Ruben Boutens

Once something is a passion, the motivation is there...

Indoor Kart World Championship 2019

Ruben to 4th place after exciting week at Victory Lane Karting
Charlotte (USA), 23-27 July 2019

The 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship was organized in the United States of America for the first time since the 2010 edition in Phoenix, Arizona. After 4 consecutive years in Europe, it was time again to reach out to other parts of the world and challenge the best indoor drivers in the world in North Carolina at the fantastic track of Victory Lane Karting in Charlotte. As travelling to America creates a barrier for some European and nowadays also South-American drivers, the number of participants was with 70 somewhat lower compared to the 120-170 drivers in the past years, but nevertheless a great line up including top drivers from different countries was present. My favorite tournament was about to start, and I was very excited to start for the second year in a row with the number one number plate after my second title in Poland last year. The track was more than a minute in length and very challenging given the slippery surface and different grip levels across the hall, combined with the weather of around 35 degrees Celsius all ingredients for a spicy KWC were there. Preparation went well, after some days of practice I felt more than ready to kick-off on Tuesday July 23rd for the first of eight qualifier rounds.

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On the first day you typically don’t want to start off with some bad results and I was focused to make the most out of my races. Racing in indoor karting means you have to adapt to the circumstances and deal well with all karts and groups you face. Everyone will get some less good karts but only the top drivers will manage to still finish in top positions with those karts. On this track the tricky thing was that track conditions changed a lot during the day and even during the race, lowering laptimes by multiple seconds and also changing the differences between different karts. In my first two races I had great battles with the American Ryan Curtin and German Dennis Höller, both duels I ultimately won by overtakes on the track, I finished the day as the only driver with two wins! On day 2 I had a much bigger challenge in race 3 when I had one of the karts which was performing less good, in the number 19 I could still qualify second but in the race I was chased by multiple drivers. After my pitstop I unfortunately got hit by a back marker who made me spin and received a penalty. I lost several places and could come back only to 5th place. Luckily I was able to score the maximum number of points with pole position, fastest racelap and a victory in race 4, which gave me the lead in the championship after day 2.

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We switched race direction every day and on day 3 I faced Michael Schöttler for the first time this week. He was looking very strong and beat me in this race, although I was right on his tail in the first half of the race. In the afternoon I managed to score my 4th win, however I was not satisfied as I missed the best lap by 0.01 of a second, an expensive point. As we had 5 groups per round this year, a lot of top drivers scored several wins and hence the extra points for fastest lap and pole position were very important. After day 3 I was in 3rd place in the ranking, a few points behind Höller and Schöttler who both won 2 races today. Other strong competitors in the front of the pack included the German Tobias Laube, the American track owner Fred Ogrim, Belgian Mats de Jong and Michael Bräutigam, probable the most unexpected man in the top 10 who seemed to raise his pace every day. On day 4 I had two of my most difficult groups and I drew kart 15, which was not a good one at all. I qualified second behind Belgian Stefan Verhofste and managed to stay with him in the beginning of the race. I could even take the lead and capitalize on some battles behind me. It was Mats de Jong who came after me halfway during the race and made an early pitstop. He however missed the button in the pit and therefor lost a lot of valuable points for his ranking. After I made my pitstop I was able to hold off the others and with only the 8th best time in the race I won the race, a great result. My toughest group came in round 8 and this turned out to be a very bad round for me. The kart I drew was not the best but more importantly, it didn’t drive in the race before which appeared to be a big disadvantage in the qualification. I qualified 5th and gave everything I had in the race. As 5th would mean it the result would be dropped, so I took risks in stopping late, hoping for the top 4 to start fighting and also risked a fast entry on my pitstop. I came out behind the top 4 and also received a penalty for my pit entry, which meant I had to count a 5th place in my result.

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Because of the last race I was now suddenly 19 points behind Schöttler and 9 behind Höller, which reduced my chances on a third consecutive title a lot. I couldn’t do anything about it unfortunately and was ready to fight until the end on the last day for the best possible result. Before each of the 4 semifinals for the top 64 drivers, a shoot-out took place to determine the grid, allowing the winners of each battle to choose their kart and collect an extra point for the ranking. This went all very well beating Vadim Apolka (US), Mike Ibach (US), my countryman Bram Gelten who was very strong this year and in the last battle also Tobias Laube from Germany. In this way I secured myself from a good kart which I optimally utilized in the race by winning it with a good margin and the fastest lap. The other 3 semifinals were won by the strong German drivers Schöttler, Höller and Bräutigam. These three and myself were now the main contenders for the final podium with Schöttler in a great position to win the title given his current shape and advantage of 11 points over Höller. The drivers ranked 17-32 then battled for the 8 remaining final spots on top of the 16 other finalists, a battle won by Dutch youngster Guillermo van Pamelen. We then qualified with the top 16 drivers, a very exciting and probably decisive moment. I beat German Andre Lohse in round one, but then lost to Mats de Jong by a small margin. This gave me the 6th starting position but I still had a decent kart for the final luckily. It was Schöttler who won the last battle from Mats and he therefor started the final from pole position.

