Ruben Boutens

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

12 hours of Eupener Karting

BlueStar Racing Team with two teams on the podium
Eupener, 19/20 June 2018

The 2018 edition of the 12 hour nightrace at Karting Eupen was scheduled for the night of 19 to 20 June. Together with my fellow Dutch BlueStar teammates Christian Douven and Romano Franssen I represented BlueStar 1. Our second team was another very strong line up featuring Mathias Grooten, Logan Sougne and Yoan Medart. We faced plenty of other strong international teams in a 25-teams starting grid. Romano drove our qualification and was able to start the race from 4th position. In the past 2 years I won the race together with Romano (and Rico Haarbosch who was now driving for another team) and I was happy to be with him in the same squad again. Although Romano was struggling in the beginning of the race, he was amazingly fast again in later stages of the race. Christina is one of the youngster is our team but very fast in Eupen, a track he is used to drive. We had to do a couple of stints with 95kg instead of 85 and Christian did one in the beginning of the race, followed by a double stint on 95kg from me. We had to complete 13 stints of c.55 minutes in total, and we decided to all start with double stints. Almost halfway through the race we noticed it was not going exactly as planned, we were almost one and a half lap down on the leaders, which were on a slightly different strategy in terms of 95kg stints and pitstops, but we had to make up time.

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Romano was in the kart when the direction change took place just passed the halfway point. The safety kart entered the track which diminished the differences between the leaders and the rest of the field. There were basically 5 teams going for the podium positions, being Modave and BlueStar 2 who were currently battling for the lead, followed by Acquity Racing, KGR and our team. In the second part of the race we were very strong. I found a better rhythm and I felt more comfortable with the extreme grip level on the track. I lowered the track record on 85kg and drove back into the top 3 with back to back stints from Christian and me. With a bit more than an hour to go we were only 30 seconds behind the leaders, which was Modave with the fast French speaking drivers Kaivers, Paoleschi and Delvenne. They seemed to be to far away, but after a small problem for them in the pit we closed in to no more than 10 seconds! Chrsitian stepped in the kart for the final stint and he was lapping the same laptimes as Kaivers in front of us.

In the last minute of the race Kaivers found another few tenths of a second and so our hopes were declining and we realized we would have to settle for 2nd in this 12 hour.

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Polish Indoor Kart Championship

Ruben too late on fire to compete for title
Szczecin, 28/29 April 2018

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On the 26th of April I went to Poland again for my 5th participation in the Polish Indoor Kart Championship at Silver Hotel & Gokart Center in Szczecin. Always one of my favourite events, and this year extra special because of the new karts, the new track (including outdoor part) and the fact that this track will host this year’s Kart World Championship in July. On Friday I had my regular training sessions but I noticed many of my main rivals were already driving the day before (while I was at work :P) and I felt that after my 2 heats of practice in each direction, my speed was OK but I was not yet 100% comfortable with the karts and the track. On Saturday morning the first races kicked of in 8 groups of 20 people, totalling 160 participants in this 7th edition of the PIKC, an incredible field of drivers and a really high level. My first race went exactly as I hoped, I drew a decent kart and could do a safe qualification lap without making any mistakes resulting in pole position. During the race I could drive away from German Lars Ole Jens and Dutchman Romano Franssen, giving me some space when I made my pitstop. The new systems works very well as you no longer have to push any button, but the time is recorded via the transponder. I won the race including an extra point for fastest race lap.

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The weather was very good and during the day the outside and track temperature were rising. This gave a lot of difficulties while driving, as there was a lot of grip, making karts to start jumping easily. Besides that, tires were overheated quickly which caused the karts to go sliding on very annoying parts in the corners. I had to adjust my driving style a lot which gave me some problems in race 2 and 3 of day 1. In the second race I had a very tough group and with a somewhat less good kart I only managed to finished in 5th position after a difficult race. In race 3 I was in 5th place again when I drove the fastest lap of the race in the later stages of the race after changes my way driving. Now I knew for sure I was not fast enough today as finishing in 5th with fastest racelap is never a good result. I moved up to 4th because of a penalty of one of the drivers in front of me, leaving me in 11th place after day 1. I was already quite a lot of points behind championship leader and Belgian BlueStar teammate Yoan Medart.

