Bruno Coelho has put one hand on retaining his Euro Touring Series title as he notched up his third ETS win of the season today in Riccione, Italy. The Xray driver repeated his 2016 win at the Marco Simoncelli RC Circuit with another win in A2, although Ronald Volker made the Top Qualifier work harder for the win second time round before a mistake ended the challenge. Allowing Elliott Harper into second, the Schumacher driver would finish 1.2-seconds back from Coelho with Volker a similar distance back in 3rd.
‘We’re not quite there yet with the first place in the championship but today’s win gets us a bit closer’ was how Coelho summed up his 8th ETS career win. Having made his asphalt debut of the championship at the Italian track and instantly making his mark after disappointing results at the season’s opening two carpet rounds, the Portuguese ace said, ‘racing on asphalt has always been very good for me I have always preferred it to carpet’. Summing up his A2 performance, he said, ‘in the first final the opening laps were loose so this time I drove more calm so I didn’t pull away easy. Ronald was pushing a lot to catch me so I pushed a little more to get some space. When he made his mistake the race was more comfortable for me’. With the penultimate round of ETS Season #10 taking place in Xray’s backyard, the Hudy Arena, Coelho said, ‘for sure it would be great to wrap the title up there in front of everyone. It is our home track but because of all the other classes I race I don’t get to practice on it and 200 people racing on it is going to be different to when only 3 or 4 drivers are testing. But the track has been good for me in the past’. Since joining track Coelho has won both ETS encounters in Slovakia.
Summing up his race, Harper said, ‘I didn’t get the best of starts and went wide at turn one. I just managed to hold my position’. He continued, ‘Myself, Bruno and Ronald pulled away and Ronald was pushing hard. Next thing I just saw a flash and somehow managed to get to the inside and avoid his (Volker’s) car. I knew I wasn’t going to catch Bruno so for the last few laps I backed it off to bring it home’. With P2 up for grabs in A3, it 6 years since the British driver last made an ETS podium, he said, ‘I’ll have to push hard and try to pressure Ronald into a mistake. I’ll try hard to make a pass’.
The only driver who can mathematically challenge Coelho for the title, albeit he needs to dominate the rest of the season, Volker said on his A2 performance, ‘I made a bit better start off the line but I was over the limit the whole time to keep up’. The Yokomo driver continued, ‘then in the middle of the run I hit a bump and after my donuts on the straight I just tried to survive to the end. I went all in for the challenge but it didn’t pay off. Bruno did a good job so congrats’. Set to battle in A3 with Harper for second overall, having never made the podium in Riccione, he concluded, ‘I just try to do it simple and go tone to tone’. Behind Volker, Jilles Groskamp would get another P4 although his Infinity team-mate Marc Rheinard was not happy with the Dutch driver’s driving as he finished 6th behind the VBC Racing of Yannic Prumper.
In Pro Stock it was another tough outcome for Top Qualifier Mattia Collina. With the crowd behind him, the Italian would again have a great battle with Max Machler before getting tagged by the Awesomatix. Unlike A1, the Xray driver could continue but only briefly. With Martin Hofer joining the battle at the next corner Collina would try down the inside but hit the Yokomo sending both cars off into the barrier leaving Machler to take an easy win over Olivier Bultynck. In Formula, David Ehrbar would lead away as he did in A1 but again a mistake would ruin his race allowing Jan Ratheisky to the front where he would stay to win ahead of Bultynck and a recovering Ehrbar.
It was an easy Sunday morning drive for Bruno Coelho in A1 as the Xray driver took a dominant A1 win at ETS Italy. Top Qualifier at the Riccione track, the reigning champion would immediately break away from the pack to win ahead of Ronald Volker and Elliott Harper, the Top 3 remaining the same from start to finish. Behind, 4th place starter Marc Rheinard would fall back after an altercation with the track’s infamous bump, snatching back 5th at the line from Serpent’s Viktor Wilck to finish behind his Infinity team-mate Jilles Groskamp.
‘A very good start, although the first two laps were a little difficult’, was Coelho’s reaction after the race. Moving a step closer to his third win of the season, the championship leader continued, ‘we are still not perfect with the tyre prep. We tried many different ways already but its still the same. Normally you have more traction at the start but instead there is a strange traction. The lap times are there but it is super loose in the rear and then after 3 or 4 laps its perfect’. Bolting away from his rivals at the start, his first lap would be the fastest of the race with him the only driver to manage a 15-second lap. Having gapped the field he said after that he just ‘tried to make no mistakes and get to the end’ adding ‘I’ll try to do the same in the second one’.
‘Not much I could do’ was how Volker summed up the race. The Yokomo driver said, ‘I started with understeer already. Bruno was everywhere faster’. Describing it as an uneventful race, when asked about Harper closing in on him, the World Champion replied, ‘Elliot came close and I had to defend but gladly he never got too close and at least I could stay second’. A track which hasn’t been good for the 5-time ETS Champion on the previous two visits, the German was clearly frustrated with the lack of performance from his BD8’s current set-up which he said they will change for A2.
Featuring at the sharp end of an ETS A-Main for the first time in a long time, summing up his race Harper said, ‘the first few laps were not very good but having said that I did set the second fastest lap of the race on my second lap’. The Schumacher driver, who TQ’d the third round of qualifying, continued, ‘the first lap was hectic, the feeling was not direct and a ‘skatey’ but then the tyres came in’. On his battle with Volker the British driver said, ‘there was less pressure when something happened to Marc (Rheinard) and I could close a little bit on Ronald but I couldn’t challenge him. Still it was a good run’. Planning to make changes to his Mi6, he concluded, ‘hopefully then I’ll be able to challenge Ronald in the next one’.
While the Volante Modified A-Main didn’t set pulses racing, the Scorpion Power Formula and Xray Pro Stock encounters did. In Formula there was a great battle between Top Qualifier David Ehrbar and reigning champion Jan Ratheisky. Around three & a half minutes in however Ehrbar’s would take a tight line onto the straight and catch the grass sending his Serpent tumbling to the infield and allowing Ratheisky to take the win ahead of Infinity driver Jitse Miedema and Olivier Bultynck. In Pro Stock, it was also the Top 2 starters who went at it. Starting from pole Mattia Collina was putting in a great drive to resist the pressure of Max Mächler but coming onto the straight the Awesomatix driver would collect the Xray with Lars Hoppe there to pick up the pieces and the win ahead of Christian Donath and Henrik Heitsch.