Simon Kurzbuch remains in control at ENS Austria with the Shepherd driver taking the opening two rounds of qualifying. Having set the pace in practice at Aigen, the reigning champion would take both qualifier’s ahead of title rival Bruno Coelho, the Xray driver just 2/10ths of a second off in Q1 after hitting traffic late in the run. After a crash with Toni Gruber in Q1, Silvio Hächler completing the Top 3 of the opening qualifier, Robert Pietsch would have a better second attempt setting the third fastest time in Q2 ahead of Gruber, Hächler and Jilles Groskamp.
Summing up the first of his TQ runs, Kurzbuch said, ‘It was really close at the end’. He continued, ‘I was a little nervous in the first one but I could come back at the end and beat Bruno. My car was really good so I could make some hot laps’. On his second run the World Champion said, ‘this was very good. I could push for the 4-minutes, everything went perfect’. Finishing the run with a new track record of 14.706 on his last lap, the Swiss driver ran used tyres on his second run but said while they were ‘a little faster at the beginning’ after 2-minutes they there was no noticeable difference between having started on new or used. He added that even though drivers get a long 4-minute warm-up before the start of the qualifier a new set of tyres still needs more time before they fully come in.
Summing up his qualifying Coelho said, ‘the last one I had a few mistakes but overall it was still ok’. Finishing Q2 1.5-seconds off Kurzbuch, the championship points leader felt his opening qualifier was a better run and it was only traffic at the end that cost him a TQ run. Reporting a not perfect clutch in seeding practice, he still feels he is missing bottom end power and while he accepts it is a ‘specific issue’ of the Aigen track layout he feels it is something they can work on for the next qualifier.
Pietsch, while happier with Q2 after his crash with Gruber in Q1 led to a DNF, only described his P3 as ‘OK’. A former Top Qualifier in Aigen, the Mugen designer and lead driver said, ‘this temperature is not good, I have a better package when its cooler’. With the final 2 qualifiers of the day, rain forecast for tomorrow making it a busier Day 1 for drivers than normal with 4 rounds of qualifying, the German is hoping he can benefit from the hot & humid conditions dropping as the evening sets in.
Gruber put his incident with Pietsch down to his engine changing tune during the run. With the engine changing to rich he said it was hard to drive hence his P6 for the round. With the engine issue sorted for Q2, the WRC driver said this amplified his set-up having too much steering out of corners. With some ideas of what they need to change to cure this the German is hoping to be closer to the pace for Q3.
‘I’m happy’ said a pleased looking Silvio Hächler. The OS Speed backed driver continued, ‘I have a super good engine and I think I’m in the right way for the Worlds which has been my goal this year’. P3 in Q1 and 5th in Q2, the ARC driver added, ‘I’ve a pretty good car too. It could be a little more stable but that’s something that is the same here for everyone’. Feeling there is more stability to be gotten from the car he will run a different rear end set-up for Q3.
Completing the Top 6 in Q2 having posted a P7 in Q1, Groskamp felt he has lost some of the speed he had in practice. The only Infinity driver in attendance this weekend, the Dutchman said, ‘Practice was all good, the controlled practice was a struggle and in Q1 I chunked a tyre.’ He continued, ‘before the car was very stable but now it is more loose so we need to look at how to make it more easy to drive. My practice pace was very nice and I was not far away. Q1 was very bad but I was closer in Q2 but for sure not the same as practice’. While a broken drive shaft in the first controlled practice would hamper him running-in one of his sets of tyres, Groskamp thinks part of the drop off in pace could be down to different tyre batch between free practice and the controlled race sets but he is confident they are ‘getting there’ in terms of getting back closer to the pace.
In 1:10, Bruno Coelho, the only driver double driving this weekend, would take the opening two qualifiers. He would TQ each run comfortably ahead of Xray team-mate Leo Arnold with Shepherd’s Thilo Tödtmann completing the Top 3 both rounds.
