|Karting Campillos, SPAIN - The opening race of the season on the RGMMC calendar for Rotax appeared as if it might be a complete wash-out last weekend at Karting Campillos in the Andalusia region off the Mediterranean coast when the worst weather to hit Spain for 60 years hammered the Winter Cup with a vengeance.|
The 131 competitors who came from a total of 23 nations for the event were faced with conditions that not only put their driving skills to the test, but also jeopardized the meeting on the whole with as much as 48,000 litres of water pumped off the track. In the end, the organisers were forced to issue a revised schedule which saw Sunday’s race program run to time and the second Rotax Winter Cup champions crowned amidst some excellent racing. The podium winners collected more than €30,000 of free entries between them for the 2010 Rotax Euro Challenge and thousands of race fans tuned into to catch the new RGMMC TV on the net, as well as the live timing with commentary from Friday.
Ralph Odendaal, the 2009 European Rotax DD2 champ, was the pacesetter in official timed practice Friday. The South African’s time of 1:05.072 claimed pole on his 10th lap in as many, as the track began to improve following some light rain. Former French champion Damien Vuillaume was 2-tenths off the Team Korridas driver and one of half a dozen others who took turns at topping the leader-board as the hot-laps unfolded. Making a comeback to karting after competing in the A1GP series, Wesleigh Orr ranked 3rd quickest, determined to show why he’s a previous Rotax World and European title holder.
Ralph Odendaal – “The conditions were very different today; both dry and wet, but I struggle a little in the wet which doesn’t help; maybe because we’ve not had a rain race back home for about four years. I enjoy the long circuit here though, which is generally longer than our tracks.”
After heavy mist settled on the track which brought the program to a halt Saturday afternoon, the altered race format meant there were only two DD2 heats run as opposed to three. Odendaal and Orr took one a piece, but the latter secured pole position for Sunday’s pre-final. Sharing row 2 were Vuillaume and fellow Frenchman Clement Traglia, who proved to be a strong player in the 2-speed class.
It was extremely cold when the pre-final got underway, but the racing definitely saw things heat up in a hurry. Orr was the early leader, challenged immediately by the Euro number 1 who led the field for a lap before the pair swapped places again. A tangle between Odendaal and the vice champ Maik Barten allowed Vuillaume to take advantage of their loss to assume P2, although Traglia was held up in the scuffle. Within no time, Vuillaume and Orr began dicing for first, joined by Odendaal after recovering, as a fierce battle for minor placings raged on behind them. In the closing stages, Barten fought off Christophe Raymakers behind the leaders, who was then involved in a collision with Traglia which sent them both to the back of the field. Vuillaume pulled a gap of just over 7 seconds by the chequered flag from Orr, who was followed closely by Odendaal, almost losing 3rd to Barten across the line.
After the close competition of the DD2 until the point of the final, it was shaping-up to be a nail-biter! Mike Barten lost his position at the start of the decider when he collided with another kart and was facing the opposite way, which dropped him way down the field from row 2. Vuillaume held his lead and never looked back, with Orr and Odendaal shadowing him going up the hill on the opening lap. Disaster struck as the two known-rivals crashed together, Odendaal then sent spinning off with severe damage forcing early retirement, hit by Rocky Singh unable to avoid him. Traglia soon also exited after just 2 laps ending all his hopes.
The race for top places turned to a sizzling battle that ended with Latvian Raivo Luhse falling out of contention five laps from the finish after being in 2nd, which Tomasz Krzeminski regained until two laps to go in this his first DD2 event. Coming from grid 18, it was Raymakers who snatched 3rd in the closing moments, having just been passed by Orr the lap prior. Not the way he wanted to return to the sport he loves, Orr was eventually excluded on a technical issue handing P2 to the Belgian in any case ahead of Krzeminski with a deserved 3rd. 4th went to Martin Lapins with Eugene Brittz 5th. Tiago Ribeiro and Bela Szilagyi had a good shot at the podium, but failed to keep their positions in the final minutes, dropping just outside the top 5 to head Barten 8th, who made an error running wide to lose significant places. Meindert van Buuren and Roy Geerts completed the top 10 and a Dutch treble. The best lap of the DD2 final was set by Russia’s Alexey Zabolotniy who almost didn’t start the meeting due to a problem with his chassis.
Vuillaume’s win was the perfect way to start the season, especially going into the first round of the Euro Challenge at the end of March on home turf in France. The Freekart Racing driver was elated as he took the victory and acknowledged his mechanic. “The 10-second win was not as easy as it looked because the competition was of the highest calibre with the likes of World, European and national champions amongst the drivers, but I was lucky that they were fighting behind me for positions and I got a good break. Five laps from the end I had a few hiccups with my kart, but I still kept a comfortable gap. I want to say a big thanks to all my supporters today.”