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I was excited for the last race of the championship, 45 laps and two pitstops, 24 drivers on the track! At the start Schöttler had some problems to find pace in the first laps, which made the other German drivers Bräutigam, Laube and Höller stop early. A big risk, as they might run into back markers during the long final. I could close the gap to Mats and was chased by American Jerott King from behind. After some laps I managed to pass Mats in the first corner and then only Michael was still in front of me. Michael was not far away but suddenly improved his pace and slowly pulled away again. I drove as consistent as possible and tried to pass the German drivers that stopped early by outpacing them. I managed to overtake both Höller and Laube and keep King behind, but Bräutigam put down an amazing pace and was even challenging Schöttler for the win. I was going to finish third, which was just not enough to jump Dennis in the ranking, and who would win the race would decide if I would be on the podium or not. Unfortunately Schöttler took very safe pitstop, which is completely understandable for which you can’t blame him at all, but this gave the win to Michael Bräutigam by a second. This resulted in a 4th place in the final standing for me, a very painful result but at the same time I knew I did everything I could and should be happy with the result.

wk19 finalisten

The title was for Michael Schöttler, the first German KWC champion and a very well deserved title for him, I’m glad to have such a good driver as my successor. Dennis Höller finishes the 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship as runner-up, very well deserved looking at his performance of the previous 3 years and he was very happy to now finally made it to the podium. Michael Bräutigam completed the all-German podium this year, a surprise I have to say. Although he had some favorable groups, he earned his place on the podium by showing great speed and winning the final, congratulations to him. Some very nice reactions from the German drivers to me also helped me feeling more satisfied about the final result, the 4th place was not the spot I was initially going for, but a 11th top 10 classification in 12 years Indoor Kart World Championship with 6 race wins this week (2nd most behind Schöttler) also made me proud. Mats had a difficult final, with hindsight he probably chose the wrong kart, but his strong performance this week resulted in a still nice 5th place, although he probably hoped for more. The junior championship was won by American Roman Hanes, before the local talent Aidan Kennedy and Dutch Guillermo van Pamelen. Selina Balneger won the ladies championship for the 5th year in a row, there were only 3 women participating this year, but her place in the final proved she had great speed this week. Local hero Fred Ogrim was the best in the masters category for drivers over 40 years, while finishing 6th in the overall championship. In the team championship it was the German squad of Lohse, Schöttler, Bräutigam and Laube who won, while I finished second in an occasional team including Bram Gelten, Dennis Höller and Columbian Alejandro Fenwy under the name of the helmet designer of Dennis, Bram and me, Five Star Designs.

wk19 podium

Looking back I had a great time again in the US, making a fantastic road trip through 8 different states with my dad, driving a very special Nations Cup, enjoying the time in Charlotte including the tension and satisfaction the world championship and meeting great opponents and people from all around the world! It creates fantastic memories and I would like to thank the host track and organization for their efforts, see you next year in Portugal where I will try to go a third title again!

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KWC Nations Cup

Ruben & Mike with Dutch Value to 2nd place
Charlotte (USA), 21 July 2019

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The 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship was organized in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since the 2010 edition of the IKWC in Phoenix, Arizona, the championship first returned to the United States of America. A far trip overseas but what an adventure. The world championship would not be a world championship if it was only held in Europe, and hence I was very happy to travel to States again in the hunt for more glory. Together with my dad I spent one and a half week travelling through some amazing places in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvenia, West Virginia and Virginia. From the Smokey Mountains National Park to the music city of Nashville, to the Nascar on the Kentucky Speedway, major league baseball at the Cleveland Indians, everything you wish was in this trip. On Thursday 18 July we came back in Charlotte to try the track at Victory Lane Indoor Karting. It was not an easy track at all, more than 60 seconds in length and many difficult corners with changing grip levels, mostly slippery. After some 15 training sessions it was Saturday evening and I was ready for the Nations Cup. But I had one problem, I had no team, BlueStar was, apart from me, not present this year and my teammates from the last 2 years (Rico & Lorenzo) were also not here. Last minute I decided to team up with my young friend Mike Dijkgraaf and together we formed the Dutch Value as we are both Dutch Value members from the beginning.

