August 18, 2017

Kurzbuch in control at ENS Austria as he takes Q1 & 2

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.

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