Dario Balestri has claimed his first 1:8 Euro Nitro Series win with a sterling performance at the record breaking entry third round in Germany. Also giving Capricorn their first 1:8 win of the championship, from second on the grid the Italian took advantage of early errors by reigning champion Simon Kurzbuch and Robert Pietsch who started each side of him. Going to the front after just 8-laps, once there last season’s 1:10 race winner made the race his own and leaves the event as the new championship leader. Having come into the weekend top of the points standings, Kurzbuch would crash out of podium placing in the final 10-minutes as he tried to avoid John Ermen’s car as it returned to the track following an excursion onto the grass. With the Shepherd driver losing over a minute as his car was repaired, the Austrian ENS winner would eventually finish 7th. Cutting the first corner at the start and dropping to 8th Pietsch would finish second 5-seconds back at the end of the dry 45-minute race, the rain that caused the earlier 1:10 A-Main to be stopped after 31-minutes clearing over the Minidrom Ettlingen track. In a surprise performance Silvio Hächler would complete the Top 3, the ARC driver having bumped from the B-Main to claim his first ENS podium.
‘Maybe one of my best races ever’ was how Balestri summed up what the win meant to him. Having ended qualifying yesterday with a TQ run, he said running the same set-up in the 10-minute A-Main practice session which took place just before the running of the B-Main his C802 was ‘very hard to drive’. Putting the change down to the morning rain which delayed proceedings, he said a carefully thought out set-up change for the race itself left him with an ‘amazing’ car. Getting by Kurzbuch after the Swiss driver ran wide, the Bologna ENS Top Qualifier & race runner-up said ‘to be honest I have to thank Patrizio (Rossi) for his good work in the pits as his refuelling was faster than Kurzbuch’s and this helped me a lot to build the lead’. With the Capricorn boss also executing a tyre stop with ‘no problems’, Balestri complimented his Tesla engine which he said ‘gave no problems’.
Pietsch, who also finished second in Austria, joked ‘it feels like I am starting a collection of 2nd places’ adding ‘I hope for the Euros and Fiorano (ENS Finale) I can go one better’. Despite still searching for his first win of the season, the Mugen driver was ‘really happy with today’s result because all the strategy worked out’. The German said the only problem of the race was the ‘start crash’ caused by the ‘grid boxes (being) too close together’ which let the 12-car field closely bunched up at the start. As a result of this he ‘lost too much time’ and with it any chance of the win. Driving his ‘own race’, he said his Picco powered MRX-5 ran faultlessly and he was ‘really happy’ that he also ran the rest of the race with ‘no mistakes’ adding it was nice that they got to have a dry race unlike in 1:10.
‘I’m super happy with third’ was Hächler’s reaction to finishing on the podium. Securing the final spot on the grid after a ‘really close’ battle with Steven Cuypers in the B-Main, the ARC team driver said his ‘car was never really good today’. Happy with the R8.0 in the final qualifier yesterday, the 23-year-old said after the rain the track had a different feeling which didn’t suit his car making his podium finish even more rewarding. Describing his fuel & tyre stops as ‘perfect’, the Swiss driver said he is feeling confident for the Euros and the fourth Round of the ENS.
Finishing fourth, just 1.3 seconds behind Hächler, when asked how his race went Robin D’Hondt replied ‘I had a shit start and lost almost a lap’. Starting from P5, the BMT driver was last at the end of lap 1 following the start chaos after which he ‘just drove (his) own race’ saying he ‘didn’t know where (he) was running’ for the entire race ending the sentence by looking to confirm he finished fourth. Happy with stops over the race the Belgian said after his tyre change the car was ‘a bit difficult’ on the big new tyres and it took him a few laps to get back into a good rhythm. His first A-Main appearance of the ENS since joining BMT for the 2015 season, the World Championship finalist has found a good base set-up now for the 984 but still the car is too aggressive and he needs to get it smoother adding with this he hopes to go at least one place better at the next round in Fiorano, Italy to claim his first podium finish. Behind D’Hondt, ENS Round 1 podium finisher Andrea Pirani finished 5th with Shepherd’s Francesco Tironi rounding out the Top 6.
A very deflated Kurzbuch said ‘the start was ok’ but they were ‘difficult conditions’ and he made a ‘little mistake and dropped behind Dario’. Setting the fastest lap of the race as the only driver to do a 12-second lap, he would suffer an engine flame during his tyre stop and then spinning on exiting the pitlane he said from then on he was ‘always behind and couldn’t catch (the leaders)’. Settling for third, the multiple World Championship finalist’s drama were not over. Spotting Ermen’s car coming across the grass he tried to avoid the ARC team driver resulting in him crashing which he said ‘destroyed the car’ although he would manage to complete the full race distance albeit falling back in 7th.