Simon Kurzbuch has taken the opening qualifier at the season finale of the Euro Nitro Series in Italy. Top seed for qualifying, the Shepherd driver took the first of the four rounds by 0.7 of a second from title rival Bruno Coelho, the Xray driver looking a much stronger contender that he had done in practice. Francesco Tironi led the Infinity challenge, posting the 3rd fastest time followed by team-mate Oliver Mack. Making a return to the ENS, former podium finisher Andrea Pirani would take his ARC to the fifth fastest time ahead of newly crowned World Champion Dario Balestri.
‘The car was very good as well as the engine’, was Kurzbuch’s reaction after Q1. The reigning champion and two time Fiorano winner continued, ‘I had a very good feeling from the car in the warm-up. We just had to adjust the engine for the cooler conditions’. Complimenting his new Futaba T7PX transmitter which he is running for the first time this weekend, he added, ‘Naoto was behind me so I could see what he was doing and at the end I was able to drive to bring it home’. Happy to leave his Velox V8 unchanged for Q2, the Swiss driver said, ‘maybe we will switch to another engine to one more set-up for hotter conditions. I have two race engines, one for when its cold and one when its hot’.
‘Very good compared to the other days’, was how Coelho summed up his qualifier. Having struggled yesterday, he continued, ‘we found something very good on the car and it was a good run but I had 3-mistakes when I got on the curbs which were wet and lost time because of the that’. Looking to Q2, he said, ‘the track is very easy, the best lap is the same for everyone so the small detail make the difference. We changed the car a lot yesterday but now it works so we will leave it the same so I can get used to driving it and improve my consistency which is where the time is to be made’.
Seeding No.2 in controlled practice, Tironi said, ‘Like yesterday the feeling of the car was ok and everything worked good. I am happy and with the feeling good I will leave it the same for the next one’. Asked about his driving over the 4-minutes, the Italian replied, ‘I had traffic on the first lap but I don’t lose anything. I had maybe 2 or 3 little mistakes when my line in the corner was not perfect but I think the run was close to my best’.
‘Happy’ was Mack’s reaction to setting the 4th fastest time. Only 13th fastest in the seeding, the former European Champion continued, ‘yesterday I had a good car but I am not so good over 3-laps but over 4-minutes I am ok’. He added, ‘my car was very nervous in the warm-up so we move the wing to the maximum height. It was still nervous but got better during the heat. I’m not sure whether to change something or not but I think I will go the same because 2 count so if I can get one more I’m OK for the final’.
Making a welcome return to the championship, this his first outing with ARC, Pirani said, ‘the car is working better than the days before. We found the steering that we were missing the previous days. I’m happy’. With the Top 5 covered by a second the Italian added, ‘we are all very close so it is important you don’t make a mistake’. On his car set-up he said, ‘I will try to improve the steering again. In racing you always don’t have enough but what we have now is a good base set-up’.
Having a substantial off in the warm-up, Balestri was somewhat coy about his run to the sixth fastest time. Last year’s Top Qualifier at Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter, he said, ‘It was a slow run to get to the finish. The car was ok but I had a little traffic in the end’. Asked about car set-up having struggled to find balance in his newly built car yesterday, he replied, ‘we will change something’. Behind Balestri, Matsukura would post the 7th fastest time after two bad laps with Jesse Davis, Lamberto Collari and Alberto Picco rounding out the Top 10.
Simon Kurzbuch is the top seed for qualifying at the season finale of the Euro Nitro Series in Fiorano, Italy. The defending champion was fastest after the two rounds of controlled practice from Francesco Tironi. Tironi headed a group of 5 Infinity cars that would fill out the Top 6 seeding times with Alberto Picco third ahead of Jesse Davis, Naoto Matsukura and Dario Balestri. Kurzbuch’s only title threat, Bruno Coelho’s would end practice down in P7, the Xray driver struggling so far in Italy to match the form he showed against the Shepherd over the 3 previous championship encounters this season.
