After basking in the sunshine in free practice yesterday, drivers didn’t fair as well on the official opening day of ETS Round 5 in Slovakia as a number of rain showers effectively wrote off any meaningful running at the Hudy Arena. Waking to rain this morning in Trencin with further rain showers over the morning, a dry track finally appeared after lunch allowing a round of 3-minute practice to prepare the track for qualifying. With further rain forecast for the morning, the schedule was brought forward to run two rounds of qualifying over the rest of the day but 9 heats in to the 27 heats the heavens opened again bringing a stop to proceedings.
Consulting with Martin Hudy on how the track dries and how late it would be possible to run, the track not having flood lights, it was felt the track could be made ready to complete the first round of Xray Pro Stock qualifying as well as Q1 for the Scorpion Formula class. Running another round of practice, Modified having had the call made that their day was done, the track conditions however wouldn’t come up as expected and so the ETS made the decision to call time on the a frustrating day. Unfortunately showers are been forecast again for the morning but from lunch it looks like the event might be able to get going with Sunday showing clear of any chance of rain.
Name – Hudy Racing Arena Country – Slovakia Location – Trencin (120km NE from capital city of Bratislava) Host – Hudy/Xray Surface – Asphalt Direction – Anti-clockwise No. of ETS Races hosted – 4 Previous Winners –Bruno Coelho (2016 & 2015), Marc Rheinard (2014), Ronald Volker (2013)
The Hudy Racing Arena hosts the Euro Touring Series for a fifth time in 2017 but unlike the previous four visits this time it is not the season finale but instead round 5 of 6. First opening its doors to international racing when it welcomed the ETS in 2013, the facility which is also home to the Xray/Hudy factory has been a bucket-list topper for racers around the world ever since. With the ETS utilising the outdoor track, the EOS visiting earlier in the year & making use of the indoor track, there have been some tweaks to the 320 metre long asphalt circuit since the last visit. In the centre section of the track all of the original curbing has been taken out and replaced with new lower profile curbing with World Champion Ronald Volker declaring it as ‘much better’. Martin Hudy said while it was a lot of work to take out the old curbs, the new curbing has made the track ‘more fun’ to drive with it now possible to run on the curbing without the car flipping. The track works have also seen the addition of new concrete barriers at locations where the racing lanes run parallel, this improvement sure to prevent some of the spectacular crashes witnessed in the past when cars crashed into the path of oncoming cars, in particular on the main straight.
While not effecting the track in terms of the driving experience, another more visual change this year is the almost complete indoor dirt offroad track that is being added to the 25,000 square feet facility which in a previous life was a soccer stadium. Where previously a green area lay between the Arena and the factory, there is now an impressive new building. A steel frame when the ETS was last here it is now a fully inclosed building with just some final roof work needed to complete the exterior before they can get on with building the two (1:8 and 1:10 dirt) tracks inside. Its addition certainly adding to the status of the Hudy Arena being the worlds greatest RC facility.
The Yokomo Euro Touring Series travels to rc racing’s bucket list topping Hudy Arena this weekend (16-18 June) but unlike previous visits to the home of Xray the event will not mark the traditional conclusion to the season for the world famous touring car championship. Now scheduled in as Round 5 of 6, the ETS’ fifth trip to Slovakia however looks likely to decide the Season #10 champion with Bruno Coelho already within hands reach of successfully defending his title. The only one who can attempt to deny Coelho form celebrating one of the sport’s most coveted titles on Sunday night is World Champion Ronald Volker. With Coelho having three wins from four races, Volker is the only other winner this season but the Yokomo driver needs to dominate on a track where he has only won once before when the ETS made its first visit in 2013. Coelho on the other hand has never failed to win at his ‘home track’ since making his championship debut and would love to wrap up the title with that record remaining intact.
While all the attention will be on seeing if Volker can force the title to be decided in his home country, Ettlingen in Germany the new location for the season finale, a number of drivers will be striving for their own personal success at the Hudy Arena. Having given Infinity its first international title when he won the Reedy Race of Champions last month, Marc Rheinard will be aiming to give the Japanese newcomer its first ETS win as a manufacturer. Missing out on the podium at Round 4 in Italy for the first time since joining Infinity, that result ended the German’s title hopes. Given the track’s ownership, winning at the Hudy Arena would now be the next best thing and it’s something he has done once before when he led a Tamiya 1-2 from Viktor Wilck there in 2014 albeit before the arrival of Coelho.
