Mirko Salemi has captured the crown at the European Championship (B) 1/8 nitro on-road which took place last week at Hildesheim in the south of Hanover in Germany. Second and third spot on the podium went to Switzerland with Juerg Nydegger second and Mattia Pesenti third. Following 118 entries a total of 105 racers competed at the E.C. (B). The organising club AMC Hildesheim has been an excellent host of this six-day-event but at the end Germany carried their hospitality to excess when six German finalists cleared the way for the four foreigners to take the first four positions.
From the very first lap on early Monday morning the local heroes set the pace on the fast but narrow track. And finally after four heats of seven minutes each it was Lars Hoppe with his Novarossi powered Shepherd Velox V8 “eleven” who took pole position with 31 laps in 7.04,547 minutes, just a fraction of a second ahead of Andreas Giesa with his Serpent/Xceed (7.04,808). The decision for TQ was taken in the third heat and Giesa was ahead Hoppe all the time but than he went wide in the last lap to hand over the lead in the ranking to Hoppe. Italian Mirko Salemi was also quick all over the week but was already four seconds down on the two front runners on their home playground. Noticeable: Salemi, supported by his father and his brother Walter, didn´t race a Motonica but a Mugen MRX4, the used car of his brother.
The top 10 ranking after 4 heats:
1. Lars Hoppe (D) Shepherd/Novarossi – 31 laps / 7.04,547 min.
2. Andreas Giesa (D) Serpent/Xceed – 31 / 7.04,808
3. Mirko Salemi (I) Mugen/Max – 31 / 7.08,989
4. Toni Gruber (D) Serpent/Xceed – 31 / 7.10,094
5. Maximilian Vogl (D) Shepherd/Novarossi – 31 / 7.11,012
6. Mattia Pesenti (CH) Mugen/Novarossi – 31 / 7,12,142
7. Philip Eberle (D) Serpent/Xceed – 31 / 7.13,001
8. Merlin Depta (D) Serpent/Max – 31 / 7,13,564
8. Juerg Nydegger (DH) Shepherd/Max – 30 / 7.00,497
10.Jens Stark (D) Serpent/Xceed – 30 / 7.02,076
A poor occurrence happened following heat four when German Rene Puepke jumped to ninth position. French racer Christophe Louis, at that time on 15th spot and out of the top 14 which were directly qualified for the semi finals, was hanging around technical inspection and obviously looking for a car which was not in the rules. He discovered that the hole around the fuel tank on Puepke´s body might be too big and submitted a protest. After a couple of measurements the decision was taken to cancel the heat of Puepke who dropped back to 29th position with Louis moving up to 14th spot as a result of his unsportsmanlike action.
Rene Puepke, third at the E.C. (B) 1/10 earlier in May, started to caught up brilliantly with a win of the 1/8th final B. In his next race, the quarter finale, the main action didn´t took place on the track even the competition was really strong but in the pitlane. The challenge was between World Champion Robert Pietsch and his regular mechanic Felix Heyse, whose fast pit stops played a mayor role winning the title some weeks ago in Florida. For this time both were armed with a fuel gun, with Felix supporting Dirk Drechsler and Robert refuelling Uwe Baldes. And both did not only push themselves but also the pitlane was crowded with guys like Daniele Ielasi, Michael Salven, Patrick Schaefer, Armin Weihert, Karl-Heinz Meister i.e. having great fun and shouting encouragement of Robert and Felix, not to forget Arno Puepke, well-known for his fast stops. Finally, there was no doubt that Robert is as quick with the fuel gun as on the track. It were the three Germans Tobias Hepp (Xray), Rene Puepke and Timo Schroeder (Shepherd) from quarter final A as well as Arie Manten (NL/Mugen), Juergen Hennemuth (D/Serpent) and William Lefevre (B/Mugen) from quarter finale B which made their way up to semi finals.
The semi B was won by Mugen racer Niklas Johannson from Sweden who did 85 laps in 20 minutes. Pesenti on second and Depta on third were one lap down each, Stark on fourth another lap behind. It turned out that this semi was clearly slower than the semi A and therefore only four drivers stepped up. Toni Gruber on fifth spot didn´t make it because he ran out of fuel while leading the race. Lefevre, Hennemuth, Louis, Giesa and Manten were hampered by technical issues. In semi A Hoppe, Salemi and Puepke did 86 laps, Hepp, Nydegger and Schroeder 85 to capture positions one to six in the finale grid. Vogl, Andy Geisser (CH/Shepherd), Christian Wurst (D/Mugen) and Eberle didn´t make it for several reasons.
The 45 minutes final brought excellent racing to the crowd on the embankment around the track and behind the fences but the thrill was lost early when Hoppe had a bizarre incident in lap five which cleared for way early for Salemi. When passing the pitlane the Shepherd of Hoppe got out of control, touched the pitlane wall slightly and rolled into the grass. With the engine still running the marshal took the car and put it back on the track but Hoppe was unable to move his car and than Timo Schroeder arrived with his Shepherd to crash into the Hoppe car. Schroeder was out after less than two minutes while Hoppe´s car could be repaired by Schaefer and Ielasi in two and a half minutes. And also the reason for the malfunction was found because obviously the power plug had not been connected properly. Back on track Hoppe with a not really perfect car showed that he would have been able to challenge Salemi as the gap didn´t change. Hoppe finished sixth behind Depta who lost third place in the final stage because of a gearbox issue. For a while Puepke and Hepp on second and third raised the German hopes. But Puepke was hampered early on losing the manifold spring and later with a broken clutch. Hepp was looking good for a podium position but around the 30 minutes mark his engine collapsed. Since the incident of Hoppe Mirko Salemi drove a lonely race, controlled the pace and enjoyed perfect pit stops including one tyre change. When the checkered flag dropped he had a two lap advantage over his chasers. Pesenti crossed the line on second but later Nydegger as well as Johannson got an additional lap from time keeping which left Pesenti on third behind Nydegger and in front of Johannson. The Salemi family showed an impressive jig catching the title and the whole Swiss team wildly celebrated the two podiums.
Last but not least tyre treatment was an issue at this event. EFRA with Dallas Matthiesen, Sander de Graaf and Franky Noens (as Race Director) controlling the event, run nearly the same procedure as at the IFMAR W.C. in April in Homestead/FL. Racers had to bring in their tyres prior to their races, the tyres were checked with a special tincture and than put in a bag which was given back to the racers at pre-start. Meanwhile the whole procedure caused some confusion and was a kind of annoying but finally no tyre was found to be illegal so EFRA met the overall intention – a clean and fair competition.