With the likelihood of rain showers threatening the second group of the senior timed practice, nobody wasted any time getting out onto the circuit for the 15 minute qualifying session. Rookie to the class Aavo Talvar was hoping it might work to his favour after taking provisional pole from the first group, but it would be short-lived when Brit Tom Fawcett made his 3rd lap of 5 count. The time of 1:04.659 edged out the Estonian by 0.075 of a second. Next best overall went to Fawcett’s Strawberry Racing team mate Mats van den Brand, with P4 in the 61-kart field going to an impressive effort from another of the ’09 Junior Max drivers Matija Jurkovic of Slovenia.
Tom Fawcett – “Being on pole, we’re in the first phase of what we have to do. With qualifying out of the way, now the 3 heats, pre-final and final, hopefully we can wrap it up then. There are some really good drivers in the class so I think it’s a really good mix for some great racing. With the weather like it is there is a massive difference here to get the wet and dry set-up right.”
There were six qualifying heats in Senior Max with the unusual result of six different drivers taking the honours in each of the action-packed races. Victories went to Talvar, Jake Ball, Jack Dex, Fawcett, Van den Brand and Aaron Head. With many newcomers present at the international event, the season looks like being a thriller based on the depth of the field so far. Pole position was not one of the drivers who took the chequered flag leading up to Sunday’s finals, but instead Dutch driver Ramon Rietveld. He was joined on row 1 by one Ross Wylie of Great Britain.
The pre-final got underway after two aborted starts with Wylie leading the way followed by Head, Rietveld and Ball. It wasn’t long before Rietveld began losing ground dropping to mid-field, as Matt Mason made his move into the first 3. With Wylie stretching his lead to 1 second, 2009 British champion Mike Simpson got amongst the action as well coming through from grid 16, as did Dex on a mission who started back on P25. Simpson grabbed 3rd on the last lap for a row 2 start next to Mason on the final grid, as Wylie and head secured 1 & 2 without any challenge. Dex drove well for 4th to hold out Czech driver Jiri Forman who split the dominant British line-up, with James Greenway and Jake Ball in arrears. Qualifying polesitter Fawcett was one of only three drivers to break the 1:09 lap time, but he was shuffled back to 9th ahead of Van den Brand by the end. The fastest of the race was Sandro Lukovic, unlucky to forfeit his grid 11 start position for the final when an incident during one of the false starts saw him back in the breakdown lane changing a puncture and relegated ROF.
It was Simpson from the start who took P1 at the lights in the 16-lap final, only to be passed by Dex the next lap leaving Simpson and Greenway to go head-to-head for 2nd until Ball entered the ring for a 3-way bout. David Sutton forced his way through to 3rd with little at all separating the hungry pack, as race pace-setter Fawcett also came into the picture. The lead was swapping until Greenway made it stick at the beginning of the lap with only 2 to go. Sutton and Fawcett came to some grief in the closing battle for P2, allowing Dex the benefit of their misfortune to claim 2nd place and Wylie to steal 4th. Fawcett held 3rd but Sutton was unhappy to find his hopes shattered back in 5th ahead of Simpson, Ball and Van den Brand. 9th went to Daniel Graham, while current Junior Max Euro vice champ Ed Brand did well to finish 10th.
For James Greenway, this win was something he’s been striving for and in Campillos; he got what was rightfully his. “This is going to be the year! I think we’ve come back very strong after taking the Junior and Senior European titles in 2009. I’ve been working hard in the gym in the winter to be better prepared for the racing too. Jack got away at the start of the final, but I managed to chase him down and from laps 10 to 15 we were able to wear him down. I passed him on the bottom hairpin and he fought straight back so I thought it was going to be on until the end of the race. I’m really happy with the win and also want to thank Strawberry Racing.”
41 entries meant the junior class was divided into 2 groups for the official timed practice where the light drizzle of rain made it all the more interesting. The best 4 times came from the second session with James Singleton of Coles Racing taking pole with 1:05.625 just over a tenth from local driver Alexis Araujo. Ukyo Sasahara, the Junior world number one making his European debut from Japan was 9/1000ths behind in P3. It was a disappointing start for Harry Crawley, who would have taken P2 but came in under the designated weight for the class.
James Singleton – “I’ve had a good time up to this weekend so far and it’s been a big learning curve already, mainly because of the different tyres and also the amount of rubber on the track. We were very surprised when the times came through and we realised we were on pole. I expected Harry Crawley to be pretty close. Now, I’m really looking forward to the racing.”
