|Pro Kart Raceland at Wackersdorf hosted what can only be described as an impressive weekend of racing when round 2 of the 2007 ROTAX MOJO Max Euro Challenge took place in Germany May 16 – 20. The complex facilities and challenging circuit combined with the high level of competition, made the event one of the most memorable to-date.|
This was the first time the championship has taken place in Germany and from the reaction of the competitors, teams and visitors, it was yet another successful event in the series organised and promoted on behalf of BRP-Rotax by RGMMC Establishment. In all, 158 international drivers from around 30 countries turned on some excellent racing competing for the European ‘Max’ titles. The weather threw in a mix of sunshine and rain to make the first two days of official free practice more interesting but qualifying and racing was then three days of perfect summer-like conditions.
Round 1 winner Ben Cooper (CRG) was the pace-setter in untimed practice Friday leading up to the qualifying. The young British driver waited until late in the 15 minute session to go out and set the quickest overall time in his 2nd lap (52.080). Portuguese team-mate Tiago Ribeiro (CRG) was next fastest with David Sutton (Gillard) clocking 3rd best time in the 63 kart field, as the quickest in the
2nd group of seniors. There were some surprises down the order as a few top drivers struggled.
In both the Senior and Junior Max classes there was some incredibly close racing to determine who would go through to the finals. Turn 3 seemed to create the most trouble on the opening lap as the front-runners slowed to negotiate the tight right-hander.
Saturday’s 12-lap qualifying heats saw a selection of winners, apart from the current World vice champion Mike Joossens (Kombikart) who took the honours in two races. Yoann Aubergeon (Sodikart), David Joffrey (Tonykart), John Boyd (CRG) and Sutton each took a win. With a 10 second ‘jump start’ penalty imposed, Joffrey lost a 2nd victory giving Boyd his. Former Junior Euro Champ Arnold Neveling (PCR) had an amazing exit on the first corner which is more like a kink, but came out without any injuries and returned in his 3rd heat to set the best lap of the race and finish 4th. Unfortunately he had to face the 2nd chance race Sunday along with series leader James Bean (Intrepid) still searching for the right set-up for his new chassis.
Joossens was on pole for the pre-final next to Boyd while Cooper was joined on row 2 by Martin Pierce (Wildkart) with Michael Simpson (Birel) and Ribeiro lining up behind them. It was virtually a
crawling start, Joossens kept the lead from Simpson and Cooper while eight karts connected behind them on T3. On the next lap Cooper moved into 2nd as Boyd maintained 4th and Pierce slipped back behind Aubergeon to battle with Hayden McBride (Gillard), soon falling back to 11th. Suddenly the World #1 Ricardo Romkema appeared from P6 after starting on grid 16, as Neveling too found his way up to 15 to pass Niek Vos (Energy), coming from almost last. It was a disappointing end for Germany’s Patrick Kreutz (Intrepid) having qualified 6th fastest; out on lap 4. Nothing much separated the leaders. Cooper moved into 1st just over half race distance and Simpson also had a look for the move on Joossens but the Dutch driver took back his lead. With 5 laps remaining Cooper was relegated to 3rd as the leader began to pull a gap. The fight for the first 5 continued until the finish with Cooper snatching back 2nd on the last lap from Simpson who was followed closely by Boyd then Romkema, ahead of Ribeiro and Kevin Reichard (Intrepid). In 8th Aubergeon gained more than 3 seconds over Pierce followed by Swiss Philipp Witzany (CRG) in 10.
