Bruno Coelho will make his third pole position start of the season at ETS Italy tomorrow, the Xray driver officially able to celebrate being the Top Qualifier at Round 4 after Ronald Volker topped the final round of qualifying. With the reigning ETS Champion taking a critical TQ run in last night’s opening ‘rocket round’ qualifier and backing it up another in Q2, a TQ run from Elliott Harper in the penultimate round meant there was a theoretical chance the British driver could deny last year’s winner from again starting the Riccione race on pole although beating the Q1 time was always going to be a mammoth challenge. With both Coelho and Harper out of new tyres, it was Volker who had saved his second set of tyres who would take the fourth & final qualifier ahead of Michal Orlowski, the EOS Champion also having the advantage of fresh rubber. With this a crucial weekend for Coelho’s main title rivals, the TQ run will see Volker start from P3 on the grid while Marc Rheinard will try to keep his championship hopes alive from fourth behind Harper.
Picking up another championship point for the TQ to extend his lead in the standings, Coelho said, ‘For sure it is a good to TQ but I can’t say I am 100% confident going into the finals’. Winner of the event here last year having also TQ’d, the Portuguese driver said, ‘the conditions can be different each time or the wind can pick up so its tricky but the car is working very well and if nothing happens I am in a position for tomorrow’. Having suffered a number of offs in the final qualifier, the winner of the season opener and the previous round in Madrid said ‘we made changes for the last one and it was not so good but we will go back to our previous set-up’. Despite posting two TQ runs, both using new tyres, he complained that his T4 was loose in the opening laps. Asked if he managed to improve this, he replied, ‘in Q3 we tried something and it was better so we will go back to that set-up for tomorrow’.
Commenting on his P2 starting position Volker said, ‘to keep my hopes alive for the overall title I have to attack to win this event. Winning is the one and only goal for tomorrow’. Asked about the final qualifier, the Yokomo driver said, ‘My closest rivals had all run out of tyres so my strategy to safe my tyres for the last run worked and let me claim second on the grid but I think the ETS needs to do something on the tyre ruling for outdoor tracks. As you could see there is a big difference between new & used tyres and its just a big tyre gamble’. With the A-Main drivers allocated a new set of tyres for each of the triple finals taking tactics out of the equation, he said, ‘we will do some small changes on the car but I think it will be very difficult to pass especially in the high speed sections. They are very dangerous as I know from the past’ – that a reference to his clash with Coelho here in 2015. Like his rival he said track conditions and the wind will also be a factor adding, ‘we always see some spins especially on new sets of tyres so anything can happen’.
While only 8th in the final qualifier, Harper said, ‘It wasn’t bad for second run tyres. We made small changes then and it (the car) was a bit better’. Equalling his best ETS qualifying result, the Schumacher driver said, ‘I’m petty confident for the finals, the car is consistent the whole run and Michal’s Q4 run showed how much we have improved the car’. Asked his approach for the finals he replied, ‘I will push to see if I can challenge Ronald & Bruno. Marc is starting behind me and he is always racy in the finals plus he is one of the best overtakers but we’ll see what we can do and enjoy it’.
With his car sliding off the track a number of times in the final qualifier, Rheinard said, ‘I think I destroyed my tyres in the previous two rounds because my car was undriveable’. Referring to his fourth on the grid he continued, ‘it not the best position to start, third would have been better but Elliott has pace and he’s fast. Normally I am quicker but I screwed up. For sure it is not what I wanted this weekend’. On his expectations for the finals he concluded, ‘with the bump everything can happen tomorrow’.
Completing the top half of the grid for the A-Main, Jilles Groskamp declared ‘I’m happy with Top 5, its just a pity we have 2 and not 4 cars in the final like in Madrid’. Enjoying his best run in Q3 with a mix of new and used tyres, the Infinity driver tried it again but without the same success. ‘What can I say I did the same as Q3 but spun out on the first lap because I braked a little too late but there was not the same traction as before. Then I spun out and I don’t know why’. He continued, ‘I think the set-up is to critical and if you go over the limit it gets very loose. I will go for a more standard set-up tomorrow. What we have now is fast but not safe and the conditions are changing all the time because of the wind, dust and the fluff (tree seeds) so I think a more safe set-up is the best way’. Behind Groskamp, Serpent’s Viktor Wilck will make his first A-Main appearance of the season from 6th on the grid.