Similar to seniors, there were 5 winners of the six Junior Max qualifying heats over the weekend, making the competition very close in the field where the majority were under 13 years of age. British driver Jack Barlow was the only one who won two races, with the polesitter Singleton also first in another heat to start beside Barlow on row 1 for Sunday’s pre-final, while George Williams was victorious in his second race to line-up beside fellow Briton Henry Hunter on row 2. The other two qualifiers went to Tristan Vildas and Germany’s Junior Max champ Mike Halder.
Due to the changed timetable as a result of the bad weather Saturday, the finals were reduced in length so the Junior Max pre-final was only 8 laps of the 1588m Spanish circuit. Singleton pulled an early gap on Barlow and Hunter on a cold, slippery track while Sasahara worked to regain the places he lost at the start. The close battle for P6 was superb between Swede Victor Bouveng, Araujo and Halder, who ran wide with 5 laps remaining, falling back several places which allowed Diago Silva into the argument. Barlow caught the leader, but Singleton got away again until the last 2 laps, when Barlow assumed the lead in one move and pushed the distance to over 3-tenths by the finish. Sasahara kept pace for 3rd trailed by Silva, who had swapped places with Crawley for P4. Halder set the quickest lap in 10th.
Barlow’s lead was short-lived in the junior final when Sasahara pounced in the first section of the track and immediately worked on extending his lead. Singleton was up to 2nd by lap 3 from 4th just ahead of the intense dicing for places in the freight-train pushing behind him, where Diago forced his way into 3rd until a struggle left him back in 8th. The early leader found a way back past Crawley to P3 as Julian Wagner won the battle for 4th and pulled a slight gap. Just over half race distance, Barlow was reeling Singleton in as Sasahara kept his momentum ahead. Having started on row 5, Dave Blom looked as if he might come through the pack, however he slipped offline going up the hill after turn 1 and rejoined further back.
When there were 2 laps to go, Barlow stole 2nd from Singleton who retaliated straight away. The pair got into a controversial dual that went down to the wire in a cut-throat finish with Barlow just ahead of the #24 kart over the finish line. The glory on the day though went to the Junior Max champ Sasahara with a brilliant effort to take the win of more than 6 seconds. The Intrepid Force Rotax driver did his team and country proud taking the honours against some of the best young Max competitors around. Austria’s Wagner was 4th ahead of Crawley and Hunter, who clocked best lap of the final, but copped a driving standards flag in the process. In 7th was Araujo from Silva, Bouveng and the ’09 Dutch champion Joel Affolter in 10th.
For Sasahara, winning the Winter Cup title only two weeks after winning the first ever Rotax Winter Cup in Japan was a great double to begin his 2010 assault. “I’m very happy to win here and want to thank all my personal sponsors, EIKO Japan, Team IFR and my family for all their support. There are many very good drivers in this field that I have really enjoyed racing against. The qualifying was not my best, but the final was easier than I expected. I am also very happy to win the free entries to the Euro Challenge and thank RGMMC. I cannot wait for the racing!”
It was a Spaniard (born Englishman) who set the pace in the Masters qualifying Friday, in what was surprisingly a smaller field than initially expected, but still provided some competitive racing for the drivers. With an invitation up for grabs for the Rotax Grand Finals in the upcoming Euro Challenge, it’s likely that the field will include more entries when the series begins. SMP Racing Steve White with a best lap of 1:06:362 edged out the former European and World number one Rotax Max Master Colin Davis for pole, with last year’s Winter Cup winner Rui Vieira 3rd fastest.
Steve White – Being my local track here in Spain I’ve been around Campillos a few times, but not in these conditions. It’s honestly something I’ve never driven on so wet and cold like this. It’s normally not a true wet track, usually just more like greasy. It’s incredible how hard it is to drive on the wet track with the rubber that’s already down. In the class, I think there are eight very close drivers and some really good drivers at that, so it should be good racing.”
It was bitterly cold when the Masters came out for the first of the pre-finals, with their third heat having been removed from the race schedule due to the conditions the day before. Winning both qualifying heats Saturday, Florent Lambert of the Tatum Racing team was the man to beat and the polesitter for the pre-final. Anton Chupinin of the Ukraine was beside him on the front row of the grid, making amends for his mistake of coming in underweight in the official timed practice Friday, while Vieira and Davis made up row 2.
