2018 ENS ROUND 3
JULY 06-08 AIGEN, AUSTRIA
The Austrian track of Aigen was the setting for Round 3 of the Euro Nitro Series. Situation 600 metres up in the picturesque hilly countryside, the track has been a happy hunting ground for the team with Teemu securing our first ever ENS win there in 2016 en route to becoming the overall 1:10 champion. Unfortunately Teemu's chances of a third win at the 290 metre long technical track weren't to be as he took sick and was unable to join Jilles and Francesco for the weekend's racing. With our drivers coming into Round 3 leading the points standings in all three classes, Dario and Carmine would lead the charge in 1:8 while our big Dutchman Arie made the trip already with one hand on the 40+ 1:8 championship trophy.
Thursday was an opportunity for everyone to get in some good mileage ahead of the main event. With Jilles the only one of our drivers to attend the race in 2017 when the track had just got a completely new surface, for the others the day was an important chance to get a feel for that new asphalt. Previously somewhat of a tyre eating track, the new asphalt has proven much more tyre friendly with it now creating low wear. On to Friday, and while the day started off dry, just after the drivers' briefing as everyone got ready for the two rounds of seeding practice Mother Nature paid yet another visit to a race this season to wash the track! Starting off gently, the rain soon reached maximum power. While it stopped and there was hope of getting a dry track, when it started again the decision was called that no more racing would take place for the rest of the day. The wait was somewhat less boring than usual as the super nice staff of the host club put the Uruguay - France World Cup football game on their large full colour timing display.
Thankfully Saturday was a dry start and that was how it would remain for the rest of the weekend. Having re-scheduled to begin the day with a round of free practice to get back up some traction after the rain and then run 2 seeding rounds, the track would turn out to be considerably slower. With this in mind, free practice was extended and the heats were made up from the dry free practice times of Thursday and Friday, most drivers posting their best 3-consecutive laps on Friday morning. Francesco had managed the 4th fastest time with Jilles not quite having found the perfect set-up and posting the 7th quickest time. Dario had produced the 2nd fastest time in 1:8 with Carmine 7th and Arie quickest in 40+. Following the rain delays from the previous day, the 5 planned rounds of qualifying was reduced to 4 all of which would be run after lunch with the best 2 to count.
The first of the those qualifier saw a solid start with Jilles 2nd fastest in front of Francesco while Dario was third quickest and Arie posted a TQ run. Jilles had improved his IF15 over practice but was now having to deal with the car getting loose in the middle of the run. With the track different to Thursday's free practice, when his car was very good, Dario tried something for Q1 declaring it 'OK' but he needed to change more for the lower grip that resulted from the rain. Q2 netted Jilles another P2 time while Francesco was 5th locking both of them into the A-Main. Unfortunately for Dario a plug issue left him with a DNF with 30-seconds left on the clock. Carmine would improve on Q1 with the fifth fastest time. The third qualifier was a much better one for Dario but a lean engine forced him to have to back off and he missed out on a TQ run by less than 2/10ths. In the last qualifier he had the opposite problem with the engine too rich but despite the 'troubled day' he would line his IF18 up third on the grid for the 45-minute main with Carmine starting 8th. In the third 1:10 qualifier, Francesco had a more consistent car after changing to a harder rear diff and ran another Top 3 time. With a rich engine, Jilles struggled to match the early pace and opted to stop after the first minute. While much happier with his car now over the second half of the qualifier in Q4 but failing to better his previous runs, despite his two P2 times the points system put Jilles 4th on the grid directly in front of Francesco but both driver were confident of making ground over the long final. In 40+, Arie bagged his 3rd TQ of the season to move another step closer to becoming Champion with a race to spare.
A driver who is known to worry his rivals because of the strategies he is willing and able to execute in finals, Jilles decided this time he was playing it super safe and it was to pay dividends as others ran into trouble. With a front wheel nut causing trouble during his tyre stop and looking to have scuppered his chances of the win as Jilles said afterwards, 'You first have to finish to finish first'. Otherwise having a faultless race, when others had engine issues he was adding laps and this was rewarded at the end by him taking his second win of the season. After some drama at the start, Francesco also had a well executed final and it was that consistency that netted him second, finishing on the same lap as Jilles to be part of our first ever ENS 1-2 finish. A very special moment for everyone involved in the IF15 project, the result now means Jilles is strongly positioned to take the overall crown at the season finale in Fiorano.
Next up was the 40+ final and Arie continued his domination winning the half hour encounter comfortably. Maintaining his 100% winning record, win No.3 means he has sealed up the title and becomes the inaugural champion of the newly introduced class. Unfortunately the victory hat trick wasn't to be in Aigen with the 1:8 A-Main proving a difficult race for our guys. Dario suffered an early flame out loosing a lot of time as a result of some very slow marshalling but he recovered well and was battling for a podium when contact caused a breakage on the car putting an end to his race with 10-minutes to go. Carmine managed to finish the race 2 places higher than he started with 6th. While not the result Dario had hoped for, he still goes into the final round with shot at the overall title. While there is a big gap before the ENS finale in September, with a European Championship to contest in the meantime, the preparations for the ENS title challenge have already started.