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On day 2 I felt much more confident and had a better feeling with the karts. In race 4 I was facing two-time world champion Mathias Grooten for the second time and I qualified behind him in 2nd position, quite far off the pole position time. My race pace was however back where it should be, I could follow Mathias all race long and pulled off the fastest racelap as well. This time I was pretty happy with my second place and I moved back into the top 10 before going into the semi-final. I was in the first group and had to race against championship leader Yoan Medart. The qualification was now the KWC knock-out battle system which allowed you to pick your kart when winning a battle. I won my first three rounds, including the battle against top German driver Dennis Höller. In the final I was driving against Yoan and he out qualified me and had the first kart pick. I had a nice kart as well and could give him a so-called run for his money. I was close to Yoan for the entire race but had little chance to overtake him as he was covering the inside when needed and had some better top speed on the straights. For the 4th time in 5 races I took the fastest race lap and again I could be happy with my result.

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During the other 3 semi-finals I enjoyed a dive in the swimming pool of Silver and focused on my last race of the weekend. I was realistically too far away to go for the podium, but 5th place was for sure still possible. The qualification for the final was again a knock-out 1 versus 1 battle qualification. I won my first battle against Belgian Deloitte colleague Peter Neefs and then raced Mathias. I lost this battle unfortunately and had to start the race in 7th position. Sebastian Papke didn’t look as dominant during the weekend as in the previous years and he was very luck in the semi-final when he lost the battle to Giovanni Baccellieri but incidentally got the super kart. But now he showed great speed by winning the battle from first Mathias and then Yoan in the final. It was between Yoan and Sebastian for the title and what a race it was. Sebastian drove away slowly and took the fastest lap a number of times, which would be enough for him to claim the title. But Yoan was still in second place and a number of guys including 2016 world champion Rico Haarbosch were very close to the fastest lap time. I was battling with fellow countryman Romano for 6th position in the race and the championship, we had some nice overtakes and in the end Romano won it because he had a better pitstop. Michael Grzyb was very strong again in the final and overtook Mathias with his pitstop, he was the first Polish driver in the past years to realty fight with the top drivers for the podium positions, hats off!

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The final reached its climax in the final lap when Rico exited the pits and came side by side with Yoan on the outside of the first corner. It was on the limit and the race direction decided to wave an orange flag for Rico during this last lap, while Michael also slipped past Yoan in that some move. Rico didn’t slow down again and finished the race in second position, but he was put back to 4th (behind Yoan) after the race. Emotions all over the place and big disappointment especially for Yoan who seemed to be the strongest driver all weekend but lost his title in the final to Sebastian Papke. He was crowned PIKC champion for the 4th time in 5 years, an amazing achievement and if he will enter the KWC later this year, he will be one of the favourites for sure. Mathias claimed the 3rd position on the podium, which was his 2nd PIKC podium after his win in 2013. Fourth and fifth position were for Rico and Michael. The ladies category champion was Mellanie Motz from the Netherlands, while Wojtek Grzyb and Wouter Poleij won the junior and mini championships. Wouter was impressive as he qualified for the semi-final at the age of 12, a crazy performance in this pack of drivers!!! For me ‘only’ a 7th position which is the first time here I didn’t make it to the podium, but I was very happy with my performance on the second day. I would like to thank the entire organisation of the PIKC and I look very much forward to the KWC, if I can improve my qualifications a bit, I will be ready to defend my world title!