As the temperature rose leading into the final race of the weekend, the laptimes reflected the changing track conditions; appearing to still be slippery in some parts while there was too much grip in others causing some karts to bog down. The slow start again gave Joossens the advantage on the inside but Simpson’s 2nd position was stolen by Romkema on lap 1. Losing precious time some backmarkers tangled on corner 3, while Sutton and Mathew Hodges (Birel) were forced to retire from mechanical problems the next lap. Although he was 4th, Cooper pushed past Romkema who ran wide losing 3 places to Boyd and Reichard as well. McBride was sitting in 7th in front of
Neveling, Vos and then Pierce rounding out the top 10, though the British driver couldn’t hold the pace and dropped back. The battle beyond this group was even fiercer for valuable championship
points. Oliphant had to make a running repair to his exhaust and never regained the laps. With half the race gone, Simpson managed to close in on Joossens who glanced over his shoulder and later admitted he realised then that he had to drive harder to keep the lead. Boyd and Reichard charged closer to Romkema as Cooper well ahead looked certain for a podium finish. Coming into the last lap Boyd was shuffled back to 5th as Reichard gave it everything chasing down
his team-mate when disaster struck for Cooper on T2, his engine failing and the kart coming to a halt at the end of the straight. This guaranteed he’d lose his top 3 position on the championship
table and handed Romkema 3rd on the day and also 2nd in the point’s race behind Joossens. Reichard kept 4th ahead of Boyd and a very happy Vos in 6th which he said was a great result in this his first senior year. Simpson’s team-mate Stephen Tyldesley (Gillard) drove a good race for 7th to Neveling and then Alexandre Finkelstein (Tonykart) who set the best lap in the final with a brilliant effort to come from 25th to 9th. Aubergeon completed the top 10.
Mike Joossens like many drivers is never really happy unless he is winning and has had to be discontent on many occasions with 2nd place or otherwise. The accolades belonged to Joossens who drove like a champion in every race and was all smiles on the podium as he later explained: “I could hear the noise of Simpson’s engine come up behind me in the final and knew he was close. It wasn’t until the very last corner that I knew I had the race won. Then I was happy!”
In the morning practice sessions Karl Oscar Liiv (Zanardi) and Steel Guiliana (Intrepid) were fastest in their group, while Junior World Max champ Jorrit Pex (CRG) set the best laptime in both of his
outings. He also topped the leader board in timed practice (52.448) to qualify on pole for each of his 3 heat races Saturday. Pex was immediately quickest in the 15 minute session on his first lap
and bettered it with each lap he did. Max Hawkins (Octane) was fastest in his group giving him 2nd in the combined times for the field of 54 drivers and Jordy Koullen (Birel) was 3rd.
The qualifying heats turned on some great action for the spectators with plenty of mixed results as the races progressed. Pex sealed the win in all 3 of his heats while Hawkins won 2 from 3, finishing
2ns to Pex in the heat 1. The remaining race went to Indy Dontje (Energy), who was also top 3 in all his heats. Koullen would start the pre-final next to Dontje on the 2nd row with Mats Van den
Brand (Intrepid) and Kevin Korjus (Zanardi) coming from P5 and 6. Danny Petiet (Energy) was a likely contender for the front grids, as was Kilian Bouman (PCR) and Phillip Haworth (Tonykart) but
one bad result in the qualifying heats ruined their chances. Several other teams were obviously elated to have some of their young drivers make the finals for the first time at the Euro Challenge.
Race fans packed the Pro Kart terrace and fence line to watch the pre-final as Pex led the 34-kart field around ever so slowly. He took the lead as Hawkins broke up the Dutch threesome chased be Dontje and Koullen. Series point’s front-runner James Doherty (Octane) was sidelined mid-track with Petiet in a collision but the British pilot was luckily able to continue only at the back. In an attempt to snatch 1st Hawkins made a move going into a tight left-hand corner on lap 5, connecting with the rear wheel of Pex and sending them both sliding off the circuit. It was game over for the less experienced Hawkins although Pex rejoined the race way back in 14th. Koullen had overtaken Dontje and was in the lead until just 4 laps to go when Dontje hit the front and the leader slipped back to 6th. On the final lap Van den Brand came through for the win over Dontje, then Korjus 3rd and Koullen making amends to take 4th ahead of Johannes Moor (Zanardi). Haworth kept Guiliana at bay for 6th while Pex could only manage to come back to 11th after the earlier loss.
Starting from pole, Van den Brand knew he had to get a good run at the start to secure any kind of strong lead. Korjus followed him through ahead of Dontje then came Bouman off P9 and Pex already up into 5th. The positions shuffled as Dontje moved up for 2nd and Pex took 4th, Bouman ran wide losing out to ’06 Euro junior #2 Guiliana as well as Liiv tucked in behind him.
