June 19, 2016

2 out 2 as Kurzbuch dominates ENS Germany

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Simon Kurzbuch made it two out of two in this season’s Euro Nitro Series with a dominant drive at Round 2 in Germany.  Top Qualifier at Minidrom Ettlingen, topping both rounds of qualifying that could be completed in-between the rain on Saturday, the Shepherd driver put in a text book performance in the 45-minute main to win by over a lap.  With last year’s winner Dario Balestri, who qualified 2nd expected to at least make the World Champion work for the win, that challenge lasted only 2-minutes as the Capricorn driver shed a front wheel.  This left Bruno Coelho to provide chase but the Xray driver would make a mistake leaving Kurzbuch to cruise home for an extensive lead in the championship standing.  One-lap down, a great drive from Toni Gruber would see the ARC driver finish second to claim his first ever ENS podium having seen off the challenge of Alberto Picco.  Crossing the line 3rd, Picco’s Mugen would fail post race scrutiny, the tank deemed to big, which promoted Capricorn’s Robin D’hondt up a spot to compete the podium.

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‘It been a perfect weekend for me. I took the bonus point for TQ and now have 2 from 2 which is great for the championship’, was Kurzbuch’s reaction after the race. The 2014 ENS Champion added, ‘After Balestri’s incident I already had a gap over Bruno and then he made an error.  After that I am able to stay in front without any pressure’. His fourth ENS race win, he said every aspect of the race went as planned adding, ‘My pit crew did a very good job and it was again a World Champion style tyre change’.  With Round 3 taking place in Aigen, Austria, in September the Swiss ace goes into the 10-week break with a 7-point advantage over Gruber.

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‘Second position is unbelievable’ was how Gruber summed up what was an impressive weekend’s performance from the 20-year-old. Starting 7th on the grid, having posted a P4 time in the opening qualifier, the German would make a ‘very good start’ gaining two places.  Running fifth he would then benefit from Balestri and Coelho’s mistakes before moving into 2nd by middle of the race.  Describing his R8.0 as being ’really good’ as the handout Enneti tyre diameter came down after making a tyre stop on 25-minutes he said ‘the car was fantastic’ towards the end of the race.   Admitting that having Picco behind him in the latter part of the race added a ‘little pressure’, the Round 1 5th place finisher was ‘forced to push hard’ to keep him at bay.

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While Picco would finish 3rd, just 6/10ths behind Gruber, he was to be later excluded.  A driver who has pushed for tighter technical checks he said it was ironic that he would be the first driver to be excluded from an ENS.  On the race itself, he said, ‘It was a nice race.  As I was starting 10th I was careful at the start and let the 11 & 12 car past me so as to not risk damaging the car’. He continued, ‘As I started to push I was able to gain time’ but then during his tyre stop as they placed the car on its left side the towel blocked the pipe causing an engine cut. After this he said ‘I simply drove as fast as possible’.  Getting into a battle with D’hondt he said he ‘took the risk of making fast pit stops’ to try get away from the Belgian but it was to be all in vain due to the tank irregularity.  One of the sport’s genuine figures, the Italian put his hand up in taking responsible for the failure saying, ‘we didn’t check it before the race, its our mistake’.

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On finding out he had been promote to 3rd, D’hondt said, ‘for only my second race wth the car to finish on the podium is not so bad’.  Making his Capricorn debut at Round 1 in Bologna where he finished 10th, the car ran very well and the only issue were two mistakes of his own doing which he said ‘I have to hit myself for these’.  His second time to make an ENS podium, he would run a 5-minute strategy but said it was close with his pit crew just fast enough to save the engine from flaming out during one of the stops.  With the Tesla engine ‘running like a dream’ he said his LAB C802 ‘felt great also’. D’hondt’s team-mate Balestri would finish 9th, the reigning champion at a loss as to why his front wheel came off.  With no issue with the wheel and him able to complete the race with all wheels staying firmly on the car he said, ‘I really don’t know how this happened’.  With a good car for the final he said they had a good race strategy running 2-more laps than Kurzbuch between refuelling which would have given him the advantage of one less stop but losing the wheel cancelled that out.

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Elsewhere Lamberto Collari who ended up the best Infinity finisher taking his example to fifth.  The Italian described it as a ‘difficult race’ adding ‘we didn’t have a good set-up’.  Team-mate Jilles Groskamp who qualified third would retire his car from the race after 28-minutes.  The Dutch ace said in the warm-up it felt broken and he was fighting with the car from the start. After changing tyres on one side he said ‘it was worse’ and he ‘had to stop’ adding it must have been unmatched tyres that were the problem.  Putting in his most competitive 1:8 showing to date, Coelho would complete the Top 6.  Running second on the ‘same pace as Simon’, the Portuguese driver would make a mistake and flip his RX8 at the end of the straight.  Dropping him down the order he said ‘after something like this there is no chance at this level’.

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