Winner here last year despite qualifying P4, Kurzbuch was pleased that he has finally pieced together a good package the rest of the weekend. Summing up CP1 pace as ‘2 good laps and 1 ok lap’ which put him P3 behind Matsukura and Balestri, he added his second attempt ‘was not only 3-good laps but a good (entire) run’. The Swiss driver put his improvement down to having ‘found an engine for this track’. The factory Novarossi driver tried three different engines over the day and having tried various venturi combinations yesterday he now had an engine for qualifying that suited the track layout and also gave him a good feeling at the controls.
Making a marked improvement on his free practice pace, Tironi said his car ‘works really well’ adding ‘the set-up is close to the Worlds, just with some camber changes’. With his CP1 time outside the Top 10, a front roll bar change and further camber change for the second run made ‘a big difference to the corner speed’ allowing the Italian to improve his pace by 8/10ths. He concluded, ‘the feeling of the car is good so I think we are good for the qualifying’.
On the Fiorano podium last year, Picco said having tried ‘a few different set-ups’ they were ‘finally going in one direction’ to achieve the best solution for the track. Describing it as ‘not easy’, the veteran racer said, ‘after the 1:5 race the track is a little strange. It feels like understeer but it is easy to control out of the corner because of the traction’. Fresh from making the final at the Worlds in France, he concluded, ‘we miss a little bit to the others but we can not really complain’.
Having solved his engine issues by replacing both the fuel tubing and fuel tank, Davis was happy with his Infinity/OS package describing the car as having a ‘good and consistent 4-minute set-up’. Looking to qualifying the Aussie said, ‘we just needed to finalise the front and rear cambers and then we should be ok for (qualifying) tomorrow’. Team-mate Matsukura who was fastest in CP1 said his ‘car was ok’ but his engine was too rich and that was why he couldn’t maintain the top spot when the track was faster for CP2. Asked about changes for qualifying, 1:8 Onroad’s new star on the block said, they will ‘just open it up (the engine tuning) for tomorrow so we can go faster’.
‘We still need to find the optimal balance’ was Balestri’s summary of controlled practice. The World Champion said the rear tyre this weekend for qualifying is softer and they need to find the right adjustment for the shore adding, we will work on it for tomorrow’. Originally Q1 for 1:8 was to bring today’s action to a close but with drivers discovering the shore difference between the practice batch and the race batch of tyres the organisers added an extra round of free practice for drivers to adjust their set-ups with Q1 moved to tomorrow morning alongside that of the opening 1:10 qualifier. Over a 1/10th of a second off Balestri, Coelho believes part of his problem is the tyres. The Xray driver said, ‘the car is not perfect but it now feels like no traction. Maybe the issue is with the tyres. We need to find out something’.
Dominic Greiner looks to be having no issue picking up where he left off in the Euro Nitro Series, with 1:10 class returnee topping seeding at the season finale in Italy. The Serpent driver, whose last ENS outing in 1:10 was at the same venue 12-months ago when he took the TQ and victory, set the fastest 3-consecutive laps in the second of the two controlled practices. As in free practice Bruno Coelho, who was quickest after CP1, was his closest rival with Alessio Mazzeo completing the Top 3. Returning to racing after a 5-month break, Italian David Loppini made it three Xrays in the Top 6, seeding P4 ahead of WRC’s Toni Gruber and Mugen’s Dirk Wischnewski.
Having struggled with his car in the first controlled practice, ending up second fastest between Coelho and Mazzeo, Greiner said, ‘we changed completely the set-up between rounds. In the first one it was not easy to drive so we went back to a set-up from yesterday and went harder in the shock oil. With this it was stable and easy to drive. The only thing that could have been better was the engine tuning. It was a bit too rich but overall I am happy, we are good now for qualifying tomorrow’.
‘We still need to work a little in the car’ was how Coelho reacted to finishing up second fastest. The Championship leader adding, ‘it is missing steering off power but we found a problem afterwards so that should fix this and improve the corner speed’. Chasing his first ENS title to complete the E triple crown having already become ETS and EOS Champion, the Portuguese driver wasn’t happy with his registered time which was 2/10ths off Greiner’s pace, saying ‘I didn’t get three good laps because I was always making mistakes but with better steering I think tomorrow will be better’.
