Having been delayed by bad weather for over a day & a half, the new Euro Nitro Series finally fired into life at the Hockenheimring in Germany this evening with the opening round of qualifying with Serpent’s Mark Green setting the pace in a very close 1:8 encounter ahead of Robert Pietsch and Michael Salven while in 1:10 Touring Xray’s Dirk Wischnewski was fastest from Freddy Sudhoff & Pedro Rombouts.
With the Top 3 separated by just .286 of a second, Green was very happy with opening the event with a TQ especially as the ENS runs a qualifying points system meaning he takes the maximum 155 point haul. While the result was perfect for the British ace, the factory Serpent/Novarossi driver said his 977 was not all that good after he switched to a wet radio tray in anticipation of running in the wet. A complete unit prepared for use in wet racing, he said the radio tray change made the car feel ‘terrible to drive’ causing in particular a lack of braking. For Q2 Green will switch back to his dry radio tray which he said worked well in Thursday’s dry and sunny open practice.
Winner here at the Hockenheimring 12-months ago when the race was known as the European Nitro Challenge, Pietsch who was .162 off Green at the end of the 4-minute qualifier, described his run as ‘safe’ adding that he had a little problem with traffic. In terms of his car, the Mugen designer said it didn’t work well with the diameter of pre-trued handout tyres which are a key feature of the ENS format. Suffering from understeer, the German said he will use the same set of tyres again for Q2 and expects they will be much better second time round but he will also change the set-up on his Novarossi powered MRX-5 to better suit the Matrix supplied tyres.
Salven was the early pace setter but also had traffic issues. Coming up on a ‘train of traffic’ the German said it cost him a lot of time with one driver making it particularly difficult for him to pass. Almost coming together with that driver he said it put him out of his rhythm for 2-3 laps. A major contributor to the creation of the ENS, Salven said the closeness of the first qualifier highlights that controlled tyres are the way forward. Happy that the rain has passed, the Serpent designer said the wind made for tricky conditions with the car having a load of grip as it ran directly into the wind at the end of the main the straight but on the opposite side of the track the wind was trying to lift the rear of the car. Asked if he planned to change his set-up for Q2 the German quickly replied ‘no way’, a sign that he is happy with how the car he penned is working.
Fourth fastest was German driver Nicolai Bähr who declared himself very happy with his opening run. Running a Sonic powered Serpent the 20-year-old said he will leave everything as is for Q2. Making it four Serpents in the Top 6, Merlin Depta set the 5th fastest time with his Xceed powered 977. Like his team boss Salven, Depta said he had to battle with the wind catching the car but all in all he was happy with his run and the only change he will make for his next qualifier is to switch to a higher second gear.
Completing the Top 6 was Team Xray’s Tobias Hepp. The 19-year-old said his Novarossi engine was set too lean but his RX8 felt good given the low traction after the rain and as an opening run it was ‘OK’.
Winner here last year Wischnewski said his run was not so good after a mistake in the warm-up saw him damage one of his handout tyres. Rolling his Novarossi powered NT1 it caused part of one of his tyres to part from the rim and that combined with the low traction made the car very unpredictable to drive. Able to re-glue the tyre after the qualifier, before having to hand it into the tyre control area, he said he will run the same set of tyres again in Q2. This combined with a better tuned engine, it being too rich in Q1, the former European Champion believes he can improve on his pace quite a bit.
Debuting Shepherd’s new Velox V10 PRO, Sudhoff was happy with how the car went in the first qualifier. Describing it as ‘easy to drive’, the German said as the tyres came in the car got better and better and in the last two minutes he was near perfect to drive. Planning to just lean off his LRP engine which ran a little rich in Q1 he said he will leave the car set-up as is and run the same set of tyres again.
Winner of the opening round of this year’s Dutch Nationals, Rombouts said conditions were ‘tricky’ due to the low traction but overall it was a ‘clean run’ and he will leave everything as is for Q2 and wait for the grip to come up. Behind the Dutch Xray/Orcan driver was Frenchman Michael Derderian. Also running an Xray NT1 but but powered by a G-Mar engine, the French National Championship race winner said he had a lack of steering and will make some small changes for his second qualifier. Only arriving yesterday, and therefore not getting the same dry running that his rivals got in open practice on Thursday, he said considering this 4th for his first run was very good.
Elsewhere last year’s European Nitro Challenge Top Qualifier Eric Dankel had a troubled run. Hitting Shepherd boss Patrick Schafer early in the run the incident broke the front body post on his Capricorn CO2. This left his bodyshell rubbing on the ground and causing him some trouble but a mistake on lap 8 which he said was of his own doing ended any chance of a decent result as he lost 12 seconds with the car ending up on its roof.
Also having trouble in the first qualifier was top Austrian driver Gerhard Kandelhart who suffered an engine problem. Making his first appearance at the controls of a Shepherd this weekend he said the is pleased how the car is running and is confident without engine trouble he can put in a good performance.