With the newly resurfaced MAV Aigen-Schlägl the venue for the third round of the Euro Nitro Series, it is Simon Kurzbuch who leads a competitive 1:8 field at the end of practice. The Shepherd driver was fastest in both rounds of controlled practice and will go into a busy evening of qualifying as the top seed. With five different manufacturers in the Top 5, Kurzbuch was fastest over 3-consecutive laps from Robert Pietsch, Toni Gruber, Bruno Coelho and Merlin Depta. While a perfect summer day in Aigen, unfortunately the forecast in particular for tomorrow morning is less favourable so the decision has been made to run late and ensure 4 of the 6 scheduled qualifiers get run today in dry conditions.
Winner in Aigen for the last 2-years, Kurzbuch said, ‘Practice went good. I had two good runs and got to run two different engines which both worked good so I’m confident we are prepared for qualifying’. The reigning champion continued, ‘we want to take the extra point for TQ so we can catch up to Bruno after what happened in Mulhouse so will give our best for that’. Asked about his car set-up the Swiss driver replied, ‘yesterday we tried a lot but we have ended up back at our standard set-up’. With the new asphalt improving with the more running it got, the World Champion said the traction levels as now very stable adding ‘the heat is not affecting the lap times which is quite surprising’.
‘I think we found something good in the car from the year before’, was how Pietsch summed up his practice. The Mugen driver continued, ‘we are running some new parts on the car for the Worlds and they work really well’. Asked his thoughts on the new surface he replied, ‘it’s getting better and better each run and it’s much better on the tyre wear’. Describing his car as being ‘on the edge’ he will add ‘a little more toe-in on the rear to be more safe’.
Fresh from being crowned the new European 1:10 Champion at Mulhouse in France last week, venue of the ENS Season opener, Toni Gruber said, ‘I think we are on the right way now for qualifying’. The WRC driver said, the event started off ‘difficult’ as they struggled to find a set-up for the track. He said having ‘needed a lot of time to find a set-up’ he is now able to get his lap times under 15-seconds with a car he described as ‘consistent’. Another driver pleased with the track’s much reduced tyre wear, the German said for Q1 he will run the car ‘how it is now’.
Fourth fastest, Coelho reported his clutch not being perfectly set for the final practice adding he was ‘lacking bottom power’ as a result. The Xray driver said this aside, ‘everything is looking good’ given how close the field is adding ‘the first four guys are within the same 1/10th (of a second)’. Describing the track as having a ‘very difficult layout’, this being only his second time to Aigen, he said the key to the track is ‘you have got to be consistent’. Planning to adjust his clutch but leave the rest of the car unchanged he concluded, ‘I should get some time from that’.
‘Quite OK’ was how Serpent’s Merla Depta summed up practice. The German used both seeding rounds to run the championship’s controlled MR33 tyre saying ‘I am never super fast on big tyres’. Asked about qualifying, he said, Dominic (Greiner) is fast so I think we have a good car but I think everyone’s times are almost the same. It is super close’. Greiner, a former 1:10 winner in Aigen, described his event as ‘ok so far’. He added, ‘we tried different engines and set-ups and while not 100% its close’. The 1:10 World Champion who has switched his attentions to 1:8 this season said, ‘I had too much steering on throttle in the last (practice) and its difficult with the curbing here. If you touch them you lose so much time so we will look to make the car more stable for Q1.’
With the timing of last week’s 1:10 European Championship affecting the 1:10 entry in Aigen, it looks like the perfect opportunity for Bruno Coelho to make back ground following his retirement from the A-Main at Round 2 in Ettlingen. Winner of the season opener, he was easily quickest in seeding from Xray team-mates Leo Arnold and Jakub Rozycki. Thilo Tödtmann heads the early Shepherd challenge with the fourth fastest time.
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 – 3 (2014, ’15 & ’16)
High up in the hills in the picturesque Austrian countryside is probably the last place one would expect to find an RC track. Just 10km from the German border and 7km from the Czech Republic, MAV Aigen-Schlägl is situated just outside its name sake town and is up there as a top class circuit with facilities to match. One of the stops on the ENS’ inaugural calendar in 2014, the track has hosted a round each season since and under the guidance of club President Martin Mayrhofer has made improvements ahead of each ENS visit to make a better experience for racers during there stay. With the pit area having been expanded in previous years, this year the track has undergone work that directly effects the performance of the cars with the laying of a new asphalt surface. The first resurfacing of the track since it was built on government owned land in 2006, the new surface will bring an end to the tracks reputation as a tyre eater.
