|It was one of those moments every mechanic fears: rain threatening to fall just in time for qualifying! After two hot, sunny days of practice at the ProKart Raceland Circuit at Wackersdorf, the official timed sessions Friday afternoon were showered by patchy rain at the second edition of the Rotax Max Euro Challenge in Germany. However, the obvious shuffle that resulted from the downpour created some interesting competition when it came to the racing. It was also notably another milestone for organisers and promoters RGMMC Establishment, with 168 drivers from around 30 nations making this the highest number of entries for round 2 in the 8-year history. |
Kasper Jensen steals the Senior Max show from round 1 leaders
Kasper Jensen (Kosmic/PB Kart Race) who finished 4th at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Italy last November ran away with the win at Wackersdorf to launch himself to 3rd in the series points, after capitalising on an unexpected start in the Senior Max final. The 19-year old Danish champion confidently past first round winner Ben Cooper (Birel/Kalman Motorsport) for the lead in the 18-lapper, although the former World and European title holder still maintains his lead in the championship. Fellow Brit Edward Brand (Tonykart/Strawberry Racing) was 3rd on the day ahead of several of the highest ranking drivers from the round 1 event at Genk the month before.
Once again, it was Ed Brand who qualified on pole (50.779) for the second time this year at the Euro, waiting several laps before joining the initial timed practice session just prior to the heavens opening as forecast on the Friday. Brand admitted after the next group had completed their qualifying that he had not expected the times to be so close to his best lap seeing that the rain continued to fall at the beginning of session 2. With the track declared wet by race officials, nobody changed from using their dry MOJO slicks in the following group, where Jiri Forman (MS Kart/MS Kart Racing) hit the top of the timesheet late to claim P2 ahead of provisional session pace-setter and World Max number 3 Ferenc Kancsár (Intrepid/Intrepid Force Rotax), who also ranked 3rd quickest at the Belgian round.
Saturday’s six qualifying heats saw a clear pole position emerge for the pre-final Sunday when Ed Brand won all three of his races, while Jensen would line-up beside him after taking honours in another heat together with strong 2nd and 4th results. The remaining qualifiers went to senior rookies and former Austrian team-mates Stefan Locsmandi and Stefan Riener, both taking a win each with a leading margin of over one second. They would start on grids 5 and 7 respectively in the first of the finals behind English duo Shaun Slavin with all top 3 finishes and Ben Cooper, who completed row 2. With a field of 70 in Senior Max, a string of very experienced drivers failed to make the cut and found themselves contesting the second chance qualifier Sunday morning, including some prominent Euro competitors whose finals hopes diminished in the deciding race.
With a good start, Ed Brand led the way in the pre-final as Slavin came under fire from Cooper, who secured P2 by lap 3 followed closely by Riener, Ross Wylie and Jensen. Coming from the outside of the front row Jensen dropped some places early on, but managed to come through for 3rd as the first five drivers broke away. The top 10 battle was non-stop dicing, without much separating the finalists across the entire class. Locsmandi only lost one position to lead the chasing pack for 6th ahead of Mats van den Brand up from grid 15 for 7th. Wylie was next ahead of Winter Cup champ Kancsár and Poland’s Karol Dabski, who was positioned 5th in the earlier laps. The race honours went to Ed Brand with Cooper 2nd as the only one to break into the 50-second lap times then Jensen 3rd, Slavin and Riener in 5th. Credit goes to Frenchman Thomas Benisri for his excellent drive from nearly rear of field after qualifying via the repecharge to finish close behind Dabski.
With so many good drivers in contention for the podium, the final provided some great racing for competitors and spectators alike. Over 18 long laps of the Wackersdorf circuit, the result of Friday’s weather-effected qualifying and Saturday’s varying heat results only provided for an action-packed final. It began from the slight kink following the start, where Cooper had the edge over Ed Brand and made a bee-line for the first corner. Brand either had to back off for the curb in his race-line or hit it straight on; which he chose to do and his kart launched into the air. A concertina effect as the Brit landed sideways ended the race for several drivers immediately, effecting some of the early gridded seniors plus 2006 Euro Junior Max champ Jack Hawksworth, making his return to the series to support his formula training program. Brand continued positioned 4th before overtaking Van den Brand, while Cooper’s lead was short-lived as Jensen passed him in the second lap. For those who had the benefit of the confusion in the opening moments, their hopes were ignited once again for a possible podium and vital points for the championship, so the racing became even more exciting.
