By Tyler Hooks
Race Report from EFRA:
After a few days of free practice for all the competitors at the fantastic Cassino circuit in Italy, Thursday saw two rounds of seeding practice, with a drivers best three consecutive laps to count. At the conclusion of seeding practice the top 64 drivers would go on to contest the European 1/8 IC A championships, while the remaining 29 drivers would do battle for the Euro B title.
Michael Kammer displayed his intent early on, taking round one from junior drivers Filippo Domanin and Davide Caporossi. Generoso Mazza then put in an awesome drive in from heat two in the second round, taking the round win from Dennis Weihert and Francesco Maddaloni.
Michael Kammer reasserted himself with another fastest time in round three, taking the round from the consistent Maddaloni with Weihert taking third. Kammer had the opportunity to seal pole position by taking round four, but a crucial mistake in the infield dropped him down the order, allowing Mazza to set up a final round shootout for pole by setting the fastest time from Maddaloni and Weihart.
All eyes on Mazza then, who did what he could by setting the fastest time in his heat in round five, laying down the challenge for Kammer to respond to. Michael looked to have done all he needed to do, before a late race charge from Dennis Weihert saw him take the round from Kammer, with Mazza third. This left Kammer on pole, and set up a superpole shootout between Mazza, Weihert, Maddaloni and Bergoin for the second guaranteed starting position in the main European B final. Bergoin set a time that was quickly beaten by Maddaloni, with Weihert then failing to beat the laptime set by Maddaloni, leaving just Mazza to run. A searing opening lap from Mazza secured him the superpole by 5/100ths from Maddaloni, and gave him the second guaranteed starting spot in the final.
Simon Kurzbuch laid down an early marker, taking round one by 5/100ths from Dario Balestri and Teemu Leino, before Balestri hit back to take round two from Robert Pietsch and Kurzbuch in the last of Thursday’s qualifying action.
The cooler track temperature on Friday morning meant round three could be critical, as it was likely to produce the fastest run time, which could prove critical in a tie break situation later on. Kurzbuch took the round by 7/10ths from Balestri, with Pietsch coming home third. Balestri knew what he had to do to deny Kurzbuch the pole in round four, and duly delivered, beating him by the largest gap so far of 1.3 seconds, with the ever-reliable Pietsch in third.
Kurzbuch and Balestri tied on points into the last round then, with a win for either of them securing pole. Pietsch just pipped Kurzbuch to the line, though Kurzbuch was subsequently disqualified from the final round after technical inspection revealed his fuel tank to be slightly oversized. This promoted Balestri to second in round with Toni Gruber third, with Kurzbuch maintaining pole thanks to his earlier fast time in round three.
Roberto de Cesare was first to run in superpole, laying down a marker of 14.30, which was subsequently beaten by a 14.2 from Toni Gruber. Robert Pietsch then failed to set a time faster than Gruber, leaving just Dario Balestri to run. The first three laps resulted in some times very close to Gruber’s earlier run without actually beating it, before a stunning fourth lap saw him finally beat the time and confirm the second starting position for Saturday’s main final.
After several rain delays the main final got underway, with Simon Kurzbuch initially pulling a gap of around a second from Dario Balestri, before Balestri began closing in as they neared the first round of pit stops. Robert Pietsch was running in a comfortable third place at this point, and the battle between the lead pair allowed him to begin closing in. The battle between the top three continued with no position changes until the second set of stops, when Balestri coasted to a halt on the exit of the banked sweeper immediately after leaving the pits. His car was quickly recovered to the pits where an engine issue was discovered that forced him into an unfortunate retirement.
With Kurzbuch now leading from Pietsch by several seconds the race settled down until the fourth round of stops, when Kurzbuch elected to take on four new tyres as well as being refuelled in the pits. This lengthy stop gave Pietsch a healthy lead at that point of the final, as he pressed on without changing tyres at that point, simply taking on more fuel at his stop. It was also noticeable that Pietsch was running several laps longer in every stint than Kurzbuch, which would help to set up a thrilling finale.
Kurzbuch was lapping faster than Pietsch on his fresh tyres, but the gap wasn’t coming down fast enough to make up the time lost in changing to those fresh tyres, so the two different strategies had the cars a fair distance apart at this point. Pietsch finally took on new tyres at the mid point of the race, with Kurzbuch also taking on a fresh pair of tyres on the outside of the car, this closing the pair right back together again, with Simon now leading from Robert.
Pietsch and Kurzbuch each took turns in the lead as the other pitted, and it soon became clear the reason that Pietsch was running a few laps longer in every stint was that he was attempting to go to the end with one less stop - although Kurzbuch had a little extra pace at that point, it wasn’t going to be enough to make up the extra stop. Pietsch pitted at 39:30, meaning he would need to eke 5:30 out of a tank of fuel in order to get to the end. For a lap or two Kurzbuch and Pietsch were right together, before Kurzbuch pitted for his final stop, leaving Pietsch to see if he could make it to the end.
Pietsch got to the 43 minute mark before realising he wasn’t going to make it, so headed to the pits once more for a short fill to get him to the end, exiting the pits side by side with Kurzbuch, whose extra momentum just got him into the lead around the banked sweeper. Try as he might Pietsch couldn’t find a way past Kurzbuch, who crossed the line after 45 minutes to take the 2018 European title by just under a second. After a fairly lonely race, Toni Gruber took a well deserved final podium position, a lap down on the lead pair and two laps up on fourth place.
Michael Kammer led away from his pole position but before the end of the first lap Generoso Mazza had fought his way past and spent the first few minutes edging away from Kammer, the pair of them pulling away from third placed Francesco Maddaloni. A technical problem then struck Kammer, resulting in multiple visits to the pits and eventual retirement from the race, though he did have the small consolation of setting the fastest lap of the final.
With the pressure off Mazza continued to display consistent pace as he pulled clear of the chasing pack, eventually crossing the line after 45 minutes to take a deserved win from Maddaloni and third placed man Dennis Weihert, who took the position from David Wintzerith on the penultimate lap.