Further back in the pack, a number of karts became caught up on the first two corners also seeing Petiet, Moor and Eduardo Moreira (PCR) out from lap 1. Dontje and Pex battled for 2nd and within several laps, Pex succeeded then hunting down Van den Brand with Dontje chasing in anticipation of a mistake
from the leaders. Korjus struggled with keeping pace in the final and surrendered 4th to Aussie Guiliana by half way. Just outside the top 10, Kazuki Hiramine (Gillard) was fighting for positions with World #3 Daniel Schellnegger (Intrepid), Tom Fawcett (CRG) who’d come through the 2nd chance eliminator and Axcil Jefferies (Birel) in a fantastic dicing match. The Japanese driver was just outside the lead group this weekend and like many others, failed to find the perfect
combination to give them an edge at Wackersdorf. With 6 laps to go Pex passed the leader just to have Van den Brand take it back. It was another three laps before he was able to try again and this time he pulled the gap he needed to make round 2 his own, while also setting the best laptime for the race. After coming into the meeting
placed 2nd in the series, Doherty’s event was over as he retired just minutes from the finish. Although half a second separated the leader from Van den Brand, the runner-up still leads him in the championship for the title. 3rd on the podium went to Dontje who was almost 5 seconds in front of Bouman followed by Liiv, Guiliana and Jack Swinkels (Intrepid) 7th. Haworth in 8th will now move up in points on the table for 3rd behind Pex, Korjus was 9th and Schellnegger 10 across the line. The Junior Max champion again had another challenging final as he did in the 1st round earlier this year in France, having to make his way back to the front of the pack in the end after winning all the qualifying heats. As yet he is still unbeaten at the Euro Challenge, now taking three from three wins since he first entered the competition at the last round in Belgium in September 2006. “I’m very happy to win the race today but after the accident with Max Hawkins in the pre-final, Mats [Van den Brand] is getting ahead even more now as I lost good points for the series.”
The practice prior to the timed session was no indication of who would be fastest in the Masters’ class Friday afternoon, as Brian Parias (Birel) and Christophe Adams (Swiss Hutless) each topped
the times but Colin Davis (Kosmic) was too quick when it was official for grid positions. However, he came in a fraction under the required weight and was disqualified, handing pole for the 3 heat races to Patrick Vasterman (53.392). The Dutch driver sat 4th in the championship after round 1.
Jerome Bourquard (Sodikart) set the 2nd best time and Adams the 3rd.
Following his win at round 2 in Italy last year, Bouquard was hoping to once again climb to the top of the podium. He took the honours in the opening race Saturday but was beaten by Vasterman in the 2nd and then the Frenchman made it a definite for pole position in the pre-final Sunday by also winning the 3rd race. Adams drove well to line-up alongside Bourquard on the front row after the heats, with Vasterman and Olivier Fiorucci (Merlin) starting from P3 and 4. Davis had to come from rear of field but still managed to have sufficient points to give him 5th on the PF grid next to Stephen Cobb (Arrow) who finished the racing with two 2nd places and a DNF.
Bourquard was feeling confident taking the lead in the first of the finals and not phased at all by Davis hovering over him at times. He maintained control and the kart appeared to get better as the track got hotter throughout the day. Later Bourquard admitted he knew he had an advantage at Wackersdorf having front brakes, which Davis didn’t. Cobb was unchallenged for 3rd but did try to make a move on Davis in the latter part of the race but lost ground realising he just didn’t have the power to make it stick. Setting the best time of the session though was pleasing for Cobb. In 4th Vasterman wasn’t able to make any advance on his position but kept Florent Lambert (Birel) at bay in his shadows. Not so lucky, John Van Wyk (Birel) lost his minor placing while dicing with Lambert and spinning off the track to find himself near the back of the field.
