Simon Kurzbuch completed the perfect championship campaign as he made it four wins from the four races that make up the Euro Nitro Series. Having already sewn up the title at Round 3 in Austria, the World Champion capped off his 2nd ENS title with a fourth win at 2016 season finale at the Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter track in Fiorano, Italy. Starting what would be reduced to a 30-minute final due to rain from fourth on the grid the Team Shepherd driver would go to the front just before the half way mark to go on and take victory ahead of Top Qualifier Dario Balestri, front tyre management hampering last year’s Champion’s quest for the win. Behind the two title protagonists, emerging star of the 2016 championship Toni Gruber would cap off a great campaign by claiming a second podium finish of the season.
‘It couldn’t have been better. It’s great to finish the season with this win. I am very thankful to my sponsors for giving me a good package this year’, was how Kurzbuch summed up his season. He added, ‘four out of four is almost impossible to repeat. The ENS is very important for me and my sponsors so for sure the aim now is to try and become the first driver to win back to back titles’. On today’s race, the Swiss driver said, ‘Starting fourth made it a little more difficult than from the front and I lost one position but by the first (fuel) stop I was up to third’. He continued, ‘I had to drive a little smooth to make the left tyre last the 30-minutes because we were only changing the outside tyres but we had a really good tyre stop and this helped giving us the win’.
‘Like I told you after qualifying we didn’t have the tyre strategy and again the problem was front tyres’, was Balestri’s reaction to losing out to Kurzbuch on the season finale win for a second year running. The Capricorn driver said the shortening of the race also hurt his chances as while others could just change the outside tyres he still had to change all four adding, ‘changing only one side I would not have had front tyres to get to the finish’. Asked about a cure for the problem that has twice cost the race’s Top Qualifier from converting pole position into victory, the 2015 Champion said, ‘maybe for this track I need a different set-up but for sure we have to try better to fight with Simon next year’.
Gruber summed up his race with, ‘I think 3rd position is good because we planned our strategy for 45-minutes and then the race was reduced to 30’. The 20-year old, for whom 2016 was his first season with ARC, continued, ‘we switched strategy to change only the right side and at the end I had little tyre left but all the way through everything was perfect with the car’. Reflecting on a season that has put the German driver on a number of manufacturers’ radars, he said, ‘I am absolutely happy with how the season went. This was my first year with another car (brand) and it was my best season. I’m very satisfied with 3rd overall in the championship’.
Outside of the podium in Fiorano, it was Francesco Tironi who was to come out on top of an intense all-Team Infinity battle for fourth place that also involved Lamberto Collari, Jesse Davis and Jilles Groskamp. Starting from 6th on the grid, Tironi would have a rough start to the race with an early crash and then an off at the chicane that would leave him one lap down and last of the 12 car field. Describing himself ‘happy with my car and engine’, the popular Italian said through the car’s consistency and being able to do 5-minutes between fuel stops he could recover to fourth. With the ‘level (of competition) really high’ he felt ‘without the problem at the start a podium was possible today’. Completing his first season driving for Team Infinity with his best result, he said, ‘for sure 2017 will be better’. Just 3/10ths behind Tironi, Collari would finish 5th equalling his best finish of the season, with Australian Davis completing the Top 6.
Dominic Greiner has won the season finale of the Euro Nitro Series but it is Teemu Leino who claimed the biggest prize with 6th in a rain shortened A-Main in Fiorano enough to crown him the 2016 1:10 Champion. Top Qualifier for the race, a heavy crash with Marc Rheinard would leave Greiner with a difficult car for the final but strategy and quick work by his pit crew would allow the Serpent driver to take his first win of the season. With the race going 40 of the scheduled 45-minutes, the World Champion’s second ENS win would come ahead of title contender Eric Dankel, the fast closing Mugen driver finishing 4-second off when the race was stopped. Having led for a time in first half of the race, last year’s race winner Alessio Mazzeo was to complete the podium at Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter. Starting second on the grid, while Leino never needed to win the race to secure the title he didn’t make things easy for himself with an early off that resulting in a flameout and the loss of 2-laps raising the heart rates of his Team Infinity crew. Keeping his composure and a close eye on the progress of points leader coming into the weekend Dirk Wischnewski, the Finn would recover from 11th with the fastest lap of the race to finish 6th. With Wischnewski finishing 4th, this was enough for Leino to take the title by 3-points from the German with Dankel’s second giving him 3rd a further 1-point back.