At half-race distance, Ed Brand moved into 2nd and set the fastest lap of the race. Taking 5th, Sean Babington appeared from P13 to relegate Wylie back a place, who was also overcome by Slavin. Benisri moved up for a deserving 8th, leading Antoine Barthon and Berry Torenvliet, who had both featured within the front-runners of the qualifying heats. Forman had fallen out of contention, but still managed to finish just outside the top 10 amidst the fabulous battle for positions until the flag. As the last laps drew closer, the polesitter showed his sheer determination to hunt down Jensen. The Dane proved to be too good and took the winner’s trophy from Brand and Cooper with Van den Brand 4th. Now, only 10 points cover these four drivers at the head of the 2011 series standings.
Kasper Jensen - “It was an amazing win and the best victory ever for me! I’m very happy to achieve my first Euro podium today since I began racing in the championship as a junior in 2006. It’s been a good week for me even though I couldn’t do better than 4th in qualifying when it began to rain, so I had to make up for this in the racing. It was very difficult in the start of the final and I was surprised to see Ed Brand’s kart up in the air, but I was lucky to avoid him and knew I had to overtake Ben Cooper or Brand could catch me. Thanks must go to One Engines, PB Kart Race, my mechanic Moose and my dad.”
Igor Mukhin on top of the podium again in Max Masters
2011 Rotax Winter Cup champ Igor Mukhin (Tonykart/Hugo Motorsport) has claimed another victory for the racing season on the RGMMC calendar in the Rotax Max Masters in his debut Euro Challenge season by winning round 2 of the international series. It was in fact a Russian 1-2 finish at ProKart Raceland, with Georgii Efrossinin (Sodikart/SRT) not far behind his compatriot as they confirmed their podium places in the closing stages of what was a fantastic battle in the Masters all weekend. Euro newcomer Jean-Louis Capliuk (Praga/JLC Racing) pleased his local German fans by taking 3rd.
It was no shock when Christophe Adams (Kosmic/Sporting Kart Competition) qualified fastest on the wet track (1:16.444), as the reigning European and World number one set the best time in his final lap; as did the majority of the others in the class. Last year’s Masters runner-up Mikko Laine (Parolin/Formula K Belgium) was 2nd quickest, while Efrossinin was 3rd in the timed session Friday.
Saturday’s heats were closely competitive with very little separating the majority of the drivers. Mukhin was victorious in race 1 while setting the pace overall on the day, but it was Mikko Laine who won the remaining heats to take pole position for the pre-final. Claiming three 2nd places, Adams would start on the outside on the front row beside Laine, with Mukhin on P3 having had one DNF and lining up next to him was Efrossinin; quickest in the last of the heats.
Sunday’s pre-final was won by Laine from pole by only a narrow margin after getting the most out of the track in the first half of the race. The Finn lost the lead to Mukhin at one stage who trailed him from the start of the 14-lapper, but Laine was lucky when the new leader made a driving error that allowed him to regain the first position, crossing the line with 0.181 seconds to spare. From the outside row, Adams was unable to keep Efrossinin behind him in the end, as he set the best laptime to take 3rd while P5 went to Dutch driver Jan Vos.
Laine took control from the lights in the afternoon final and was under pressure again from Mukhin. This changed on the next lap when Efrossinin overtook for 2nd, only to be relegated back to P3 soon after. Adams also got involved in the leading battle as the 18 laps wound down and looked for a way past Efrossinin, which failed when he got offline and lost places through the second corner, leaving Capliuk to snatch 3rd. However, the #421 kart fought back by slipstreaming up the fast start-finish straight before passing to regain his place for a likely podium chance. Mukhin gradually closed the gap to Laine out front and by lap 11 had assumed 1st. The last lap was really a nail-biter, as Laine repossessed the lead then lost it once more to Mukhin ironically with a slight mistake that cost him the victory. Efrossinin capitalised on the situation, moving through for 2nd while Capliuk secured 3rd followed by a disappointed Laine. Adams was 5th after he couldn’t make up the ground lost earlier. Vos was 6th followed by Maxim Shaposhnikov and Jos Sleegers.
Igor Mukhin - “I think it was a perfect weekend. In qualifying, I dropped to 6th in the rain without any practice before this in the wet. It was fun however, because it made the racing more interesting with unpredictable results. If there were more Masters competing, it would be great! The drivers are very consistent and make few mistakes; although Mikko Laine made one in the final which let me overtake him, just as he did to me in the pre-final. I really like this type of racing! I want to congratulate and say thank you to my team Hugo Motorsport who have done a perfect job, with thanks also to my mechanic Nikita who is many times Russian champion and very involved because it’s a passion close to his heart.”