Claiming a surprise but very popular podium finish last time out behind Coelho and Volker, Elliott Harper will be looking to repeat that performance for the relatively small Schumacher team. The multiple World Championship finalist, put his second ever ETS podium down to progress made by the team finding a set-up for asphalt and after his confidence boosting performance he should be in the mix this weekend having made the final on his previous visit to the Hudy Arena.
Having made his first A-Main this season in Italy, Wilck would go on to be competitive at the Reedy Race of Champions eventually finishing on the podium. While a unique race format, the Serpent driver did have good speed and having made the A-Main every year at the Hudy Arena we might see the Swede back mixing it at the sharp end of the field. Fellow countryman Alexander Hagberg has contributed to an Xray 1-2 here the last two years and after his misfortunes in Italy the 1:12 European Champion will be looking to bounce back.
In Pro Stock, it is also the reigning champion who leads the way but Jan Ratheisky has yet to register a win. The season so far has seen three different winners with Ratheisky’s Xray team-mate Alexandre Duchet claiming two of those. Second in the standings, the French driver took a surprise win at the season opener and a win on the championship’s first visit to Madrid. Bringing the challenge to Xray is Awesomatix with Olivier Bultynck holding third in the standings with a win at Round 2 to his credit. The Russian manufacturer added a second win with team manager Max Mächler taking a very popular first ETS win in Italy. In the Scorpion Power Formula class, it is two wins a piece for champion Ratheisky and Serpent’s David Ehrbar with just a single point separating the two title contenders.
Ronald Volker has kept the championship race for this year’s ETS title going by winning the third A-Main in Italy to finish 2nd overall. With reigning champion Bruno Coelho wrapping up his third win of the season in A2, the Portuguese driver was a more than usual interested spectator of A3 as the failure of Volker to finish second overall would mean he would be crowned Champion for a second year. Leading away the field Volker will get the result he needs with pursuer Elliott Harper not able to get by the Yokomo driver. Harper would in fact come under attack from Marc Rheinard until the Infinity driver ran onto the grass. An important result for Volker, if not the one he came to Riccione seeking, it was probably Harper however who was the happiest driver on the podium, his first podium finish in 6-years marking the first for Schumacher in the premiere Modified class.
Commenting on his second overall and clearly choosing his words carefully, Volker said, ‘A3 wasn’t easy because I was fighting with the balance (of the car) but I can’t be too unhappy to get P2. It was the max I could do for now’. The only other winner this year apart from Coelho, the World Champion said, ‘we are trying hard to catch up in car performance but it wasn’t on point so we couldn’t win’. Needing perfect results in the final two races of the season, he concluded, ‘we have to improve the car and that’s got to be our main focus from now to the next ETS’.
‘It nice to be back, we worked hard for this’, was how Harper summed up his impressive performance over the weekend. Having TQ’d a round of qualifying for the first time on Saturday, the multiple World’s Finalist continued, ‘we did a lot of learning and we had pretty good pace today and for the size of the team I think thats pretty impressive’. With former ETS Champion Jilles Groskamp one of the first to compliment the British driver on his performance, Harper said, ‘hopefully its the first of more to come’. On his A3 performance he said, ‘I tried to pressure Ronald. I would get closer some laps and then other laps he would pull away. When Marc went on the grass I could push a little over the limit but myself and Ronald were on exactly the same pace so I couldn’t challenge, but I tried’.
Finishing fourth, his first time to not make the podium since joining Infinity, Rheinard summed up the weekend as ‘disappointing’. With his title hopes over, he said, ‘the pace of the car was there for sure for a podium and I think also the potential was in the car to challenge Bruno but I messed it up in qualifying with my own driving mistakes’. Asked about A3, he replied, ‘I was stuck behind Elliott and then I ended up on the grass but somehow I kept going but I had no podium chance so it didn’t change the overall result’.
Unlike Modified and Formula, the overall Pro Stock winner would be decided in A3. Having lead both opening A-Mains, Top Qualifier Mattia Collina would finally go the full distance to win ahead of Max Mächler but winner of A2 that was enough for Mächler to take the overall win. Winner of A1, following the clash between Collina and Mächler, Lars Hoppe would get P5 in A3 but it would be enough to secure him 2nd overall with Olivier Bultynck completing the podium. With Jan Ratheisky wrapping up his second asphalt win of the season in A2, A3 would see Top Qualifier David Ehrbar win from Jitse Miedema which is how they would complete the podium presentation.