drivers are looking to join the title fight, in the new 40+ Class Infinity’s Arie Manten is making the journey to Austria with his eye on taking home the big prize as he aims for three wins in a row and the inaugural 40+ title.
Dario Balestri has taken the win at ENS Germany. The Infinity driver came out on top of a close race long battle with Simon Kurzbuch after the Top Qualifier suffered a broken glow plug during his final fuel stop. Kurzbuch had lead the race with Balestri following close behind, the duo doing synchronised fuel stops early on but with a loose clutch on Balestri’s car meant he started to come in early. For Kurzbuch this meant he now had a stop in hand but first of the leaders to take on new tyres, the Shepherd driver made a second tyre stop for just outside tyres. While Balestri looked to have a slight edge as the race entered the final 5-minutes unfortunately we were denied a showdown of the two World Champions. In the pit for his last fuel stop, Kurzbuch’s engine for the second race in a row came to stop and needing a new plug the laps ticked away before he rejoined. This benefited Alessio Mazzeo, who having finished 2nd in the 1:10, finished just shy of two laps down on his fellow Italian. Toni Gruber would return to the ENS by claiming the final podium place ahead of Robert Pietsch with Kurzbuch ending up 5th. The result means it is Balestri who leaves Germany as the championship leader on the completion of the first half of ENS Season #5.
‘It was a really nice race. It was really really close’, was how Balestri summed up what is only his second ENS 1:8 career win. The 2015 Champion went on to say, ‘I made a small adjustment to the car before the start and it made it more stable but I had a small issue with the clutch. It was loose and coming in early so we got a little scared and that is why we changed our fuel strategy’. Winner of the championship’s first visit to the challenging Minidrom Ettlingen track four years ago, he continued, ‘Simon made a different strategy to me but maybe in the end even without his problem we could also win. It would have been really close. Anyway for the championship today was really good and we are on the top’.
Smiling from ear to ear, Mazzeo said,’It’s amazing. To do 90-minutes at this level I now understand what Bruno (Coehlo) did 1-year ago’. His best finish in 1:8, he continued, ‘I think for sure Simon was faster than me but all the way through the final I was fighting for 3rd, 4th and 5th and I had a good fight with Robert (Pietsch). We had the speed to get this result. The team worked a lot for this. I’m really happy with this result. Thanks to my dad, to Massimo who helped in the pits and Fabio for fantastic job I am really happy with this result’.
‘I started 3rd, I finished 3rd, I’m happy’, was how Gruber summed up his first ENS outing of 2018. Fourth in last year’s overall standings, the WRC Racing driver said, ‘At the start I lost important places because the engine was rich. At the first stop we adjusted it and it was perfect. In the middle of the race I had a really nice fight with Alessio.’ The German continued, ‘I was running 4th and was faster than Robert Pietsch so I started to push hard. Then I see him go in the grass and I could pass him. Apart from the engine being rich at the start everything went good. We change all four tyres and it was a good stop’.
Finishing fourth Pietsch said, ‘I’m pissed. I was in exactly the same position at Round 1, I was third, and I couldn’t miss a crash’. The Mugen designer contiued, ‘It was bad luck. I think it was Merlin (Depta) and I couldn’t miss him which left the body broken and I had no steering anymore so I had no chance’. With the incident happening after his tyre stop he said, ‘the race was good before that’ before concluding, ‘Any time soon hopefully I will have better luck’.
A dejected Kurzbuch said, ‘It looks like I am a qualification driver’. The second race in which he has TQd but been unable to convert that to victory, the reigning champion added, ‘the start was quite good. It was always close between me & Dario until the last stop’. Confirming it was a broken plug that has put his title defence on the back foot, he concluded, ‘there are still two more races to go so we will see what happens’.
In the new 1:8 40+ class, the half hour final would produce the championship’s first double winner of 2018 with Arie Manten taking the win. Starting from the TQ the Dutch Infinity driver controlled the race from start to finish having a very healthy 5-lap advantage over Dane Bo Nielsen. Briefing leading the race, the Xray of Martin Wenger would complete the podium in Germany.