Following one of it’s most competitive season openings, the first three rounds all producing different winners, the Yokomo Euro Touring Series switches to asphalt this weekend May 13-15) with a trip to Italy. With the country’s long awaited return to the ETS calendar finally made a reality last year, once again it is the beautiful Road Race Riccione RC Circuit Marco Simoncelli track that will host the close on 290 entries that make up the fourth round of the championship. While last year’s race would result in the end of a 15-race, 3-year run of podium finishes for reigning champion Ronald Volker, the Yokomo driver rates the track as one of the best in the world. Having finally registered his first win of Season #9 at Round 3 in Austria, last year’s Italian encounter would see the German finish only fourth despite being Top Qualifier as himself and Bruno Coelho had the first of a number of clashes that created tension between the rival factory drivers. With relations since improved, the tension now between Coelho and Marc Rheinard after an exchange of words in Austria last month, Volker will be looking to carry the momentum of his first ETS win in 5-races and make amends for his 2015 result by kicking off outdoor proceedings with a victory.
With second ahead of Rheinard giving him the lead in the Volante Modified class standings leaving Wels, Coelho is relishing the switch to asphalt. Winner of 2 of the 3 outdoor races last year, Riccione marked a major turning point for the Portuguese driver after a disappointing showing at the indoor races. Having struggled on carpet in his debut season of ETS the championship’s arrival in Italy immediately marked him as a title contender. Claiming his first podium there, despite his clashes with Volker, the World Championship runner-up hasn’t looked back making the podium the last 5 races including taking a carpet win earlier this year at Round 2 in Germany. With a one point advantage over joint second placed Rheinard and Volker, Coelho wants to extend that by taking what will be an important psychological victory as the race will gauge the various teams competitiveness on asphalt.
Winner of the season opener in the Czech Republic, Rheinard struggled last year in Italy compared to his rivals but with a new car the Tamiya driver is more confident of improving on his 5th in qualifying and the race. Without his regular factory staff support from Japan this weekend, it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this will have on the reduced TRF line-up with just Christopher Krapp joining him in Italy. Last year the race marked Krapp’s debut for TRF with the German qualifying & finishing 10th.
Ending a 3-year winning hiatus in Italy, 2015 Riccione winner Yannic Prumper returns to the site of his 3rd ever ETS win with a different package. Heading a Yokomo 1-2 last year ahead of Meen Vejrak, the 22-year-old is now leading up VBC Racing’s efforts to compete for success in the premiere class. Debuting the car on carpet in Austria but missing the cut for the A-Main due to errors in each of his qualifiers, the German has since been busy asphalt testing including doing a day at the Luxembourg track which will host the next round of the championship on June 24-26. Elsewhere Awesomatix team-mates Viljami Kutvonen and Freddy Sudhoff give the A800 it’s first asphalt ETS outing with high hopes for the now belt drive car. Kutvonen has had a solid start to the season on carpet with all A-Main results leaving him 5th in the standings behind Xray’s Alexander Hagberg.
In the biggest class of the ETS, Pro Stock, Xray’s Jan Ratheisky leads the standings after the indoor half of the season. Holding a 13-point lead over ARC’s Helge Johannessen, Ratheisky has the disadvantage of having not raced the event last year when team-mate and reigning champion Marek Cerny took the win. The reigning champion in the Serpent sponsored Formula class, which has attracted over 80 entries for the weekend, Ratheisky could once again become the first ETS champion of the season. Winner & Top Qualifier of the opening three races another win this weekend would see him claim a fourth consecutive title.