May 6, 2018

D’hondt claims first ENS win in thrilling season opener

Robin D’hondt has claimed his first ever ENS victory today in the Netherlands, the Capricorn driver securing victory ahead of three of the 1:8 Onroad’s greatest drivers.  Starting from fifth on the grid, the Belgian was able to capitalise on others hitting trouble but when they came back at him he kept is nerve together with running a flawless race both on the track and in the pits.  Top Qualifier Simon Kurzbuch looked like he was on another of his Sunday drives but coming up to his second fuel stop the Shepherd driver’s car stopped.  This allowed the Infinity of Dario Balestri to move to the front but he would have problems on his first tyre stop with a stray tyre in the pitlane which he thought had come from his car.  All the while D’hondt was there to take control, and while Kurzbuch somehow recovered the 2-laps he lost early on, the European Champion kept the ENS Champion at bay.  With thrilling battles throughout the race for the podium positions, Silvio Hächler in the mix until hitting problems, when all the final pitstops were done & dusted, the final 4-minutes would produce a great battle for second between Kurzbuch and Balestri, the latter holding off his rival.  With Lamberto Collari a part of the battle but getting caught at the line he would just miss the podium.

‘It was a good race’, was D’hondt’s reaction after the race.  The quiet Belgian continued, ‘at the first fuel stop I could feel we were at the last of the tank so for the rest of the race I didn’t push only when I had to.  I was surprised Simon came so close given the problems he had but everything went perfect with the pitstops. It was a great job by my crew’. On his car, he said, ‘It felt really easy to drive throughout the final. My engine was a little rich but it was OK’.  Notching up his first ENS win, when asked if he now had title ambitions he replied, ‘due to work I can’t drive all the rounds but today was really nice to drive these drivers’ – those drivers being the current World Champion, his predecessor and a 9-time World Champion .

Balestri said, ‘We had many problems in the pits.  In my first tyre stop I hit a tyre in the pitlane and thought it was mine. Then in the second tyre stop there was trouble from my pit crew’.  On hitting a tyre of another driver in the pitlane in the first stop, the Italian stopped at the exit of the lane thinking it was from his car and was brought back to his pit space costing him a lot of time.  Despite his dramas in the pits, Balestri said, ‘It was a fun race with many overtaking and at the end we finished the weekend competitive.  I have to thank Kenji-San for giving me this opportunity to race’.

‘The first 4-minutes was perfect but then all of a sudden we ran out of fuel before the second stop’, explained Kurzbuch after the race.  The Swiss driver continued, ‘It took quite a long time to get back to the pit because there was no marshal where I stopped.  After this I just tried to come back as best I can’.  Dropping to the tail of the field, he would put in an impressive recovery before being hampered by a broken body in the final stages of the race. Having already made two ‘good’ full tyre stops, he said, ‘the body got broken on the curbs and was touching the ground so we had to make an extra stop for right side tyres only and that cost me the battle for the win’.

‘Tight’ was Collari’s reaction on missing out on an extra lap to battle for second by 6/10ths of a second.  The Infinity driver  continued, ‘At the start I crashed with other guys and the body came out’.  Stuck under the right side he opted to wait until his first fuel stop to fix it but by that time had already gone a lap down to Kurzbuch.  He said the race was about ‘recovery’ after that.  Behind him, team-mate Chavit Saligupta would complete a great weekend by claiming 5th Hächler, Merlin Depta and Jeffrey Rietveld. Surprise of the weekend, unfortunately a flame out denied us the chance to see Rietveld’s full potential but the Serpent driver was well in the mix for a podium before hand.

In the new for 2018 season 1:8 40+ class, the Dutch had plenty of reason to celebrate with Arie Manten completing the perfect weekend.  Taking the TQ, the Infinity driver would put in a dominant performance in the final to win ahead of fellow countryman Martin Zevenhoven driving a Serpent.  Having qualified 2nd, Denmark’s Bo Nielsen lost 2nd early in the race but held on to complete the Round 1 podium with his Infinity.

View the complete event results here.

View our event image gallery here.



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