Despite Marc Rheinard taking a somewhat surprise second TQ in the final round of qualifying at ETS Spain, it is Bruno Coelho who is Top Qualifier on the championship’s first visit to the country. The Xray driver’s second TQ of the season, having been on pole for the season opener, he claimed the top spot for the first outdoor race of the season thanks to his Q2 time being the fastest of the weekend. Rheinard’s best qualifying of the season, the German lines up ahead of Ronald Volker, the Yokomo driver struggling in the final qualifier and starting in an Infinity sandwich with Akio Sobue and Jilles Groskamp completing the top half of the grid.
Going into final qualifying with one hand already on the overall TQ, knowing that it would take a miracle for Rheinard to beat his Q2 time due both the track conditions and the fact his rival was on used tyres, Coelho was pleased to bag an extra point for pole. He said, ‘For sure it is very good to get another point, all the points are very important, but on used tyres my car was very slow this time’. Looking to the finals however the Portuguese driver said, ‘we have a new set of tyres each final tomorrow and all weekend we have worked on the car for that so everything looks good for tomorrow’. Asked about his expectations of the racing in the finals, he replied, ‘for sure everything is open. Marc is super fast and for sure he will push maximum to pass me but I know I have a good car. So lets see what happens’.
‘Actually it was really good for old tyres’ was how Rheinard summed up the final qualifier. Using a combination of the rears from both his allocated sets of qualifying tyres, he said he was ‘surprised’ with the match working ‘really good’. Originally setting himself up to use his final heat more as a test opportunity rather than a qualifier, the 4-time World Champion tried a different shock piston on his ProtoTC which he said ‘was better for me’. ‘Looking forward to tomorrow’, he concluded ‘catching Bruno was not a bad sign’.
Having bounced back with his domination of Round 2 of the championship, Volker was clearly disappointed with how the transition to asphalt is working out this weekend. Having taken a surprise P2 in the second qualifier on used tyres, the World Champion said, ‘this time used tyres were not good. There was not enough forward traction’. Spinning on his fourth lap, he said, ‘with a lot of guys running new tyres it was clear after, that it was not going to be a valuable run for me’. Not having the worry of used tyres for the finals, the ETS’ most crowned champion said, ‘its not too bad starting third but we need to step the game up in order to go up in the final tomorrow’. Asked about passing opportunities on the large track he felt the right side presented some places but only if you can force the driver in front into a error’.
Getting fourth on the grid with his Q1 and 2 results when he was on new tyres, Sobue said his car was so loose, something wich was due to a set-up change he didn’t like and being on used tyres. Describing his own starting position as ‘OK’, the Japanese driver was ‘happy’ that all four of the Infinity factory drivers had made the final – fellow countryman Naoto Matsukura making his first ETS A-Main in a very long time by qualifying 10th. A better starting position was on the cards for Groskamp but the 2014 World Champion crashed while on a Top 3 pace in the final qualifier. Sobue said while he believes it will be hard to overtake that wont stop him from trying, him confident he has a competitive car on new tyres.
‘I’m super happy to make the final and even more happy that Marc could challenge Bruno. 4 cars in the final and 3 in the Top 5 is a great result for the team’, was Groskamp’s overview of qualifying. The Thailand based Dutchman said, ‘I used my new tyres in Q1 & 2 so running against guys on new tyres it was hard to get a good run although Marc did it with using rear rear tyres. I didn’t do it’. Getting a P10 for the last qualifier, he said, ‘this was the maximum I could do’. Asked his opinion on how the finals might pan out he replied, ‘On new tyres my car is really good now so I’m looking forward to tomorrow but I think it will be really hard to overtake. If no one crashes it will just be a train. Marc challenging Bruno in the final qualifier shows our car has really good grip and I think Marc has a real chance tomorrow’. Starting behind Groskamp will be Yokomo protege Naoki Akiyama, new tyres allowing the Japanese driver to claim a P2 in the final qualifier and bump him up into the A-Main pushing out team-mate Christopher Krapp who takes the BQ.
In the Xray Pro Stock class it is also an Xray Top Qualifier as Alexandre Duchet starts on pole, like Coelho, thanks to taking the opening two rounds of qualifying. Taking the final qualifier, Champion Jan Ratheisky starts second with Nicolai Lindegaard making it an Xray lockout at the front. Taking the third qualifier, the Tamiya of Round 1 Top Qualifier Christian Donath starts fourth. In the Scorpion Power Formula class Olivier Bultynck gave Team Shepherd their first ETS TQ ahead of Infinity driver Jitse Miedema and back to back champion Ratheisky. Having won the opening two rounds of the season, three in a row is looking a big ask in Madrid for David Ehrbar as the Serpent designer starts 7th on the grid.
