|The competition was close for the series lead in all four classes going into the third round of the championship and following an exciting weekend of racing, the 2009 Rotax Euro Challenge continues to remain undecided, with just one round left to go. Coming from 30 nations, 148 drivers travelled to the summer edition of the ‘Euro’, where the event was hosted for the second year by the Global Assistance Racing Arena Autodrom Ceská Lípa. RGMMC Establishment, as organisers and promoters of the event owned by Austrian Rotax engine manufacturer BRP-Powertrain, were once again grateful for the fabulous hospitality, support and professional approach the local circuit organisation provided.|
Changing weather conditions during the meeting played a significant role as the week unfolded. Official timed practice Friday was lucky to be completed before an incredible storm hit the Autodrom complex, bringing strong winds and heavy rain for a brief time until the sun came out immediately after. The qualifying heats experienced a wet track in the morning, then warm and dry with occasional showers to keep it interesting – and that it did. Sunday was perfect to wrap up the round 3 racing, giving both drivers and spectators an ideal day for the finals.
Fawcett “on fire” in Senior Max
A “heated” start to the event is one way Senior Max winner Tom Fawcett (RL Race Team/Tonykart) could describe his Euro campaign in Czechia, after he rolled during free practice earlier in the week and the kart caught on fire. In fact, the Ceská Lipá track had not been one of the British driver’s best memories, after he found himself with a broken wrist in 2008. However, it all turned around and Fawcett was second fastest in qualifying, then started on the front row for the pre-final and eventually took the honours on the day to claim his first European victory.
Pole position in Friday’s official timed practice went to Josh Hart (Intrepid Force Rotax/Intrepid) of New Zealand for the second meeting in a row (44.256), repeating his dominance in the qualifying heats to win two out of three of his races Saturday and once again set the best lap overall from the six senior heats contested. This round, the 22-year old racing for Austria in the series, actually took the pre-final pole which he failed to do at round 2 in Italy. The front row would be shared by Fawcett who’d taken a win and two 2nd places, followed by the Tonykart trio of Strawberry Racing’s James Greenway (1st, 2nd & 3rd in the qualifiers), Joseph Reilly with one 1st and championship leader Luke Varley, on the next two rows. Grid 6 belonged to Joey van Splunteren (DFK by PDB Belgium/Gillard), consistent in the racing to have adequate points. Not featured amongst the front runners, Linus Lindgren (Ward Racing Sweden/Tonykart) had won the second senior heat of the day, but a DNF in the last race saw him ranked only 20 in the 67-kart field.
Hart led the senior pre-final from the lights, as Fawcett suffered a bad start that sent him back to mid-field. Choosing to use his new MOJO D2 tyres in this race, Reilly from the outside was noticeably quick and soon overtook his team-mates Greenway and Varley, to be 2nd and chasing the leader by lap 3. It was obvious three laps later that the former junior British champ would try for a move into the first chicane if he had any chance. Sure enough, Reilly lunged up the inside on the next lap, resulting in Hart crashing over the rear of the green kart as he turned into the corner; then dropping back to P6. Reilly lost his momentum as well, admitting afterwards that he’d made a mistake which allowed Varley to drive right by and go on to take the win. Race pacesetter Guillaume Chaumont (GKS-Gem Sport/Birel) off row 5 also passed Reilly to finish 2nd, with Greenway 4th. Running just out of contention, Mats van den Brand (Team TKP/Intrepid) surrendered 5th to Hart before the 15 laps were spent.
Drama struck the polesitter in the final, as Varley exited the circuit after the initial roll-up lap with a deflating tyre. He rejoined soon after to be on P14 by the first corner, only to receive a 10-second penalty for an infringement of the starting rules. Chaumont and Reilly led the field into turn 1, as Hart was sent spinning from P3 and Greenway also ran wide, falling back to the rear of field in order to avoid colliding. The lead was assumed by Reilly, followed by the Frenchman then Karol Dabski (Uniq Racing/Intrepid), Van den Brand and Fawcett. By lap 5, Dabski was running 2nd with Fawcett behind him, after Van den Brand retired when he sustained some damaged to his rear tyre and Chaumont had fallen down the order. Fawcett continued to push hard, taking 2nd from the Polish driver at half-race distance and then the lead from Reilly with five laps remaining. Further back, the pack was keeping the pace with only a few tenths covering the first 20 karts in respect of their laptimes.