With a lap covering 290 metres made up of a 65 metre long main straight that features a 5-degree uphill incline, the track is even more popular with drivers after its resurfacing. Making a return to the track after a busy schedule forced him to miss the event last year, Bruno Coelho is still a fan of the track which on his first visit in 2015 he described as one of the best tracks he has ever been to. The 1:8 Championship leader likes the ‘technical layout’ and feels the new surface offers ‘double traction’ to what the old surface had. While the layout is unchanged, the Xray driver said with the fresh asphalt the ‘flow of the track is much better now’. Reigning 1:8 champion and winner here on the last two visits, Simon Kurzbuch said, ‘the track looks great with the surface and new curbing. The curbs are now raised so you need to stay away from them’. The Shepherd driver said after lacking traction in initial runs on Thursday morning the grip levels are ‘now getting to normal status’ adding ‘I think now this is the best track in the ENS for tyre wear’. While describing the track as ‘small for 1:8’ he continued, ‘I really like it, it not flat as its built in a hill and that makes it more special’.
The Euro Nitro Series enters into the second half of the season this weekend as Aigen in Austria hosts Round 3 of the championship with the main focus of the weekend set to be on the 1:8 title battle between reigning champion Simon Kurzbuch and a surprise 1:8 contender Bruno Coelho. Located high in the Austrian mountains near the German border, this is Aigen’s fourth year on the ENS calendar and since last year’s visit when a new pit area greeted competitors, MAV Aigen have not let up on their commitment to providing racers with a top class facility. This year’s improvement is set to have a far greater direct effect on the racing than previous work with the track having just recently been completely resurfaced with new asphalt. This should make for a more level playing field with the previous surface presenting drivers with the challenge of high tyre wear. For Kurzbuch the track has been a happy hunting ground with the Shepherd driver the winner on the last two visits and second on the inaugural visit behind John Ermen. For Coelho, this will be only his second outing at the track, the Xray driver’s previous 2015 visit netting him fourth in the 1:10 A-Main.
Coelho leads the 1:8 standings, his double win at the season opener in France catching the entire 1:8 establishment by surprise. Showing that it wasn’t just his liking of the technical Mulhouse track layout, Coelho and the RX8 were right there again at Round 2 in Germany and it was only a mis-communication with his pit crew that resulted in a flame out that denied him from being right with Kurzbuch at the end. Still the Portuguese driver got second to stay put at the top in the standings and he will be looking to extend that by preventing Kurzbuch from making it three wins in a row in Aigen come Sunday. Having claimed the latest Euro Touring Series and Euro Offroad Series titles, Coelho is after a very unique hat trick and unlike Kurzbuch also has the 1:10 championship to focus on. Claiming his second TQ of the season in Ettlingen unfortunately the A-Main would end in retirement with new championship leader Erik Dankel taking the win but with Dankel not making the trip to Austria Coelho will try to regain ground and set-up a shoot-out for the season finale at Fiorano in Italy in October.
Since notching up his first ENS career win, Kurzbuch has been the benchmark at Aigen. The Swiss driver wrapped up his second ENS title there last year when he claimed his third win of the season but this year having faltered on his fuel strategy at the season opener, his focus is on making Round 1 his throw out round. As the last ENS encounter before the World Championship next month, the weekend will also be an important build up to France for the reigning World Champion.
A former Top Qualifier in Aigen but having to settle for second on that occasion, Robert Pietsch comes into the weekend sitting third in the standings. The Mugen driver has yet to make the podium this season but has been on the podium at the Austrian round the past two years. Behind Pietsch in the standings in Dominic Greiner. Better known for his 1:10 exploits, the Serpent driver taking the win in Aigen in the inaugural ENS season he has switched to 1:8 this year due to it being a World Championship year. Making the A-Main at the opening two rounds, the German will be hoping to target his first podium finish at a track he has always been quick at having also TQ’d there in 2015.
