May 27, 2019

Kurzbuch wins “Really Tough” Rucphen battle

Simon Kurzbuch has taken the win at Round 2 of the 2019 Infinity Euro Nitro Series, but it was anything but easy as the three time ENS Champion seemed unlikely to even make the podium in the first half of the race. Qualifying fourth on the grid after admitting that he had struggled on Saturday, Kurzbuch initially circulated in fourth place, fighting with Dominic Greiner, who had bumped up from the B Final, as the race out front initially seemed to be a fight between the top three qualifiers of Dario Balestri, Robert Pietsch and Carmine Raiola. Deciding only to make one four tyre change at the half way point, as the other top runners chose two full changes, the Swiss driver confirmed that he knew he “couldn’t go at the pace of Balestri and Raiola, so we decided to make one less fuel stop [by running longer between stops] and making only one tyre change”.

Moving up through the field as issues took Pietsch then Raiola out of the running, it looked as though the Shepherd driver would repeat his Bologna result and stand second on the podium. But in the closing minutes of the race, Balestri hit trouble, going off on the main straight and then again a few corners later, which dropped him out of a top three placing. “It was a really tough final” was how Kurzbuch described the race. He also pointed out that with his father absent from this event, his brother Pascal had taken over pit duties and, along with pit lane regular Alex Kempe, they “made a great job and gave me great information during the race so I knew what I needed to do”.

Also benefiting from the mistakes and issues which struck the top three in the race, Dominic Greiner came through from 11th on the starting grid to finish second at the end. The Serpent driver was almost speechless when asked to explain his race, openly admitting it hadn’t looked like a “great weekend – we didn’t have the pace to be competitive [early on]”. Even after the B Final, he completely changed the setup on his car, and “never expected it [a podium result]”. Even his pitman Thomas Gunsel noted problems in the final – with “strange fuel consumption” causing a flame out. Luckily this didn’t cost much time, but the winner at the first round of the championship said “this cost the win, but still it’s very good for the championship” – him now sitting one point behind Kurzbuch.

Making it two Swiss drivers on the podium, Silvio Hachler said that after Bologna, he still had a “bad feeling” in the car, and so working over the next month developed a completely new setup approach for his ARC chassis. Noting that he was “a little bit lucky” to move up following the problems of other drivers, he had a pretty lonely race as the attention was focussed on those ahead. He was understandably happy to make a return to the top three at an ENS event and concluded by saying “of course I’ll take that one!”.

Clearly upset at being just minutes away from a potential victory after the retirement of team mate Raiola, Balestri was at a loss to explain what happened. With nothing obvious broken on the car to cause his initial high-speed off as he entered the back straight, he said he must have hit a stone or something as he was on cruise-control and “just running laps”. This accident bent the bumper of his Infinity car, which then in turn caused a second crash a few corners later, which then left the current ENS champion to nurse his car home to a fourth place finish.

Raiola had been in the hunt for the overall win, the lead swapping places with Balestri as the pit stop cycles worked through each time. Possibly looking set for the top step of the podium with Balestri due to make one extra pit stop for fuel, Raiola said he saw the side belt come off his IF18 and “drove immediately to the pit lane”. With father Alfonso then confirming that it was in fact a broken pulley which had caused the belt to fail and therefore no chance of a quick repair, the Italian, who has been with the Infinity program since the start, will have to continue his wait for his first ENS victory.

In the +40 Masters class, Arie Manten failed to start the race after engine issues led to a stripped gear, allowing fellow Dutchman Martin Zevenhoven to get the jump at the start and lead early on. As the race continued, Belgian John Lenears, who had battled with Martin in the initial stages, moved through to the lead and Angelo Fagnani, who had started 9th on the grid, moved up to second as Zevenhoven had to settle for third at the finish.

The 1/8 4S Electric class made its debut in The Netherlands and saw local hero John Ermen secure pole position and wrap up the overall title with wins in leg one and two of the final. Simon Schutte looked to be John’s closest challenger, taking second in every leg, but Kai Asmer came through to take the leg three victory after John sat out the race, giving Asmer second overall in front of Schutte.

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May 26, 2019

Leino doubles up in 2019 with ENS Netherlands victory

After taking the win at the season opening race in Bologna last month, Teemu Leino took a firm step towards the 2019 ENS 1/10th scale title by adding victory this weekend in Rucphen.  The Finnish driver crossed the line first despite running a different tyre strategy to his rivals, benefiting from mistakes and issues for his main challengers.  Making two tyre stops – the first to change just right side tyres after 9 minutes of the race and the second to change all four around two-thirds distance – he took the win over Leo Arnold and ENS returnee Patrick Nahr.  The victory also ties Leino for the most wins in the ENS 1/10th scale class, him now sharing the honour with Dominic Greiner with 5 victories in the prestigious series.