With the last lap board being shown to the leader, Sandro Lukovic (Speedworld by MKR/PCR) who’d clocked a top 3 lap in qualifying Friday, overtook Dabski for 3rd who was still elated with his 4th place finish as he crossed the line a lap later. However, the race classification was altered when a 10-second penalty was handed to Reilly and Chaumont for starting out of position, taking them from the top 5 to P14 and P17 respectively. This shifted Lukovic up to 2nd behind the winner Fawcett and Dabski into 3rd. Joey van Splunteren (DFK/Gillard) led the chasing group for 4th ahead of the only Greek driver in the final Ioannis Antoniadis (Kalman Motorsport/Birel), coming from grid 15. 6th place belonged to Jeffrey van Bergeijk (DFK by PDB Belgium) who narrowly edged out Eduardo Moreira (Korridas/Intrepid); the Portuguese driver who was fast all weekend and up in the top 3 in Saturday’s heats, with Mike Joossens (DFK by PDB Belgium) in 8th in front of fellow Dutchman Ramon Rietveld (Team TKP/Intrepid). The fastest guy on the circuit was Josh Hart, who had actually driven his way through to 10th by the end of the 17 laps to secure some vital championship points. Varley took the flag in 6th and was relegated back to 19th, but is still the series points leader going into the deciding round in France the second week in September.
So after his somewhat shaky start, Tom Fawcett was more than determined to achieve some decent results at Sosnova, believing he was fast enough to take the trophy, “It was a very difficult weekend which unfortunately didn’t have the best start and I thought after the testing that we wouldn’t be as competitive as we were. I managed to be pretty quick on this circuit, but there were a lot of very fast drivers here. From the qualifying it was good until I had a bad start on the outside in the pre-final and ended up 10th. I saved my new tyres for the final and got a good start to be 6th by turn 1, then just had to keep it consistent and pick the others off one-by-one. We had a lot of work to do and in the end it was just a case of bringing it all together, so it worked out very well. Thanks must go to Steve Armstrong from RL Race Team and my dad for being a good mechanic.”
Payback for Parry in Junior Max
Ongoing “friendly” competition was fuelled over the weekend between Matthew Parry (Paul Carr Racing/Kosmic) and one of his British rivals Edward Brand (HRS Motorsport/CRG), when Parry took a convincing win in the Junior Max final at the third round of the Euro Challenge. He was second fastest in official timed practice to Brand and qualified to start on row 2 for the pre-final, finishing second to the polesitter. Looking back to the previous round, it was Brand who had stolen 3rd place on the podium from the 15-year old in the closing moments of the race. However, the final in Sosnova brought a ‘changing of the guard’ which saw Parry victorious for the win.
The time set by Ed Brand in the first junior group to hit the circuit in the official timed practice Friday was 44.705, with a 0.108 gap to Parry, who topped the timesheet in group 2. Dutch driver Kay van Kemenade (TKP/Intrepid) was the next fastest and would prove to be the only one to beat the pole man in the qualifying heats Saturday. Both had two wins and a 2nd place, but Brand’s qualifying result gave him the advantage when it came to the pre-final gridding. He also had the best laptime of all the heats. Parry took two wins as well, but 3rd in the opening race headed by Brand and Championship leader Josh Webster (Strawberry Racing/Tonykart) put him on the inside of row 2. Webster would join him on grid 4. Behind them, a 4th British driver Jack Marshall (SSR Motorsport/Gillard) would line up on the third row accompanied by Artem Markelov (IPB Spartak/Kombikart) of Russia. The Junior Max winner from the Italian round of the series Aavo Talvar (Talvar Racing/Intrepid) looked almost certain for a promising starting position during the heats while running in the top 3, but a DNF ended his hopes.