The polesitter Bourquard slowed the start to walking pace and settled into first followed again by the British drivers Davis and Cobb. Euripides Hatzistefanis (Tonykart) was 3rd quickest on the circuit in the final but in his hast, picked up the ‘driving standards’ flag pushing past Parias on his way into 5th position in the early laps. An altercation between Fiorucci and Russia’s Mikhail Aleksandrov (Parolin) left the French pilot well out of the running after the karts became tangled. Vasterman was in 4th but lost it to Hatzistefanis, who then waved Lambert through at the top end of the circuit. He was relegated back to 6th by Vasterman some time after that as they continued their own private battle for the remainder of the race. With 6 laps gone, Davis posted the best lap of the race to draw within 2 lengths of the leader then basically riding his rear bumper to make his move for 1st place. Bourquard fought back as Davis
ran wide but kept his lead. On the next lap it changed again on turn 3 as Bourquard went up the inside. At half race distance Davis looked again for the chance to pass but it was not there. Adams retired into the pits calling it a day with 4 laps to go. As the last lap approached, Davis pushed the leader with all that he had but Bourquard maintained his place for the victory, punching the air as
he took the chequered flag. Cobb crossed for 3rd as Hatzistefanis beat Vasterman to the line for 4th; the Greek driver tapping his helmet perhaps indicating that he should have used his head. Taking
7th Van Wyk claimed his best Euro Challenge result yet with a clear lead over Dave Wooder (Kosmic) ahead of Junpei Takiyama (Gillard) and Parias rounding out the top 10.
A totally satisfied Jerome Bourquard explained following the prize giving ceremony that he was dedicating his win to his close friend Dany Moriceau who passed away suddenly last month. “I’m pleased to win this race in honour of Dany who we will miss racing with us in the Masters. I am very happy today to come back in the championship points as well. It is very hard to be fast here, to find the right set-up and carburetion but I was able to do that. I knew in the final that Colin was close behind me but having the front brakes it was easier for me I think and I just had to be fast in the last lap then to make sure he didn’t overtake.”
A return to the championship to defend his European title saw Wesleigh Orr (PCR) assert some authority from the qualifying practice session Friday when he set the best time (51.607). He claimed he was actually held up a little behind another kart in the 2nd lap, which was still fast enough to secure pole position. Many drivers found the initial laps with the new tyres is when they post their quickest times but in this case Orr’s 9th lap was a mere 5/1000th of a second off his best. Kevin Ludi (CRG) was next quickest ahead of Dennis Kroes (Haase). In the pre-qualifying practice sessions, Lothar Winzen (CRG) and Dennis Ladefoged (Swiss Hutless) were the pace setters.
Unfortunately Patrick Pearce (Wildkart) was excluded from the results this session in his first DD2 outing due to a technical infringement, still trying to adapt to the 2-speed gearbox category.
All 3 heat races over 12 laps were won by the dual-winner of the World Rotax DD2 title together with setting the fastest lap of each session. For Orr it was not as easy as it may have appeared
coming back into racing at this level after just getting used to spending more time these days driving cars. Fellow South African rival Leeroy Poulter (Birel) ended up with two 2nd places and a
3rd, seeing him line-up beside Orr for the pre-final the next morning. Ludi diced with Orr in one of the heats for an incredibly close finish to take 2nd as well as 3rd in another. Unfortunately the
throttle cable broke coming into the last lap of one heat race and he lost the placing, then back to grid 8. The two Dennis’ - Kroes & Thum (M-Tec) were going head-to-head and would start on P3 and 4, while lady driver Tiffany Chittenden (CRG) and Christophe Adams (Swiss Hutless) were on row 3. Local driver Manuel Scheibinger (Birel) had a lucky escape after being thrown from his kart during an incident in one of the races, but he was uninjured and looking forward to being back in the kart Sunday for the finals.
The pre-final was shaping up to be a great battle at the front between last year’s winner and the current championship leader. It was Orr into the lead from the lights but Poulter decided otherwise
on the next lap and brilliantly went to the front. Winzen and Thum were out of the race on lap 1 while Chittenden was quick into 3rd ahead of Kroes and Vasterman. Another 6 karts followed closely
as Ludi, Lagefoged, James Tumulty (RM1) and Pieter Scheefhals (Kombikart) were freight-training in a chase for 6th held by Bernd Herndelhofer (RM1). Lap 4 and Scheefhals received a 10 second
penalty from officials for a ‘jump start’ which would see him lose 7 places at the end of the race. No change at the front and Poulter held a tidy lead from Orr. Kroes looked for 3rd and passed
Chittenden as she ran a little offline, picking up some dust on her tyres and losing grip. Vasterman also went through for 4th as she recovered. With Ludi taking 6th, Tumulty was left to battle it out
with Scheefhals until the race finish. Sean Murphy (Intrepid) joined in the running in 9th only to have a rather dramatic ending into the tyre barrier on the last corner following a move up the inside by Scheefhals. With the Dutchman’s penalty enforced, Ladefoged picked up 8th in front of Seweryn Szczepanik (M-Tec) who put in a big effort to come from P18.