“We saw the high tyre wear in the practice and decided to make the extra stop for right side tyres” was how the Infinity driver explained the decision.  Looking over the car after the race, he added “maybe we could have done it on one stop, but it’s OK as we took the win”.  The only one of the top contenders to have anything like a clean 45 minute race, he said the only issue was a stuck bodyshell after an early fuel stop, necessitating a quick extra visit to the pit lane to have it sorted out.  Initially leading the field away, Leino was matched by team mate Jilles Groskamp, until the early tyre change left Groskamp and Arnold to fight for the win.  Groskamp, making only one four tyre change, retired shortly after his visit to the pit lane for fresh Matrix foam, with a broken axle causing the retirement.

Leo Arnold then looked set to inherit the win, but on his single tyre stop he lost around 1 lap to Leino, with his father quick to jump in and say it was his fault as he “lost the wheel nut” during the tyre change.  Reflecting on his run, the French driver said that “on the track the car was very good”, and on the second set of tyres he was really fast – but “not enough to come back [from the pit lane error]”.  The Xray driver, who finished third in Bologna was still pleased that the car and engine package was fast, but knows he will have his work cut out at the next round of the series in Aigen, where he ideally needs a win to keep the overall Championship hopes alive.

Running a pretty quiet race for the first half, the action for Nahr kicked off shortly after the tyre stops.  Only changing right side tyres early in the race, he tried to run for the rest of the 45 minute encounter without a further stop.  The gain in time through not making the change gained him track position, but as the race entered the final stages, he desperately ran out of tyres and allowed a hard-charging Milan Holthuis to close in and look a threat for his podium place.  Pitting then to change just left side tyres, whilst he didn’t have the speed of the leaders it was enough to hold off the young Dutch driver and secure a top three result on his return to the ENS.  “For the first race after three years away it was very good!” was the Shepherd driver’s reaction as he showed he had lost none of his speed from his time away from competition.

Infinity driver Holthuis initially ran with the top three of Leino, Groskamp and Arnold in the race, until getting fuel on the tyres in the first pit stop which saw him go off at the end of the main straight, dropping him back.  From there, he focused on his own race and “enjoyed it”.  Later in the race, when the problems for Groskamp and Leino saw him running as high as second place, trouble hit as “the first gear broke”.  This necessitated a lengthy pit stop to replace the part, dropping him two laps behind Nahr.  But with Nahr struggling with tyre wear, Holthuis ran up to one second per lap quicker than the German and made one full lap back, until Nahr took his late pit stop for two more tyres which prevented Holthius making his maiden ENS podium.

“A bearing in the rear hub broke during the tyre change and the axle then came out” was Groskamp’s description of the difficulty he faced.  Feeling he had a good strategy and speed, proved by matching times with Leino and Arnold during the first half of the race, the Dutchman, who has now returned to live in the Netherlands after a number of years in Thailand, was disappointed that he wasn’t able to translate his speed into points today.  After also enduring a tough race in Bologna, Groskamp knows he is really up against it if he is to retain his ENS title come the end of the season.

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May 25, 2019

‘Great Team Job’ Gives Balestri Infinity’s First 1/8th ENS TQ

Dario Balestri has secured Infinity’s first ever pole position in the 1/8th class at the ENS.  The Japanese manufacturer, a supporter of the ENS since the end of the 2015 season has achieved success in almost all categories of racing, but remarkably, a 1/8th ENS TQ had still eluded them.  Reacting immediately after the last run, the current ENS and World Champion instantly remarked that it was a “great team job”, indicating firstly towards team mate Carmine Raiola, who topped the final qualifying round allowing Balestri to secure pole.  Also noting the rest of the team, including the mechanics of the two drivers, he said a small mistake in the last round prevented him taking Q4 as there was “nothing between the top three” – the two Infinity pilots and Mugen’s Robert Pietsch.

Pietsch, who will line up second on the grid, had taken the fastest time in Q3, forcing the last round showdown.  Swapping times at the top of the timing screen with the two Italians, Pietsch ultimately came up half a second short of Raiola but ahead of Balestri by just over one tenth of a second.  The Mugen designer remarked that it was “super close”, and that “you have to have a little bit of luck every now and then”.  When asked about the fight for pole in the final round, he said that he had Balestri behind him on track, which made him feel a little bit of pressure and led to a few small slides which cost him the overall TQ.  Talking about his car, he will change nothing for the long 45 minute final.