Commenting on his error that made his title quest that more challenging, Leino said, ‘In the beginning I was just following Dominic and trying to get a gap on third but then I don’t know, the racer kicked in and I wanted to win the race and I made a stupid mistake at the chicane’. With the error sending his car flying through the air and it flaming out on landing in the far left corner of the track with two laps lost as he was returned to the pits, he said ‘I knew from the first 3-minutes the car was fast enough so there was no need to panic and I could push to make up positions and make the points to become champion’. He added, ‘I only needed to follow where was Dirk and I was not far behind him’. Describing his performance this weekend as ‘not the full potential’, his 1:8 Offroad World Championship participation and the lack of practice at the race due to the rain leaving him on the back foot compared to his rivals, he said he was ‘surprised how well the car has gone in such a short time’, it only making its debut at the World Championships in August before taking its first win at the ENS in Aigen. His first season with the new Infinity team he said, ‘I think next year we can be stronger and I have to thank Kenji for his support because without it this title wouldn’t have been possible. I also have to thank Novarossi for the engine, it was the same engine I used in all three races’.
‘A super difficult race’ was Greiner’s reaction after finally registering a win this season having been a contender at all four rounds of this season’s ENS. He continued, ‘I hit Marc (Rheinard) on the back straight in the warm-up and the chassis was tweaked but we had no time to change it’. He said while the car felt ok at the beginning, his fastest lap coming on the 7th lap, he said as the race went on he could feel the car was not right after the warm-up crash. Struggling with his tweaked Novarossi powered 748, he was quick to attribute the work of his pit crew for today’s win. With the same World Championship winning crew of Thomas Günsel and Daniele Ielasi, he said, ‘I had an excellent pit crew again and they made this victory happen’. Admitting it was going to be a close race with Dankel, describing his fellow countryman as ‘super fast’, Greiner said for 10-laps before the race was stopped he was struggling with conditions adding ‘stopping (the race) was the best decision’. With ‘bad luck in Aigen’ ending his title chances Greiner said, ‘our package is very good at the moment so I hope for better luck for the next ENS season’.
‘From 9th on the grid it was good’ was how Dankel summed up his race. The 2014 Champion continued, ‘my opinion is they stopped a little early. Ok it was a race control decision but on my side it was unlucky but on Dominic side it was good’. Feeling ‘it would have been close (for the win) had the race gone the whole distance’, he said his fuel strategy was not as good as Greiner’s. ‘We couldn’t do 5-minutes, Dominic did’. Further compounding this was Dankel’s own error of pitting a lap early. He said, ‘I thought I heard my pits call me so I came in but they hadn’t and were expecting a lap later and this messed up our strategy a little’. Finishing third overall, he said, ‘compared to last season it been a very good year’. Having moved to Mugen for 2016, he continued, ‘I know more about the car now so if we can start with the same pace next season we should be stronger for the championship’. Having TQ’d the season opener but the race turn out to be wet, he was to sit out the final having never driven the car in wet conditions before.
‘We were fast but we lost time in the tyre change’, was Mazzeo’s view of where he missed out on the win. The Serpent driver, who would lead for more than 20% of the race, continued, ‘then after the tyre stop I traction rolled at the end of the straight and lost one lap’. The Vice-World Champion would un-lap himself and get to within challenging distance of both Greiner and Dankel for the win. ‘I was only 6-seconds back but the rain came. If the race didn’t stop I could take the win, I was faster today. Anyway congratulations to Dominic, he has a very good team and also congratulations to Teemu on the title.’
Wischnewski said ‘for sure we lost it at the beginning’. Finishing almost 2-laps off the final podium place, the Team Shepherd driver would get caught up in the ‘chaos’ of the first lap and drop from his P5 starting position to 9th. He said the contact left his car ‘a little tweaked’ but recovering 3 places he would make a mistake that sent him in to the grass and with damp tyres he found himself back in 9th. Opting to change just one side in his tyre stop, the winner of the season opener said ‘this was a good decision’ but the damage was already done at the start. Despite this the former European Champion was pleased to end the season as Vice-Champion matching his result of the inaugural season of the ENS.