A brilliant start to the pre-final gave Marshall the lead for a short time before Brand swapped back to take charge and remain virtually unchallenged on his new set of MOJO D1 rubber, once more setting the pace. Climbing to 2nd, Parry couldn’t catch the new leader, but kept the next quickest driver Van Kemenade at bay as Webster moved into 4th. Seeming to be off the pace slightly, Marshall had dropped to 5th within the sights of Van Kemenade’s lady team-mate Beitske Visser (TKP/Intrepid) at the forefront of some great racing for minor places within the first 10, ahead of Markelov under pressure in P7 fighting off Jos Kiekens (CRG Holland/CRG) and team colleague Denzel Mafait. As Brand stretched his lead to just over three seconds with two laps to go, Van Kemenade passed Parry for 2nd, who gave him a gently tap coming out of the chicane and regained his place. Webster made the most of the situation and slotted into 3rd. The Intrepid driver was left to take 4th ahead of Marshall and Visser.
The Junior Max final is always a ‘nail-biter’ at the Euro and lived up to its reputation as usual. Ed Brand waved goodbye to his dream run after exactly one lap, as Webster took advantage of his new tyres through turn 1 to lead the 14-lapper, followed closely by Parry who shuffled Brand back to 3rd. Losing places after driving too wide, Visser slipped backwards and never made up the lost ground. Webster covered his line well, although Parry was looking for the opportunity to overtake on lap 3. The Russian, Markelov, made his move at the chicane on the next lap for 3rd, so Brand was facing the chances of losing even more points as the final unfolded. Marshall managed to regain P7 from Mafait, as Euro newcomer Mark Ferencz (VPD Racing/Intrepid) suddenly showed up in 8th from grid 19. On lap 6, Parry led from Webster, Markelov, Brand and the little Mini Max recently-turned Junior Max driver Harrison Scott (RL Race Team/Tonykart) showing glimpses of the pace we’d seen in his international debut in Italy at the last round.
Van Kemenade had lost out at the start, but at the half-way point was back in contention taking 5th and setting what was to be the quickest time in the final around the Autodrom circuit. The Hungarian Ferencz had passed Marshall for 7th while the action up ahead for the podium was beginning to heat up. With three laps to go, Parry had a comfortable lead from Webster, as Brand and Markelov diced for 3rd in a bout that the Brit won. The battle between Van Kemenade and Markelov then got underway for 4th, seeing the 13-year old from the Netherlands hold onto his position across the line, but unable to reach Brand before the finish. 6th went to Scott ahead of Ferencz, who outdrove his good friend Ferenc Kancsar (Kalman Motorsport/Birel). Marshall was disappointed with 9th, but it was an impressive result for Talvar to round out the top 10 from the back of the grid.
“Well, I beat Ed Brand!” were the first words Junior Max winner Matt Parry said when asked about his success at the Euro Challenge event, declaring his delight at successfully beating one of his closest rivals and racing buddies. “It was a good start for me in the final to be 3rd. After [Josh] Webster passed Ed, I did too. I had new tyres on and the kart was good; probably the best the Kosmic has been all weekend. I was pretty happy and pleased with it all. I just want to say thank you to Paul Carr and everyone else who’s helped me.”
Odendaal totally dominates ROTAX DD2
It was almost as if Ralph Odendaal (Korridas/Intrepid) couldn’t put a foot wrong in Ceská Lípa! The 21-year old has a rather laid-back approach, although often appears to be a little nervous about if he has the speed to win and he’s well-known for saying that “It’s racing; anything can happen!” Ralph claims not to have been over confident leading up to official timed practice Friday, considering some of the other gearbox drivers were quicker. On the contrary, he clocked the best lap (43.635) to qualify on pole for the heats then was the only driver the entire weekend to win all three of his qualifying races which were incidentally in the wet, before taking 1st in both finals where he was the quickest overall. The tallest driver at the Euro eventually smiled when he stepped up on the podium Sunday. Since he took pole position at the Rotax Winter Cup back in February, Odendaal has featured strongly in the series, but now still remains second to round 2 winner Maik Barten (DFK by PDB Belgium) by a mere 3 points.