Having a brilliant 1:8 A-Main on the technical Mulhouse track to finish 2nd behind Coelho, Jilles Groskamp is also a fan of the Aigen track and he will single handedly represent the Infinity team at the third round. The former Touring Car World Champion was runner-up to team-mate Teemu Leino, last year’s winner, in 2015 enroute to becoming the 1:10 Champion. Fellow Dutchman, John Ermen took a wet win in 2014 in Aigen and just missed the podium the following year and following his best result in some time at Round 2 the ARC driver will be looking to be in the mix. Always one to go well in Aigen, Lars Hoppe will be another to watch. Making the switch to Shepherd for the 2017 season, the German is enjoying the atmosphere within his new team and kicked off the relationship with a strong Round 1 performance.
In 1:10, Coelho’s main opposition is set to come from within his own Xray team namely in the form of quick Frenchman Leo Arnold. Marco Kaufmann, having secured his first ENS podium last time out in Ettlingen, should also be the mix. Hoping to split up the Xray’s will be Shepherd’s Thilo Tödtmann who was on the podium last year with Leino and Dankel. Former Euro B Champion Patrick Nähr should also put Shepherd in the hunt.
Simon Kurzbuch has claimed the first win of his Euro Nitro Series title defence with victory at Round 2 of the championship in Germany. Running out of fuel at the season opener in France and finishing seventh, the Shepherd driver would register his 7th ENS career win with victory ahead of Round 1 winner Bruno Coelho with former champion Dario Balestri completing the podium. While Kurzbuch would lead the majority of the 45-minute final, it was another rough race for the World Champion with a not so perfect tyre stop and contact with a backmarker leaving him with a damaged exhaust that left him down on power. Coelho looked like he might once again beat the Swiss driver but bad communications between the Xray driver and his pit crew cost him the win as he ran out of fuel. There was also drama for Balestri as he made a late fuel stop but hit another car in pitlane resulting in him losing steering, the Infinity driver somehow limping the car to the finish line with a lot of trips onto the grass.
‘A final far from perfect’, was how Kurzbuch summed up his race. The two time ENS Champion continued, ‘The first 15-minutes it was good but the tyre stop wasn’t perfect’, the mounting of the new front left tyre giving his crew some issues despite the team repeatedly practicing stops last night after qualifying. He continued, ‘he still had the lead but then I hit backmarker and it destroyed the pipe and the engine got more rich and rich so I had to drive with no mistakes because Bruno was chasing but he had bad luck and in the end we could win’. A driver known for having a super quick pit crew, he said, ‘I won and I’m super happy as it put me back in the championship but need do better next time’.
In contrast to Kurzbuch, Coelho said, ‘It was a very good final, it was more stressful than the last time for sure but it was a very positive race so I’m not unhappy with the result’. He continued, ‘Bad communication between me and the pits were a problem. They called me in but I didn’t hear them and it cost me the win’. He added, ‘we had one less refuelling than him (Kurzbuch) and I was right behind him so in the end we would have been there’. Pleased with the performance of his RX8, he said the communications problem, a large number of drivers using headsets this weekend, ‘is easy to solve and get back on point again’. With today’s result keeping him at the top of the championship standings he concluded, ‘a second for the championship is very positive’.
Summing up his race, a marked improvement on the season opener, Balestri said, ‘The strategy was to take care of the right side tyres and push when we changed the ride side but Salemi was not looking and caused a crash in the pits’. The impact would brake the servo saver and his body, with Balestri just managing to get the car to the finish line. Despite the incident, the former Ettlingen race winner said, ‘I’m happy anyway because I am the first Infinity driver which has a lot of dream drivers and we know the gap with Simon (Kurzbuch) is really close and we will work on this for the World Championship’.
Balestri’s team-mate Alberto Picco would finish 4th. Bumping up from the B-Main, the Italian described his final as ‘a nice race’. He continued, ‘I started P11 so I was very careful at the start because with all the traffic there was a big chance to crash. My car was ok and I was building up my speed.’ With the race leader coming up behind him he said, ‘I let the leader passed but the car behind crashed me and I lost a lot of time. The car was still good but I think something was bent on the car but it was drivable so I just did my own race to the end’. He concluded, ‘I’m happy with 4th, I couldn’t do better’. Only 5-second behind Picco, former race winner John Ermen, who also bumped up from the B-Main, finished 5th with Robert Pietsch, who suffered a flame out, completing the Top 6 at Minidrom Ettlingen.