Championship leader Ukyo Sasahara recovers for another Junior Max victory
Following the qualifying shemozzle that completely mixed the Junior Max field of 57 when the rain caught many people out, while creating some on-track havoc as the youngsters hustled for a clear lap, round 1 winner Ukyo Sasahara (Kosmic/Paul Carr Racing) made an impressive comeback over the weekend to take the honours at the second round Euro event in Germany. Arch rival Dave Blom (Parolin/Formula K Holland) drove well to collect good points for the championship to finish in 2nd place after a recent injury almost prevented him racing and Nathan Harrison (Tonykart/Strawberry Racing) was 3rd, admitting it was a pleasing result after a less than positive beginning for him as well.
It was Alexis Araujo (Gillard/Prokart Racing) who clocked the best lap (58.932) in the first of the junior timed sessions, after a smart strategy gave the Spaniard a lap nobody could match early-on, when the rain began to fall. Second fastest in the quicker of the two groups in the class was Guust Specken 4-tenths off and the pole-sitter’s team mate Alessandro Latif 3rd. As the rain got heavier, the drivers scrambled for positions to make the most of the track time before the weather worsened. Unfortunately, the qualifying was disastrous for many of the other expected front-runners including series leader Sasahara when panic set in and conditions became difficult.
In the second and slower group to follow, Germany’s Moritz Oberheim (Energy/Jedi Racing Team) was outstanding in the wet with a time of 1:16.272 that was over one second faster than the next fastest lap set by Tobias Holm while 3rd best lap in the rain was set by Fabian Eisinger. A number of drivers penalised in this group for not meeting the technical regulations with regards to wet-weather set-up or other infringement were moved to the bottom of the order in overall rankings.
As a result of the significant difference being greater than 101% between the best lap times of each of the two Junior Max sessions, the CIK-FIA 101% rule was applied. This means the qualifying ranking overall is determined by taking alternate drivers in the order they ranked from each of the two groups beginning in this instance with Araujo on pole position, then Oberheim as the quickest in the slower group classified in P2. The drivers in the first and fastest group basically follow the pole-sitter as in a single file, so Specken was P3, Latif P5 and so on. On the outside row working down the order behind Oberheim, Holm was second fastest in group 2 which made him P4 overall ahead of Eisinger in P6 and the remainder of the slower session making up the even numbered qualifying positions.
It was warm and dry for the qualifying heats Saturday, so the day produced some excellent racing as was expected when drivers who had suffered from the weather conditions and the rule enforced as a result, had to gain the maximum number of positions to be sure to secure a place in the finals. Japan’s Sasahara had ranked 25 in qualifying, but managed to take pole in Sunday’s pre-final after winning two heats and finishing 4th in his other race. Sitting only two points behind him for a front row start as well was Specken with one win, ahead of Blom who was victorious in his opening heat and ranked P3 at the end of the day. William Sward of Sweden claimed the last race for Juniors while Oberheim would have been on pole for the first of the finals with two wins and a 2nd place, but was disqualified from his closing heat for a technical miscommunication, so he was classified back in 15th. Qualifying pole-sitter Araujo had some good results to join Blom on row 2 for the pre-final, just edging out Matt Solomon on equal points, as did Jasper de Brouwer on grid 6 after taking two 2nd places to have the same points as competitive Euro junior driver Philip Morin. It wasn’t a lucky weekend for World number 1 Jordi van Moorsel who missed out on making it through to the finals.
Specken had a brilliant start to cross from the outside and take the lead for the opening lap, but Sasahara soon reclaimed the leading position through turn 1 on the next lap. It became a close race for places as Solomon and Blom followed suit overtaking Araujo, who appeared to struggle as he gradually dropped back to 7th. By lap 3, Blom was in 3rd and de Brouwer behind him with team-mates Solomon and Morin swapping places in the next laps for P5 and 6. The competition was intense, but nothing certain with so many good drivers grouped together. Soon Morin had moved into 4th with half the race over, while Harrison put in a huge effort to come from grid 20 to 5th with 4 laps to go. Sasahara stretched his lead and set the best lap of the juniors at the event in the process (51.332). 2nd went to Specken holding his position with Blom 3rd, then Morin, Harrison and Sward in 6th.
The final was set to be a scorcher and was just what the race fans came to see at Wackersdorf. This time, Sasahara left no chance to lose the start to Specken this time, as Blom and Harrison ahead of Morin also tucked in behind the pair. Always good for a final assault, Morin looked promising for a podium; up to P3 on lap 4 behind Blom as Harrison forced Specken back to 5th. Solomon led the chasing pack in 6th followed in 7th by Janneau Esmeijer, who made an amazing comeback from a shocking qualifying to be ROF when he slowed to avoid the traffic, only to lose the best opportunity before the rain came. The tiny Dutch driver had featured on the front row of the pre-final at the Genk round beside Sasahara. The battle inside the top 10 saw Onder in 8th in a dicing match with Gavin Jonk then Araujo. As they pounced on Solomon, Esmeijer took P6 until Onder made it his own and the fight between them continued until the very last lap.