Tiago Ribeiro missed out on pole in qualifying by 0.025 to his Korridas/Intrepid team mate, then joining Odendaal on the front row for the pre-final with two wins and a 5th in Saturday’s heat races. Former French DD2 Champion Damien Vuillaume (Freekart Racing/CRG) had the third quickest time Friday but would only rank 6th following the heats, yet had the measure on fellow countryman Antoine Ferret (MD Competition/Tonykart) that he shared the last podium with in Busca, who won the second qualifier Saturday. Row 2 for the pre-final was a combination of the series leader Maik Barten (DFK by PDB Belgium) and Swiss entry Tobias Widmer (Spirit Kart-CH/Birel), with Matic Gorisek (MLM Sportstil/Intrepid) on grid 5 beside Vuillaume. Italy’s Daniele Maccini (TJ Emmer/VRK) was the pacesetter overall in the heats, but one race finish outside the first 5 saw him drop to grid 7 in the rankings.
Unlike the racing Saturday where most of the 2-speed category heats were run in the rain or on a wet track, Sunday was warm and dry. Many of the regular frontrunners were not necessarily at the pointy end of the pre-final, as Odendaal cleared off at the start to lead the way for every one of the 15 laps. Barten kept the inside line for P2 from Gorisek and Vuillaume, which soon changed when the CRG driver snatched 3rd. A tremendous battle directly behind the leaders then saw the likes of Widmer, Gorisek, Ferret and Ribeiro fighting it out lap-by-lap. Maccini’s race ended prematurely, retiring to the pits on lap 7. With only 3 laps to go, a collision concluded Gorisek and Ribeiro’s pre-final campaign, with Ferret also a victim but able to rejoin further back. There was no change to the first three as Barten safely held onto 2nd place ahead of Vuillaume, but couldn’t close the distance of nearly 3 seconds to Odendaal by the chequered flag; the only one to break the 44-second mark. The Wildkart Racing Team made an appearance in 4th and 6th positions, as German drivers Bela Szilagyi and Denis Thum, who’d started 18th on the grid, were there to take the benefit of the earlier incident, separated only by Widmer in 5th.
With Odendaal familiar with the pole start, he took the lead for the last time and said prior to the final that he felt he just had to get through the first two corners and believed he would be able to hold his own from there on the new tyres. Barten grabbed P2 and was trailed by Szilagyi, who Vuillaume looked to pass on the next lap, giving Thum the chance to move unexpectedly into 4th. On lap 4, Szilagyi was back to 5th as Widmer and Ferret behind were forced out of the race on the chicane by Philipp Roebers (Eurokart/CRG), who was given a black flag. Vuillaume climbed to 3rd ahead of Thum. Ian Young (Kalman Motorsport/Birel) continued his charge from P20 to make up for his poor pre-final result, sitting 6th at the half way lap and finding it hard to get passed Szilagyi covering well as he led a 9-kart pack. A change in the order saw the German fall near ROF and Young back to 8th.
With just minutes remaining, Vuillaume had the misfortune of a mechanical problem and parked the kart on the infield, handing his podium and vital series points to Thum. Now in 4th, Clement Traglia (MD Competition/Tonykart) came under pressure from Seweryn Szczepanik (Schepers Racing/Zanardi) and Young, succumbing to the pair to find himself 6th with 2 laps left. Young’s eagerness cost the Polish driver his 5th place just three corners from the finish line, as Szczepanik was spun around but regained his direction to end up 16th. Young was given a 10-second penalty for his effort. The round 3 win was Odendaal’s for the taking, then came Barten and Thum in 3rd. A shortlist of well-known drivers who made their weekend recovery in the final proceeded Traglia, including Dennis Ladefoged (Swiss Hutless DK/Corsa Kart) in 5th. 15-year old Maxi Fleischmann (VPD Racing/Intrepid) had his first top 10 Euro result to take 6th ahead of a relieved Maccini, who came from P29 to hang onto 5th in the championship. Another Italian Davide Favaro (Parolin Racing Team/Parolin) drove well to be 8th; more than a second in front of DD2 Masters winner Danny Brand (VZ Racing/Maddox) and Roy Geerts (Schepers Racing/Zanardi) in 10th.
