ENS ROUND 2
JULY 7-9 ETTLINGEN, GERMANY
After a six week break the Euro Nitro Series resumed with Round 2 at Minidrom Ettlingen in Germany. The third year for the former European Championship host circuit to feature on the ENS calendar, the team descended on the track on the Wednesday with high hopes of a successful event. Last year, Teemu took the first of his two wins en route to claiming Infinity’s first international title when he became 1:10 champion. The team was also looking to build on its podium in 1:8 at the season opener in France where we were the best represented brand in the A-Main. A unique feature of the Ettlingen track is the ultra fine asphalt which creatures a strange feeling between the car and track that drivers say they experience nowhere else in the world! Adding to the challenge of finding a good set-up was the hot weather. With temperatures around 35 degrees it made many of the Asian members of our team feel at home but the heat was less welcomed by most of the 120 plus drivers in attendance.
In free practice on Thursday, Dario and Francesco lead the way setting the 2nd and 3rd fastest time respectively while in 1:10 Teemu laid down the 4th fastest time, Kenji the only other team driver running 200mm as the rest of the team focused on 1:8. As the event switched to controlled practice on Friday to determine the seeding for the heats, it would be Carmine who was quickest posting the 4th fastest time ahead of Dario who felt he had a better set-up the previous day. Jesse would also put his car in the top heat as he improved on his free practice form to set the 10th fastest time for 3-consecutive laps. While still working on getting his car to suit the track's unique surface, 1:10 cars traditionally suffering from understeer but in Ettlingen having lots of front end grip, Teemu was content to be seeded 5th for qualifying.
With 2 rounds of qualifying planned for Friday afternoon, 1:10 went first with Teemu registering a P4 in a very close Q1 - the Top 4 covered by half a second. With the first 1:8 qualifier underway a rain shower brought things to a halt. Followed a number of additional showers, when the track eventually dried an extra free practice session was run to get the track back to racing condition with the organisers deciding to restart qualifying with the second round of 1:10 heats. Unfortunately for Teemu, he would hit trouble just as Q2 warm-up concluded with the screw in his two speed shaft pulley coming loose causing him miss the first 3-minutes of the heat as it was fixed. With a 20:00 noise curfew at the track, 1:8 would get just a single round of qualifying on Friday with a strong run from Dario netting him P2 with Francesco, Carmine, Naoto and Jesse all posting Top 10 times.
Saturday morning would start 1/2 an hour earlier than originally scheduled to make up for the rain delays of the previous day and ensure 1:8 still got to run all 5 rounds of qualifying. Continuing with 1:8, the second round would be run in a lot cooler conditions and while Dario again was the closest challenger to with Simon Kurzbuch, getting another P2, he felt his car was better suited to a hotter track. After trouble with his engine in Q1, Oliver would put in a fantastic drive from the 3rd fastest heat to post a P4 time with Francesco also going better to record a P5 run. Dario would improve his car for Q3 setting the only 12-second lap of the round but a clutch issue at the end of the 4-minutes would allow Kurzbuch to take another TQ run and wrap up the overall TQ. After his problems in Q2, Teemu would bounce back with a P3 in the third 1:10 qualifier that he followed up a P4 in the penultimate round to lock himself in the A-Main, 3 of 5 rounds counting. Another Top 3 run in the final qualifier secured him 5th on the grid for Sunday’s 45-minute final.
With Ettlingen a place he calls ‘my track’ having being crowned European Champion there in 2015, Oliver would take an important TQ run on his penultimate attempt, a result that would secure him third on the grid behind Dario. In all four Infinity drivers qualified directly for the A-Main, Naoto lining up 6th ahead of Francesco. The B-Main would see that increase to a record equalling 5 cars as Alberto took the win to bump up and take P11 on the grid. Unfortunately for Lamberto, who started the 20-minute encounter second behind Alberto, an early incident with another driver resulted in heavy body damage and having to make a lengthy pit stop for repairs his changes of progressing were done.
With the 10-minute A-Main practice a chance to test set-up tweaks ahead of the final, Teemu was happy that changes had given him with an easy to drive car which was perfect for 45 tough & hot minutes of racing. Leading the middle third of the race and looking on target for a repeat ENS Germany victory, unfortunately a body tuck caused by contact from the rear coming onto the straight would trigger a second incident later in the lap that would rule him out from taking the top step on the podium. With his car slowed by the tucked body, a second car would unintentionally rear end him sending the crashing onto the crash and as the marshal returned his car to the track the engine cut. Rejoining and showing in third place at the end of the race, it was later deemed his car had triggered the loop as the marshal returned him to the pits after his flame out and the amended result placed him a frustrating 4th.
On to the 1:8 A-Main and it would turn out to be a dramatic finish to the race. Having led the challenge in qualifying, Dario continued to do the same in the final running at the front with Kurzbuch and Bruno Coelho for the majority of the race but making a late stop to be safe, fuel mileage critical at the fast track, a bad stop from another driver would lead to a crash in the pitlane and as Dario exited the pitlane his car would go straight and onto the grass. The impact in the pitlane with the other car had broken his servo saver. With almost no steering causing his car to take to grass every corner, with just a minute to go he wasn’t giving up and somehow got the car around, albeit at a 1/3 of his race speed, to hold on to compete the podium - 3rd an important result for the championship. Despite his dramatic end to the race, Dario was pleased with his weekend’s performance feeling it shows the gap has been closed to reigning ENS & World Champion Kurzbuch in this 1:8 World Championship year. Behind Dario, Alberto would put in a great drive and overcome an early incident to finish 4th on his first ENS outing with Infinity. Unfortunately Oliver's race would not go to plan and he finished 10th while Naoto, who made it two A-Main appearances from 2 starts, and Francesco both retired from the race. While the finals brought the event to a conclusion it was not the end of the team's work in Germany with them using the rest of the day in to put in more laps in the ongoing quest to reach the top.
With the ENS’ level of competition on par with that of the World Championships, a big thank you to all our team for their hard work and efforts over the weekend. A lot was learned and we look forward to coming back even stronger for the third round in Aigen, Austria next month.