In Pro Stock, it is last year’s winner Mattia Collina who will start on pole. The Italian TQ’d his home race when he put his Xray at the top of the timesheets for a second time in the final qualifier. With a TQ a piece, Max Machler and Martin Hofer will line up 2nd and 3rd respectively with ETS Czech and Spain winner lining up fourth. In Formula, David Ehrbar took his third TQ of the season when he set the pace for the third time in the final qualifier to deny Champion Jan Ratheisky, with Matej Dobnikar completing the Top 3 ahead of Jitse Miedema and Olivier Bultynck.
Having shown strong form with a P4 in the opening qualifier but spun off in Q2, Elliott Harper would deliver a TQ run in the penultimate qualifier at ETS Italy. The Schumacher driver, who had the advantage of being on new tyres, would top the times from Q1 & 2 pace setter Bruno Coelho with both drivers the only ones to manage 19-laps. Selecting Q3 to run his second set of tyres, Marc Rheinard would complete the Top 3 but the German was frustrated at being caught out by the track’s infamous bump. Ronald Volker would opt to do a third run on his first set of tyres but after 6-laps chose to pull off saying there was ‘no point’ and it was ‘better to save the car’ for Q4 when he will run his second set of the handout Volante tyres.
‘That was pretty good’ was how Harper summed up his TQ run. The British driver continued, ‘I crashed in the last one when I was on old tyres but we made small changes to the diff and it turned out to be really good’. Currently sitting second in the qualification ranking he said, ‘Ronald has new tyres so I expect him to jump me but 3rd is still good for the final’. The most competitive the multiple World Championship finalist has been for quite some time, he said, ‘Its nice to be back racing at the front. We have worked hard the last few months to close the gap to the other teams. I’m running a standard car and we have worked a lot on improving the set-up, we have made a few big steps forward this weekend’.
‘That piece of shit jump killed me’, was Rheinard’s reaction to Q3. The Infinity driver continued, ‘it sent me flying off but luckily it kept on the asphalt and not the grass. Every lap your thinking I hope I make it through’. With the flip damaging his front tyres and a similar high speed mistake in Q2 damaging the front tyres of his first set of tyres, the 4-time World Champion will run the final qualifying with rear tyres from both sets on his car with him clearly frustrated at the prospects of lining up fourth on tomorrow’s A-Main grid.
Rheinard’s team-mate Jilles Groskamp would enjoy his best run so far with a P4 for the round. The Dutch ace said, ‘That went quite well. I think I can tell you my secret that I run fresh rears and old fronts. I tried this in practice and it was closer to fresh tyres than running in used. I move the rear to the front and then put the new set on the back. It very stable and while not the fastest at the start its good at the finish. I wanted to try it in Madrid but didn’t because I wasn’t so sure but its worked out good here. I will have the same for the last qualifier (old fronts/new rears) so hopefully it will help me gain some spots on the grid’.
Locking himself into his first A-Main appearance this season and not having to depend on the result of his final qualifier as he did at the World Championships, Viktor Wilck was pleased with his P4 for the round but less happy with his car. Making a diff change on his Serpent he said, ‘it didn’t help, it was even worse and had more understeer. The car now pushes too much into the corner’. Running on new tyres, having sat out Q1 to save tyres, the Swede said, because I was on new tyres I had to drive safe but its good to be back in the A-Main’. For the final qualifier he will go back to his Q2 diff set-up and make other changes to his Project 4X to try get more steering. Behind Wilck, Tim Wahl would complete the Top 6 ahead of Freddy Sudhoff and Meen Vejrak.
In Pro Stock Martin Hofer became the third different driver to TQ in as many rounds. The Yokomo driver set a new fastest TQ time in front of Q2 winner Mattia Collina and Q1 pace setter Max Mächler. In Formula, Serpent’s David Ehrbar would double up to post his second TQ run in front of Jan Ratheisky and Olivier Bultynck.