It was another clear win for Sasahara, this time in excess of 3 seconds, to remain the leader of the junior class in the season after two rounds, setting the best lap once again for the final; only 0.170 seconds of Senior Max final pace-setter Ed Brand. Blom took a comfortable 2nd over Harrison, which were the same podium place-getters from the Genk round. Close behind, Morin kept Specken at bay, unchallenged by his team TKP team-mate Esmeijer, who stole 6th from Onder on the last lap before Jonk also claimed 7th in the final moments to leave a faster Onder in 8th at the finish. Slightly off their pace, Solomon still did well for 9th and Araujo rounded out the first 10.
Ukyo Sasahara - “In the qualifying it was very hard when it started to rain it became very slippery and everyone was trying to make a good lap. In the pre-final, the start was a bit of a problem, but the chassis and engine package was good so I could win the race and set the fastest lap. The start in the final was better and I was fastest again, but the track conditions made it difficult because it was very hot and slippery. The team at Paul Carr Racing does a fantastic job and I want to thank my mechanic Oliver, my parents and my supporters from EIKO in Japan. I’m very happy to win here and have a good chance for the championship, so hope I can win at the next round in Denmark. Please pray for Japan.”
Mathias Detige upstages the Rotax DD2 class
In an incredible conclusion to a riveting round of racing in the Rotax DD2 2-speed gearbox category, the podium was a brand new line-up of DD2 drivers topped by Belgium’s Mathias Detige (Gillard/DFK Racing Team), who drove his heart out after taking the lead on lap 5 of 18 in the final. Another of the Belgian entries, Christof Huibers (Haase/Target Racing Team) was 2nd while a penalising conclusion to the final saw Mike Hansen (First Kart/First Kart s.r.l) replace fellow Danish driver and 2010 European champion Andreas Jensen on the podium. The top 3 place-getters were also the fastest in the first of the unofficial timed practice sessions on Friday in the lead-up to qualifying.
Simas Juodvirsis (Gillard/DFK & RKV Racing), the same driver that totally blitzed the DD2 class at Wackersdorf in the drenching rain last year on his Euro debut, claimed pole position (1:13.945) in a last lap effort that put him in the perfect place for yet another win. The Lithuanian believes the competition is definitely tougher than he was anticipating as compared to 2010, even though he won the Rotax Winter Cup in Spain and the opening round of the Euro Challenge in April. The Belgian contingency numbering 8 drivers was out with a vengeance at the event; Christophe Raymakers (Zanardi/RAW Racing) looked confident to take pole until Juodvirsis set a better time by 0.768 seconds in the last lap while Christof Huibers was 3rd fastest overall in the full DD2 grid.
The track action was another exciting series of three qualifying heats Saturday, with Juodvirsis claiming two race wins and Huibers the other. However, one poor result left the latter ranking only 6th for the pre-final grid beside Raymakers, who lost his front row advantage throughout the racing. Also starting on the front row, French driver Damien Vuillaume was fastest in one heat and impressive to take three 2nd places after qualifying down the order in 13th. Next best in the race results were Jules Szymkowiak and Detige making up row 2. Setting the pace in two of his heats Kevin Ludi ranked just outside the first 10, but had the speed to come through as he’d shown after a disappointing qualifying in 28th. Defending DD2 champ Andreas Jensen would only start mid-field in the pre-final Sunday, several places ahead of Euro front-runner Xen De Ruwe who had one DNF.
Although Juodvirsis took the initial lead at the start of the first final, Szymkowiak overcame the polesitter on lap 3 before being passed himself by Detige immediately after, so the Lithuanian driver was soon relegated back to P5. Places shuffled with every opportunity as Vuillaume also had a look at the lead, but bogged down through turn 2 as Huibers moved to P1 only to lose it, falling to 6th. True to his usual form, Jensen showed up to join the fight in the top 5, followed by Ludi and De Ruwe. It was an amazing battle with all the ‘big guns’ playing hard ball. Juodvirsis fought back and finally succeeded in leading once more just two laps from the end to take the win ahead of Jensen, who later received a time penalty, so Szymkowiak was classified 2nd then came Detige, Vuillaume and Ludi with the best lap yet again. Further back, the competition was also as close with the DD2 Masters not that far out of the first 10 led by Christophe Adams, to Carl Cleirbaut and Dennis Kroes.
