Simon Kurzbuch has secured the 2019 Euro Nitro Series title after claiming his fifth consecutive win at the hillside Aigen track in Austria. Travelling to the third round of the Euro Nitro Series on the back of his first win of the season at Round 2 in the Netherlands, the Shepherd driver collected maximum points taking the TQ and win ahead of reigning champion Dario Balestri. With the demise of Dominic Greiner, who came into the weekend just 1-point off the Swiss ace, Kurzbuch becomes Champion of the ENS for a fourth time. In the Round 3 encounter, it was the Infinity pairing of Balestri and Carmine Raiola who were the only ones to trouble Kurzbuch in the 45-minute Saturday night final. Raiola was to lead for a time until he hit traffic, literally, and had to pit for body repairs. With Kurzbuch and Balestri having the same tyre strategy but in reverse order, the latter going for all four tyres in the first stop and just the outside in the second, as the race came to a close it looked like we might see a repeat of the thrilling finish to the 1:10 A-Main. In the end Kurzbuch calculated things perfectly crossing the line 9/10ths of a second in front of his long standing rival while Raiola came home third to complete the podium. Off the podium, Toni Gruber would finish 4th ahead of Merlin Depta with Rick Vrielijnck rounding out the Top 6.
‘Everything went as we planned and our tyre strategy was good’, was how Kurzbuch summed up what is his 12 ENS career win. The former World Champion explained, ‘On the second stop we changed the outside (tyres) and then 20-minutes late all four (tyres). My father did a great job together with Alex in pits and on my side I’m super happy with how I drove. I was able to show what we can do. I’m also super happy for the Championship’. He added, ‘I don’t know what happened to Dominic, we drove our own race and I drove as fast as I could to make it less stressful for my college Angelo, this win is for him’.
Pleased with his race, Balestri joked, ‘One time me, one time him. I won the European Championship and now he won this race’. The Italian, who is the only driver to ever deny Kurzbuch the ENS doing so last year and in 2015, continued, ‘I lost the race in qualifying because to follow on this track you lose a lot. In the end it is always nice to race Simon. Our different strategy changed nothing. My car is better on small tyres so I was catching Simon but it wasn’t enough to change the result. It was a good race’.
‘I don’t know the ENS is so unlucky for me’, was how Raiola summed up the final. He continued, ‘I was leading and trying to make a gap and hit someone, I don’t know who, but it broke the body’. Having started the race going for a risky strategy of long fuel stops and just one tyres stop, he said after 10-minutes he could feel in the car this wasn’t going to work in the conditions and he made the call to do two tyre stops as well as go safe on refuelling.’ His first podium this season said, ‘for sure I want to win but a podium in the end is OK’.
In the 1:8 40+ class French nitro racing stalwart Alain Levy took a popular win. Starting from the TQ, the Shepherd driver won the 30-minute encounter by Remy Hasler with Andrea Hächler completing the podium to move into the leading of the standings with one round to go. In the 1:8 Electric class the win went to Joachim Grauer.
Teemu Leino is the 2019 Euro Nitro Series Champion, the 2016 champion securing back to back 1:10 titles today for Infinity with a thrilling win over team-mate & outgoing Champion Jilles Groskamp. Securing the TQ in Austria with a dominant performance in all four qualifiers, the Finn looked like he was going to continue that form in the final but in the final 5-minutes Groskamp made an impressive charge for one of the closest finishes in ENS history. With Leino holding a steady 2-second gap for much of the race, last year’s Aigen winner hunted him down bringing the gap down to 2/10th as they crossed the line. Having won the opening two rounds of the Championship in Italy and the Netherlands, Leino third consecutive win secures him the title with the perfect campaign. While the two Infinity drivers the class of the field, it was Shepherd’s Melvin Diekmann who completed the Round 3 podium after battle with team-mate Thilo Tödtmann ended when he hit gearbox issues. France’s Quentin Leroux had a good race coming from P8 to 4th over the 45-minutes ahead of Rico Kröber who had bumped up to the 12th and final spot on the A-Main from the B-Final.
Reacting to his title win in his typical understate Finnish manner, Leino said, ‘For me it has been the perfect season, 3 wins from 3 races. I have to thank Kenji San for making this all possible and all my sponsors’. On today’s race, the win making him the ENS’s most successful 1:10 driver with 6 career wins, he said, ‘all went to plan in the race but Jilles had more tyre left than me because he stopped later. I was out of tyres at the end. I also didn’t want to risk anything because I still needed to take it easy to get a finish’. Securing Infinity’s first international win here with their 1:10 chassis in 2016, the European Champion said, ‘this has been a good track for me and Infinity. The car has always been really good here’.
