Dominic Greiner has marked his return to 1:10 in the Euro Nitro Series with the fastest time in free practice at the Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter track in Fiorano, Italy. The Serpent driver was quickest over the 10 rounds of free practice with his fastest 5-consecutive laps recorded in yesterday’s closing run. Also setting his best time in FP7, championship leader Bruno Coelho would be the closest to Greiner with Xray team-mate Alessio Mazzeo completing the Top 3. Of the three free practice rounds run today, it was Mazzeo who had the advantage, topping 2 of the rounds with FP9 leaving him 3rd quickest overall ahead of Dirk Wischnewski and Toni Gruber.
‘Ok so far’ was how Greiner summed up Free Practice. The 1:10 World Champion, who has contested all previous ENS encounters this year in 1:8 as part of his 1:8 Worlds preparations, continued, ‘the car is fast but it is not easy to drive so we still need to find the perfect set-up’. The victor here last year, the German added, ‘it is a little difficult to drive over a full run but there is more in the set-up and we will try to find that over the 2 rounds of controlled practice’.
Coelho summed up his performance so far as ‘not perfect yet but it is going well’. The winner in France and Germany, he continued, ‘the track looks easy but it is very specific’. He added, ‘they had a 1:5 race here recently and I think this is why the track feels strange. There is a lot of grip which makes it completely different to the other races but we are getting it figured out’.
Mazzeo, winner here in 2015, declared free practice as having gone ‘very good’. The Italian continued, ‘I have a good feeling in the car. For sure we can improve but for the start of a race weekend it is very good’. Asked what specific details he would like to improve in his NT1 set-up he said, ‘I would like it to be faster in the change of the direction’. For CP1 he plans to run a softer roll bar in the front to try achieve this.
Keen to highlight he has taken a step back from his days as a professional driver, Wischnewski summed up his P4 pace with, ‘so far it is ok’. The Mugen supported driver continued, ‘I am lacking a little steering and I have tried many things. Finding the best compromise between being fast and easy to drive is hard to find. Its a very narrow line to find’. He concluded, ‘there is definitely more in the car from getting that right set-up balance’.
Posting the 5th fastest time ahead of Italian David Loppini, Gruber said his WRC is ‘not bad but we are working still to find the best set-up’. The European Champion, who normally only races 1:8 in the ENS, said he is not yet happy with the balance of the car as he tried to find the best compromise between the right amount of steering the the right amount of rear end traction. While a fan of the track, the German is finding running both 1:10 & 1:8 for the first time as ‘busy’ adding his 1:8 practice was ‘not good’.
Track Name – Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter Club – Racing Minicar Fiorano Country – Italy Location – Fiorano (20km South-West of Modena) Direction – Anti-clockwise Surface – Asphalt Previous ENS hosted – 2014, 2015 & 2016
Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter once again brings the curtains down on another season of the Euro Nitro Series with the famous Italian track having featured on the calendar of all four seasons of the championship. Built in 1996, the track is situated in the heartland of Italian passion for speed with Ferrari’s Fiorano test track only 500 metres away and the Ferrari factory a 5-minute drive. Official named after 1979 Formula 1 World Champion Jody Scheckter, who at the time of getting the land from the local government to build the track was Ferrari’s last World Champion, the track covers a total area of 13,000 square metres. Having such space available the track has built a very spacious pit area with the facilities very popular with racers. The track also has one of the best track side restaurants of any RC track in the world with a special atmosphere to match. Over the end of season ENS weekend it is the location for some interesting meetings between drivers and manufacturers.
With a lap of the track covering 297 metres, the fast and technical track is popular with racers with most saying it looks easier than it is. One slight change to conditions this year is that having recently hosted a large 1:5 meeting, they washed the track in preparation for the ENS and in practice drivers have reported the track to have high traction but also as being more abrasive. Interestingly, given the high esteem in which the track is held by drivers, apart from hosting the ENS the track’s only other international race to be held was the 1:8 European B Championship 13-years ago and was won by newly crowned World Champion Dario Balestri.
