Dario Balestri has taken the win at ENS Germany. The Infinity driver came out on top of a close race long battle with Simon Kurzbuch after the Top Qualifier suffered a broken glow plug during his final fuel stop. Kurzbuch had lead the race with Balestri following close behind, the duo doing synchronised fuel stops early on but with a loose clutch on Balestri’s car meant he started to come in early. For Kurzbuch this meant he now had a stop in hand but first of the leaders to take on new tyres, the Shepherd driver made a second tyre stop for just outside tyres. While Balestri looked to have a slight edge as the race entered the final 5-minutes unfortunately we were denied a showdown of the two World Champions. In the pit for his last fuel stop, Kurzbuch’s engine for the second race in a row came to stop and needing a new plug the laps ticked away before he rejoined. This benefited Alessio Mazzeo, who having finished 2nd in the 1:10, finished just shy of two laps down on his fellow Italian. Toni Gruber would return to the ENS by claiming the final podium place ahead of Robert Pietsch with Kurzbuch ending up 5th. The result means it is Balestri who leaves Germany as the championship leader on the completion of the first half of ENS Season #5.
‘It was a really nice race. It was really really close’, was how Balestri summed up what is only his second ENS 1:8 career win. The 2015 Champion went on to say, ‘I made a small adjustment to the car before the start and it made it more stable but I had a small issue with the clutch. It was loose and coming in early so we got a little scared and that is why we changed our fuel strategy’. Winner of the championship’s first visit to the challenging Minidrom Ettlingen track four years ago, he continued, ‘Simon made a different strategy to me but maybe in the end even without his problem we could also win. It would have been really close. Anyway for the championship today was really good and we are on the top’.
Smiling from ear to ear, Mazzeo said,’It’s amazing. To do 90-minutes at this level I now understand what Bruno (Coehlo) did 1-year ago’. His best finish in 1:8, he continued, ‘I think for sure Simon was faster than me but all the way through the final I was fighting for 3rd, 4th and 5th and I had a good fight with Robert (Pietsch). We had the speed to get this result. The team worked a lot for this. I’m really happy with this result. Thanks to my dad, to Massimo who helped in the pits and Fabio for fantastic job I am really happy with this result’.
‘I started 3rd, I finished 3rd, I’m happy’, was how Gruber summed up his first ENS outing of 2018. Fourth in last year’s overall standings, the WRC Racing driver said, ‘At the start I lost important places because the engine was rich. At the first stop we adjusted it and it was perfect. In the middle of the race I had a really nice fight with Alessio.’ The German continued, ‘I was running 4th and was faster than Robert Pietsch so I started to push hard. Then I see him go in the grass and I could pass him. Apart from the engine being rich at the start everything went good. We change all four tyres and it was a good stop’.
Finishing fourth Pietsch said, ‘I’m pissed. I was in exactly the same position at Round 1, I was third, and I couldn’t miss a crash’. The Mugen designer contiued, ‘It was bad luck. I think it was Merlin (Depta) and I couldn’t miss him which left the body broken and I had no steering anymore so I had no chance’. With the incident happening after his tyre stop he said, ‘the race was good before that’ before concluding, ‘Any time soon hopefully I will have better luck’.
A dejected Kurzbuch said, ‘It looks like I am a qualification driver’. The second race in which he has TQd but been unable to convert that to victory, the reigning champion added, ‘the start was quite good. It was always close between me & Dario until the last stop’. Confirming it was a broken plug that has put his title defence on the back foot, he concluded, ‘there are still two more races to go so we will see what happens’.
In the new 1:8 40+ class, the half hour final would produce the championship’s first double winner of 2018 with Arie Manten taking the win. Starting from the TQ the Dutch Infinity driver controlled the race from start to finish having a very healthy 5-lap advantage over Dane Bo Nielsen. Briefing leading the race, the Xray of Martin Wenger would complete the podium in Germany.
