The Czech Republic is the venue for the start of Season #9 of the Euro Touring Series this weekend (11-13 Dec) with the world’s best drivers descending on the small town of Hrotovice in their quest to win one of the sport’s most coveted titles. A season in which the World famous championship will celebrate its 50th race, it is again Ronald Volker and Team Yokomo who everyone is out to beat, the successful combination targeting a sixth consecutive title. Maintaining their long standing sponsorship of the ETS, Yokomo also remain as title sponsors for a sixth season. The big change for the 2015/16 season is the arrival of Volante as the new tyre supplier for the touring car classes and the change has created an air of anticipation among Yokomo’s rival teams, none more than long running championship runners up Marc Rheinard and his Tamiya team.
Only winning 2 races on his way to his latest title, one of which was at last season’s opener in Hrotovice, Volker again leads the Yokomo assault but even within his own team the German, who has amassed 12 ETS wins, faces strong opposition. Yannic Prumper enjoyed a win in Italy on his way to fourth in the 2014/15 standings however having been somewhat labelled as the team’s No.2 driver, he and his engineer Toni Rheinard are out to prove otherwise with a World Championship year coming up. Last season would see former nitro touring car World Champion Meen Vejrak make a break through in top level electric touring car action and become a front runner with a podium finish in Riccone leading his team to extend the ETS programme of the Thai star.
Maintaining the mantle of being the ETS’ most winning driver despite having had to concede the title to Volker for the last 5 seasons, 2009/10 champion Marc Rheinard will again be one of Volker’s greatest opponents. A driver who was very vocal in the past about the influence tyres had on the racing, the 4-times World Champion will be hoping the switch to Volante will allow him to have a straight up race with his arch rival Volker. With World Champion team-mate Naoto Matsukura withdrawing from Round 1, Tamiya’s other big hope for a successful weekend is Christopher Krapp. 2015 was the German’s first year with the team and as a former race winner he will be kicking off the 6 round championship by adding a second win to his tally.
With Hrotovice marking Bruno Coelho’s first ETS appearance and his first race on carpet, the Portuguese ace qualified only 8th on his debut. Over the rest of the campaign however he would mark himself out as a real title contender for the new season. Winning the final two rounds, he would finish third overall with carpet races having been his weakness, but as he comes up to complete his first full season as a professional driver with Xray, expect the recently crowned electric Offroad World Champion to be fighting for the win. Team-mate Alexander Hagberg is a two time winner on carpet and now having a team-mate of Coelho’s caliber to work with, this should be Xray’s strongest title campaign to date.
Making a vey welcomed return to the ETS in 2015, inaugural champion Jilles Groskamp heads the challenge of the HPI Racing/HB team. The former World Champion is still in his first year with his new team but having recently become Euro Nitro Series Champion with them, he travels to Round 1 with high hopes. Another of the team’s new for 2015 signings, joining longtime recruit & former World Champion Andy Moore, Freddy Sudhoff has also showed promises with the PRO5. The German has been on the podium but the win has so far eluded the high rated driver.
Elsewhere Sudhoff’s old team Awesomatix come to Hrotovice armed with their all new A800. Finishing 5th at last year’s encounter, fast Finn Viljami Kutvonen is the Russian team’s lead charger and has elsewhere shown well with the new car. Having added Viktor Wilck to its line-up at Round 2 last year, Serpent will be hoping their first full ETS campaign with the Swede will get off to a strong start with team-mate Marc Fischer a former podium finisher at the Mibosport hosted event.
In the Xray Pro Stock class, defending 3-time consecutive champion Marek Cerny heads the entry but Czech driver struggled at his home race last year. The race would instead be dominated by ARC’s Lars Hoppe setting up a title fight between the two drivers over the rest of the season. Joining the winners roll of honour last season as the only driver to beat Cerny and Hoppe, Serpent’s Julian Borowski could be one to join the mix for title honours.
In the newly titled Serpent Formula class, reflecting the former class champions becoming a primary sponsor of the new season, Jan Ratheisky is back in search of four in a row. Champion of the past three seasons, the Xray driver is again the title favourite but as the class continues to grow so to does the level of competition. With 226 drivers registering championship points in Season #8, 86 drivers are making the trip to the Czech Republic where racers will have to run spec wing sets for the first time. Continuing to race on a Ride tyre, expect Serpent’s David Erhbar, VBC’s Olivier Bultynck and multiple former Pro Stock Champion Alexander Stocker plus a few others to put pressure on Ratheisky.