Chassis – Schumacher Mi6 Evo Motor – LRP X20 4.5T ESC – LRP Flow X Batteries – LRP LCG 6400mAh Stock Spec Tires – Volante (handout) Radio/Servo – Sanwa Bodyshell – Protoform LTC-R Remarks – Elliott Harper is running the newly released Mi6 Evo from Schumacher. Having arrived on Wednesday for testing ahead of the event, with different conditions and temperatures to the UK the former British National Champion has spent a lot of time to undertand the new car and how it works. With the new car generating more grip and rear traction than its predecessor, thanks to more flex and a more centrally mounted motor, he has been working on trying to remove understeer from the car but feels they have made significant progress in each outing.
Marc Rheinard has taken the third round of qualifying at ETS Spain, the Infinity driver snatching the TQ from Ronald Volker as he launched his car across the loop on the final lap. With Volker, going into what unknown to him was the final lap at the top of the timing screen, Rheinard took the gamble that it was the final lap and punched his car to get it over the loop with the 2/10th gained from taking the risk, enough to get the job done. Taking a more normal approach to the final corner, unfortunately for Volker he would lose out on the TQ by 0.136 of a second. Behind, Christopher Krapp would compete the Top 3, the Yokomo driver clearly delighted with his run. Making it a good overall team result for Yokomo, Nicolas Lee would post the fourth fastest time. Having dominated proceedings in Q1 and 2, Bruno Coelho would get sixth, despite a spin and being on used tyres, leaving David Perez as the best Xray for the round with a P5.
Explaining his TQ, Rheinard said, ‘I heard Scotty announce 15-seconds to go and he normally says it late so I knew it was the last lap so went quick over the line’. He continued, ‘this was an important one because I don’t think Ronald can TQ the last one on used tyres as many drivers still have new tyres’. In terms of his prototype car from EP newcomers Infinity, he said, ‘the car starts good but suddenly pushes too much. I think my steering lock is too much and this is working the tyres too much so for the next one I will limit it’. He also plans to test a different shock oil in the final qualifier saying, ‘it would be hard to improve on my P3 with used tyres’.
‘Heavily disappointed to just lose it on the loop’ was Volker’s reaction. The World Champion added, ‘I didn’t punch it like Marc did, it was a good call from him to risk it. I wasn’t sure it was the last lap’. While looking a lot more competitive than he did yesterday, he continued ‘I’m disappointed to miss this one because now it will be super hard now to get P2 on the grid’.
While Volker as disappointed his team-mate Krapp was almost ecstatic with first Top 10 run. ‘Super happy, I am just super happy to get a good run after my problems yesterday’. Suffering a car shutdown while on a Top 4 run in Q1, with a car that was ‘not so good’ in this morning’s qualifier he could only manage a P12 for the second round. Feeling traction is lower today, for Q3 he switched to a softer shock set-up saying it was ‘a good choice’. Looking to finish with a good result to improve on his current 7th in the qualification ranking, the former ETS race winner will ‘just leave (the car) the same for the last one’.
‘Finally I completed a run’ was how Lee reacted to setting the fourth fastest time. The Singapore driver has his battery dump in Q1 and after two crashes in Q2 opted to pull off. The TITC runner-up said, ‘the car has been good all the time but I have just been unlucky’. He continued, ‘I need another good one so it is just down to me to drive it now’.
Representing the host nation well on the ETS’ first visit to mainland Spain, Perez said, ‘It was good until I flipped. I had the pace for P3 but shit happens’. The 16-year-old continued, ‘I was super nervous. This is the most nervous race I have done’. While his T4 was ‘super good again’ he would experience a loss of top speed at the end of the qualifier. ‘For the last three laps I had a problem with the motor, there was a drop in speed on the straight’. While currently holding an A-Main position he said, ‘we need to check this for the next round because we know we have to make it safe to make the A-Main. I know it is going to be pretty difficult as some drivers still have new tyres but once there is still a chance we will try to reach our goal’.