Remarks – Top Qualifier here in Ettlingen, Jilles is running the exact same car as he took to victory at Round 1. The only noticeable change to his winning package is the bodyshell, switching back to Protoform’s P47 for Round 2. Describing the car as ‘pretty much the same as the last ENS’, he added, ‘it just has a lot of set-up changes. It very different because of the track here’.
Dominic Greiner has won Round 2 of the Infinity Euro Nitro Series in Germany. The championship’s fourth year to visit the challenging Minidrom Ettlingen, the Serpent driver became the race’s fourth different winner after seeing off a determined challenge from the Xray of Alessio Mazzeo. Initially it was Top Qualifier Jilles Groskamp who lead the way but gambling on a longer 5-minute refuelling strategy, the Round 1 winner got caught short and flamed out on his way in for his second stop. Holding Mazzeo at bay, Greiner’s super fast tyre stop would give him the breathing space he needed to secure his 4th ENS career win. The German was also helped by the fact Mazzeo was refuelling shortest of the leaders which meant he had to do two extra stops compared to his rivals. With Groskamp opting to change just his outside tyres, he struggled after the stop resulting in a big off which played into the hands of last year’s winner Eric Dankel who would take the final podium position ahead of the Infinity driver who leaves Germany still leading the championship.
‘Given how the weekend started out this is the perfect result’, was Greiner’s reaction to the win that makes him the championship most winning 1:10 driver. The World Champion continued, ‘this is not the track for our car and we had to find a big compromise. Alessio was faster in the final and I had to keep the door closed for a long time. He drove a fair race and I have to thank him for that’. Asked the key to his win, he replied, ‘my amazing pit crew. My tyre stop was I think 4 or 5 seconds faster than the others and the gap it gave me let me control the race and keep cool a bit. Jilles went with a 5-minute strategy and it did not pay off which was good for me’. He added, ‘there was huge tyre wear today. I think my set-up is why I had so much. Jilles was able to make it with only 2 tyre change’. He concluded, ‘this was going to be our most difficult race, and its a perfect result, and for sure we will be better for the next race’.
‘The best 15-minutes of my racing career’ was how Mazzeo summed up his battle with former team-mate Greiner. The Italian said, ‘Congrats to Dominic on keeping a calm mind. I pushed hard, too much, and he did a good job defending his position. It was a very nice clean race for me’. Top Qualifier at the season opener but having an engine issue in the final, he continued, ‘I happy everything work and we sorted the engine problem we had in Holland. I thank all my team for a good job’. On his strategy he said, ‘In the tyre change I lost contact with Dominic and I also had 2 extra (fuel) stops. Today we were a little faster but that’s racing’.
Dankel summed up his racing by saying, ‘at least we improved our position’, the Mugen driver starting 5th on the grid. The 2015 champion continued, ‘It was a difficult race. We made the wrong strategy changing all four tyres when you see Jilles could do it with just 2. Changing four instead of 2 was costly’. On the race itself the German said, ‘After the start I was stuck behind Teemu (Leino). I couldn’t pass him and the Top 3 pulled away. It was impossible to pull back that gap’.
Groskamp said, ‘What can I say, we went out with a risky strategy’. The Dutch ace continued, ‘In the end we couldn’t make 5-minutes. We had a flame out on the second stop and lost 10-seconds. Then we changed tyres only on one side, after the car was terrible which caused me to fly off the track. The tyre wear was much higher today. Mazzeo and Dominic had a better strategy. In the end we made it but the pace wasn’t there’. Behind Groskamp, Thilo Tödtmann made it five different brands of cars in the Top 5 with former Ettlingen winner Dirk Wischnewski coming home 6th.
Chassis – Infinity IF18 Engine – Max World Champion Edition Fuel – Energi Tires (handout) – Matrix Radio/Servo – Sanwa/Savox Body – Protoform R19
Remarks – Dario is running what he says is a straight out of the box standard IF18. Compared to how he ran it as Round 1, the World Champion said the only difference is how the car is set-up for the challenging Ettlingen surface.