ETS SEASON FINALE
JULY 28-30 ETTLINGEN, GERMANY
The Euro Touring Series concluded its 10th season at the Ettlingen track in Germany with the race also marking a milestone for our EP team as it would wrap up our first ETS campaign as a manufacturer. The first time for the championship to visit the track, its unique surface would prove very challenging just as it had done when our nitro team raced there earlier in the month. Marc, Jilles, Akio and Naoto would attend for Infinity with high hopes of ending the season on a high and controlled practice got things off to a strong start as all four drivers seeded their IF14s into the top heat.
Fresh from taking the Japanese National title a few days before, Akio would set the 3rd fastest 3-consecutive laps in the opening controlled practice. The track for the second round would be faster however for most drivers with Jilles leading the way for the team in P3. Behind him Marc would end up P5 having found he preferred his car without ARS after removing it for the first seeding run. Copying Marc’s set-up for CP2, Akio didn’t like his car without ARS and unable to improve on his opening time dropped to P8. Not a fan of the track after free practice, Naoto started to find his way in the last controlled practice to post the 10th fastest time.
With the first official day of the event concluding with Q1, the colder evening conditions made the track somewhat less challenging. Marc would have a strong first round posting the 2nd fastest time over the 5-minute heat. It would be two cars in the Top 4 as Naoto stopped the clock less than 1/2 a second off Marc. Akio would put it in the Top 10 too but on his birthday weekend this was to be his best run and he ended up in the D-Main. Unfortunately for Jilles he would have a tyre issue & retire from the first round. While Q2 would net a P8 and the penultimate qualifier a P11, it would all come down to the final qualifier for Jilles to secure an A-Main start but a stripped spur gear put an end to that.
Saturday morning's opening qualifier would net Marc a P3 despite him having been able to improve his car and get much closer to the TQ pace, the deficit down from 3-seconds in Q1 to 3/10ths. It wouldn’t be a good start to the day for Naoto as his car got airborne over the curbing on the straight sending it crashing into the marshal post fencing. He would however redeem himself from the error in Q3 with a great drive that would see him TQ the round ahead Bruno Coelho. With this TQ run he would equal his best ETS qualifying, third, which he achieved at the previous round at the Hudy Arena. For Marc the fourth qualifier wouldn’t bring any improvement to his qualification points tally and he would get set to line up 4th on the grid on Sunday.
Finals Day had three A-Mains on the schedule but the forecast warned of rain later in the day. With nice conditions for A1, it started well with both Naoto and Marc quickly catching the No.2 starting Tim Wahl. Naoto would execute an impressive pass on Tim on the entry to the banked sweeper at the end of the straight to go second and 2-laps later Marc also moved up a place with a similar move on the straight to finish 3rd. A2 wouldn’t produce as clean a start as the first one, Marc unintentionally hitting the back of Naoto costing both of them places. Pushing hard to get back the time lost, Naoto would have a moment coming onto the straight but somehow saved it saying after he was ’super lucky’. Getting back passed Ronald Volker for third, unfortunately the gap to second was too big to close down over the remainder of the race. While Marc would make back one of the places he lost on the opening lap he would cross the finish line fifth. Unfortunately just as Jilles got ready to start the third of his B-Mains, the rain arrived with a bang bringing the 10th ETS season to a wet and early finish. With one from the 2 A-Mains counting this gave Naoto second, his best ever ETS finish, and Marc 4th with him finishing the championship 3rd overall. Akio also represented us in the Top 10 of the final standings with 6th overall.
Having only brought together our EP team and the IF14 in February, we have had a great first season of ETS. We have a lot of positives to take from our first attempt at one of touring car's toughest and most prestigious championships. From the 5 races we contested we achieved 4 podium finishes and where on the overall podium at the end of the season. It has been a massive team effort and we are really grateful to all our drivers and staff who made these results possible. We cannot wait to come back for the new season of ETS even stronger.