1:8 Qualifying Round 1
1. Mark Green – Serpent/Novarossi – 14/4:16.714
2. Robert Pietsch – Mugen/Novarossi – 14/4:16.876
3. Michael Salven – Serpent/Xceed – 14/4:17.000
4. Nicolai Bähr – Serpent/Sonic – 13/4:01.629
5. Merlin Depta – Serpent/Xceed – 13/4:03.743
6. Tobias Hepp – Xray/Novarossi – 13/4:05.693
7. Alexander Thilo Tödtmann – Shepherd/Sonic – 13/4:06.644
8. Maximilian Vogl – Shepherd/Sonic – 13/4:07.091
9. Timo Schröder – Shepherd/Sonic – 13/4:10.712
10.Olaf Engelmann – Shepherd/OS – 13/4:11.251
Chassis Name – Mugen MRX5 WC Spec Engine – Novarossi Radio/Servos – Sanwa Remarks – Mugen Seiki’s Robert Pietsch is running the latest incarnation of the MRX5 1/8th car here in Hockenheim called the WC Spec. The reigning World Champion and winner of last year’s Nitro Challenge uses the new wire-type front anti-roll bar, the updated composite front bumper brace and body mount that brings the front body posts to ‘pre wire anti-roll bar’ positions as well as a dual position middle belt tensioner with two ball raced pressure rolls. On the rear end the car sports updated and reinforced suspension mounts with a thicker middle section for added strength. Last but not least Robert’s car sports a new chassis made out of a different alloy material and a new aluminium clutchbell and clutch shoes.
Chassis Name – Xray NT1’13 Engine – Novarossi Radio/Servos – Sanwa Remarks – Xray factory driver Dirk Wischnewski is running a stock NT1 1/10th scale car here at Hockenheim round of the Euro Nitro Series ‘Pilot Series’. Having run the car in open practice on Thursday he found that the handout Enneti tyres made his car understeer so that he had to adjust the suspension setup accordingly. Dirk now uses a much softer damper and spring setting and also had to cut the radio plate next to the steering crank to allow the chassis to flex more.
Washed out by wet weather which caused the cancellation of controlled practice yesterday, competitors at the opening race of the new Euro Nitro Series again woke to rain this morning in Germany however at a drivers briefing held at 11:00 and lead by Race Director Uwe Rheinard it was agreed that racing will get underway later this evening. Forecasts for the area are showing that from 15:00 local time the weather is set to improve and based on this information it is hoped to be able to get racing underway on a dry track at 17:00 or earlier if conditions allow. Planning to run three rounds of qualifying today it was agreed to set a cut off time of 18:00 irrespective of the track conditions as to start any later would not leave enough time to fully complete three rounds of heats. Unlike the normal qualifying format used in onroad nitro which decides the grids on a drivers overall fastest time, the ENS will use the same round by round points system common to electric touring car racing which should, if the track is still drying, make for a fairer qualifying. With the weather for tomorrow, Sunday, giving a dry day it is planned to have a fourth round of qualifying with a driver counting their best two rounds from the four.
Chassis Name – Shepherd Velox V10 Pro Engine – Sonic Radio/Servos – KO Propo/Futaba Remarks – Shepherd are debuting a new 1:10 touring car at the opening race of the Euro Nitro Series ‘Pilot Series’ in Germany called the Velox V10 Pro. 70 percent of the car’s parts are new such as the lower wishbones, suspension mounts, front and rear bulkheads and drivetrain parts. The car now features an adjustable front roll centre using different plastic inserts in the aluminium suspension mounts which allows for easy roll characteristic and weight shift changes. Another new features is the front wire-type anti-roll bar with suspension-side pivot ball mounting, a new smaller front diff and a small and very lightweight aluminium steering bellcrank with adjustable Ackermann set by shifting the steering lever forth and back.
Coming to the rear end the updated version of the Velox V10 features redesigned lower A-arms that point towards the front in order to reduce the wheelbase by 2mm. This also relocates the lower shock mounting position to increase the damper performance and to make for improved shock protection in the event of a crash. Swinging over to the upper camber links these are now made from a ball cup and turnbuckle construction over the previous full arm design. Last but not least come new rear low profile bulkheads and a slightly reshaped lower chassis plate. The new parts help reduce the weight of the car by around 60 grams compared to its predecessor.
With the weather forcing Day 1 of the new Euro Nitro Series to be postponed, Red RC took the opportunity to go and visit the headquarters of Shepherd Micro Racing, a company who has played a big roll in the creation of the ENS. Located less than 10km from the Hockenheimring, the venue of the opening race of the ENS, company boss Patrick Schafer was on hand to greet us and show us around their impressive building. Originally opened by his father as a model shop in 1998, complete with its own indoor asphalt track & pit area, the building took on its current guise in 2005 when Shepherd Micro Racing was formed, then as the distributor for the Speed 1:8 Onroad chassis produced by the famous Picco engine company. Taking over that project from the Italian company, in 2007 the company produced its first car the Velox V8 and now as an established onroad nitro manufacturer also produces a 1:10 200mm chassis.
What was the hobby shop has now been turned into the offices & nerve centre of the German company which in addition to creating its own cars is also a distributor for Awesomatix electric touring cars, Matrix tyres, MLC Fuel and Sonic Engines. The track at the rear of the building now houses the kit packaging area, stock warehouse, a small machining area and a self contained race team workshop. With all part production outsourced, the only manufacturing done in-house is that of the brake pads due to the specialist material & process these require.
An established racer on the international onroad nitro scene, his interest in car racing starting in 1989 when he took part in the then popular Santa Claus Cup, Patrick Schafer’s key role in the company is design. Graduating with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering, he is responsible for creating all the CAD drawings required for the production of the various parts that go into each kit. In terms of staff Shepherd employ six full time staff in addition to having a number of part time workers.