The grids for the A-Main finals at the Euro Nitro Series in Austria have been finalised with Shepherd’s Gerhard Kandlehart securing the 11th grid spot ahead of Xray’s Martin Hudy in Touring Car while in 1:8 Serpent’s Toni Gruber bumped up along with Austrian Mugen driver Bernd Koller. Both competing in the B final it was Hudy who won the first 16 minute encounter but winning the second leg of the final in a faster time it was Kandlehart, who missed the bump up at Race 1 in Hockenheim, who secured the 11th spot. For Adrien Bertin, who started on pole position for the B Main, it was not a good day. Having stayed late last night after qualifying to test, the KM Racing driver was very upbeat about his chances this morning but it wasn’t to be. In Leg 1 he lead for 40 laps but suffered what he thought was a one-way problem which forced with to retire but in the second leg it turned out that it was in fact a problem with the fuel tank and he was out before the half way mark.
A direct qualifier at Race 1 of the ENS earlier this month, Gruber, who was BQ this weekend after a tough qualifying, took two easy wins to secure his place in this evening’s 45-minute main along with Koller who finished second on both occasions.
Remarks – Like Greiner, Capricorn’s Italian driver Francesco Tironi has chosen to use the solid axle here in Kirchberg, this being an option he very rarely uses. In the post-qualifying free practice he also tried a Protoform P56 body which he will use for the main event as it seems to give the car more on-power steering. Francesco is testing a rear camber link that doesn’t feature the classic upper arm, this is intended to get more flexibility and add rear traction. On his car you can also spot some white ergal parts, that come from a pre-production batch. We understand that the official Capricorn driver tests the quality of each batch himself before sending the parts to be anodized, quality control being one of the main concerns for the Italian factory.
The driver who comes up with & best executes their tyre strategy will be the winner of the Euro Nitro Series in Austria tomorrow, that is the general feeling among the main contenders in the competitive 1:10 class which will see drivers from five different manufacturers fill the top 5 positions on the grid for the 45-minute A-Main. Having wrapped up pole position early with a run of TQ performances in the opening three qualifier, Mugen’s Robert Pietsch would end the day with the fastest 4-minute qualifier of the event making his intentions clear, but starting from second on the grid Shepherd’s Jilles Groskamp believes the race is still wide open.
Having pulled up early in Q4 after using the run to try a different set-up which he described as ‘really bad’, Pietsch tried a completely different set-up for his last run which the 2011 European Champion now plans to use in the final. A Contact tyres team driver, this weekend’s handout tyre being supplied by the British company, the German ace said while he has more experience of the tyres than his rivals he doesn’t think it will be of any advantage to him tomorrow. Planning one stop he said that he will finalise that call in tomorrow’s practice when he will run a longer stint to allow him to calculate his tyre wear. Commenting on tyre strategy he said while wear is high, a result of the track surface undergoing a polishing process back in May, he said he doesn’t think time could be made back and also there is the extra risk of an engine flame out. Asked who he see as the biggest threat for the race he replied Groskamp who he described as a very ‘efficient’ driver which should mean he is going to have very good fuel and tyre consumption.
Electric Touring Car World Champion Groskamp said he is really excited to see how tomorrow’s final plays out and he feels the race is wide open. Having done some long distance testing on Thursday, the Dutch driver is confident that he can do the final on one tyre stop but said its a fine line as to when to make the stop. Able to get 22.5 minutes out of the tyres he said making it to 25-minutes is risky but stopping at 22.5 ultimately means an extra stop for fuel. He also said its going to be important not to get forced into pushing too hard early in the race. Having also worked on fuel mileage in practice, RC racing’s ‘mathematician’ thinks there is the opportunity to do one less fuel stop than his rivals adding that ‘to win one is going to have to take risks’.
Lining up 3rd on the grid Race 1 winner Eric Dankel thinks a win will be difficult. The factory Capricorn driver said he was happier with the performance of his car yesterday with it proving more difficult to drive today and he is not sure why this is. Planning at least one tyre stop he said the decision for him is whether or not to do a complete second set or just change the outside tyres.
Set to start fourth on the grid, Serpent driver Dominic Greiner said he can be pretty happy with ‘Qualifying behind two World Champions and Eric Dankel’. Runner-up at the recent European B Championship, the German said he is really pleased with how his Picco powered 747 is running but with the level of tyre wear and a race distance of 45-minutes he does not know what to expect in the final. Asked about his strategy for the final, the 20-year-old said he still had to decide on what approach he will take for tomorrow.
Xray’s Dirk Wischnewski who starts 5th directly in front of team-mate Alexander Hagberg said the final will be ‘all about tyre strategy’. Having tried a set-up in Q5, which he said was not good resulting in him posting the 6th fastest time, the 2011 European Champion will revert to how he ran his Novarossi powered NT1 in the penultimate qualifier in which he was second fastest behind Groskamp. Happy that with this set-up back on the car his pace will be competitive enough to challenge for the win, he said the big decision now was how many tyre stops to do.
With 10 direct qualifiers for the A-Main, Patrick Schafer, Francesco Tironi, Leo Arnold and Patrick Nahr completing that line-up, there are still two bump up positions up for grabs with KM Racing’s Adrien Bertin a strong contender to fill position 11 or 12 on the grid. After a bad start to the day when a heavy crash in the warm-up for Q1 hampered his progress, the former World Champion did improve as the day progressed. Setting his best time in the final qualifier, he just missed the cut for main event, qualifying 11th, but still testing at the track while most of the other drivers retired to their hotel for the night, we expect to see a further improvement in pace from the French man. The final two places on the A-Main will be awarded to the drivers from any of the lower Mains with the fastest time from one of their two 16-minute legs.
While Pietsch is clearly the class of the 1:8 field, making his return to international competition 2008 European Champion Jernej Vuga declared himself happy with his performance. The Slovenian driver said his aim coming here was to try and get close to Pietsch which he joked in terms of the grid position he has done. Ultimately aiming for a podium finish he said he is happy with the progress he has made with his Reds powered RX8 and he is confident they can progress things even further for tomorrow. Behind Vuga, who TQ’d Q4 & 5 as Pietsch sat them out having secured the overall TQ in Q3, Shepherd’s European B Champion Daniel Sieber will start third.