Jilles Groskamp has won Round 2 of the Euro Nitro Series ‘Pilot Series’ in Austria, the Shepherd driver taking the victory over Round 1 winner Eric Dankel, just 3-seconds separating them at the end of the 45-minute encounter. Former European Champion Dirk Wischnewski competed the Top 3 for the race which saw Top Qualifier Robert Pietsch suffer two on-track engine flame outs, the first of which happened on lap 3 while the Mugen driver was leading the 12-car field. Eventually finishing 8th, there was some consolation for the German as he claimed victory in 1:8 ahead of former European Champion Jernej Vuga.
A great start to Groskamp’s tour of European events over the next two months, the electric touring car World Champion was delighted with the win. Suffering one flame out which forced him to change his fuel strategy from his 3rd stop, the Dutchman said other than this it was the perfect race. Starting from No.2 on the grid, Groskamp took the lead on lap 3 after Pietsch’s flamed out and working to a strategy of 5:40 stops so as to save him a stop everything went perfectly for the first two stops. Just as he was called in for his third stop though his Maxima powered V10 PRO ran dry three corners from the pitlane. Saying that ‘if you want to win you need to take risks’, the former World Championship Top Qualifier said he took the risk and a change in weather, which got a lot hotter as the race progressed, was the probable cause of the short coming. Due to the high risk of a repeat occurrence, he said they switched to a 5-minute strategy for the rest of the race. Pacing himself to Dankel, who was closely in pursuit, early on in the race so as to conserve tyres, Groskamp was forced to push hard after the flame-out. Doing his tyre change exactly half way through the race, he said the tyre wear was much higher in the second half as he pushed to try and catch the leaders. Swapping the lead with Dankel and Wischnewski, as they all made their stops, on lap 92 he moved to the front for good building up enough of a gap that he even had time to do a quick safety fuel stop 11-laps from home.
Dankel summed up the race by saying it ‘went pretty OK’ but added that he made a wrong call on when to change his tyres as he made the change one fuel stop too late. With his Novarossi powered LAB-C02 having good traction as as he came up to his planned tyre stop he opted just to get fuel and to change tyres at the next stop, but within 2-minutes his tyres were down to the rims and he had to struggle on for 3 more minutes which he said ultimately cost him the chance of going for the win. Winning in Hockenheim and ‘finishing second to a World Champion’ to claim the overall ‘Pilot Series’ title, the factory Capricorn driver said overall he was very happy with his performance in the series. Such was the high level of competition in the final here at the ENS, Dankel’s father opted out of being his pitman and the German wanted to thank his ‘new crew’ for a great job.
Starting from 5th on the grid, Wischnewski said he was happy to finish on the podium as he finished the race with a loose wheel nut that made his NT1 difficult to drive in the later part of the race. Admitting he was very lucky that the nut didn’t come off, the factory Xray driver said for the first half of the race he had to pace himself to make his planned 25-minute tyre spot. Leading the race for 11 laps he said he was able to push much harder in the second half and put himself in contention for the win but as the wheel nut loosened his car just got too difficult to drive.
Finishing 9-seconds off his Xray team-mate, Alexander Hagberg said he had too many small problems to challenge for a podium. Running a competitive 3rd in the first half of the race he said his Orcan powered NT1 was really good at the start but once he changed to new tyres at 20-minutes it was really hard to drive and this resulted in a costly off. The Swede also had a problem with the tune of his engine changing throughout the final going back and forth between being rich and lean. Xray’s Martin Hudy, who bumped up from the B-final to start the final 12th, had a good race to finish 6th. The former World Championship podium finisher said his car was pretty good and easy to drive but he lacked top speed which he said was highlighted to him when Robert Pietsch took 3-metres out of him down the straight. The Xray team will stay on at the Stöhr-Ring track for 2 days of testing tomorrow as preparation for the upcoming European Championships which take place here in August.
Contesting in his first international Main final, 17-year-old Leo Arnold was delighted to finish 5th among the high quality field. The French Capricorn driver, who qualified 9th, said his Orion powered LAB-C02 performed really well throughout the race with the only hiccup being one messy fuel stop in which fuel split onto his tires causing him to spin out into the middle of the front straight as he exited the pitlane.
Finishing 7th, Francesco Tironi had a tough race, twice running out of fuel, but the Italian said following the overnight rain the traction today was very different and it did not suit his car set-up. While the result was not what he was hoping for, he said the weekend was good practice for the European Championships. Commenting on his first Euro Nitro Series outing he said he is confident that next year the series can do for nitro racing what the Euro Touring Series has done for electric touring car but added that for it to be taken seriously it needs to come to Italy as this is where the majority of the best drivers are.
Pietsch said while a double win today would have been nice he is still very happy with the performance and pace of his equipment this weekend. Asked about his early flame out he said he doesn’t know what the cause of it was but he just came off the throttle for the corner and it cut. Having changed to a fresh plug just before the race he said this is the only thing he thinks may have caused the cut. Setting the fastest lap of the race, he said he pushed very hard for 25-minutes on the same set of tyres with no issues adding this is good information to know for the European Championships.
Another early casualty of a flame out was Serpent’s Dominic Greiner who suffered his cut just moments before Pietsch. The 20-year-old, who did an impressive job this weekend qualifying his 747 fourth, was clearly disappointed with what would turn out to be a difficult race for the European B Vice Champion. The German said his car felt really good in the race and his tyre wear was also good but a series of engine cuts and then a problem with second gear after his tyre change which would only change up late on the main straight and nowhere in the infield, causing him to end the race in 10th position.
In the 1:8 Final Pietsch lead from start to finish to win by a lap from Vuga who was very happy to return to international racing with a podium finish. Completing the Top 3 in Kirchberg was recent Euro B podium finisher Michael Klausner who finished 3.6-second ahead of the winner of that event Daniel Sieber. Today’s win and his second place at Hockenheim give the World Champion the overall ‘Pilot Series’ title.