WEINER NEUDORF, AUSTRIA
Round 4 of the Euro Touring Series threw up a new challenge as the relatively unknown track of ERC Wiener Neudorf near Vienna in Austria made its debut on the calendar. The first international race to be hosted at the track, its technical layout was to challenge all the drivers with nature adding two further elements - wind and rain. Thursday is normally the day to find a base set-up for the rest of the weekend but rain meant a lot of sitting around. Eventually things did improved enough to allow four rounds of free practice to run late into Thursday night. While Friday was looking dry, Saturday's weather was looking questionable for the evening time but no matter what weather app one used Sunday was a certain right off. The decision was made that the race weekend would be condensed down to a Friday/Saturday schedule.
With a gusting wind on Friday, consistency was a big problem as cars got blown offline on the tight and busy track layout with the high curbing punishing drivers further by launching cars into the air. Despite the frustration of the wind, it was a good showing for the IF14 in the two rounds of seeding practice as Marc and Jilles went 2nd & 3rd quickest over 3-consecutive laps, Marc particularly confident with his car from the get go.
Qualifying, and the first of the four rounds saw Marc continue to show strong over the full 5-minutes. Referring to the track conditions as 'the most difficult conditions I’ve ever had on asphalt', he would open with a 'solid start' P2 for Q1. Taking into account the unpredictable winds, Akio went for a 'maximum' safe run and was rewarded with a P4. Finally getting a set-up he was comfortable with after copying what Marc was running, Yannic was 6th fastest. Q2 was to be another god result but a somewhat frustration run for Marc. Super happy with his car, he would lose out on the TQ by 4/10th after three bad laps including the final lap on which he lost most of his time. Improving on Q1, Yannic recorded P4 ahead of Akio.
Again in the hunt for a TQ run and looking on target to deliver, Marc was to have a mistake coming on to the main straight. Laying down the TQ pace, he touched the curbing entering the straight and rolled - a mistake that was bitting a number of drivers as they tried to push the limits of this challenging track. With any chance of bettering Q1 & 2 he pulled off. Overall it wasn't a good round for our guys with Yannic our quickest driver down in P7. One last attempt remained to improve grid positions on a track which all drivers unanimously agreed was going to be difficult to overtake on. Unfortunately with tyre strategy coming into play in Q4 Marc didn't have the opportunity to improve posting P4 run while Bruno Coelho secured the round and the overall TQ. Despite counting two P2 runs, Marc was going to line up 4th with Akio 7th, Yannic 8th and Viktor 9th, making the Infinity the best represented manufacturer in the A-Main - but all expected tough finals.
A1 was not to be the start we hoped for as early contact put Marc out of contention and he finished 6th followed by Viktor and Yannic. The second encounter was better as this time Marc was able to capitalise on contact between Ronald Volker & Alexander Hagberg that allowed him through to 2nd on the final lap. As drivers prepared for A3, rain put a halt to proceedings. For Marc, with his second place in A2 faster than that of Volker in A1, having the rest of the event rained out would play in his favour but things cleared up and when the track was dry racing resumed. Starting A3 3rd after Coelho wrapped up the win in A2, Marc had a outside chance of finishing 2nd overall if he could win the final encounter. Up to second after the first lap he attempted to close the gap to the leader but having to take risks he opted to maintain position to protect the overall podium placing his position would secure. Really pleased with the performance of his car throughout the event, Marc felt given his bad luck in qualifying the podium was the best he could have done.
After the high of his first Formula win at the previous round in Spain, Jitse faced a challenging follow up in Austria. Ending up as the unenviable BQ after qualifying, he was able to convert that into a win in B1 to progress to the A-Main where he salvage a P9 overall. With just 2 rounds of the ETS remaining, the next round is back on familiar ground at the beautiful Apeldoorn track in the Netherlands where Jitse will be chasing a home win and in Modified the guys will be looking for that first win of the season.