The third round of the Euro Nitro Series took our team up into the Austrian hills to the MAV Aigen-Schlägl track near the Czech and Germany borders. At 600 metres altitude, the track has a postcard setting surrounded by countryside and it brings its environment into the track characteristics with a 5-degree inclined up the 65 metre long main straight. Once in the infield the cars then make the decent back to the loop. As tracks go, Aigen has been a happy hunting ground for our 1:10 drivers. In 1:10, Teemu claimed the IF15's first ENS win there in 2016 and last year en-route to the Championship title Jilles led a 1-2 from Francesco. Having won the opening two rounds of the 1:10 Championship, Teemu came into the weekend looking for three in a row and back to back titles for the team. In 1:8, Dario was aiming to register the first win as the reigning Champion.
In Free Practice the guys were very quick to get the IF15 dialled into the track and after 12-rounds it was an Infinity 1,2,3 with Teemu the benchmark followed by Jilles and our young Dutch talent Milan Holthuis. Our IF18 would also top the times in the hands of Carmine with Dario P4, both drivers admitting that while 3-laps was OK doing a full 4-minutes was 'hard work', many drivers feeling the track is perfect size for 1:10 but a little small for 1:8. Two rounds of Controlled Practice followed and Teemu had no problems maintaining the top spot again ahead of Jilles. Despite feeling the need to slow down to get more consistency on the loose track, Dario would improve to end up second fastest with Carmine 4th and Jeffrey 7th.
Friday's action would finish with the opening round of qualifying and it was a perfect start to the serious business with an Infinity clean sweep. Getting the ball rolling, Teemu put in a TQ run ahead of Jilles in 1:10 which was followed by a TQ run in the 1:8 40+ class from Arie. It was to be the 1:8 that provided the closest battle with Dario coming out on top ahead of Simon Kurzbuch by 0.024 despite hitting a stone at the end of the straight that caused his car to get out of shape. Suffering a mistake when he hit the curb and almost launched his car into the carpark, Carmine set the third fastest time. While drivers had to make sure to keep well topped up with liquid given the hot weather, the forecast was not reading well with rain on its way for Sunday. With Day 2 of qualifying underway on Saturday morning, the call was made that to avoid the rain it was going to be a long day with the finals rescheduled to run directly after the conclusion of qualifying on Saturday evening.
Continuing his domination of 1:10 Teemu would secure the overall TQ making it a clean sweep with TQ runs in all four qualifiers. While he suffered engine tuning issues in Q3, Jilles was going to be starting No.2 with Milan also on the A-Main grid in 5th. With both Dario and Carmine posting Top 3 times in each of their remaining qualifiers, Carmine having his best run in Q2 with a P2, they would grid up 2nd and 3rd for the 45-minute A-Main. Also joining them would be Rick (P8) and Jeffrey (P10).
The 1:10 A-Main started off with Teemu showing his intentions and pulling clear of Jilles. Holding a comfortable margin, Teemu was the first to stop for a tyre change with Jilles stopping for new tyres later in the final. With tyre stops complete, the gap was floating around the 2-seconds but on completing his final fuel stop Jilles made the call to go on a charge. Putting his slightly fresher tyres to good use he closed down Teemu for a thrilling finish to the race. With a minute to go Jilles was on the rear bumper of Teemu's car and taking a look a number of times at making a pass he wasn't able to do so without risking both driver's race eventually crossing the finish separated by 2/10ths for one of the ENS's closest finishes. For Teemu the win meant the title was his and for Jilles what a better way to hand over the title he won for us last season that with such an exciting race. Teemu's sixth ENS race victory, it also makes him the Championship's most successful driver.
With the sun starting to set in Aigen, it was the turn of the 1:8 A-Main. Initially the Top 3 held position before Carmine took over second which then became the lead. Out front for 4-laps, Carmine would catch traffic ahead of him, the two cars coming together and with no where to go he made contact. Damaging the front of his bodyshell he was forced to take a trip to the pits to have it fixed. An unfortunate incident for Carmine who himself said afterwards ‘I don’t know why the ENS is so unlucky for me’. Dario was now leading the Infinity challenge running in second. Opting to change all four tyres in his first stop and then just the outsides later in the race, the opposite to Kurzbuch, following the second stop Dario set about a charge on the leader reducing the gap lap by lap, his car working better towards the end of the race on smaller tyres, but he was to run out of time crossing the finish line 9/10th off the winner. A great recovery from Carmine meant it was to be two Infinity cars on the podium as he took third, his first podium finish of the Season. Having won the European Championship after a battle with his great rival Kurzbuch, Dario said, 'One time me, one time him. I won the European Championship and now he won this race..... It was a good race and it is always nice to race Simon’. Having planned to go more on the risky side with his strategy for the final with long fuel stops and just one tyre change, Carmine could feel after 10-minutes of racing that this wasn't going to work for the conditions and he changed ensuring he could battle for the podium. Both Rick and Jeffrey improved on their starting positions finishing 6th and 8th. The 2019 Euro Nitro Series will now conclude on September 6-8th at the Ettlingen track in Germany.