ETS ROUND 5
JUNE 22-24 APELDOORN, THE NETHERLANDS
A favourite among drivers and rightly so widely regarded as one of the best tracks in Europe, Apeldoorn was the venue for the penultimate round of the 2017/18 Euro Touring Series. Last on the ETS calendar in 2013, our drivers travelled to the Netherlands with a strong previous track record. On the track's championship debut in 2009, it was Jilles who took the win with Marc winning all three following visits. For Marc, the weekend presented a slim chance for him to force the championship title to go to the final round at Hudy Arena next month. Jilles was aiming to repeat his ENS Netherlands success hoping to again take advantage of the very supportive Dutch crowd who are among the best when it comes to supporting one of their own. Fresh from claiming his first international nitro race win at the EFRA GP Series in Switzerland, Naoto was hoping to emulate his ETS Andernach performance on his first visit to the Apeldoorn track.
Unfortunately one of the biggest challenges of the weekend would be the weather. Thursday's free practice would end early due to rain and drivers woke to a wet track Friday morning but luckily the track had one impressive feature - its ability to dry super quick. Resurfaced since the last visit of the ETS, once the rain stopped the track's fine grade asphalt almost magically dried in front of drivers' eyes. With track action able to resume at lunch time on Friday, the delay meant just one round of free practice before two seeding rounds and hopefully the first round of qualifying. After the seeding, it was Jilles who was fastest taking his IF15 to the 3rd fastest 3-consecutive laps with Naoto and Akio joining him in the top heat. For Marc it was a tough seeding with him unable to get a set-up that was to his liking meaning he would run his four qualifiers in the second fastest heat group. All set to put Q1 in the books, the liquid from the sky returned and the decision was made to reschedule the run for Saturday morning.
Finally getting down to the serious business of qualifying at 08:00, Jilles was able to continue his practice form. Running a Top 3 time, a few rough laps at the end of the 5-minutes dropped him back to 5th but overall it was an encouraging first attempt. In Q2 it was Naoto who was fastest with a P5 run after opting away from running ARS on his car. With the rain delays leaving him to use the first two qualifiers to try different set-ups, in Q3 Marc found a direction he liked and that was reflected in him setting the second fastest time. With no new tyres for the final qualifier, a number of drivers having saved their third sets, Marc would manage an impressive 5th fastest time on used tyres allowing him to drop his P7 from Q2 to line-up 5th overall on the grid. Managing a P3 run, Naoto would also improve his ranking securing 7th on the grid while Jilles completed the A-Main line-up. The B-Main would contain a number of A-Main regulars given the level of competition and the closeness of the times around the large track.
In terms of the Infinity driver most deserving of a beer at the end of Saturday's qualifying that honour went to Beni. A veteran of the ETS, having raced across Europe as an early member of the 'ETS Family', he secured his first ever ETS TQ of the championship claiming pole for the 40+ Masters class which had attracted a massive 65 entries. He would be joined in the A-Main by Søren and our ENS 40+ championship leader Arie, who was enjoying his first ever electric race. In Formula, Jitse put further mileage on what is very close to being production version of our IF11, qualifying it 3rd. Making sure we were represent in all the A-Mains, Dominic lined up 7th posting a P3 time run in Q2.
While drivers enjoy driving the track, in terms of racing on it, the fast flowing layout doesn't create many opportunities for overtaking. In A1 however, Naoto made up four places to finish third but admitted he didn't actually overtake anyone rather they made mistakes. An early incident dropped Marc to the back while Jilles came through for 5th. A2 would prove an uneventful race with the Top 5 finishing as they started, Naoto the highest mover taking 6th behind Marc. Wrapping up the weekend, A3 would net Marc a fourth but despite an early incident ending his challenge it was Naoto who was our best overall finisher as he secured 5th with Marc 6th, his title hopes over, and Jilles 9th. While not the result we had aimed for going into the weekend, the guys will take the positives from the weekend and try to ensure they cap off what is only our second season of the ETS as a manufacturer on a high note in Slovakia.
There was still plenty to celebrate in the Netherlands because after his TQ Beni would complete the perfect weekend and after years of trying he is finally able to call himself an ETS race winner. After contact in A1 sent him on to the grass, the second A-Main produced a good battle for the lead with Christian Drießle managing to squeeze through for the win setting up a three way fight for the overall win in A3. Beni delivered when it counted most with the perfect race to get the job done. A great job from Beni. In Formula, Jitse started out well with a P2 in A1 and P3 in the second but a rough A3 meant he just missed out on the podium. Dominic held his own in Pro Stock starting & finishing the opening two finals 7th and getting a 6th in A3 but in the final order he was classified P8. With the organisers doing yet again a great job managing the challenge presented by the weather, it was another fantastic ETS event and Apeldoorn's return lived up to expectations with the AMCA club great hosts.