Raiola was overjoyed to take the fourth qualifier, although the reaction became a little subdued when he realised that Pietsch’s second place in the last round pushed the Italian to third on the grid.  The disappointment was short-lived, however, as he joked with Infinity team mate Balestri that he hoped to have “45 minutes together and a nice race”.  He feels well prepared for the final, having tested used (smaller) tyres in the final round, where he set the second best four-minute run of the day.

A “tough day” was Simon Kurzbuch’s initial reaction to his qualifying result.  Also pointing out that little mistakes were the difference between the top four drivers, he said that his car was “not too bad”, but that he had to “drive it at maximum” today.  Looking towards the Infinity pit area, the Shepherd driver said that he would use tomorrow’s A Final practice session to see “how the pace changes” – although he was unsure what setup changes he would make overnight in preparation for the race.  Notably, Simon is at the ENS without his father this weekend, however with his brother taking over pit duties, Kurzbuch believes he is “as good as my father, and with Alex [Kempe] we should still have the strongest pit crew tomorrow”.

Rounding out the top five on the grid, Jeffrey Rietveld matched the excitement of his Italian Infinity team mates, saying he was “very happy to be back in the A Main”.  Admitting that he “doesn’t get as much chance to practice” as some as his competitors, he believed he had now got the “right setup finally” on his IF18 and feels his pace over the longer runs will be good.  Also reporting that he has “great fuel economy”, he also feels that this will be important in the 45 minute race.  The remainder of the A Final direct qualifiers are last year’s winner Robin D’Hondt, local star John Ermen, then Silvio Hachler, Rick Vrielijnck and Tony Gruber.  Bologna winner Dominic Greiner had a birthday weekend to forget so far and will line up on pole in the B Final and hope to bump up for the 12 car race.

In the +40 Masters class, Arie Manten continued his domination this weekend, securing the pole position ahead of John Lenaers, who took the final qualifier as Manten had already wrapped things up, with Martin Zevenhoven lining up third in front of Andrea Hachler and Adie Van de Ven.

The newly introduced 1/8th 4S Electric class saw the first pole position go to John Ermen, who will roll off first ahead of Simon Schutte, Martjn Smits, Kai Asmer and Jeroen Smits in the triple-leg final tomorrow.

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May 25, 2019

Leino TQ’s 1/10th at Dutch ENS

Teemu Leino has taken his fourth overall ENS TQ despite failing to match his earlier results in this evening’s final two qualifiers.  With his earlier wins in Q1 and Q2, that was enough to secure him the overall pole position, the winner in Bologna extended his Championship points lead thanks to TQ bonus point.

Joking that “it was just OK” when asked if he was pleased with the result today, he followed up by explaining that he had changed nothing in terms of the car setup and just relied on his driving and his mechanic Felix’s work in the pit lane.  Saying that the “car feels OK for the final”, he will also keep the car the same for the final but fit a different engine.  When asked about the tyre wear for tomorrow, he thought a little before responding that he doesn’t “care what the others do on strategy”, and that he will just drive as fast as he can for 45 minutes.

Jilles Groskamp will make it an Infinity 1-2 on the A Final grid.  The Dutch driver set the best time in the third round of qualifying and finished the day off with a second in the evening’s closing round.  Reporting his car as “really nice” in Q3, he was at a loss to explain his lack of pace in Q4.  Saying this was maybe due to a change in the track conditions, he thinks the “strategy is quite OK for tomorrow”.  Often a driver to try something different in the long finals, the current ENS 1/10th Champion hinted he didn’t expect to do anything very different to the other drivers at the front of the grid, concluding that “the car is good also on small tyres”.

Leo Arnold, who had been quickest in practice, struggled early in qualifying with gearbox and one-way issues affecting the first two rounds.  But the French driver, who took the overall TQ at Round 1 of the series in Bologna, found speed towards the end of qualifying, taking second in Q3 and the fastest time in the final round.  Admitting that their focus today had been on fixing the earlier issues, he had not changed the setup of the car throughout the four rounds.  Looking towards the final, the Xray driver said they will “check the tyre [wear] and fuel in practice”, but he “expects a close race – strategy and small mistakes will decide the winner”.

Fellow Frenchman Quentin Leroux will line up fourth for the A Final.  The Capricorn driver being seeded in the second from top heat after practice, meaning he hasn’t had the opportunity to run against the other front runners during qualifying.  This leaves a bit of a question mark as to how everyone will stack up when on the track at the same time, but the practice session should allow things to be quickly worked out.

