ENS ROUND 4
SEPT 29-OCT 1 FIORANO, ITALY
With little time for the reality of our World Championship win to fully settle in, our nitro team was back on the road travelling to Italy for the final round of the 2017 Euro Nitro Series. Now in its fourth season, the Fiorano based season finale marks the conclusion of the international nitro onroad racing calendar with all drivers in attendance looking to end their year with a strong result.
Unfortunately for Dario, his first race as the World Champion wouldn’t be the most enjoyable as he arrived feeling quite under the weather. Naoto was also not feeling 100% for his first visit to the iconic track having gone directly from the Worlds in France to Hong Kong for the final round of the Chinese Electric Touring Car Championship and back to Europe again. Despite this and considering it was his first time to race around Mini Autodromo Jody Scheckter, Naoto would lead the way in Free Practice setting the second fastest time (over 5-consecutive laps!) with Alberto fourth, Jesse fifth and Teemu sixth followed by Carmine, Dario, Lamberto and Francesco. 8 cars in the Top 10 after 10 practice runs a positive start to the weekend.
With two rounds of controlled practice to determine the seeding for the qualifying heats, Francesco improved his car set-up allowing him to post the second fastest time behind back to back champion elect Simon Kurzbuch. Behind Francesco, just 3/10ths of a second covering the Top 6, Alberto would set the 3rd fastest time followed by Jesse, Naoto and Dario. With Teemu and Carmine 8th & 9th respectively the fastest qualifying heat would contain 7 Infinity cars. With controlled practice unearthing a difference between batches of the championship’s handout tyre, drivers would be given an extra round of free practice before the opening qualifier to give them time to re-adjust their set-ups for the shore difference.
With Friday wrapping up with the first of the four rounds of qualifying, Francesco would back up his seeding pace with the 3rd fastest time behind Kurzbuch and Bruno Coelho. Running in the second fastest heat, Oliver pulled out a P4 run saying afterwards that his car had been good throughout practice but it hadn't shown because 3-consecutive laps was not his strong point.
Sixth in Q1, Saturday morning would kick off with Dario posting the fourth fastest with Lamberto registering a P5. Next time round Lamberto enjoyed his best qualifying attempt with 3rd fastest. Dario would break into the Top 3 in the final qualifier, the Q4 result securing him 4th on the grid ahead of Lamberto, Francesco, Oliver and Jesse. After difficult runs in Q2 & 3, Naoto made a safe final qualifier with the result securing him the final direct qualifying position on the A-Main grid. With 6 cars directly into the A-Main, that number grew to 8 as Andy mastered the damp conditions bumping his way up from the D-Main to the C and then onto the B-Main which he won ahead of Teemu who completed the 12 car A-Main grid.
After a damp start to the day, the organisers saw a break in the drizzly conditions was coming and delayed the start of the A-Mains in the hope the season could conclude on a dry track. A season that has seen every ENS encounter effected by rain, the wait achieved it’s goal and it was a dry track for both the 1:10 and 1:8 title deciding races. Sadly for Dario, his chances of challenging for a home win came to a strange and abrupt end at the first corner. Making contact with a very slow starting Andrea Pirani the body came off Dario’s car resulting in him having to be returned to the pits. Benefitting from the opening lap’s dramas, Naoto would complete the first lap in 3rd and for the first 15-minutes of the race it looked like he would endorse his unquestionable speed with a podium result but on his 3rd stop for fuel the INS Box would become disconnected from the engine. Rejoining the race before it was noticed, he would complete 3/4 of a lap before his engine stopped. Returned to the pits, the lack of a filter had damaged the engine and it was another premature end for our nitro rookie.
With Naoto out, it was Teemu who joined the podium battle but all the time Jesse, on a single tyre stop strategy compared to the double stops the rest of the grid was on, was pushing his way through to the front. Going ahead of Teemu, he then moved up to second but a misunderstanding when lapping Lamberto resulted in them making contact, the delay dropping him back to third. Able to maintain 3rd position for the remainder of the race, Jesse would finally be rewarded for the hard work both he and his father Ray have put in this season. His first ENS podium it was a very popular result with everyone. Teemu would cross the line in 4th followed by Francesco who recorded the fastest lap of the 45-minute encounter.
An extremely busy, intense, but very rewarding season for our nitro team, Jesse making the podium together with having 8 cars on the grid is a great way to wrap up 2017. A big thank you to all the team for their contribution. Roll on the 2018 ENS.