1/8 Nitro Track EUROS
Qualifying action from Italy
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After a strong weekend including a Superpole win, young Belgian driver Robin D’Hondt was starting to be pegged as a legitimate contender for the EFRA 1/8th IC Track European Championship in Eskilstuna, Sweden. But few believed – possibly even him – that he could defeat the odds, and more importantly, reigning IFMAR 1/8th IC World Champion Simon Kurzbuch, to claim the top prize and a maiden championship.
In sport, sometimes one makes their own luck. And after maintaining touching distance pace with Kurzbuch for 40 minutes of the 45-minute final, he pounced when misfortunate struck down the Swiss star to claim a hugely emotional victory.
He was matching Kurzbuch’s Novorossi-powered Shepherd car almost blow-for-blow throughout the Main Final with his Tesla-powered Capricorn car, but Kurzbuch was still able to edge out a few tenths of a second at vital moments to build a 10-second lead. However, a late flame-out just after the penultimate pitstop halted Kurzbuch’s seemingly inevitable charge to a European title, and not only did D’Hondt profit brilliantly, but so also did Toni Gruber (ARC/Novorossi) and veteran Italian driver Daniele Ielasi (WRC/Ielasi Tuned), who only made the final at the last possible oppurtunity by being one of the fastest 4th-place finishers in the Semi Finals. Gruber had been battling another Italian star in Dario Balestri for most of the Main Final for the final step on the podium, but found himself catapulted into second when Kurzbuch hit trouble. Kurzbuch rejoined after his issues just behind Gruber and Ielasi, and the three fought a titanic battle to the flag through the closing minutes, with Gruber holding off Ielasi for 2nd and Kurzbuch being denied a podium by inches.
Behind was Carmine Raiola, having moved up to 5th from a 10th place starting spot, ahead of Robert Pietsch and Lamberto Collari. Balestri’s car hit problems after 74 laps, whilst Teemu Leino and Bruno Coehlo also had mechanical problems curtail strong performances for them respectively.
Last year, it was Oliver Mack who was the surprise feelgood story who pounced on misfortunate for the favourite to claim a maiden European championship. Today, his attempt to defend his title faltered at the semi-finals after a valiant charge up from the 1/8th finals – but the man who assumes his mantle fought hard and won it in very similar style.
IFMAR 1/8th IC Track World Champion Simon Kurzbuch concluded qualifying at the 2016 EFRA 1/8th IC Track European Championships in Sweden in a familiar position for him; the TQ spot. After four rain-disrupted rounds of qualifying, the 2015 TQ of this event had posted some hugely impressive laptimes with his Novorossi powered Shepherd car, running as low as 26.15s in the second round of qualifying, to sweep qualifying and fend off all challengers. It was a tough second day of action at Eskilstuna Motorstadion, with rain cancelling Round 3 of qualifying and postponing events for over three hours, but once action resumed, Kurzbuch resumed right where he left off.
After the four completed rounds, we were left with Dario Balestri (Capricorn), Robin D’Hondt (Capricorn), Silvio Haechler (ARC) and Robert Pietsch (Mugen) to move into the Superpole session. And what a heart-stopper it was.
Pietsch went first and set the benchmark with a 26.362 best lap, but Haechler trumped him on his final lap of six with a 26.355 – just one hundredth of a second quicker. D’Hondt went one hundredth quicker still, also on HIS final lap, with a 26.341, in an incredible session of unbelievable tension. Balestri came incredibly close to clinching it on the final run of four, but his 26.372 was not enough, and D’Hondt celebrated a nerve-wracking Superpole victory, with only 0.03s seperating all four drivers – unbelievable!
Kurzbuch and D’Hondt clinch the first two spots in Saturday’s Main Final, with the others moving into the semi-finals, and other drivers will have to fight up from the lower finals; all the action starts on Saturday in Eskilstuna at 9am CET.