Jilles Groskamp has opened the 2018 Infinity Euro Nitro Series in the Netherlands with his first ever win of the championship. Despite being the 2016 Champion, a title that came from consistency, the Dutch driver claimed the win in Rucphen with a perfect strategy while his rivals hit problems. Top Qualifier Alessio Mazzeo would quickly struggle with an engine problem dropping him off the earlier lead. Having quickly worked his way from fifth on the grid, World Champion Dominic Greiner would also have a similar faith after looking like he was about to dominate proceedings. Eventually retiring from the final, the race was a continuation of what was to be an ‘unlucky’ weekend for the pre-season favourite. With their rivals out of contention, the race turned into a battle between Groskamp and his Infinity team-mate Teemu Leino but with the INS box knocked off in the previous fuel stop the Finn’s engine ran lean resulting in plug failure. In the end it would be WRC Racing’s Melvin Diekmann who would take second with Eduardo Escandon, who had clutch issues in the second half the race having lead for a time, completing the Round 1 podium. While Mazzeo would cross the line third, when Diekmann was reinstated missed laps, the Xray driver was classified 4th ahead of 1:10 rookie Lamberto Collari.
‘It is really nice to win my first ENS in Holland. The new car was great this weekend’, was the reaction of Groskamp. He continued, ‘the race started really good but then I back off behind Alessio until he had a problem. I tried to stay ahead but Dominic was fast and I didn’t know what strategy he was on so when he made a pass down my inside I let him go. I then just planned to keep in touch but at 15-minute I could feel the car was getting loose so I made the call to stop for tyres at 20-minutes but that meant I would have to run 25-minutes on my second set. I then started to have trouble with my throttle finger which start to go numb so I was trying to stretch out my arms to get the feeling back. I looked it was going to be a battle to the end between me and Teemu but he flamed out but then I had to deal with a lot of traffic and even on the last lap Lamberto spin in front of me and I hit him. Anyway in the end we had good pace and a good strategy and I am super happy to get the win’.
Somewhat in disbelieve that he finished 2nd, Diekmann said, ‘I’m very happy. I don’t believe that this could happen at the beginning of the weekend’. The 19-year-old German continued, ‘the car was awesome, the pitstops were awesome. Everything was awesome. I have to say a big thanks to my dad and Tim (Benson) for the tyres stop’. Asked about his strategy he said we planned to stop for tyres half way and fuel at 4:30, it was all perfect. The only problem in the race was at 10-minutes when I had one mistake and went off at the end of the straight’.
‘I’m not 100% happy’, was how Escandon summed up his 3rd place. The Shepherd driver added, ‘the first half was the best race ever. I was behind Dominic and could take the lead but after the tyre change the clutch was gone and after that I just tried to go to the end.’ On the clutch issue he said, ‘I was only getting second gear on the straight nowhere else. I pushed to get second gear in the field but started making mistakes’. Now an established 1:10 front runner, the Spaniard, who is now in his 2nd season with Shepherd, said, ‘for sure we are much more competitive now so I am looking forward to the next one’.
Having opened the season with his first ever ENS TQ, Mazzeo said, ‘for sure it was a bad race’. The personable Italian continued, ‘we had too much problems with the engine which lost us too much time in the pits. We don’t know what the problem is because the first 6-laps all was OK’. The Xray driver concluded, ‘After all the hard work to arrive a 4th is very disappointing’.
Making his first ever 1:10 race this weekend, Collari said, ‘As a first time, finishing 5th is like a small win but I have a bit cheated because another driver hit me and I had to pit for the body’. He continued, ‘for the conditions I think we made the best strategy. I started 8th, was 3rd most of the race and was 2nd near the end. I can’t do better’. Asked if he would race 1:10 again the 9-time 1:8 World Champion didn’t give a definitive yes or no answer but with this a 1:10 World Championship year he did hint he might be interested in making the trip to Miami later in the year.