|The third round of the national Rotax championship near Graz in Austria’s south has seen the Intrepid Force Rotax team take the honours over the weekend, as 14 year-old Niki Laa secured 1st place in Senior Max… |
In a repeat performance of his 2007 victory in juniors at the Styria Karting circuit, Laa/Zettling, Niki Laa sealed the win to move up to 2nd in the series. After a disappointing qualifying session in the morning when a puncture left Laa ranked only 7th in the 24-kart field, the IFR driver overcame a first race incident on turn one to fight his way back up to 4th. The final race began with the uncertainty of further rain showers, with the polesitter on wets and the majority deciding to go with slicks in the last minutes before the start. Unfortunately having changed the gearing for the wet track, Laa’s set-up wasn’t the most ideal as the drizzle eased. Although he was 2nd at one stage of the 18-lapper, it was impossible for the Intrepid Kart pilot to hold his position in the battle for minor places and once again he had to settle for 4th.
With sufficient points to take 1st overall, Laa claims it was a good result but not really so satisfying. “Winning today is great for us in the championship. From the beginning of practice I was quickest and determined to make it count in qualifying. The flat tyre prevented me from starting further up on the grid for the first race and then I lost some places after being hit and running into the guy in front of me. The Intrepid/HRS package was great and I was fast enough to move through to 4th. In race 2, I made a mistake early when I ran wide in the greasy conditions but I made some good moves to be 2nd until I just didn’t have the speed to hold it. Now, I need to really focus on where I can improve myself.”
Laura Kraihamer clocked the 3rd fastest lap to have her best qualifying result of the season, going on to take P3 in the first race. She looked set for a podium while fighting for 5th in race 2, but broke a chain with only 3 laps remaining and was forced to retire. Otherwise pleased with the weekend, Kraihamer has moved up a spot for 7th in the championship.
The third of the IFR Senior Max entries across the line was Felix Wimmer, who was unlucky in the opening race after another kart collided with his just four laps from the end. The next race was a brilliant result for the Intrepid driver, where he started on grid 21 to eventually take 9th place, in only his second outing on the small, challenging Graz track.
Also in his first year with the team based close to Salzburg, Tobias Weichenberger rounded out the top 5 in juniors, with 5th and 6th in the races. In an ongoing scrap for positions, he once more made the podium in the OSK Federation ‘Junior Classic’ points running within the class, where he was 2nd. In the Max Challenge standings, Weichenberger is now 6th.
On her home track ideally suited to the Junior Max, it was a perfect start for the team’s youngest driver Corinna Kamper, qualifying on pole with a time that would have given her grid 7 in seniors. It all went terribly wrong though beyond turn 2 in the first race, when she was tapped from behind and spun around, as one of the other 16 karts then failed to avoid her. Officials red-flagged the race and the 13 year-old was checked out by the medical team. The all-clear let Kamper face the starter in the last race, having to change to another Intrepid Kart and join ROF. She had a strong finish for 7th by the chequered flag, not too far behind her IFR team-mate.
Now halfway through the season, the final three rounds of the championship will be crucial for the team to ensure the most successful results for their drivers. Together with the scheduled race meetings, they have planned test/practice days at the host circuit where the fourth round takes place at Rotthalmünster in Germany in a month’s time.
Race Team Manager for IFR, Ernst Penninger, believes that the new team is making good progress. “Everyone is settling-in really well and it’s great to see them becoming more aware of what’s important when we’re at these events, so as to constantly move forward and stay focused. It’s not always easy when you bring a new group of competitive young drivers together and they immediately feel that pressure to perform. Of course, they all want to win! The best thing is that as a team, we are continuing to give them the necessary guidance and support they need. It showed on the weekend that we can do a few things better to improve, but it was another very positive meeting and I congratulate Niki. We also had a guest driver [Ashraf Razar] from the UAE joins us to gain experience and help with his racecraft.”
The IFR team’s official website has more info, news and updates available at – www.intrepidforcerotax.com