RUCPHEN, THE NETHERLANDS
After debuting on the ENS calendar in 2018, hosting the opening round, the Dutch track of Rucphen was ready to welcome back the championship, this time for Round 2. A great opening stage on our team's journey to the 2018 ENS triple crown, Jilles claimed his first ever ENS win here in 1:10, Arie claimed the first win of the newly introduced 40+ class win, and Dario kicked things off with a second. These results contributing to their overall title victories that would follow. After a successful start to our 1:10 title defence with a victory in Italy at Round 1 in April, we were aiming to maintain our position at the top of the standings. In 1:8, our speed at Round 1 wasn't reflected in the final result and we wanted to put that right.
After a productive free practice, Dario set down his intentions for the rest of the weekend by going fastest in timed practice with Carmine and Jeffrey making it three IF18 in the Top 5. In 1:10, it was a similar story as our IF15 filled three of the Top 4 spots in seeding with Jilles P2, Teemu P3 and Dutch young gun Milan Holthuis P4. In 40+, Arie topped the times - a good start to official proceedings.
After a round of free practice to get the track ready for qualifying on Saturday morning, RC racing's nemesis arrived - Rain. Thankfully after a 4-hour delay, the rest of the weekend would remain dry and helped by the extended coffee break it was to be a good Q1 for us. Teemu led an 1-2 from Jilles while in 1:8 Dario put in a TQ run while Carmine opened with a P3 as Arie set the benchmark in 40+. Round 2 of qualifying was an identical story. The third qualifier would see Jilles post a TQ run but with his results from the opening two qualifiers it was Teemu who was going to be the Top Qualifier with Jilles lining up second for Sunday's final. With a P3 in Q4, Milan was going to start his home race from P5. It was the same for Dario as his Q1 & 2 results and a TQ run from Carmine in Q4 allowed him to secure Infinity's first 1:8 TQ. Carmine efforts gave him 3rd on the grid with Jeffrey P5 and Rick V P9. Fastest in 3 of the 4 qualifiers Arie took a convincing 40+ TQ.
Based on the high tyre wear in the A-Main practice, Teemu would opt for a two stop strategy one of which would just be for a right side change only. With the first early tyre stop dropping him off the lead, Teemu would also have to contend with a quick pit visit after suffering a body tuck during a refuelling but with an otherwise clean 45-minute race meant he came out the victor to double up on his Bologna success and strengthen his championship lead. Unfortunately for our defending champion Jilles, his race would end prematurely as he retired shortly after his single tyre stop with a mechanical issue while fighting for the win. Following an early off as a result of getting fuel on his tyres, Milan put in a good recovery drive and just missed out on his first ever ENS podium but his fourth place is an indication he is one to watch.
In 1:8, unfortunately it wasn't to be our drivers' day. Starting off well with Dario and Carmine swapping position for the lead, they would both run into issues. Pitting after seeing his side belt come off with just over 5-minutes to go, it was discovered it had come off as a result of a broken pulley for which there was no quick fix. Leaving Dario to switch to cruise mode, his race would turn with an unexplainable off - one possible cause being a stone on the track. The high speed off left him with a bent front bumper which led to a second off after which he had to nurse the car to a frustrating fourth place when the win was so close. Rick V would end the race 6th while a flame out caused Jeffrey to drop to P9. In 40+, bad luck struck Arie before the race had even started after engine issues resulted in stripped gears meaning he failed to start. Unfortunately one of the terms of racing is with the highs come lows but the team will as always be striving for highs all round at Round 3 of the ENS in July.