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It was a brave idea, I would drive the majority of the 6 hour race, and the temperature was no less than 35 degrees with a very high humidity. That was a challenge, 16 teams lined up on Sunday morning for the 5-minute grid formation. It was very slippery on the track in the morning and the pole position was taken by Jerott King from the USA by a large margin. I was second, just in front of the German driver Dennis Höller and track owner Fred Ogrim. In the beginning of the race there were a lot of nice battles, I was able to take the lead right from the start, like last year, with a Le Mans start. After a few laps Jerott passed me and built up a lead. I fought with Fred, Dennis and Mats de Jong from Belgium who came from behind and was very fast as well. After one and a half hour most drivers went in the pit for their first of 5 obligatory pitstops, it was extremely warm and not easy to drive a long stint. I continued until I passed the halfway point after 3 hours and then did our first kart and driver change. Mike went in while I got on the scales, and that was scary. I lost 8 pounds which is equal to almost 4kg, a new record for me but not so positive. I took a 4kg margin so I was just good, but I had to drink a lot.

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Luckily Mike was fast as well so I had some time to recover and drink well. We had a little hick up as Mike left the pit too early as we had to look to the light at the other side of the pit instead of our side, because we drew the kart in the other pitlane. This resulted in a stop and go penalty of 20 seconds. Meanwhile Michael Schöttler had taken over from Dennis for the German team and was very very quick, he secured a half lap advantage while Selina Balneger for the Belgian Traxxis team replaced Mats and was chasing Mike. After almost one hour I took back over from Mike and tried to drive away from third and fourth place. Some Belgian, American, Brazilian, Colombian and British drivers were chasing us. I had a very good second stint of one and a half hour before I made another stop handing over to Mike again. I felt not very good anymore, but after some more drinks I went back in the kart for the last 20 minutes, we were far in front of third place now and only just over half a lap behind the German drivers. André Lohse and Tobias Laube were fast as well and I came a little bit closer, but not enough to challenge them anymore for first place, they prolonged their Nations Cup title from last year, an amazing performance from the German squad!

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But what a result for us, the only team on the grid with 2 drivers including the just 14-years old Mike, we were super super happy with this result and even achieved the same position as last year with Rico and Lorenzo. We have to say that the field last year was a bit stronger than this year, but strong teams behind us proved what a race we drove. In third place one lap down it was Guillermo van Pamelen, Mats and Selina who took the third place for Traxxis. The American teams just finished outside the podium after a great race. A great start from our championship and we collected the trophy with the Dutch flag in our hand, we were proud of this achievement and celebrated at the local Longhorn Steakhouse which was one of the best restaurants in town. In the restaurant I almost went down and I didn’t feel good at all, but after taking sufficient salt and drinks it was better again in the late evening. One more day of practice on Monday and the individual championship was around the corner!

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5. TKC Lauf - 12 Stunden Nachtrennen

Ruben with German friends to good 2nd place in nightrace
Grimma (De), 15/16 June 2019

In the weekend of 15 and 16 June I was invited to join the German team of Kartbahn Allemannenring for the 5th race of the prestigious TKC Endurance Kart Championship, which was held in Grimma, far away in the North East of Germany. The team consists of German drivers Michael Schöttler, Fabian Siegmann and Nicole Egner who typically drive 7 hour races in this championship, and for this 12 hour race they were looking for a 4th driver. I was more than willing to help them out after getting to know them especially during the IEKC in Middelburg, although I know Michael already from endurance races in Eupen 8 years ago. A great team with super strategy and motivation and we were excited to go racing on Saturday evening. After some 2 hours practice there were some technical issues with the light installation inside the hall, which causes a serious delay of about one and a half hour before it was fixed. Luckily we could go underway with the first of three qualifying sessions. Fabian started and passed Q1 easily, when 7 of the 19 teams dropped out. I did the second session and just managed to drive the fourth fastest time, good enough to qualify amongst the best 5 teams for a one lap shootout in one kart. Michael did this hotlap and came out in 3rd position behind the other fast German drivers Maximilian Beer in 2nd and Dominik Schnitzler on pole position. Maximilian is together with Michael known as one of the top drivers all over Germany, I fought with him for the podium already during the 2011 Indoor Kart World Championship in Eupen when he finished 2nd and me 3rd.

