The first decisions have been made in the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy. More than 200 drivers started in Genk, Belgium last weekend and kicked-off the racing season of the highly-competitive karting championship. In the best weather, the numerous spectators enjoyed lots of racing action and the first winners of the year were celebrated in the seven Rotax categories. Four drivers achieved double victories in Sunday’s Finals.
The ‘Home of Champions’, Karting Genk, stayed true to its name once again last weekend. On the 1.360m-long track, the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy got the 2022 season up and running. The Austrian engine manufacturer's international racing series was a great first event with large fields of participants. After the qualifying on Friday, exciting heats followed on Saturday. The final races began in beaming sunshine on Sunday as the winners shone in each of the different categories. The initial successes of the season were celebrated at the prize-giving ceremony in the evening for Boaz Maximov (Mini), Ethan Jeff-Hall (Junior), Sean Butcher (Senior), Mark Kimber (DD2), Denis Thum (DD2 Masters), Thijs Stevens (Project E20 Junior) and Luca Koester (Project E20 Senior).
Things got heated in the Mini MAX class with an encouraging field of 33 drivers. Paul Schoen (MH Racing) was the best at qualifying with a narrow margin over Boaz Maximov (Bouvin Power) and thereby secured P1 for Saturday. Schoen then won two heats – a bad result threw the youngster back again though and made Maximov the leader of the interim rankings.
The Bouvin Power driver knew how to use his starting position in the first Final. Over the course of the race, the top drivers stayed close together. Next to Maximov, Toms Strele (SM Racing) and Rory Armstrong (Hunter Motorsport) showed strong ambitions as well. Maximov kept his opponents at bay in the end though and won the race in front of his two main pursuers. Schoen came in fourth ahead of Luca Stordeur (Bouvin Power).
Maximov stayed at the front of the field at the beginning of the second race too. But after three laps, Schoen attacked. The Swiss found his old strength, left his bad luck behind and celebrated a considerable victory after 13 laps. Maximov came in second and achieved the stage victory of the Mini category. Felipe Reijs (SP Motorsport) was third and took the bronze cup on the podium. Max Sadurski (FJ Motorsport) won fourth place in front of Stordeur on fifth.
In the juniors, the racing weekend started according to plan for Ethan Jeff-Hall (Strawberry Racing). During qualifying, the Brit tied in with his performance at the last Winter Cup in Campillos (Spain) and was the pole sitter in Genk as well. By winning two heats, the youngster also set the pace of the first race on Sunday.
After a perfect start, Jeff-Hall kept his position again, followed by Aaron Krepcsik (KMS Europe) and Austin Lee (JJ Racing), and led the field during the first few laps. Among the leading group, quarrels caused some change of positions then. Lee temporarily took the lead, but was defeated by Vinnie Phillips (Strawberry Racing) shortly after. The top drivers continued the race bumper-to-bumper. Philips had the winning hand and crossed the finish line in front of Jeff-Hall. Scott Marsh (Dan Holland Racing) came in third from Kasper Schormans (JJ Racing) and Lee.
The second final race of the Junior MAX consisting of 36 drivers had its turbulences. Philips won the start and led the field until an incident caused a slow phase and the field bunched up again. Jeff-Hall saw his chance at the restart. The pole sitter took the lead and kept it until the end of the race. “It was a perfect season kick-off. I felt very comfortable on the track after good practice sessions and I was able to use all of it in the end”, said the winner. Behind him, at times five drivers fought for second position. Marsh kept the upper hand and came in right behind Jeff-Hall. Tommie van der Struijs raced from 15th to third place. Lee finished fourth ahead of Philips in fifth.
Sean Butcher (KR Sport) showed an impressive performance in seniors. The Kosmic Kart driver drove the fastest time in qualifying and was in first position in the interim rankings after three heat victories too. The Englishman didn't let up during the final races either; he crossed the finish line as the winner twice. “We didn't quite have the top pace during trainings, but then everything went according to plan during the important final races despite an engine issue during warm up. The fights at the front were tough, but fair. I'd like to thank my team for their support and the great package”, Butcher explained in his winner's interview.
It wasn't easy for the pole sitter during the races though. After the start of the first race, Callum Bradshaw (Strawberry Racing) stayed in his shadow and applied pressure. The reigning RMC Euro Trophy Champion had to let Kai Rillaerts (JJ Racing) pass him by though. Temporarily, he even took the lead, but wasn't able to keep it. Coming in second, the Belgian still celebrated an impressive introduction and crossed the finish line followed by Janne Stiak (Kraft Motorsport). Shortly after, Kai Hunter (Dan Holland Racing) followed in fourth place and Bradshaw completed the top five of the race.
In the second Final, Rillaerts went into attack mode directly after the start. During the course of the race, he tried several times to win the battle against Butcher, but always had to deal with the reaction of the KR Sport driver. Therefore, Rillaerts came in second again. Towards the middle of the race, German driver Stiak was on third place, but had to forfeit it to Hunter. Lewis Gilbert (Potenza Racing Engines) came in fourth in front of Andrej Petrovic (KSCA Sodi Europe).