Poulter was the early leader in the last race and looked determined to keep it. It was the end of the meeting for Ladefoged and Hannink on the notorious turn 3 as they became spectators for the final. Orr made a gutsy move unexpectedly on the outside going down the sloping circuit to overtake Poulter for the lead during the first lap. Vasterman then took 2nd temporarily but Poulter claimed it back. They were followed by Kroes and Chittenden who clashed with Ludi and he lost 3 places in the process. It became clear that the young Swiss driver was struggling with a severe lack of power trying desperately to hang onto positions. With 3 laps run, Tumulty in 6th then
Herndlhofer and Adams, who copped a ‘driving standards’ warning. Scheefhals and Thum had already made their way up into the top 10.
One third of the 18-lapper is was over when Orr lost his lead to Poulter as the PCR kart is driven to a standstill on the side of the track. Orr searched for the problem preventing him from getting
maximum rev’s but decided to return to the pits, only to discover a slight mechanical error had cost him the race and the likely chance of the title. At the front Poulter extended his lead to almost
6 seconds over Vasterman towards the finish of the race with Kroes within just several kart lengths of 2nd. Chittenden is overcome by Adams for 4th but has to fight it out with Scheefhals with 5 laps
remaining. Thum has literally carved up the field of 27 from the back row of the grid to secure 7th, as Murphy and herndlhofer ran wide coming into the last corner to finish back in 15 and 16. The
2006 Euro Challenge DD2 Masters champion Rui Viera (Intrepid) came from grid 24 to win a close race across the line for 8th position over Scheibinger and Pearce. Although he was the quickest guy on the track in both finals, after the racing Leeroy Poulter talked
about what happened in the early stages of the weekend. “Qualifying was not great because we made a mistake with the set-up. Since we made a change in the morning warm-up today, it’s been good. In the pre-final it was going well and good for me to get the win. The final then went really well and the kart actually got a lot better during the race.” Strengthening his lead in the series, Poulter is now looking forward to round 3 which he says is important to secure the championship.
RGMMC invited several guest speakers during Sunday’s finals to join with official series commentator Ken Walker in giving some expert comments on the racing. They would like to thank 6 times World Karting Champion Mike Wilson from Birel and former F1 driver Jos Verstappen who are both now familiar faces at the event this year, together with Suzuka World Cup and Rotax Masters World Champ Darrell Smith, the official test & development driver for BRP-Rotax. They
provided some interesting technical and racecraft information for the competitors and spectators.
All the action of the finals and more can be seen on Motors TV beginning Monday, June 4th at 7pm.
Round 3 of the 2007 Rotax Mojo Max Euro Challenge will be held at the Speedworld complex at Bruck an der Leitha, Austria July 25 - 29
Results – Round 2: Wackersdorf, Germany
Rotax Senior Max
1 – Mike Joossens The Netherlands Kombikart /Rotax/Mojo
2 – Michael Simpson Great Britain Birel/Rotax/Mojo
3 – Ricardo Romkema The Netherlands Intrepid/Rotax/Mojo
Rotax Junior Max
1 – Jorrit Pex The Netherlands CRG/Rotax/Mojo
2 – Mats Van den Brand The Netherlands Intrepid/Rotax/Mojo
3 – Indy Dontje The Netherlands Energy/Rotax/Mojo
Rotax Max Masters
1 – Jerome Bourquard France Sodikart/Rotax/Mojo
2 – Colin Davis Great Britain Kosmic/Rotax/Mojo
3 – Stephen Cobb Great Britain Arrow/Rotax/Mojo
1 – Leeroy Poulter South Africa Birel/Rotax/Mojo
2 – Patrick Vasterman The Netherlands Gillard/Rotax/Mojo
3 – Dennis Kroes The Netherlands Haase/Rotax/Mojo
2007 ROTAX MOJO Max Euro Challenge – upcoming events
July 25 – 29 Bruck, Austria
September 26 – 30 Genk, Belgium
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