|EURO CHALLENGE GEARS UP TO BE NO VACATION IN AUSTRIA|
The Speedworld complex close to Vienna will place host once again to round 3 of the Rotax Mojo Max Euro Challenge next week, as the championship moves into the second half of the 2007 season. With temperatures pushing the high 30s leading-up to Wednesday’s start of official practice, the venue is living up to its reputation for delivering some hot track action for the event.
The summer holidays coincide perfectly with the Austrian round so many of the 177 competitors and their supporters will likely take advantage of its ideal location to take in some of the European sites. With around 30 nations represented ranging from the USA to Australia, Japan, South Africa and the UK throughout Europe across to Russia, there appears to be a growing interest from more of the eastern countries in the international championship this year.
Many of the teams have been preparing over the last two months doing a lot of testing and practice at the Speedworld circuit. With both Senior and Junior Max classes fully subscribed, the competition has some eager young drivers keen to secure the European titles up for grabs. Only a few places will be left vacant on the grid in the Rotax DD2 gearbox category, with the 2-speed class expected to turn on some great racing as they did in Germany at the previous round.
In Seniors, 19-year old Mike Joossens took the victory for Kombikart at the round 2 to take a hold on the championship lead ahead of fellow Dutch driver Ricardo Romkema and Britain’s Michael Simpson. Having finished as vice European champ last year then 2nd to Romkema at the Rotax Grand Finals, the 2006 Netherlands’ champion is determined to make this one his own. However, a brilliant line-up in the Max class will leave nothing certain at this stage of the series and with 68 entries racing for the podium in Austria, there’s no doubt it’s going to be exciting.
Last year’s early series leader in Juniors who eventually came away 3rd overall - Mats Van den Brand is again hanging onto his lead after collecting the most points at each round so far. His greatest rival is another Dutch driver 3 years younger who’s managed to win both this season’s finals. World Junior Max number 1 Jorrit Pex is hot on the heels of Van den Brand with Phillip Howarth of England chasing the pair in 3rd. The Intrepid driver knows he will have to work hard to beat the 13-year old and keep his chance of winning but he’s well aware there are also a few other juniors renowned for their success at the Speedworld track, not to mention those who have already shown the pace to fight for the prime positions.
A return to the Euro Challenge by some of the former DD2 frontrunners could see series points leader Leeroy Poulter challenged again at this round. Defending champ Wesleigh Orr has unfortunately had to withdraw due to his racing commitments in cars but the remaining competitors are not prepared to let the current South African DD2 champ seal the championship honours, as Poulter hopes to do for Birel in Austria. Some familiar names in the series - Dennis Kroes and Christophe Adams are presently placed 2nd and 3rd in the standings with several other drivers just behind them in the points tally who have posed a serious threat at the last two rounds.
Not much at all separates the Max Masters when it comes to the championship, although the ’06 vice champion Colin Davis of Great Britain is still sitting on top of the leader board for Kosmic, just 5 points ahead of round 2 winner Jerome Bourquard. Davis failed to prevent the French pilot stealing back the race lead in the final in Germany. They both know the Austrian circuit from having done battle there last year in what was one of the best races for the spectators on the program. Patrick Vasterman running two classes at the event, who picked-up the Masters’ prize at the 2nd round in the DD2 class and Olivier Fiorucci, are equal 3rd in the championship right now.
Following free practice which begins Wednesday, July 25th, official timed practice sessions at the Euro Challenge are scheduled for Friday to establish grid positions for qualifying heats Saturday. The second chance races for the Senior and Junior Max plus pre-finals/finals take place on Sunday.