By Aaron Waldron
Race report from Matrix Racing Tyres:
Daniele Ielasi took the win at the first round of the EFRA GP Series in what was a surprising twist of events, the former 1/10 200mm World Champion producing an excellent performance and his package proving to be tough and consistent in a final that saw important casualties. The main kicked off with Simon Kurzbuch starting well from pole and never letting anyone come near to his leadership, and despite a charging Balestri trying hard to keep his Infinity in contact with his #1 Shepherd, the Swiss managed to open a gap. Behind them it would be Collari, Picco and Ielasi exchanging positions with the latter settling into third, Picco fourth and Collari dropped down to 8th with a broken glow plug. Right after the 25 minutes mark Balestri would crash his Infinity into the barriers entering the straight, the heavy contact leaving the Italian with a broken rear left wishbone and promoting the fighting duo of Ielasi and Picco into podium positions, with Vrijelink now fourth. Kurzbuch's Velox, now with less pressure on its rear wing, kept on dancing through the curbs for 15 more minutes, the strategy and the solidity of his team paying off as usual, until the 40th minute where a cold shower was around the corner for the Swissed, forced into the box and losing 5 laps for the 1st gear pinion coming undone on his Novarossi. With Simon in the pitlane, it was Daniele Ielasi to take advantage of the stop and to inherit the lead, that he managed to keep until the checkered flag was waved above his WRC despite Picco trying his best in the stirred up duel, with Vrieljinck closing third just ahead of the up&coming Italian talent Massari.
A well deserved win for Ielasi, a somewhat underestimated driver who always shines when it counts, and who was pleased with what he described as a tough race. Complimenting his pit man Stefano Colombini for "doing a great, great job and being perfect with both the strategy and its execution", he also praised his package and declared himself delighted to kick off the 2017 season with a win. "To drive 45 minutes without making any mistakes wasn't an easy task, especially on today's low traction conditions, so I'm happy and proud". With the 2016 bringing him the Italian title on the same Cassino track and a podium finish at the Euros in Sweden, this being a Worlds year the premises are good for "continuing pushing in the right direction".
Coming under the checkered flag in second after winning his semifinal and conquering the #3 starting position, Alberto Picco was happy with a podium in his international debut with the Infinity. "I and Daniele were on the exact same pace, just matching each other's times lap after lap, I just had a couple flows in my driving that opened the gap a little bit but when you're so much on the edge of performances it can happen" said a pleased Alberto at the end of the final. "We had some important feedbacks for the future development and for the work we've done with the engine, so we are happy to close this positive weekend with a P2" continued Alberto, also referring to his Semifinal strategy where he pitted at 5 minutes, showing a great fuel economy that could be key later in September at the French Worlds.
Third at the end of the 45 minutes in a much cooler track than it had been in the opening two days of racing, Rick Vrieljinck looked visibly happy. Using a differential in the front end of his C803 instead of the traditional one-way solid axle, the Capricorn driver drove a consistent and solid race, the experienced Dutch aware that in most of the occasions finishing the race in good shape has to be the primary goal of a racing driver. Happy enough with how both his car and his engine worked, he was the highest placed driver to go for a 2 tire stops strategy.
It was for sure a cold shower for reigning World and ENS champion Simon Kurzbuch, who dominated the race for the 85% of the race only to see his winning streak break due to a very strange and unusual issue. The Swiss was gutted at the end of the race checking the guilty pinion that was later found on the track, but for sure aware that technical issues aside he was the driver to beat.
In the 200mm class the drama started right in the first moments of the race, with the referee calling an early start from the World Champion and TQ Dominic Greiner and calling the German for a stop&go penalty. The race lead was then inherited by Alessio Mazzeo, who pretty much never leaved it for the whole length of the final. Behind him, the reigning World Champion would work his way up to second again, but never managed to bring a worry in the head of Alessio, also strong of a better fuel strategy. With Alessio taking a convincing win on his debut with Xray just ahead of his former Serpent team-mate Greiner, the third spot on the podium went to BMT's Mario Spiniello, very happy with the result at the first international experience with the new car.
Photo album of the whole event: https://www.facebook.com/pg/matrixtirespage/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1354449707934075