The Rotax Project E20 Junior category celebrated its debut at the RMC Euro Trophy kick-off. For the first time, young drivers proved their skills and know-how regarding racing strategy in the Rotax E-kart. Dutchman Thijs Stevens did so brilliantly! The youngster won all three heats from pole position and also set the pace during the races on Sunday to win the weekend – plus an invitation to compete at one of the other E20 Tour 2022 events during the season.
Tijs Daems (Daems Racing Team) took the lead after the start of the first race, couldn't keep up with the polesitter's pace though and had to settle for second. Behind him, Daniel Hauswirth fought with Krit Knooren for third place, with Hauswirth prevailing in the end. Hannes Ueberfeldt (Kraft Motorsport) completed the top five of the first race.
Things weren't easy for Stevens during the second race either. Daems challenged the Dutch junior and temporarily led the field in Final 2. The Belgian had to forfeit at the finish line again though. Kacper Turoboyski (Bambini Racing) couldn't quite keep up with the winning duo's pace and finished in third place. Hauswirth and Knooren fought another fair duel to be fourth and fifth respectively.
The Project E20 Senior category already showed a very homogeneous performance level during qualifying. The four fastest drivers were less than two tenths of seconds apart. Eric Le Moine drove the best time to take pole position for the heats. With Le Moine, Ellis Spiezia and Corinna Kamper, three different drivers won these – Le Moine was at the top of the interim rankings though.
During the first race, Kamper took the lead after the start and set the pace on the 1.360m long track. Towards the middle of the race, the Austrian had to forfeit the race due to a technical defect though. Spiezia took the lead and kept it until the last lap. Right before the end of the race, Luca Koester (Kraft Motorsport) saw his chance. At the last moment, the 24-year-old overtook the leader and won the race. Le Moine followed on third place, followed by Hector Constant Ramirez and Jose Luis Hurtado.
The second Final was equally exciting. Koester won the start, but Spiezia then took the lead. After the third lap, the Kraft Motorsport driver regained the lead though and strengthened his position throughout the course of the race. In the end, the German achieved a double victory. “This was a great weekend for us. It was an exciting experience to drive the Rotax E-kart for the first time. The races were a lot of fun – the concept definitely convinced me”, said Koester. Spiezia followed on second place again in front of Le Moine. Kamper came in fourth, Hurtado fifth.
For Xander Przybylak (Bouvin Power), the start into the racing weekend went perfectly. The local driver had the best time at qualifying and was seen as a favorite early on. Przybylak underlined this by winning two heats and first place of the interim rankings on Saturday evening.
It was the same in Final 1: Przybylak drove away from his field of pursuers after the start and strengthened his advantage. The Bouvin Power protégé confidently drove the rest of the race without any pressure from behind and came in as the winner. Petr Bezel (KSCA Sodi Europe) was constantly on second place at a safe distance while Laurenc Seifried (Daems Racing Team) was in third for a long time. Towards the end of the race, Mark Kimber (Strawberry Racing) moved forward from eighth place to third. Seifried fell back to fourth place and the top five was completed with Xen de Ruwe (SSC Intrepid).
An exchange of blows followed in the second race. After the start, pole sitter Przybylak set the pace initially. British Kimber attacked after the third lap though, drove best time after best time and won confidently. “After good preparatory races here in Genk, we didn't achieve what we wanted in qualifying. On Sunday, I was able to fully attack again after some adjustments, drive off and win the race”, the Strawberry Racing driver rejoiced. There were tough fights for the remaining places on the podium. Jakub Bezel (KSCA Sodi Europe) showed an impressive performance and came in second in front of Nicolas Picot (Daems Racing Team). Przybylak wasn't able to fully keep up, even with his dominant speed, and finished the race fourth in front of Philipp Moitzi (KSCA Sodi Europe) in fifth.
Michael Becker was the star of the DD2 Masters' qualifying in Genk. The routine driver achieved the best time in front of Denis Thum (Kraft Motorsport) and therefore started into all three heats from pole position. Becker used his chance during the first heat – in the second and third, Thum was in his element though and took first place of the interim rankings.
Thum continued his trend during the first race. The routine driver impressed with constant speed at the front from the start. Over the course of the 17 laps, Thum stayed calm and finished the race in first ahead of Becker and Carl Cleirbaut (SP Motorsport). Christophe Adams took fourth, Thierry de Jong fifth.
Thum underlined his great form again in Final 2 and celebrated a perfect start-to-finish-victory. Becker kept up with the speed in the beginning, but lost some pace over the course of the race. Adams improved his performance at the same time. During the second half of the race, Adams showed his top condition by driving the best time of the race and passed Becker, coming in second in the end. Cleirbaut and De Jong completed the top five.
The Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy continues at the end of May. From May 27th – 29th, the international championship is going to take place on the circuit in French Val D'Argenton for the first time.