It was certainly Marc Rheinard’s day today in qualifying at the opening round of the ETS with the Infinity driver pulling off a clean sweep by topping all four qualifiers. Having wrapped up his first overall TQ in over a season in the penultimate round of qualifying, the German didn’t have the same outright pace as before but swapped the lead with Bruno Coelho until the reigning champion went flying off the track. In the end Rheinard would TQ by half a second from Alexander Hagberg with Viljami Kutvonen third quickest ahead of Akio Sobue. Having set the fastest lap Coelho would cross the line with the fifth fastest time, the Portuguese driver still not happy with his car. Changing set-up every round but with the car still loose in the rear he said the only conclusion they can come to is that the issue is tyre related adding that they had come across the issue previously during testing at the Hudy Arena. In terms of the grid Coelho starts fourth behind Marco Kaufmann who finds himself the surprised best Xray qualifier. The only driver to beat Coelho last season, Ronald Volker starts P6 behind Hagberg with the A-Main grid in Vienna completed by Christopher Krapp, Akio Sobue, Olly Jefferies and Yannic Prümper.
Jan Ratheisky is the Top Qualifier for both Pro Stock and Formula at the opening round of the Yokomo Euro Touring Series in Austria. The former champion of both classes and only driver to win two classes on the same weekend of an ETS, the Xray driver secured his pole position double in the third of the four rounds of qualifying. Having taken the opening two qualifiers, the German continued his form into the second half of the day with a third TQ run in the penultimate qualifier to secure his first pole position in 8 races. The last time he took an overall TQ was on the same weekend he wrapped up the Season #9 Formula championship title. In Pro Stock it will be Simon Lauter who will be Ratheisky’s main challenger off the start line with the Tamiya driver taking the final qualifier from the second fastest heat to jump ahead of Mustafa Alp who will line up third. Former DHI Cup Pro Stock champion Tim Benson ended qualifying fourth for Serpent with Awesomatix pairing Max Mächler and Olivier Bultynck completing the Top 6. For reigning champion Alexandre Duchet, who had a fairytale ETS debut at the season opener last year, it has been a tough qualifying with the Frenchman just making the A-Main cut, qualifying his Xray 10th.
In the Scorpion Power System Formula class, Ratheisky made it a clean sweep of qualifying taking all four rounds. Defending champion David Ehrbar was to be the closest challenger finishing P2 in three of the runs and the Serpent driver will be hoping he can do something about his rivals domination in tomorrow’s finals. British driver Luke Lee secured himself third on the grid with his Xray ahead of Infinity team driver Jitse Miedema and Matej Dobnikar. A Season #10 title contender Team Shepherd’s Olivier Bultynck will start 7th on the grid before the season finale winner Benson.
In the new Infinity Masters Touring class, TQ runs in Q3 & 4 will see Thomas Oehler as the first ever Top Qualifier with Q2 pace setter Christian Drießle lining up second. Having taken the opening qualifier Hungarian driver Miko Peter will start third ahead of Austria’s Christian Stöckl.
Marc Rheinard has ended a 2-year TQ drought by claiming his first pole position start of the Yokomo Euro Touring Series since 2015. Last securing pole at the Season #9 opener in the Czech Republic in 2015 he became Top Qualifier for the 13th time today in Vienna when he made it three out of three at the top of the time sheets in the penultimate round of qualifying. Claiming the first championship point of the season, the TQ marks the first for Infinity as the German driver and Japanese manufacturer embark on their first full ETS championship campaign.
‘How long has it been’, was Rheinard’s reaction after locking in pole by taking Q3 ahead of Bruno Coelho. He continued, ‘I didn’t expect to TQ when we came here especially after the first practice run but we worked on it and it got better’. Switching to his second set of tyres for the round, he said, ‘the feeling of the car was not the same as before but the balance was still good’. Denying Coelho the chance of taking the TQ fight to the fourth & final qualifier by half a second, again setting the fastest lap, the former ETS Champion said, ‘we need to see who will start second but I’m comfortable with the car while others are struggling with theirs and like I said before I have a good car for 5-minutes’.
Having set the pace in practice but clearly having lost form since the start of qualifying Coelho said, ‘we are still trying to find the problem with the car’. Crashing on the opening lap of each of the first two qualifiers, the reigning champion would have a clean Q3 but he is still not happy with his car. He said, ‘we were super fast in practice but now the car is losing the rear and we are still trying to find out the problem’. Switching around his tyres for Q3, he said while it made the car ‘a little better’ overall the car is still the same so they haven’t yet problem.
‘Great’ was how Marco Kaufmann described another impressive run to the 3rd fastest time. The German driver continued, ‘I don’t think I was ever so close in the ETS before as this to a TQ run’, him holding the second fastest pace behind Rheinard for much of the qualifier. With a strong grid position locked in with his pair of P3 runs, he said for his final attempt he will ‘give everything in the last one to try for a TQ’, adding ‘I have nothing to lose’. He concluded, ‘I just want to enjoy the weekend now and have a good race’.
Posting the fourth fastest time, Viljami Kutvonen said, ‘I hit the boards 4 times, I don’t know how I survived to finish’. The Awesomatix driver explained his incidents by saying, ‘I think it was just me, I pushed too hard. The car is good without pushing’. For the final qualifier, as he tries to protect his current second place in the qualification ranking, he said, ‘I will just make sure I didn’t break anything on the car and then try to drive it a bit better’.
‘OK’ was Alexander’s Hagberg reply when ask how he felt his latest qualifier went. The Swede continued, ‘we don’t have the set-up to go fast and we are not sure what to do yet’. While his best of the three qualifiers, he concluded, ‘the car is not quick enough to fight for the TQ so we have to find something for the last round’.
‘I’m just happy to be back in the A-Main first off all. I’m happy to be back in the mix’, was how Christopher Krapp summed up his sixth for Q3. The best placed Yokomo driver with both Ronald Volker and Naoki Akiyama having errors with Volker pulling off as he struggled with his car, Krapp said with his car lazy in Q2 a set-up change improved it for the latest run. While pleased with his BD8 he was less complimentary of his own driving saying, ‘I am not 100% happy with my driving. I made a stupid mistake and kissed the boards which cost me 1-second so I will try getting the right lines in the next one’. Behind the German, Yannic Prumper took his privately entered Infinity to P7 ahead of factory driver Akio Sobue with Serpent’s Viktor Wilck 9th in front of Akiyama.