Kurzbuch takes ENS win with ‘perfect’ race strategy
Simon Kurzbuch put his quest to regain the Euro Nitro Series title he lost to Dario Balestri last season firmly on track by denying the Italian a home victory today in Bologna. Starting the season opener from 4th on the grid, Balestri the Top Qualifier, Kurzbuch would have a race long battle with the Capricorn driver ultimately securing the win in the pits. Picking up where he left off last season when he won the season finale ahead of the champion to be, Kurzbuch’s third ENS win capped off the perfect day for his Shepherd team – Dirk Wischnewski winning the 1:10 A-Main for the German manufacturer. With rain forcing the race distance to be reduced from 45 to 30-minutes, the race started on a slightly damp but drying track with a fast starting Mirko Salemi leading the way until a tyre stop at 8-minutes. While this left Balestri to lead, the stage was set for a duel between the two champions which appeared to be decided by a quick final stop from Kurzbuch but ultimately it was strategy that would decide the race with Balestri quickly fading in the closing minutes, his Capricorn down to the rims. Finishing on the same lap as Balestri, Robert Pietsch would complete the podium for the first of the championship’s four races with Salemi, who impressed many this weekend, getting fourth a lap further back.
‘Perfect’ was how Kurzbuch described the race, the World Champion particularly proud of his pitcrew’s final stop that got him ahead of Balestri. Contributing his victory to his father Christian and Alex Kempe, the 24-year-old said they ran a ‘different strategy’ making two tyre stops. Changing just the outside tyres on his first stop at 9-minutes, at 17-minutes they changed all four and it was this that gave him the edge over the single stopping Balestri as the race reached a conclusion. Starting off the race with a cautious approach due to the ‘still a little wet’ sweeper leading onto the straight, he said for the first 3-minutes he ran ‘safe’ after which he ‘then pushed’. With the biggest drama of his race being getting ‘a little sideways’ in the wet pitlane, he said while he ‘unfortunately couldn’t TQ yesterday, to get the win was more important’ making for a ‘great start to the championship’.
Balestri was quick to concede he made the wrong call with his tyre strategy. Having originally planned the same stops as Kurzbuch they changed it expecting tyre wear to be less than yesterday’s dry conditions. ‘We made a mistake with strategy, the tyre consumption was the same as the last days’. The second year running he has TQ’d the season opener but ended up second, he would do a single four tyre change at 12-minute but said the 18-minutes to run on the second set left him on the rims at the end explaining why having been running right with Kurzbuch he almost found himself getting lapped by the winner. Summing up the event, he said ‘with 2nd I am happy anyway as my car & engine was OK and it was just a wrong decision that cost me the win’.
After struggling to find a set-up in qualifying Pietsch was ‘satisfied’ to finish on the podium. ‘Changing the car (set-up) again’ for the final he said it was ‘honestly not too bad’. Running behind Salemi, in an attempt to avoid the Italian when he spun at the chicane he ended up touching the curb and went off track himself. Feeling without this he may have been able to challenge Balestri at the end of the race, he said the result was an OK given ‘the level is the same as the World Championship’. He added ‘the only drivers missing where maybe five Japanese drivers but their places where filled by fast Italian drivers’. Running the new MRX-6 at the Lamberto Collari owned track for the first time he said ‘until now bad weather in Germany meant there was no chance to test’, and ‘to finish on the podium having run just six 6-minute runs on the track was encouraging for the rest of the championship’.
Salemi while disappointed with the result said the weekend has left him ‘confident for the rest of the year’. Leading from the start until the first of two tyre stops, the BP Racing driver said ‘there was something wrong with the tyres’ and struggling with the handling he would make two mistakes. After a second tyre stop for new tyres his RS4 ‘was good again but the damage was done’ in terms of being a contender for the win. Happy with performance of his car and engines, he is already looking forward to the second round of the ENS which takes place in Ettlingen, Germany in June. Just behind Salemi, Toni Gruber would also put in an impressive showing taking 5th on his ARC debut with Carmine Raiola completing the Top 6 as the leading Infinity driver.
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