‘It was a great race’ was how a very pleased Groskamp summed up the exciting finish. The Dutchman continued, ‘I didn’t expect it to be so close in the end. I thought he was just cruising because he pulled away so much at the start but then I had a little more tyres and that is why I could catch him’. Explaining his charge at the end, he said, ‘It was always around 2-seconds of a gap but on my last stop I told Armin I was going to push like crazy for the last 5-minutes. I could have tried a move on his inside but I didn’t want to take him out because of the Championship’. He concluded, ‘I wasn’t able to match him in qualifying but I always can bring it for the final. It was one of the closest race finishes of the ENS and I am happy to have been part of that’.
Claiming his first ENS podium since making the switch to Shepherd, Diekmann was happy describing the result as ‘really good’. The German said, ‘At the beginning I was very fast and I was behind Jilles. Then Thilo got on my rear and I made a mistake at the end of the straight and had a spin. My tyre stop was not perfect either and I spun again at the end of the pit lane. At the end I got lucky as Thilo lost 2nd gear. I’m happy to make the podium but at the same time I feel for Thilo. We are good friends and we have worked really hard together in the team’.
Simon Kurzbuch will start Round 3 of the Infinity Euro Nitro Series on pole position, the Shepherd driver taking all three of today’s qualifiers in Austria. Missing out on the TQ in the opening qualifier yesterday to Dario Balestri, Kurzbuch would open Saturday’s action with a comfortable TQ run over Carmine Raiola. Q3 was to be a closer affair with the former World Champion snatching the fastest time from Balestri on the final lap. With Q3 the rocket round this effectively sealed the deal for Kurzbuch with the hotter conditions of the final qualifier making it an impossible task for Balestri. In the end it was Kurzbuch who topped it ahead of Balestri, albeit over 2-second slower than his previous effort. Brought forward to tonight due to the bad weather being forecast for tomorrow, Balestri will line-up second for the A-Main ahead of Raiola, Silvio Hächler, Toni Gruber, Oliver Krähemann and ENS Italy winner Dominic Greiner.
Reacting to his 14 ENS Career TQ, Kurzbuch said, ‘qualifying today was really good. In the second one (Q3) I was running right behind Dario and in the last few laps I could make the gap on him. The last one was almost the same, I ran behind Carmine and had a clean run’. Coming into the weekend as the Championship points leader, the three times Champion added, ‘it is good to get the extra point for the Championship’. Asked about the final he said, ‘the tyre wear is not so high and we will test our strategy in the practice run. It should be more cold too which is better for us. I also don’t think there will be any issues with visibility from the setting sun’.
Commenting after Q4, on his P2 on the grid Balestri said, ‘It is OK, we had no chance with the temperature and I also had no tyres of the right diameter’. Looking to the final, the Infinity driver said, ‘we will see in the final practice if we can make something with tyre strategy. The tyre wear here is ok but a good strategy is still important. Asked running so late, the Infinity driver replied, ‘It will be cooler conditions while is better for us for sure’.
Raiola was a little frustrated with his qualifying times saying, ‘At the start of the run I was there with them for the TQ but then over the last 5 or 6 laps I was dropping of. I don’t know why, maybe it was tyres, I’m not sure’. On strategy for the final, he said, ‘the tyre wear is not too bad but it depends on the temperature. Maybe I will gamble on 5-minutes with the fuel but if it’s hot I can’t try this’.
‘For not being here Thursday, qualifying was pretty good’, was Silvio Hächler’s thought on securing P4. The ARC driver continued, ‘we improved the car a lot from the first qualifier’. Not quite having the pace of the three in front of him, the former Worlds Finalist said, ‘we need to do less fuel stops then the 3 guys in front and see what happens.’
In 1:8 40+ qualifying, a very happy Alain Levy took the TQ thanks to topping Q2 & 4 after some close battles with reigning champion Arie Manten and Andreas Giesa. Taking the opening qualifier Manten will start 2nd with Q3 winner Giesa lining up third.
Chassis – Infinity IF15 Engine –Novarossi Fuel – Energy Tires (handout) – Matrix Radio/Servo – Sanwa Body – Protoform P47
Remarks – Having taken the TQ here in Aigen, Teemu is running an ‘all standard’ car which he said is the same one he raced at the World Championships. Set-up wise the car is also running his normal set-up he uses despite Aigen having some unique characteristics as ‘it works the same at almost all tracks’. The Finn added, ‘I know a lot of customers using the car and it is a good car out of the box’.