With the track proving quicker for CP2, Mazzeo would end up 3rd with his opening time after an early mistake in the second run left him with a chunked rear right tyre causing his car to be loose in the rear. The Italian said, ‘The car is very good once the tyre is not broken and it is very consistent so we are looking good for qualifying’.
Loppini was pleased with his P4 seeding saying having not raced for 5 months his main focus so far was on getting back the feeling for driving. Having made the final of the ENS Season Finale on all three previous occasions, the 23-year-old said his car is now good after they did a lot of work with the rear diff to find a good solution to giving him a safe but fast car. Looking to further fine tune his 2017 NT1, he will switch from the traditional front anti-roll bar to the blade set-up for the first qualifier as well as change to a harder clutch spring to get more initial punch from his engine.
‘Now it works better’, was European Champion Gruber’s reaction after seeding. The German said changing to a softer rear diff had made his car more stable contributing to a better overall balance. Focusing now on improving the steering, he will adjust the top chassis flex, move the chassis weight from the front to the rear position as well as make a caster change.
Mirko Salemi was a somewhat surprise name at the top of the time sheets at the end of free practice. The Mugen driver set the fastest 5-consecutive laps over first time track visitor Naoto Matsukura with reigning champion Simon Kurzbuch completing the Top 3. With the main focus in Fiorano, Italy, on the title battle between Kurzbuch and Bruno Coelho, the latter would only post the 16th fastest time. The Xray driver said, ‘yesterday was very good but today is not going as well. We changed a lot on the car to try go faster but we need to back to our previous set-up. I think once we do it will be ok’. Making his first appearance since being crowned World Champion in France, a very under the weather Dario Balestri would end up only 8th quickest.
‘Good until now’, was how Salemi summed up his Free Practice form. Admitting the Fiorano track was one where he does most of his testing, the Italian posted his fastest time in yesterday’s penultimate run feeling track conditions where better then. A finalist on all three previous ENS Italy encounters, he said, ‘the track is different to yesterday, there is less traction today and now the tyre wear is higher’. In terms of his ‘original kit’ spec MRX6, he said the aim going into controlled practice was to try and get a little more steering through a caster change.
Another driver not in the best of health but not quite as ill as Balestri, Matsukura summed up practice as having gone ‘not too bad’. Asked his first opinion of the track layout, the Japanese ace replied, ‘It’s fun but it is not so difficult’. Only 1/10 off Salemi, describing the time as ‘very close’, the Infinity driver said his car has ‘good balance’ adding ‘the steering and traction have been good from the start’. With little adjustment needed to his car set-up, the World Championship Super Pole winner spent much of yesterday’s seven rounds of practice trying different OS engines and he is happy he has a good one picked out for qualifying. For 1:8 today’s action will conclude with the first of their four rounds of qualifying.
Commenting on practice Kurzbuch said, ‘We arrived yesterday morning and the car was good so we worked on engines to improve what we have and we have ended up with something better than before’. Winner on 2 of the 3 ENS visits to the famed Italian track, the Shepherd driver is predicting things are ‘going to be close’ adding ‘every time someone different is fastest’. Asked about the track following its cleaning after the recent 1:5 race meeting, the Swiss driver said while wear is a quite high, after starting out a bit different yesterday, today conditions are ‘already back to normal’.
Fifth fastest in between team-mates Alberto Picco and Teemu Leino, Jesse Davis is struggling with finding a consistent tune on his engine. The Australian said, ‘after six or seven laps the engine is going slightly lean and we don’t know why. We even took out rear camber in case it was putting load on the engine but it is still the same so we will change the fuel tubing and the fuel tank for the next one’. In terms of his car, he said, ‘the car is fine. It’s the same car from the Worlds with the same set-up still on it’.
Looking like he would rather be in bed rather than at a race track, Balestri said he has been feeling sick since returning home after France. Running a new car this weekend, his Worlds winning car and the trophy proudly on display together at his house, he said, ‘you can build the cars the same way but they are always different (to drive) so we are still working on the set-up to get the right balance’. Behind Balestri, Lamberto Collari and Francesco Tironi completed the Top 10 for Free Practice.
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’.