The fourth season of the Euro Nitro Series concludes this weekend in Italy where all eyes will be on the 1:8 title show down between reigning champion Simon Kurzbuch and Bruno Coelho, the latter also vying for his first ENS title in 1:10.Since the creation of the ENS in 2014, the world famous nitro circuit of Fiorano once again hosts the season finale and for Kurzbuch the trip this year presents a very different senario to 12-months ago when he went there already crowned the champion and chasing the record of a perfect season, something the Shepherd driver duly achieved when he took his fourth win of the four race calendar.This time round he faces a new title rival in Coelho, the rc all round star having surprised everyone with a genuine first 1:8 win at the season opener in France.Backing that up with second place finishes at Round 2 & 3, pushing Kurzbuch for the win at both rounds, it will now all come down to Sunday’s final – 3 from 4 rounds to count.
While the title contenders focus on their battles, there are a number of drivers who come to Fiorano with the aim of capping off their 2017 season on a high note and have no points scenarios to consider. Newly crowned 1:8 World Champion Dario Balestri had a challenging start to his ENS campaign but having finally claimed the sport’s top prize the former champion will be looking to set that right for his home round. The only Italian winner in Fiorano is Lamberto Collari, Kurzbuch winning on the other two visits, although Balestri has enjoyed a victory there in 1:10. With the season opener in Mulhouse his first competitive 1:8 onroad outing, Infinity team-mate Naoto Matsukura has shown he is unquestionably one of the world’s fastest drivers.Making a lot of new fans with his performance at the World Championships in France, he will be hoping to finally convert his raw speed into a first victory.In terms of the overall championship, Jilles Groskamp carries the best hopes for Infinity with the former 1:10 Champion in contention for an overall Top 3 in the championship.
That batte for third overall is wide open. Currently sitting third in the points is Mugen’s Robert Pietsch but he is far from guaranteed keeping the position in which he also finished up the 2016 championship. Behind him is Lars Hoppe who is excelling since joining the Shepherd team this season and having made the Worlds final in France the quiet German’s confidence will be high. On the podium in Fiorano last year to secure third overall in the championship, Toni Gruber has a chance of the overall podium again. The WRC driver had a good start to the season with second at the opening round but things haven’t gone as well since. Of course being Fiorano there are sure to be a some very quick Italians in the mix.
In 1:10 Coelho comes into the deciding round with 2 wins and with ENS Germany winner Erik Dankel not making the trip to Fiorano, the Portuguese driver is clear favourite for title honours. An ENS title win would complete the triple crown for Coelho who has already lifted the Euro Touring Series and Euro Offroad Series titles this year. Holding second and third in the points stadings Thilo Todtmann and Marco Kaufmann could clinch the title should things not go Coelho’s way.With Dankel’s abscence, Dirk Wischnewski is heading the Mugen charge, the big news for Fiorano is the return of World Champion Dominic Greiner. The Serpent driver had been focused on 1:8 this year for the Worlds, qualifying 6th, but has openly declared his excitment about returning to 1:10. The German won the season finale last year just ahead of Dankel with Alessio Mazzeo, winner a year earlier, completing the podium. Mazzeo of course will be aiming for a return to the top step of the podium this weekend.
Another interesting boost for the touring car class is that of Toni Gruber. While he is the reigning European Champion in 1:10, his ENS focus has always been 1:8 but this weekend he will compete in both classes adding to the competitiveness of the Round 4 entry. For reigning champion Teemu Leino a DNF at the season opener left him the back foot. Fourth at Round 2 was an improvement but with testing for the 1:8 Worlds forcing him to miss the third round, his title chances were over. As a result the Finn, who claimed Infinity’s first ever major title last year when he won the 1:10 championship in Fiorano, will only race 1:8 this weekend. In addition to looking to Todtmann for a strong championship finish, Shepherd will have high hopes their quick new for 2017 Spanish recruit Eduardo Escandon can go one better on the competitive 2nd place he took in Ettlingen.
Simon Kurzbuch completed the perfect weekend at the penultimate round of the Euro Nitro Series in Austria. Having maintained 100% TQ record, the Shepherd driver pulled off his second win of the season ahead title rival Bruno Coelho. With Coelho running out of fuel during the 45-minute Aigen encounter, making things a lot easier for Kurzbuch to claimed his third ENS Austria win in a row, the result sets up a title showdown between the two great drivers for the season finale at Fiorano in Italy. Behind them Lars Hoppe would complete the podium ahead of a battling Jilles Groskamp, John Ermen and Robert Pietsch, the latter recovering from an early crash with Silvio Hächler.