Due to Ralph Odendaal’s lack of experience in the wet, the South African DD2 driver admitted that the rain brought with it some concerns, “My week went pretty well and I was quick from the first day with everything good during practice Wednesday and Thursday. When it started raining, I was a bit worried because I’ve not raced that much in the wet back home, but with each race it got better. We had a lot of rain Saturday for the heats so I was able to save my dry [MOJO D3] tyres for the pre-final, then I was pretty confident starting on pole in the final on new tyres. Thanks to Korridas and Intrepid Force Rotax for their support. Hopefully I will get back to do some testing before Salbris.”
The DD2 Masters class was won by Danny Brand (VZ Racing/Maddox) who took the honours as well at the opening round in Spain this season and as mentioned already, the Dutch driver finished 9th overall in the final. Carl Cleirbaut (DFK by PDB Belgium/Maddox) was runner up and round 2 champion Christophe Adams (GKS-Gem Sport/Birel) 3rd.
Danny Brand said he was sure he could be competitive at the Sosnova event, but felt he was capable of doing better if he hadn’t been unlucky in Saturday’s racing. “It was a very good week but when I was pushed off in the rain during the last heat, I had to start 16th for the pre-final and only managed to get up to 10th. The final was a good result as well for me to win the Masters and be 9th overall. For sure I know I have been as quick as the front guys and could have had a better result. My focus though is on the DD2 Masters and I’m hoping at the last round in Salbris I can seal the ticket to the Rotax Grand Finals: Egypt is what I’m aiming for! Last year I went well at the French circuit and that was in the wet, so I believe I can be competitive in September. A special thanks to the whole team at VZ Racing for giving me good equipment and engines. It’s marvellous!”
Bourquard plays a points game in Max Masters
The 2008 Masters vice champion was not the fastest in the qualifying at the Autodrom Ceská Lípa or even a winner of any of the heat races Saturday… but ultimately, he opted for a strategy that he thought would give him the maximum points in both finals. With just one round remaining in the series, Jerome Bourquard (BRK/Sodikart) won the Masters class at round 3 and has successfully maintained his overall lead, thanks to using his second set of dry tyres wisely last Sunday. With the worst pre-final and final to be dropped from the total points for each driver at the end of the four-round series, the Frenchman desperately needed to have a good pre-final to make up for his not-so-good result in Spain back in March. So, in the pre-final Bourquard used two of the new set of slicks and in the afternoon final added the remaining two. In case you’re wondering which two, it was a front and rear on one side on each occasion! The Sodikart driver’s best lap in the pre-final (45.046) was actually quicker than the fastest time set in the official timed practice.
It was a Portuguese 1-2-3 in Friday’s 15-minute qualifying session led by Pedro Loures (JPL Consulting/PCR), who took pole position with a time of 45.327 to squeeze out Nuno Santos by 0.015 seconds and his Sportkart/CRG team-mate Goncalo Gaivao with the third best time. It was surprising to see some of the more-likely pacesetters struggling to find their pace or ideal set-up. The “Goose” Gaivao won the majority of the heats, taking two wins and a 3rd place, which would see him start on pole for the pre-final. Round 2 winner Christophe Adams (GKS-Gem Sport/Birel) won the other heat, plus had a 2nd and 3rd place, therefore sharing the front row with the polesitter. Ukraine driver Anton Chupinin (Promarmatura/Zanadi) ranked 3rd with two top 3 race results and he joined Loures on the second row for Sunday’s pre-final, who had one ROF finish in the heats that ruined his front row chances. The fastest lap of the Max Masters heat racing was set by ’09 Rotax Winter Cup champion Rui Vieira (Korridas/Intrepid).