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Michael started the race and managed to drive away with the other two frontrunners while he had a little less good kart then the top 2. The race consisted of 12 stints of in 12 different kart which were switched by kart changed in order of number. Besides that, the race was full of tactical elements including a maximum stint time of 85 minutes, one stint between 35-45 minutes and 1 between 20-30 minutes, a maximum driving time per person and an obligated stint on 95kg of minimum 77 minutes. I drove second and was only 1 tenth of a second slower than Michael in the same kart, which made me very happy especially on this track with about 73 second laptimes. I felt comfortable on the track which I only drove once before (during the 24 hours of Grimma in 2017 which was stopped halfway due to issues with the timing system) in the other direction. During the night the order was mixed up due to different strategies, our speed however was very good during stints of all our four drivers, which kept us in the battle for the podium. During the weekend I could also work on my German language, which I would love to improve and hence I tried to speak as much as possible in German. Writing this report in German was just one step to far, maybe next time haha.

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Jokes aside the result was top of the list and I volunteered to drive some of our less good karts in which I did some damage control. This went very well and as the sun came up again in the early morning, we were in 3rd position fighting for second. Team Scharmuller who is leading the championship with Maximilian Beer and 2 other strong German drivers was all race long too strong for the other teams. With one and a half hour to go it surprisingly started raining and that was perfect for us. Michael still had to do our last stint on 95kg and showed incredible speed in wet conditions as well, leaving all other teams far behind even with more weight. We therefor moved up to second place and could even build up a lead over third of more than a lap. Scharmuller won the race well deserved, they won by more than 2 laps on us and seem to be on their way to the title in the TKC championship. With great pleasure I was part of our team this weekend and I was impressed by the very well-structured approach and tactics of Michael, Nicole and Fabian, for which I would like to thank them. I wish them all the best for the remaining races in the TKC championship this year.

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12 hours Eupen

The Dutch Value to second place in 12 hour nightrace
11/12 May 2019

For the 7th time I participated in the 12 hour nightrace at Karting Eupen last weekend, teaming up with Romano Franssen and Rico Haarbosch for the Dutch Value, with who I won this race in 2016 and 2017. A total of 20 teams entered the 2019 edition, mainly from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The race consisted of 11 stints of just over 1 hour, of which 4 on 95kg and 7 on 85kg, 10 kart changes and 5 additional pitstops with a minimum time of 550 seconds in the pit. This provided plenty of option to play around with strategy and especially the direction change after 6 hours race was an interesting moment where you typically don’t want to be in the lead. We had a difficult first couple of hours, me starting the race in 11th position and losing some time on other top teams in the beginning of the race. Rico drove second and Romano third, this sequence we remained until the end of the race. We decided to do a lot of 95kg stints in the beginning of the race when we had some decent karts and before the direction change. After 6 hours it was BlueStar dictating the race with Benjamin Kaivers, Logan Sougne and Christian Douven all driving impressive laptimes. We were virtually only just in the top 10 and had to make up quite some time to come back onto the podium.

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The direction change was ok for us, we won some time on most of our competitors but were still around 7th position. It was a close battle on the front of the field and our speed improved during the second half of the race, with Rico, Romano and me all driving some very good stints in the early morning to make up time bringing us back in the fight for the podium position. We managed to overtake the Belgian team of Standwork, DWT and Acquity and the strong German teams of KRS and PF Racing. With two hours to go I went into the kart for my last of in total 4 stints and felt satisfied about my speed which was not always at 100% in the first two stints. The last hour was split between Rico and Romano and we made our last 2 extra pitstops to arrive at a total of 15 stops. This brought us to second place, more than one lap clear of KRS who finished with 2 drivers (Felix Hahn and Michael Joussen) in a strong third position. Only the team of BlueStar was too strong for us today, scoring a dominant and well deserved victory 2 laps ahead of us. Another challenging edition came to an end at 10 o’clock on Sunday morning, I was tired but happy to make it onto another podium of this high level race, looking forward to the 25 hour race later this year in Eupen!

Polish Indoor Kart Championship 2019

Ruben in fine style to another big title at Silver Hotel & Gokart Center
Szczecin (Pl), 27-28 April 2019

The 8th edition of the Polish Indoor Kart Championship (PIKC) was seen by many as one of the largest and most prestigious indoor kart championships of 2019, with 120 drivers in the open category the event was completely sold out and with the addition of the British commentator James Auld (well-know from BRKC), PIKC 2019 was a better event than ever before. Already on Wednesday the first people arrived for practice heats which continued until the late Friday night. Last year was the first time in my 5 previous appearances that I did not make it to the podium and I was determined to do better this year. Therefore, I arrived earlier than last year and did already one practice heat on Thursday, followed by some more heats on Friday. I felt strong on out on the track straight away and couldn’t wait to start racing.