Lambert got away at the start and kept his head down as the action began behind him over the following 10 laps. In the early shuffle, White was up to P3 from grid position 6 and applying pressure to Vieira, when the Portuguese driver suddenly lost control in the slippery conditions going through a fast left-hander and slid over the shoulder of the circuit. Vieira consequently rejoined on the section of the track below after waiting for White to pass before continuing. However, a black flag ended his race leaving White to go into battle alone with Davis now on his rear bumper. Davis got through, but lacking some of the speed the Spanish driver had, White got him back. Just over half-way and Davis in P3 closed in on White again, unable to change the end result however, as Lambert stretched his lead even more for a very comfortable win. Frederic Ostier was the best of the French drivers to take 4th with a gap to Chupinin.
Knowing there was almost €5.000 in prizes on the line for the Masters winner which included the full championship entries for the 2010 Rotax Euro Challenge, the competitive spirit was alive and well in the final. With Lambert in the lead, Davis and White swapped places for P2 and 3 soon after the start. Pedro Loures had his own battle with Chupinin to take 4th, only to lose it when he spun out. In P5, Ostier was able to keep Vieira at bay and prevent him from stealing his position. It was action-packed in the opening laps which kept the race fans’ attention both trackside and on the new live internet coverage at RGMMC TV.
Up front, White caught Davis in 2nd and over a couple of laps they diced time and time again until White covered his line too well for Davis to overtake. The fight for 4th got tougher for Ostier as Chupinin persisted with 5 laps remaining and gained a place. Meanwhile, Davis never gave in on chasing White for another step higher on the podium as the laps wound down. Two from the end and he makes the move for P2 and nails it, managing to get some breathing space from White with only 1/1000th between their best laptime which in both cases was quicker than the leader. Lambert was unable to be caught though and took the win more than 4 seconds ahead of Davis. As they approached the final stage of the race, Ostier resumed 4th narrowly beating a disappointed Chupinin to the chequered flag. Loures took 6th and naturally wasn’t pleased with his result having sorted his new chassis and lapping faster than the leader. Vieira and Pascal Fougeray Morin had retired earlier in the 16-lap final unfortunately.
The new Rotax Winter Cup champion from Great Britain was obviously excited about his victory. Florent Lambert has been competing in the Euro Challenge for some time and had finally taken the race honours in the Masters (24 years+) class. “I’ve never won in the international racing, so it’s really a great result for me. This weekend we’ve seen everything thrown at us apart from snow, which has not made it easy. But, this year we’re taking the racing very seriously and hoping to be standing here yet again on the podium at the Euro Challenge. It’s a great start for us!”
Considering the stormy weather conditions, one can only say that the 2010 Rotax Winter Cup lived up to its name at this, its second edition. However, true to form, the organisers and promoters RGMMC Establishment, were very happy to live up to their well-known reputation of giving their competitors what has become expected together with some excellent racing – by running to time and finishing the meeting as scheduled. It was a huge effort and they appreciate the understanding given by all concerned.
The live timing and commentary was viewed by more than 5000 people over the event Sunday, not to mention the incredible response to the new live IP-TV coverage going out to the world both days at RGMMC TV. Thanks is also extended to Mr Reuvers from Karting Campillos together with Mr. Peter Solomon from the new Virgin Formula One Team who were testing at Jerez not far from the race venue in Spain, who both assisted in presenting the trophies together with RGMMC Managing Director Mr. Roland Geidel.
All the results from the event plus racing action and interviews from around the Rotax Winter Cup paddock can be found by following the links to the Live Timing and RGMMC TV at the official website of RGMMC – www.rgmmc.com
2010 ROTAX WINTER CUP - RESULTS
Karting Campillos, SPAIN - 14th February, 2010
1 – Damien Vuillaume (F) CRG / Freekart Racing
2 – Christophe Raymakers (Bel) Zanardi / Schepers Racing Service
3 – Tomasz Krzeminski (Pol) Intrepid / Uniq Racing
ROTAX SENIOR MAX
1 – James Greenway (GB) Tonykart / Strawberry Racing
2 – Jack Dex (GB) Alonso / Dan Holland Racing
3 – Tom Fawcett (GB) Tonykart / Strawberry Racing
ROTAX MAX JUNIOR
1 – Ukyo Sasahara (J) Intrepid / Intrepid Force Rotax
2 – Jack Barlow (GB) Alonso / Dan Holland Racing
3 – James Singleton (GB) Tonykart / Coles Racing
ROTAX MAX MASTERS
1 – Florent Lambert (GB) Tonykart / Tatum Racing
2 – Colin Davis (GB) Redspeed / Whitstone Racing
3 – Steve White (S) Tonykart / SMP Racing
Check HERE video and results of the Rotax Wintercup in Spain