The final was exciting, but a tough one for some with impacting results that will now undoubtedly alter the entire championship standings. Juodvirsis held the lead for around 5 laps before Detige wore him down, while in the meantime Szymkowiak spun off, but rejoined after dicing with Ludi for P3. Vuillaume had come to grief making a move that left him with a mechanical problem which forced him to retire. The places changed continuously; De Ruwe pushed past Ludi, as did Huibers, then Juodvirsis also fell back to 5th amidst the cut-throat action. Hansen and Dennis Ladefoged soon came into play, as did Jensen appearing from starting grid 20. A problem for Juodvirsis in lap 7 made him an infield spectator at the same time as local driver Maxi Fleischmann also went out.
Huibers and Hansen then setting the pace had climbed to P2 and 3 by lap 10 to be chasing down Detige. The incredible battle behind them raged on which saw Ladefoged exit the circuit, then rejoin almost ROF. In the closing stages, Jensen grabbed 3rd from Hansen, who looked to pass him back on the last lap coming into the final corner, but Jensen held on for provisional 3rd as they lunged at the line. Continuing his unlucky weekend, Jensen was penalised for incorrect rotation of the tyres under the latest safety regulations. Detige took a well-earned victory just under a second ahead of Huibers and Hansen. Ludi in 4th narrowly missed out on making the podium, followed by De Ruwe and the new series leader Szymkowiak to the flag. Never to be discounted, Patrick Pearce came home well to finish 7th for some vital series points as did Georg Vann in 8th who started back on row 11 behind him. Flying the German flag, Pascal Marschall took 9th ahead of Giel Bronder in P10.
In the DD2 Masters, Adams kept his championship hopes alive as the leading 32+ year-old driver in the 2-speed field, closely followed in succession by Kroes and Cleirbaut. The only lady driver in the DD2 class at round 2 was Tamsin German, who overcame a DNF in the pre-final to finish on P22 with several other Masters right behind her and consequently the first three in their category; showing that there’s very little between the competitors in this additional class running within the DD2 field.
Mathias Detige - “I wasn’t expecting to win at all. All week we’ve not been the fastest and really too slow. I had already used my new tyres in the pre-final, but we changed a lot on the kart for the final hoping it would be better for the track conditions. I was able to get to the front within a few laps and stay there. It’s the highlight of my racing career so far to win here at the Euro Challenge today and I want to dedicate this to Lido, my first mechanic and the father of my friend, who passed away a couple of months ago. I want to thank the team at DFK Racing, my mechanic and my family for their support.”
Rotax DD2 Masters
Christophe Adams - “I’m happy to win here in Wackersdorf and still be leading the DD2 Masters points for the championship. I was quite confident of getting a top 20 place which I achieved, but it is difficult racing against the young DD2 drivers too. As the track became more grippy, you have to hope you make the right decision for the best set-up, so it was a bit hard in the final with the track being so hot, but I kept my new tyres for the last race and was happy with our strategy. I want to dedicate this win to my daughter Claire and thank everyone up until now who has helped me achieve the great results.”
All race results and the championship points can be found online at www.rgmmc.com by following the link to “2011 RESULTS”.
The third round of the 2011 Rotax Euro Challenge will be hosted by Thy Karting in Denmark from July 27th to 31st. More information about the championship including RGMMC news and entry details is on the official homepage - www.rgmmc.com
2011 ROTAX EURO CHALLENGE – RESULTS (Round 2 – Wackersdorf, Germany)
1. Kasper Jensen (DEN) - Kosmic/PB Kart Race
2. Edward Brand (GBR) - Tonykart/Strawberry Racing
3. Ben Cooper (GBR) - Birel/Kalman Motorsport
1. Ukyo Sasahara (JAP) - Kosmic/Paul Carr Racing
2. Dave Blom (NED) - Parolin/ Formula K Holland
3. Nathan Harrison (GBR) - Tonykart/Strawberry Racing
ROTAX MAX MASTERS
1. Igor Mukhin (RUS) - Tonykart/Hugo Motorsport
2. Georgii Efrossinin (RUS) - Sodikart/SRT
3. Jean-Louis Capliuk (GER) - Praga/JLC Racing Team
1. Mathias Detige [BEL] - Gillard/DFK Racing Team
2. Christof Huibers (BEL) - Haase/Target Racing Team
3. Mike Hansen [DEN] - First Kart/First Kart s.r.l
ROTAX DD2 MASTERS
1. Christophe Adams [BEL] - Kosmic/Sporting Kart Competition
2. Dennis Kroes (NED) - Tonykart/Team Kroes
3. Carl Cleirbaut (BEL) - Haase/Target Racing Team