The sixth season of the Euro Nitro Series was a shorter trip than normal for some of our team drivers as L.Collari RC Raceway in Bologna, Italy, returned to the calendar as the opening round. A previous host of the ENS in 2015 and 2016, this is a track that is steeped in history. Built in 1978, it was Italy's first permanent track and the place that would nurture the career of a certain Lamberto! Where he would learn his craft, Lamberto liked the place so much that, together with Luca Rauli, he took over the running of the track in 2013. As reigning champions of all three ENS classes, the entire Infinity team was super motivated to get the 2019 campaign underway with a successful opening round. Unfortunately, an uncontrollable element that is becoming all to common at nitro racing was in waiting for the weekend - yes, rain was showing as having plans to turn up on Sunday. With this in mind the schedule was adjusted to get qualifying underway on Friday evening.
At the end of Friday's practice, it was Teemu who lead our charge in 1:10 and Dario in 1:8, both drivers having the second fastest 3-consecutive laps of the track's fast layout. Teemu's time came from topping the first of the two seeding rounds, a change of bodyshell for the second run resulting in a slower time. Jilles seeded his IF15 fourth quickest, also with his opening time, as he opted to evaluate further set-up changes in CP2 which proved slightly slower. Fifth fastest in the first practice, Dario would improve to top the final practice round to seed no.2 despite still finding his car a little nervous to drive. Also improving in the final practice Lamberto posted the 5th fastest time ahead of Francesco with Alberto and Nicola also having the pace to make the fastest qualifying heat.
1:10 qualifying kicked off with a solid result for Jilles and Teemu who claimed P2 & 3. Happy to get the weekend underway with a P2 from the first of the 4 rounds, Jilles' run did contained some mistakes so he knew more was possible. Also, still running the same chassis as he did at the World Championships in Miami, he would be aiming for a better Q2 by changing to a new stiffer chassis plate. While only 2/10th off Jilles, Teemu reported his car having changed significantly from how it ran in practice. Developing understeer, changes would be required to get steering back for Day 2's action. In 1:8, Carmine recovered from issues in controlled practice, that left in the second fastest heat, to claimed a P2 ahead of Dario despite being hampered by traffic. The high speed nature of the track means runtime can be critical and for Dario he came up just short while on for a TQ run, leaving him limping across the loop for a P3. Lamberto made it three IF18 in the Top 4 so overall a solid first official day of action.
With a practice run opening Saturday's schedule, the second 1:10 qualifier saw Jilles go one better and come out on top. Unfortunately for Teemu he would lose his back pressure pipe and retire from the run. Q3 & 4 would be better for Teemu with him posting P3 in both but overall it meant 5th on the grid. While Jilles' time to have problems came in the final two qualifiers, his Q1 & 2 performances netted him second on the grid for the Main which would end up being reduced to 30-minutes.
After just missing out on the Q1 TQ, Dario delivered on his second attempt with a great push over the final laps to edge ahead of Simon Kurzbuch. Carmine produced another strong run from his heat to back up his opening P2 with a P3. The reigning 1:8 Champion, Dario and Kurzbuch would switch position in Q3 before Dario concluded qualifying with his second TQ run of the day, but the tie breaker would favour Kurzbuch to take the overall TQ. With Dario lining up second, Carmine secured 3rd. In total, the IF18 would fill 6 of the ENS' unique 12 car A-Main grid with Rick V bumping up from the B main to join Lamberto (P6), Francesco (P7) and Alberto (P9). In the 1:8 40+ A-Main Arie would start his title defence from 3rd on the grid.
As predicted the rain arrived on Sunday but it did so a little ahead of schedule - halfway through the 1:10 B-Main. After a long morning of hanging around for a dry track before the re-run of the 1:10 B-main and then the 1:8 B-Main, it was finally showtime. Following the rain the track would be extra abrasive and it was the decision to alter his planned pit strategy to suit this that would net Teemu the win, the 4th of his ENS career. Originally planning to change only his outside tyres, he switched to changing all four and this paid dividends in the final 5-minutes of the race. Having run most of the race in 3rd place, he overtook both Alessio Mazzeo and Top Qualifier Leo Arnold for the lead to win by 8/10th of a second from Mazzeo. For Jilles his race was on the back foot from the start as he was forced to retune his engine during the first refuelling and then had issues during his tyre stop leaving him to finish a disappointing 5th.
Unfortunately starting number 2 on the grid wasn't a good omen for our guys in Bologna as Dario would also have a difficult race after leading for a time. Suffering a flame out, he eventually crossed the loop 5th just behind Lamberto who also had a flame out. Despite setting the fastest lap of the race, Carmine was only rewarded with 6th. Coming from 9th on the grid and losing time in some early race carnage, it was to be Alberto who would finish as the top Infinity completing the podium behind Dominic Greiner and Simon Kurzbuch. Starting off the season with a win and a podium at the ENS' ultra competitive level of competition is a positive start but the pace shown by our drivers indicates there is more on offer, so, roll on Rond 2 in the Netherlands at the end of May.