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Report by Simon Eser
The way to overall victory in the Hessen Cup

After my surprise win in Viol at the German Micro Masters with the XRAY M18T PRO, I was accepted to the SMI XRAY Junior Team at the beginning of the year. This was perfect timing for me as I was suffering from a chronic lack of money last year and had been entering the races with the absolute minimum of material.

After our initial talks, it was clear that I would get team driver Maximilian Trochim's used XRAY XB808. My first impressions were very good and the car was - as ever - handed over by Maximilian in absolutely perfect condition. On the power front the car was fitted with an SMI Orcan 215 engine.

The first test drives in spring confirmed the good impression of the whole package and it wasn't long before a set-up was found that allowed me to drive fast but confidently, which meant I was ready for my first race with the new car. This was to take place at the warm-up in Bischofsheim. Everything was working perfectly and I just missed out on the semi-final by a few seconds. This was still a good performance, though, considering the rest of the field.

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After the weekend in Bischofsheim, I was facing the first race of the Hessen Cup with confidence. This was to take place in Fulda. I decided this year to start in the hobby class as I have never managed to get through to the final in previous years (usually owing to technical problems). The race went completely smoothly and I won all three qualifiers, the junior race, and the semi-final. In the final, however, the worn tyres, the close driving conditions and my nerves all got the better of me and I missed out on a win by 1.6 seconds. This put Jürgen Appel in the top position of the Hessen Cup ranking.

The second race took place on the track in Hartenrod, which was dusty and pitted right from the start. The car wasn't running perfectly at first, but I was still able to secure the best starting position in the semi-final. During lunch, we had an idea - Bertram Kessler and I enlarged two of the holes in each of the pistons to 1.8mm and hoped that this would make the car handle the dips in the track better. And were rewarded in the semi-final - it felt like the car had undergone a kind of metamorphosis and was much nicer to drive.

We still had, however, some minor problems in the final with our fueling strategy which meant I dropped into last place and had to fight my way back to the front of the field. I only managed to reach 7th position but my lap times were constant and often faster than those of the quickest expert drivers.

The next race of the season took place at MSV Linsengericht, where I was top qualifier for the third time in succession. The race was called off, however, after the heavens opened during lunch and the track became undriveable. The race was thus ranked according to the qualifiers, which meant I got to celebrate my first victory in the Hessen Cup. Some more good news: My team colleague, Thomas Meurer, also secured the top spot in the Expert class.

The fourth race took place in Rodgau, where Steven Junk, also from the SMI team, set the pace for the entire weekend. Unfortunately, however, he had to stop for repairs during the final after a collision in the leading position, which enabled Mirko Dörr to take over. Mirko also suffered a defect, though, which put me in the lead suddenly. I had already written off winning after having a broken pressure line just a few minutes in. I had to coax the car gently round the track as there was no power and just hope that the engine kept running. It did, and I was thrilled to get my second win.

The last race before the summer break was scheduled to take place at my local track in Bischofsheim, so I had high expectations. These were almost fulfilled - the car was running perfectly on the track with my set-up and I won the qualifiers and the junior race.
I also enjoyed a relaxed semi-final and already had a lead of half a lap by the first fuel stop.
Unfortunately, the engine stalled several times over the next few laps as it was idling too low and I could only experience the final as a spectator.

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The penultimate race of the season took place at MSC Ober-Mörlen. I suffered some further engine problems, however, which meant I couldn't finish two of the three qualifiers (but won the other qualifier).
As a result, we decided to use OA115/OA215 engines from SMI team boss Bertram Kessler for the season final, as my own engine - following many training sessions and races - first had to be sent to Michael Heinrich (MH Motortuning) for an overhaul. These engines were totally reliable and we didn't want, and couldn't afford, to experience any more failures.

After the problems in the qualifiers, I had to start in the 1/16 final, but the combination of XB808, the Orcan engine and ATS tyres worked perfectly and I was able to move to the front of the field and into the final. An exciting race saw me take 2nd place, with just four seconds separating 1st and 3rd places. The classifications could not have been more exciting after this race, with Jürgen Appel and me with exactly equal points in 1st place, and Mirko Dörr following closely just four points behind.

The season final took place at the new ORT Fulda track in the Vulkan leisure park.
I had worked out beforehand that I needed to come ahead of Jürgen Appel if I was to win the Hessen Cup. The track suffered a lot over the course of the weekend. We found a set-up during training that made the car extremely stable on the track. Overall, the race ran very smoothly, and I won the junior race, the qualifiers and the semi-final. My main rival seemed to be having a few problems in the final, and by the end I was leading him by three laps. I didn't win the race, but second place was enough to secure me the Hessen Cup.

Final results:

1. Simon Eser XRAY XB808
..
4. Steven Junk XRAY XB808



Finally, I would like to thank everyone who helped and supported me during the season. Particular thanks to Mischa and Bertram Kessler, who were on hand to assist with any technical or organizational problems, as well as Chistoph Behtke and Walter Meurer, who looked after me as "foster fathers" at the races ;) I would also like to thank all of the team members.

Without your help it would not have been possible!

I am already looking forward to seeing everyone in the Expert class again for the 2010 season (or beforehand driving 1:18)