By Mike Garrison
Press Release from Euro Touring Series:
Drivers competing in the Yokomo Euro Touring Series are relishing the prospect of racing in Spain this weekend (7-9th April) as Madrid makes its debut on the championship calendar. While the well known holiday island of Gran Canaria has welcomed the ETS in the past, this is the first time the mainland will play host to a round of the world famous touring car championship. Also as it is the first outdoor event of current season, there is an extra air of anticipation among the title contenders as they prepare for battle on the large Asoger track. With the opening two rounds of the championship producing two different winners in Bruno Coelho and Ronald Volker, the switch from carpet to asphalt for Round 3 is an important opportunity to fight back however based on last season there is one driver who stands above the rest and that is Coelho. The reigning Champion, the Xray driver won two of the three outdoor events last season and while very different conditions he also took the first big asphalt win of the season when he won the TITC in Thailand.
Making an impressive comeback last time out to end a long run without winning, World Champion Volker was certainly rejuvenated by that victory in Muelheim-Kaerlich in February. The hard work put in by the German for that event paid dividends with the German looking to have found his way again since his title defeat last season. The Yokomo driver will be looking for a similar performance in Spain having closed the gap to Coelho to just a single point last time out. While Volker will lead the Yokomo challenge, the team’s young protege Naoki Akiyama will be one to watch having shown at the TITC that the speed is there to run at the front.
Sitting third in the championship Marc Rheinard has taken a leaf out of Volker’s book and has been testing extensively in preparation for the switch to asphalt, a surface the 3-time Touring Car World Champion is openly much happier racing on. Having kicked off his ETS debut with Infinity by claiming a podium finish at Round 2, the German attended the Madrid track’s warm-up race and won it ahead of Yokomo pairing Christopher Krapp and Volker. He returned for further testing with team-mate Jilles Groskamp, highlighting how much the former champion wants to be ETS champion again.
While he might personally feel his age is against him, Groskamp has shown he still has the speed. The Thailand based Dutch driver made his ETS debut as an Infinity driver in Luxembourg last season and won and now armed with the Japanese manufacturer’s ProtoTC he challenged for the win at the TITC. His first ETS outing of the current season, what speed age has taken from the 2012 World Champion, Groskamp more than makes up for it in his preparations and testing work. This a huge asset to not just him individually put also the rest of the Infinity team, the 2-time ETS champion very much a team player. Another of the Infinity drivers travelling to Madrid is Akio Sobue who comes into the weekend on the back of winning the opening round of the new CETC in China, an event run on asphalt albeit indoors.
Fresh from winning yet another 1:12 European Championship title, Alexander Hagberg hasn’t enjoyed a great start to his ETS season. The last ETS encounter outdoors saw the former asphalt race winner finish second behind team-mate Coelho and so the Swede will be hoping to turn around his campaign this weekend. Another podium finisher the last time the championship ran under the sunshine, Viljami Kutvonen will carry the hopes of Awesomatix along with Freddy Sudhoff. Having endured a tough time on carpet, Viktor Wilck will hoping his fortunes change in Spain and he can relive his World Championship podium form. Another World’s finalist looking for a strong showing will be Marc Fischer, the race marking a return to Capricorn for the German.
For the first time in a long time, the leader of the Pro Stock championship points coming into a race weekend is not an Xray driver. Awesomatix’ Oliver Bultynck was the Top Qualifier and winner at Round 2 and the Belgian holds a 2-point advantage over reigning champion Jan Ratheisky. In the Scorpion Power Formula standings, it is double winner David Ehbar who leads the way with the Serpent driver having the perfect score from the opening rounds. Behind him Champion Ratheisky is second with Bultynck sitting third.