By Tyler Hooks
Press Release from RedRC:
After a successful opening round to the 2018 Infinity Euro Nitro Series in the Netherlands last month, Round 2 of the high profile Onroad Nitro Championship is back on familiar asphalt as the world’s best drivers descend on the Minidrom Ettlingen track in Germany this weekend (8-10 June). With the championship’s debut in Rucphen adding two new winner’s names to the ENS roll of honour, Jilles Groskamp taking 1:10 and Robin D’hondt winning 1:8, Ettlingen is a track which presents its own unique challenges. The fourth year of inclusion on the ENS calendar, the track has a traditional nitro layout but has one particularly distinct characteristic, a very fine asphalt from the 2014 resurfacing of the track. In terms of winners, in 1:10, the class proving ultra competitive given it is a World Championship year for touring cars, the track has produced a different winner each visit. In 1:8, Simon Kurzbuch has won on the previous two visits with Dario Balestri winning on the track’s first appearance on the ENS calendar in 2015, but with the championship’s 17th race attracting over 110 entries the battle for victory will be as intense as ever.
Opening Season #5 with his first ENS career win, despite having been Champion in 2015, Groskamp comes into the weekend with high confidence. While the Infinity driver only raced 1:8 at the event last year, he is a previous 1:10 podium finisher at the track and he will be aiming to leave Germany on Sunday evening having extended his early championship lead. Team-mate Teemu Leino was one of Groskamp’s main rivals at Round 1 until a flame out ended the 2016 Champion’s challenge for victory. One of the previous winners at Minidrom Ettlingen, the Finn will be looking to become the first double winner there to get his title campaign firmly back on track and make Round 1 his dropped round.
Top Qualifier for the season opener but suffering engine issues in the final which left him P4 at the end of the 45-minute A-Main, Alessio Mazzeo again heads up the challenge from reigning champions Xray. Very disappointed at not being able to translate his qualifying pace into at least a podium finish in Rucphen, the Italian will be looking to finally register his second ever ENS career win. Enduring a tough debut at Ettlingen in 2016, when he failed to make the A-Main, last year the Italian showed well qualifying 3rd while team-mate & champion-to-be Bruno Coelho took the TQ, but the race didn’t go his way and he ended up 10th, Coelho fairing worse with his race ending in a DNF. The winner would be Erik Dankel, who having missed Round 1, returns this weekend along with Mugen team-mate Dirk Wischnewski who is the third of the track’s previous winners.
The world benchmark in terms of 1:10 pace, Dominic Greiner lacked in the luck department at Round 1. Qualifying 5th, low by his normal standards, the World Champion’s weekend in the Netherlands didn’t improve and he retired from the final. With 2018 marking his return to a full 1:10 campaign, the Serpent driver is a former Top Qualifier at Ettlingen but has yet to register a win here; something he will be aiming to put right this weekend so he can fight for the title which has so far eluded him. For Team Shepherd, having kicked off 2018 with a podium, Eduardo Escandon had a good run in Germany last year finishing second and the Spaniard will be looking to go one better this time round and secure his first ENS race win.
In 1:8, with work commitments preventing D’hondt from travelling to Germany, we are going to get our second different winner of the season. Kurzbuch comes into the event as the clear favourite. The Shepherd driver had a flame out at the season opener but recovered to finish on the podium and having TQ’d on all previous visits to Ettlingen he is the marker for his rivals. World Champion Balestri was his main challenger at Round 1 and the Italian will again lead Team Infinity’s high profile line-up of drivers. With the business of having just got married forcing him to miss Round 1, WRC’s Toni Gruber is back and the German should be right in the mix. At Serpent, Jeffrey Rietveld will be hoping he can back up his super impressive Round 1 performance, where he qualified 4th, while at Mugen Robert Pietsch will again lead the Japanese manufacturer’s assault. Having become the first winner of the newly introduced 1:8 40+ class, Infinity’s Arie Manten leads the growing entry this weekend.