Elsewhere for yesterdays bump up master, the A-Main being the 7th final of the weekend he would race, a third lap clash with Thilo Tödtmann, would end any chance of a good result for Bruno Coelho. The Xray driver said after the incident his chassis was ‘like a banana’. Recovering to finish 5th, the Portuguese driver said while engine issues in qualifying made the weekend an uphill battle he was encouraged for next season by new parts he was running on the car which he said were very good. For ENS debutant Marc Rheinard an engine change for the final would deny him from backing up his strong qualifying performance. The Team Infinity driver, who on a one race deal is expected to do a full 2017 ENS programme with the new manufacturer, was caught out by the run time on the new engine suffering a flame out as he pitted for fuel. Working his way back into podium contention from this unfortunately the multiple Electric Touring Car World Champions engine would move and strip the gears. The German said, for sure we were close to fight for the win but we will be better prepared for the next time’.
Jilles Groskamp and Mirko Salemi will complete the 1:8 A-Main grid at the season final of the Euro Nitro Series in Fiorano after finishing 1-2 in the B-Main this evening at the Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter track. The 15-minute encounter would see Groskamp, who was to run out of fuel while attempting to bump up from the 1:10 B-Main, take the lead from Salemi due to the BP Racing driver needing to do an extra fuel stop. Salemi, who started 2nd, found himself in the lead when Bruno Coelho went crashing out after establishing an early advantage. Starting from pole, Coelho’s quest to bump up into both A-Mains, having just won the 1:10 B-Main, ended just before the 2-minute mark as the rear upper bulk heads came loose sending his Xray off the track spectacularly at the end of the main straight.
Commenting on his race Groskamp said, ‘It was a good start and I was running steady in third. I knew I didn’t need to win to get the car in to the B-Main so I was patient’. The Team Infinity driver continued, ‘then Bruno crashed and I was in second and when I saw Mirko stop at 4-minutes I knew I had an advantage on him as I could run one stop less. I saw Max (Vogl) was closing in third but I was able to keep the gap to him before Max crashed in the pitlane’. The only issue of the race for the Dutch driver was his brakes. Fitting new brakes to the car for the B-Main he forgot to adjust his radio which he said made it hard to stop in the pitlane. He added, ‘I was disappointed I didn’t bump up to the 1:10 final because after my flame out my lap times were very good but I actually I’m really happy to make the 1:8 final. It’s nice to have four cars in the final’.
Bruno Coelho has recovered from a qualifying disaster at the Euro Nitro Series season finale to bump up into tomorrow morning’s 1:10 A-Main. The Xray driver was to suffer engine failures in the opening two qualifiers and with 2 from the reduced 3 rounds to count, the season opener Top Qualifier found himself in the G-Main in Fiorano. Bumping up a total of six times, when it came to doing the B-Main the World Championship podium finisher had already amassed 90-minutes of race time and that stood to him in the 15-minute encounter which would decide the final to places on the 12-car A-Main grid. Well in his rhythm, starting the encounter from 9th on the grid he would take just 6-laps to get to the front. Once there he would pull away as his key revivals hit problems. Running in 2nd, having started from pole, reigning champion Jilles Groskamp would run out of fuel on his in-lap for his first fuel stop, ending the Team Infinity driver’s chances of progressing. Knowing his engine was too rich, the Dutch driver had called to his pit crew that he wasn’t going go the full planned distance, telling him to go one more lap as they got ready for the early stop but with two corners to complete his car ran dry and stopped. The battle for second was then between Spain’s Victor Pelaez and Martin Hudy but the Xray designer’s engine was to go pop at the 9-minute mark leaving Serpent’s Pelaez breathing space to claim the final bump up spot, 1-lap down on Coelho and 4-seconds up on Aigen A-finalist Jakub Rozycki.
‘A busy day’ was Coelho’s reaction after his B-Main win. Explaining the engine problems that left the former ENS race winner to qualify so lowly, he said, ‘I broke an engine in the first qualifying yesterday, which we put down to a bad engine. When we broke another in Q2 we knew there must be some other problem and there was with the fuel tubing’. Replacing all the tubing for the final qualifier, completing the heat without engine issues although his transponder did miss laps which were latter corrected, he said he knew he had a very good car and going into each final he ‘just needed to drive it’. Looking to the A-Main he said, ‘for the final everything is open, it is 45-minutes so there is plenty of time. I’m not here to make the A-Main, I am here to win, so that is what I will be going for’.