The first time championship leader Coelho hasn’t been at the top of the time sheets, he said, ‘I was on used tyres and it was not so bad’. He continued, ‘I was only 1-second behind guys on new tyres until I started to try to pull away a bit and made a mistake on the curb at the end of the straight’. With the resulting spin costing him over 3-seconds, he said ‘then I was out of contention but I’m happy the car is very good on used tyres’.
In Pro Stock, the third round of qualifying also ended Alexandre Duchet’s reign at the top with loyal Tamiya driver Christian Donath TQ’ing ahead of the Yokomo of former champion Martin Hofer with Helge Johannessen third. In Formula, Infinity driver Jitse Miedema became the third different driver to TQ, taking the penultimate round ahead of Hofer and Q1 pace setter Ivan de La Calle.
Having closed Day 1 of the Euro Touring Series in Madrid with a TQ run, Bruno Coelho opened the second day of action at the ASOGER track by again setting the pace with his Xray. The reigning champion topped Q2 from Ronald Volker, the Yokomo driver very pleased with his P2 given he was on used tyres. Behind the winners of the opening two rounds of the season, Akio Sobue completed the Top 3, a last lap error costing the Infinity driver second spot. Despite putting his car on its side coming onto the front straight, Jilles Groskamp would claim fourth ahead of team-mate Naoto Matsukura with Elliot Harper completing the Top 6 ahead of Marc Rheinard.
Commenting on the second qualifier, Coelho said, ‘this morning in the practice we tried something different on the car to see if we could further improve what we had. It was a positive test so we decided to drive it in the qualifier and it was very good’. Posting a new fastest lap of 18.734 for the large 318 metre long track, he concluded, ‘everything is looking good so we see how it goes for the rest of the day’ – drivers having two more qualifiers to run.
‘Very very happy with Q2 because I didn’t expect P2 on old tyres’ was Volker’s reaction, the German adding, ‘so at least we are back in the game to take second on the grid’. Having struggled yesterday with his car in the early part of each run, he said, ‘all of a sudden the car is better than yesterday but I knew this after we ran the practice this morning’. Looking to Q3 he said, ‘we wont touch too much (on the car) but we need to figure out our tyre strategy’.
Sobue summed up his P3 by saying, ‘the car was good but the driver was shit’. He continued, ‘I had small mistakes during the run and then on last lap hit curb and went wide which cost me second place’. Asked his plans for Q3, he replied the only thing he needs to do is ‘fix the driver’.
‘Now it was good’ said a please looking Groskamp. Leading away the second fastest heat, the Infinity driver continued, ‘It felt loose but then I heard my lap time which was finally in the 18s so I knew it was not bad’. On his incident, which cost him around 2.5-seconds, he said, ‘I had to pass a backmarker and got out of my rhythm and hit the curbing coming onto the straight and the car went on its side. I was fortune it came down on its wheels. Instead of a second for the round I got fourth but I’m for sure now in the middle of the A-Main already so I can try something in the next one’. On his ProtoTC’s performance he said, ‘I didn’t have the same power in the second half so I think need to open my motor and check it or change the battery’. The Dutchman also believes his tyre preparation could have been better, him feeling he removed his tyre warmers too early given the colder morning conditions at the track.
Matsukura said, ‘I was on old tyres. Of course new are better but it was a good run’. Having crashed coming on to the straight on his second lap in Q1 yesterday, the former World Champion said, ‘This time no crash. I make a safe start and once I was in a good rhythm I pushed more’. In terms of his ProtoTC, he said ‘I need to work a little more on the set-up’, the Japanese driver not 100% confident in the rear end of the car. Team-mate Marc Rheinard would also run on used tyres saying as expected they were ‘slower except for Ronald’. Ending up with a P7 for the round, the German said his car continues to ‘push too much’ and by the end the 5-minutes the set of tyres were ‘pretty much done’.
Completing the Top 6, Harper said it was ‘a good result’ but he is still struggling with ‘huge understeer’. With new tyres contributing to his result, the Schumacher driver said ‘I need to get more steering and corner speed but every run is like a new experience as the track conditions change so much’. He concluded, ‘this makes it hard to find something that works’.
In Pro Stock it was also a repeat TQ for Alexandre Duchet, the Xray driver topping the times from team-mates Jan Ratheisky and Nicolai Lindegaard. In Formula, having opened with a P2 in Q1, Olivier Bultynck went one better with his ShepherdVelox F1 to TQ the second round ahead of reigning champion Ratheisky and Dutch driver Jitse Miedema as championship leader David Ehrbar hit problems and pulled up early.