The pre-final was in the dry, with Gaivao leading for the majority of the race. Adams came across from the outside on the first row to fight Chupinin for P2, but the Zanardi driver ran off track and lost several places. It was Bourquard that was lapping the quickest by half-race distance, passing Adams for 2nd in a moment that saw the Belgian shown the driving standards flag on the next lap. Although the leader picked up his pace to be a few tenths off Bourquard’s best time, he was unable to stop the number 402 kart passing. Gaivao closed the gap a little on Bourquard through the chicane, but couldn’t get close enough to have a shot at the lead. Adams took 3rd ahead of Loures and Chupinin.
Bourquard was last onto the start grid for the Max Masters final Sunday afternoon and knew he’d have to do his best to pull a gap if it was possible, declaring he expected the others to be faster on their set of new tyres, as opposed to him having already used two of his. He took the lead in the first corner ahead of Adams, then Gaivao and Chupinin, who diced for 3rd on the next lap. Gaivao won the early battle, but the pair was simultaneously pounced upon by Vieira on a mission from some rows back. 5 laps gone and the Korridas boss was 3rd, as Adams seemed to have closed in on Bourquard up in front. Santos was the quickest on the circuit but running mid-field, when Chupinin stole back 4th and Gaivao began to slow, dropping back to ROF. He’d lost the water from the radiator and disappointingly, the Goose’s race was run.
Shadowing the frontrunners, Vieira took 2nd on lap 9 from Adams and went after Bourquard. He gradually lessened the gap and at one stage had a look at making a move for the lead, obviously faster than the leader, but later admitted he wouldn’t risk losing 2nd and the points unless he could make a clean pass. Bourquard made it a double victory to take the Masters final and Vieira made up for what had not been his best weekend this season, while the last place on the podium went to Adams, who remains 2nd in the series. Chupinin held onto 4th from Santos and Georges Popoff (RKO/Tonykart) of Italy. Having never missed a Euro round, Loures was hoping to do better than 7th after qualifying on pole. In P8 was Jan Vos (Van der Pol Racing/Sodikart) and Gaivao was classified 9th.
Jerome Bourquard, “I’m very happy. Saturday was not so good because I was not fast in the wet conditions for the heats and I didn’t have any luck either. I started 7th on the grid for the pre-final and used two of my new tyres, which I think was a good strategy as I was very fast. The other drivers had their new tyres in the final and I expected they’d catch me, but it didn’t happen. I want to say thank you to Tony from Supertune because he made a good engine for me. I’m hoping I can do well in Salbris; it will be my last race.”
Welcome additions to the Ceská Lípa event
RGMMC Establishment welcomed their many friends from the German tyre manufacturer Heidenau at the third round of the Rotax Euro Challenge in the Czech Republic. They came to visit the championship at Wackersdorf as well the year before and it was a pleasure to see them return to enjoy some fantastic finals racing Sunday as special guests. Another significant group welcomed back to the Euro over the weekend was the famous ‘Red Devils’ track marshals, who proved to be winners within their own right. As always, the circuit team was exceptional in providing the highest level of safety for all the competitors, contributing to make it a great event. Not to be overlooked, the gorgeous RGMMC grid girls added perfectly to the ambience of the Euro… and got all the looks!
All the race results from Sosnova and previous 2009 rounds can be found on the official RGMMC homepage at www.rgmmc.com by following the Kart-Data Live Timing link, while the current championship points are available on the opening RGMMC page at RACE 3 – SOSNOVA under “Results”. The increasingly popular RGMMC IP TV now brings race fans even closer to the Euro Challenge with short videos that include driver and team interviews, the finals grid and podiums, some technical info and interesting things happening in the Euro paddock at every event, as well as the 2009 Rotax Winter Cup. We’ve also added racing highlights from past seasons of the Rotax Euro Challenge. You can catch RGMMC TV on the Kart-Data website with the race results or use one of the direct links – www.rgmmc.de or www.kartworld.tv
The fourth and final round of the 2009 Rotax Euro Challenge returns to Sologne Karting at Salbris, France from September 9-13, where RGMMC Establishment looks forward to once again working together with host Marc Berteaux and his team, along with the FFSA for what will be the 25th event for RGMMC in the 6 year history of the championship.