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On Saturday morning the championship started with the first of 5 qualifier rounds in the normal direction. I had a tough heat to start with the top 3 from the past Indoor Kart World Championship which was driven at Silver Hotel & Gokart Center as well, Polish Jakub Klek (2nd), Dutch Rico Haarbosch (3rd), but also Opnithi Puyato. In the morning it was raining and the outdoor part stayed open, which made the qualification lap tricky. I made some small mistakes and had to start from P4. In the race I could win just one position by overtaking Polish Dawid Chart halfway through the race. I was faster than the leaders (Klek and Puyato) but had not enough time to close the gap in the 15 laps, Haarbosch finished behind me in 4th. In my second race my group was slightly more easy and I qualified in 2nd behind German Carsten Waibel. During the race in reversed direction I could follow him closely and overtake him on track. My young countryman Eliano de Vos finished in 3rd. Eliano is one of the Dutch talented youngsters, and eventually won the Junior Championship during the PIKC this weekend, beating Dawid Zagol from Poland and David Papp from Hungary.

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I had to wait 6 hours but never a dull moment with amazing racing which were completed during the first day of PIKC 2019, a pleasure to watch from the side of the track. In race 3 I had a very difficult group again, but taking pole position made my life easier this time. I could slowly pull away from one of the top contenders from Poland, Michal Grzyb, the number 5 from the past world championship and runner-up in the British Championship earlier this year. Rico was in this group as well and could overtake Michal later in the race, I didn’t have to take risks during my pitstop and took the maximum points score with the fastest lap as well. During the last race of the evening around 10 o’clock I was out on track for the fourth time today and I increased my number of victories to 3 today, a great result in another strong group, with Lars-Ole Jens from Germany chasing me and finishing 2nd before Mellanie Motz, the Dutch woman who was crowned undisputed women’s champion this weekend!

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On Sunday morning the remaining heats of round 4 were raced before I was scheduled for my 5th race. With my current results I could race this one without pressure, I decided to go full attack for my 4th win as my back-up with the drop result was a decent 3rd place. I could take pole position once more and with a relatively easy win and fastest lap I scored 87 out of 88 points in the preliminary rounds, an amazing result which gave me a 6 point advantage over Filipe Vieira from Portugal who was second in the ranking before a handful of other top drivers still going for the title, including 4-time and reigning PIKC champion Sebastian Papke from Germany, Grzyb, Romano Franssen (NL), Jens, Christophe Verhoeven (BE) and Klek, Dennis Holler (DE) and Puyato. In the battle qualification for the first semi-final I could first beat Matys (PL) and De Wolf (BE) before facing Rico. We were very close, but I was beaten by 0.03 and was left with a slightly less good kart. Starting in 3rd behind Rico and Lars-Ole Jens I still had a good chance for a nice result and with the three of us we were clear of the rest of the pack quickly. With an early pitstop Jens tried to make a tactical move, however I was able to close the gap on Rico, drive the fastest racelap and overtake Lars-Ole with the pitstop. Rico covered me well 2 laps later and I finished in 2nd, a good result which guaranteed me the lead in the championship going into the final. The other semis were won by Romano Franssen and Filipe Vieira, both very strong in the battles and race.

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For the first battle in the final I was facing Sebastian Papke immediately, he made a faulty pitstop in the semi-final and just made it to the final as 16th and last driver. I was hoping not to be kicked out directly, but beat Papke and moved on to round 2. There was Rico again, this time I felt confident to beat him after a very good first lap, but a few minor mistakes on the second lap screwed my chances up as I lost by 0.02 seconds, a big disappointment which made my life much harder for the final. I was happy to see that Rico won the final battle from Grzyb, which was now my biggest rival, while Vieira starting behind me in 6th was another dangerous opponent. In the first laps I could overtake Opnithi with a late move which costs me a warning. Behind me were Filipe and Christian Douven (NL) and I could slowly pull away from them. It was a two-man battle for the lead of in the race, which was won by Grzyb who made an early pitstop and executed a successful undercut to win the final. I was behind Franssen in 4th place and knew I had to finish 5th to be equal in points with Michal, 4th would give me a 1-point advantage. I covered Christian who came close to me in the final laps of the race, with the pitstop I kept my position and the title was in the pocket. An amazing title to win, my second PIKC crown and this one felt even better than 4 years ago as I did it this time 100% on own strength instead of some accidents by others. The weekend felt like the world championship from last year continued and I’m grateful to have my name once more on the wall of fame in Silver Hotel & Gokart Center. Michal Grzyb and Filipe Vieira finished the championship in a well-deserved 2nd and 3rd place! I would like to finish my reporting saying thanks to the organization which was outstanding once more, a great championship, I’m looking forward to the 2020 edition already!

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