‘Perfect work by my pitcrew and good work from me. I didn’t drive perfect but in the end we won’, was how Kurzbuch summed up his 8th ENS career win. He continued, ‘of course it was bad luck for Bruno but we are back in the championship now and that was our goal this weekend’. The World Champion would take note of Coelho’s fuel short coming and with no serious threat of the Portuguese driver catching him would make an additional fuel stop in the last 3-minutes of the race to be sure he wouldn’t suffer a similar faith. With ENS Austria the last major event before he defends his World title next month in France, Kurzbuch said he was very happy with his performance as well as for the ‘whole Shepherd team’ who with four cars in the final was the best represented manufacturer.
Coelho, who stunned the 1:8 runners with his performance at the season opener in Mulhouse and backed it up with a P2 in Ettlingen, said, ‘everything was going perfect until we had the flameout’. Running 5-minute stops he said they couldn’t explain why he ran out of fuel because it happened at 4:30, a considerable difference when all previous stops had shown up no issues. On that he said, ‘Maybe it was not refuelled fully but we need to look back at the lap times and see what happened’. Chasing his first ENS title as he goes for the triple crown of E championships having already been crowned the latest ETS and EOS champion, the Portuguese driver felt he didn’t have as good a car for the first half of the race as he did the second. He said, ‘My first set of tyres where not so good but the second set was perfect’. Setting the fastest lap of the race on the second set, he said the lat 25 minutes of the race was perfect and had he not had his flame out it would have been a very close finish between himself and Kurzbuch. While the World Championship will be the immediate focus of all the drivers for now, asked about the final ENS title decider in Italy, Coelho said, ‘It will be difficult. Fiorano I don’t like so much because it is a big open track but for sure I will go there to fight for the win’.
‘I’m very happy. Third was more than I expected before the final’, was the reaction of a very pleased Hoppe, the 2017 Shepherd signing enjoying his second podium finish at the Aigen track. The German continued, ‘the final was the best the car was all weekend. I had a crash a the beginning and had to put the trim completely to the left side but after that it was a clean race with no problems’. Making a complete tyre change during the race, he said having started out with a 5-minute fuel strategy once he had a gap over 4th they switched to 4:30 stops to be safe. Hoppe’s podium finish marks the first time since the inaugural ENS season that Shepherd have had two cars on the podium, he also a part of that when he finished 3rd behind Kurzbuch in 2nd at the Hockenheimring in 2014.
Flying the flag on his own this weekend for Infinity, Groskamp said, ‘From 10th to 4th is nice but the performance was not perfect’. The Dutchman continued, ‘Finally we found out our car works on small tyres but not on big tyres’. He said with his car on big tyres for the start he was more concerned about not getting in the way of other drivers because his car was difficult and as a result he was not able to get into his rhythm. Opting to change only the outside tyres at 15-minutes into the race, he said on rejoining the car was ‘really terrible, almost undriveable’ but then they came in and the car got better and better and all this considered he declared himself, ‘maximum happy with 4th’. Choosing to come Aigen as his preparations for the World Championship, he said, ‘I am very happy to be here because we learnt a lot about strategy. Changing only 1 side is not a good way, you save 5-seconds but you lose it on the track (in performance)’. He concluded, ‘we also know we need to work on the car’s performance on big tyres’.
A former winner in Aigen, John Ermen said his 5th place result was the ‘maximum possible’. The ARC driver said, ‘At the start my car was perfect. Its good on big or small tyres. My engine was on the rich side at the beginning but then on the second refuelling it was so rich to keep on the pace was impossible so I had to stop to tune it. Then 2 laps before my stop it ran out of fuel and one more time I had to have the engined tuned’. The Dutchman added, ‘With all this we lost too much time which was too bad, we had Top 3 pace’. For ARC team-mate Hächler, after a great qualifying performance that gave him his best ever starting position of P4, his hopes of a good race ended quickly after a crash with Pietsch in which his fuel tubing got nicked causing him engine tuning issues. After repairs the Swiss driver would go on to set the second fastest lap of the race, his pace some consolation for his P8 finish.
Completing the Top 6, Pietsch initially looked to have got away with the contact with Hächler but during his first fuel stop the INS Box which was unknowingly dislodged from the impact flew off in the pitlane. Others to have issues included newly crowned 1:10 European Champion Toni Gruber. The WRC driver had a heavy off in the warm-up and with damage to his car called the 10-minute delay. In the race however things didn’t improve for the Round 1 podium finisher as he continued to struggle with the cars steering as well as having to stop for repairs when the belt managed to get over the side of the pulley. He would finish 9th, 16 laps down on the leader.