ENS ROUND 1
MAY 3-6 RUCPHEN, THE NETHERLANDS
The start of the new season of the Euro Nitro Series would present a new track with De Baanbrekers in the south of the Netherlands the venue for the first of the championship's four races. 257 metres in length, the track on initial inspection would look rather easy but after a few practice runs drivers agreed it was a very different challenge to go fast around. The key to the track was the entry onto the main straight where the curbing would catch out many drivers over the weekend. With a great air of excitement coming into the start of what is now the fifth season of the ENS, four days of sunshine created a great atmosphere together with the good humour of the Dutch hosts.
With 2018 a World Championship year for 1:10, this would be reflected in how competitive and close the top drivers would be. For our team it would also be the first time racing our upcoming IF15 kit release and from the very first practice our drivers had a good overall feeling from the new car. After free practice, the Top 10 would contain 4 of our cars with Jilles leading the way with the 2nd fastest 3-consecutive laps just ahead of Teemu. Looking like some sort of timing error to see his name on the 1:10 time sheets, Lamberto would post the sixth fastest time ahead of Andy in P7. One of the greatest drivers in 1:8, this was actually Lamberto first ever 1:10 race and with just 7/10ths separating the Top 10 he was right there. In 1:8, there was now two classes to follow with the introduction of the +40 class. In the main class, Dario produced the second fastest time followed by Lamberto with Naoto completing the Top 6. In 40+, Arie would give the first indication of the weekend he was to have by topping the times.
With a break in proceedings during which time the drivers briefing was held on track, the switch to timed seeding practice would bring a change in track conditions. With 1:10 drivers having been looking for more steering, now they needed more rear traction. After the 2 runs, it would again be Jilles who led the way for us with the second fastest time behind World Champion Dominic Greiner. Unable to improve on his time from the first run, Teemu ended up fifth fastest feeling he still needed to tweak his set-up for the different conditions. Lamberto would also make the top qualifying heat with the 6th fastest time in a car that someone else in the team had built, which was fitted with a borrowed body shell and was using one of the team’s spare engines. In 1:8, Dario seeded P2 behind Simon Kurzbuch as he still looked to perfect his set-up. One of the challenges of the track for Dario was how sensitive it was to even the smallest of set-up changes - a small strong change feeling like he had done something a lot more drastic. Bringing Fridays’s action to a close, Naoto and Lamberto managed the 4th and 5th fastest seeding times. Arie would remain in control of the +40 class.
With Saturday’s schedule made up of all four rounds of qualifying plus some lower finals, Jilles and Teemu got things off to a strong start with a P2 and P3 for Q1. The second round would prove even better with Jilles running a TQ time with Teemu again third fastest over the 4-minutes despite a mistake entering the straight in the final laps. On the third attempt, the track getting slower due to rising temperatures, Jilles delivered the 3rd quickest time with some bad laps meaning P6 for Teemu and P7 for Lamberto. In the final qualifier, the track at it's slowest, the team would deliver a 1-2 with Teemu at the top of the times ahead of Jilles. All this meant Jilles would line up second on the grid for the 45-minute A-Main behind Alessio Mazzeo with Teemu starting third and Lamberto 8th. In 1:8, after a good start that resulted in a P2 in Q1, Dario had a tough 2nd and 3rd qualifier, traffic an issue in Q3. Finishing out qualifying with a P3, this would mean lining up 3rd on the grid behind Simon Kurzbuch and Silvio Hackler. With Carmine qualifying 6th,a superb effort from Chavit rewarding him with 7th and Lamberto 8th, the total number of IF18’s was then to be boosted to 5. After a rough qualifying, that tricky corner on to the straight being his nemesis, Naoto would start out his Sunday down in the C-Main. Winning that 20-minute encounter, he went on to come through to also win the B-Main to line up 11th in the main race. In +40, after dropping off the top in Q1 & 2, Arie came back to TQ the third & fourth round to secure the overall TQ ahead of fellow Infinity driver Bo Nielsen.
With tyre wear on the high side, the big discussion ahead of the final was strategy. With such a closely matched grid and tyre changes a greater challenge in 1:10, quick work in the pits was going to be vital. Making a great start and running side by side with Mazzeo off the line before playing safe and backing out knowing 45-minutes of hard racing lay ahead, Jilles would put in a flawless race. While his car didn't miss a beat he would have a human body mechanical while leading the race. Suffering from his throttle finger going numb he had to stretch his arms to get the feeling back - not ideal in a race. All the time in the pits however Felix produced flawless fuel stops and two full tyre changes while also keeping his driver well informed even instructing him to open up to allow cars battling for lower positions to overtake such was Jilles lead advantage. For a time it looked like it was set to be an all Infinity podium with Teemu racing Jilles for the lead, but with his air filter came dislodged during his second last refuelling causing the engine to run lean and stop on track ending a great effort and resulting a 9th place finish. Lamberto was 3rd in the closing stages but then got hit forcing him to pit to fix the body dropping him to a P5 finish. Jilles' win was to be his first ENS victory and it was all the sweeter because it was on home soil delighting all the locals with his dad Frank on hand to enjoy the celebrations. Given the year that is in it, it is also a great ENS debut result for the IF15.
With +40 next up with a 30-minute A-Main, Arie completed the perfect weekend with a tone to tone victory with Bo joining him on the podium in 3rd. The big question was could we do the clean sweep. For a time it looked very likely, Dario was leading the race but it was to go wrong at the first of the two tyre stops. Leaving the pitlane, he would hit a stray tyre which he mistakingly thought had come of his car. Stopping at the pitlane exit and returned to his crew, complete with the stray tyre, it was discovered he still had all four of his own wheels intact. Unfortunately the incident was enough, given the World class quality of the field, to cost him a chance of victory. Dario would battle back however enjoying a great fight with Kurzbuch to come out on top to finish second behind Robin D’hondt. While not the result he hoped for, second place points is a solid start to his ENS campaign. After suffering a broken body following contact at the start, Lamberto finished 4th while Chavit backed up his qualifying with a super P5 finish. Naoto would complete the Top 10 but unfortunately Carmine would retire 4-minutes from the finish.
Delighted to take the win with our new IF15, the opening round of the ENS highlighted the competitiveness of both our cars and already we are looking forward to Round 2 in Ettlingen in Germany. It might be five weeks away but the work to be even better never stops.