Completing the top five is Milan Holthuis.  After showing strong pace in practice, the Dutch youngster was able to convert this into qualifying pace with a third in the last round.  A change to softer shock oil was the biggest change to his IF15 chassis as he reverted back to the setup he ran on Thursday’s practice day.  When asked what he expects in the final, his father jumped in with “at least what we have now – or a bit better!”.  Expecting a tough race tomorrow, Holthuis wants to enjoy the experience and hopes to remain in contention at the front.  Behind the Dutch driver, Patrick Nahr marked his return to the ENS to be the best Shepherd, heading team mates Thilo Todtmann and Melvin Diekmann, whilst the other direct A Final spots are taken by Jakub Rozycki and Basile Concialdi.  The last A Final places will be decided tomorrow as the top two finishers in the B Final will bump up to make a 12 car grid.

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May 25, 2019

Balestri Remains On Top In Rucphen

After topping practice, Dario Balestri opened up qualifying with the fastest time in Q1 and backed it up with a slightly faster time in Q2 to hold the lead here in the 1/8th scale class at Round 2 of the Euro Nitro Series.  Two very close rounds of qualifying saw two seconds cover the top five in the first qualifier, and two seconds then covering the top eight in the second round.  The top four positions were the same in both rounds, as Balestri headed Simon Kurzbuch, Carmine Raiola and Robert Pietsch after each four minute encounter.

Despite taking both rounds, Balestri was not so happy with how the weather conditions affected his car, describing that it became “nervous and less stable” than yesterday.  However, very happy with the overall speed and lap times he ran, the Italian will just focus on driving the best he can, and not make any changes on the car for this evening’s final two qualifiers.

Finishing second to Balestri in both of the first two rounds, Kurzbuch led each of the heats with his Shepherd but came up short by six tenths of a second in Q1 and half a second in Q2.  Describing his car as “OK”, he highlighted one mistake in each run, and with the close field it was “too difficult to get [the lost time] back”.  The former ENS Champion will try to drive better in the remaining qualifiers and hopes he can take the fight for pole to Balestri.

Showing some great pace this weekend, Raiola led the first half of the second run, ultimately losing out on second place to Kurzbuch on the closing laps as his pace dropped off slightly.  Saying that “it went good”, the driver who has been with the Infinity programme since its beginning is searching for more initial steering on his IF18, and will make big changes for the next round.  Reflecting on his qualifying strategy, he said that now knowing the speed of his car, he “should have pushed more” to improve his points score.

Mugen designer Robert Pietsch holds fourth overall, with last year’s winner Robin D’Hondt in fifth.  Dutch drivers Jeffrey Rietveld and John Ermen are sixth and seventh, with the top ten rounded out by Bologna winner Dominic Greiner, Toni Gruber and Romain Picard.  The organisers are pressing ahead with their plan to complete all four planned qualifying rounds this evening, meaning racing will complete around 20:30 local time.

In the +40 Masters category, Dutch driver Arie Manten continues to be the class of the field, taking both opening rounds ahead of Belgian John Lenaers.  Despite taking the win at the Dutch National round held here in Rucphen last month, Manten said his results were “amazing”, after making some big changes earlier in the day after the rain, “it was now perfect”.

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May 25, 2019

Leino leads early qualifying at ENS

With qualifying getting away over 4 hours later than planned, due to unexpected rain on Saturday morning, it was Teemu Leino who set the pace in the first round of qualifying for the 1/10th scale class, edging out team mate Jilles Groskamp by seven tenths of a second.  Top seed from practice, Leo Arnold was matching pace with Groskamp for the majority of the four minute qualifier, until a mistake on the final lap saw him roll his Xray off the track.  This allowed fellow Frenchman Quentin Leroux, running in the group before the top heat, to take third in the opening round.

Happy, but surprised, was Leino’s reaction to his Q1 result, not expecting to do so well.  The Finnish driver thought it was a good idea for the organisers to run an extra round of practice after the rain, saying “I don’t know how it is possible but after the rain the track has more traction”.  After not making any planned changes for Q2, Leino again topped the times with his Infinity, ahead of Groskamp, and Arnold making no mistakes to take third.

Two second places for Groskamp sees him sitting second overall and assures him a good starting spot at the front of the A Final tomorrow.  Currently Leroux holds third place for Capricorn, backing up his Q1 result with a fourth place in Q2, ahead of Shepherd’s Thilo Todtmann and Arnold fifth in the ranking.

View the complete event results here.

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