Having wrapped up his second consecutive Euro Touring Series title by taking the TQ in Slovakia this morning, Bruno Coelho made light work of his opposition to cruise to the win in A1. Almost immediately the Xray driver would establish a lead while the rest of the field backed up behind team-mate Alexander Hagberg. Spinning out on the curbing at the one & a half minute mark would end Marc Rheinard’s race as he got collected by Infinity team-mate Akio Sobue resulting in the front left corner being pulling off the German’s car. This would take the pressure from behind off Matsukura allowing him to focus on finding his way passed Hagberg, the Japanese driver forcing a mistake from the Swede on the penultimate lap to get passed for second. Despite setting the slowest fastest lap of the race, Ronald Volker would finish 4th behind Hagberg, the World Champion clearly having to dig deep to make up for his car’s lack of pace.
With his season’s goal achieved this morning and the race now an opportunity to add to his ETS career statistics, Coelho said after his easy A1 win, ‘it was pretty good’. The Portuguese ace added, ‘I forced from the start but at 2-minutes lost the rear in the middle of the track. Maybe I overheated the tyres but after this I took it easy and controlled the race to the end. Alex & Naoto fighting gave me more space’. On target for his fourth win of the season, a feat only Rheinard has achieved when he won his only ETS title in 2009/10, Coelho used A1 to ‘try different things’ on his Hobbywing powered T4 and happy with them he said he plans to use A2 for further testing.
A driver clearly enjoying being back at the front, Matsukura was delighted with his pass on Hagberg but also slightly frustrated at being held up by the former Nitro Touring Car World Champion. He said, ‘I changed back to yesterday’s set-up and my car was pretty good now but Alex was a little slow so I had no chance to try race with Bruno’. He added ‘I kept the pressure on Alex and he made a little mistake and I could go on his inside for the pass but for the next one I need to take him at the beginning, I really want to try to take the fight to Bruno’. In terms of his also Hobbywing powered IF14, he said, ‘the car is good so I will keep it the same and just fit new tyres’.
‘Not good’ was Hagberg’s reaction after A1. He continued, ‘I was struggling with the car. It was too difficult to drive and that’s why I couldn’t defend my position’. Describing the car as ‘loose’, he said, ‘we need to change the set-up for the next one so I can actually race’.
In the opening Xray Pro Stock encounter, Top Qualifier Christian Donath managed with a minute to go to get back the lead he lost 5-laps early to Jan Ratheisky for a very popular win. Very closely bunched at the front, Martin Hofer would also finish where he started after seeing off the attentions of fifth place starter Tom Krägefski. In Formula it was also a win for the Top Qualifier with Olivier Bultynck keeping champion Ratheisky at bay with Helge Johannessen coming from 9th on the grid to complete the Top 3.
Bruno Coelho has wrapped up his second Euro Touring Series title after the Xray driver claimed the overall TQ this morning in Slovakia. The reigning champion secured his fourth TQ of the season when he again topped the times in the second of the qualifiers at the rain effected 5th round with the bonus championship for the TQ putting amends to his only remaining title rival coming into the weekend, Ronald Volker. Behind Coelho, Alexander Hagberg made it an Xray 1-2 line up for the triple A-Mains as he managed to better the Q1 time of Naoto Matsukura to move ahead of the Infinity driver. Behind Matsukura, team-mate Marc Rheinard will line up 4th with Volker completing the top half of the grid.
Reacting to his TQ run, Coelho said, ‘It was a very good qualifier. The car was a little loose the first few corners but by the straight it was working perfect and I could push to get a gap’. Chasing a hat trick of wins at the Hudy Arena, he continued, ‘I knew Naoto’s car drops of a lot at the end so if I could get a gap at the beginning I would be ok. In the end Alex was also able to pass Naoto so it was a ver positive qualifying for the team’. With the championship now decided, asked about his approach to the finals he replied, ‘I will race to win but we might try new T4 parts to make use of the track conditions because we don’t normally get to test in race conditions’. Commenting on winning his second ETS title, this only his third season contesting the highly coveted championship, he said, ‘I think we were more prepared than last year. Last year was my first year with Hobbywing and MonTech so this year we had our notes from last year to work off which allowed us to create a much better overall package. I knew on asphalt I would be good but the carpet races would be a bigger challenge but the season started off very good with a TQ & win at the first round and a second at the next one. This was a very positive start and my preferred surface was still to come. Everything was perfect this season’.
Hagberg described Q2 as ‘very good’, the Swede happy with set-up changes he made to his T4 for the qualifier. With less than 8/100ths of a second separating him, Rheinard and Volker, he said, ‘luck was running on his side’ to keep ahead of the two World Champions. Describing the track as ‘slightly better than yesterday’ the 1:12 European Champion said with the sun starting to come out the track was already starting to slow down and he expects less grip for the finals. Planning to leave his car unchanged, he said the goal for the finals is to ‘try my best to keep up with Bruno and see what happens’, the annual ETS visit to the Hudy Arena having netted Xray and Coelho/Hagberg 1-2 the last two years.
Securing his best ever ETS qualifying position thanks to his time from Q1, Matsukura was very happy with the result but less happy with the set-up of his IF14 in Q2. The 2014 World Champion said, ‘I changed the set-up but it was no good so I go back for the finals’. With the car suffering ‘too much push’ he said this caused him overdrive to try and keep pace with Coelho but this led to a number of mistakes. Looking to the final, the reigning 1:12 World Champion said, ‘I want to take Alex and try to chase Bruno but he is super consistent for 5-minutes. I can race Alex but Bruno is more of a challenge, apart from him the rest are very close, we are all on the same pace’.
Having set the pace in Thursday’s free practice, Rheinard said, ‘it still doesn’t feel like in practice but it was not bad’. He continued, ‘luck is on Xray’s side but to get 3 of our cars in the final at Xray’s track shows we are doing a good job’. Asked about what he hopes to get out of the finals, the 2014 Hudy Arena winner replied, ‘Now the sun comes out and normally the Xray’s are a little slower, we seen this in Madrid and on Thursday so I hope we will be close enough that we can fight with them’.
Volker said, ‘I’m kind of disappointed to lose 2nd on the grid by 0.1 something but on the other hand having had some scary moments in the run trying to keep the car on the track there is not much more I could have done’. The reigning World Champion, who is clearly struggling with his car of late, said one positive of the event was that team-mate Nicholas Lee has made his first ETS A-Main and former race winner Christopher Krapp as put his BD8 in the A-Main for the first time since joining the team. Offering his congratulations to Coelho on winning the championship, the German said, ‘he was the most consistent driver so for sure he deserves it but I promise to come back stronger even for the last race of the ETS season’. The the 10th season of the ETS concluding next month in Germany when it makes its first visit to the Ettlingen track.
In Pro Stock, Christian Donath claimed his second overall TQ of the season as the Tamiya driver took both qualifiers. Behind him reigning champion Jan Ratheisky will start second with Martin Hofer third for Yokomo. The season’s only double winner Alexandre Duchet starts fourth with Tom Krägefski completing the top half of the grid. In Formula Shepherd’s Olivier Bultynck TQ’d both qualifiers to secure pole ahead of the Serpent of David Ehrbar with Ratheisky third ahead of Tonisport’s Toni Rheinard who has come out of retirement to race the VBC chassis.