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Spanish National Qualifier Series

Ruben back to Karting Rivas for Spanish NQS
Madrid, 25 March 2018

Like every year, I always try to engage in new races, against new competitors and on different tracks. First of all because it is fun to travel to new places, but also because it makes you a better driver. This year I chose to take part in the Spanish National Qualifier Series (NQS), organized by Jose Burillo and Ana Pozuelo in cooperation with the beautiful track of Karting Rivas in Madrid. NQS are international championships where you can qualify for the Kart World Championship and they are often well organized and have a high level of drivers. Together with my friend Rico Haarbosch I travelled to Spain on Saturday morning the 24th of March, departing from Brussels. In Madrid my father and grandfather were waiting for us. As my grandfather is 93 years old, it was very special to make this trip with him and show him the place where I became world champion for the first time only last year. The weather was quite nice although a lot colder than we were used to during the KWC last year, but for the time of the year not bad at all. On Saturday we did 8 training sessions (4 in each direction) and it was great to be back here. We were warmly welcomed by many drivers and the track staff. It was amazing how many people asked to make a photo together with us during the weekend, a great pleasure and honor at the same time.

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The track was slightly different compared to the track we drove at the KWC last year, we drove the normal Sodi karts this time and it was a lot of fun. There were approximately 70 drivers which were all Spanish except from the two of us. The event setup was different than usual, as all heats were based on timing only and no racing element was involved. Maybe this sounds a bit boring and although I missed the tactical element, it is a very fair way of comparing your skills with your rivals. After practice we enjoyed a Spanish dinner and on Sunday morning we were excited to start the competition. We first drove 4 heats while changing karts with 3 other drivers, the fastest time per heat counted. Then the 2 fastest of each group plus the best 3rd places went through to the knock-stage of the tournament with 40 drivers. I won my group fairly easy and now faced a driver who was second in one of the other groups. We now just drove 1 lap, changed kart and then another lap to see who advances to the next round. I could win my first two rounds and then had to race against Christian Perez, one of the fastest Spanish drivers also featuring in last year’s KWC. This time the difference was only half a second, luckily to my advantage and I moved onto the final round with the last 5 drivers.

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This final included 5 laps in 5 different karts, and it was between Busian Fontan, Jon del Valle, Fernando Lara, Rico and myself. We drove in the reverse direction and unfortunately I had to start first on a slightly dirty track as the karts were standing still for about 20 minutes. This lap was not my fastest and that was a shame, because I knew the differences would be very small and it could cost me dearly. In my remaining 4 karts I did 3 great laps and made 1 small mistake, maybe one of the few during the entire day but not a good moment. Then we jumped out of the kart running to the scoreboard which would tell us the final result. Quickly I discovered I was not the winner which was disappointing, but with a top 3 so close (between 0.25 of a second adding up all 5 times), it was still a very nice podium with Rico coming out on top this time. Splitting us, it was Spanish talent Jon del Valle who surprised me again, a very strong performance from him and a well-deserved second place! All in all it was a great weekend which we enjoyed a lot, and as I finished 3rd I could take home my 15th trophy in 16 participations in 16 KWC National Qualifier Series, something I’m really proud of as no other driver comes close to this. I hope to score my 10 NQS victory later this year! I would like to thank all Spanish people for having us in Madrid, and hope to see everyone again later this year during the KWC in Poland.

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Indoor European Kart Challenge

Ruben drives fantastic weekend but loses titel hopes in shoot-out
Middelburg, 17/18 February 2018

The second edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge was one with an amazing line up of European top drivers. The circuit of Indoor Karting Middelburg was changed and ready for practice on Wednesday 14th of February. The atmosphere was amazing and approximately 100 drivers were ready to face each other on Saturday morning for the first of 8 heat races. Everyone had to weigh at least 85kg and a shortcut in every 16-lap lasting heat race replaced the pitstop from last year. As the differences in laptimes between the top drivers in practice seemed to be very small, the hotlap qualification before each race was key to success this weekend. No less than 60 races were scheduled during the weekend, an amount normally being driven in 5 days during the KWC, so a very tight timing schedule was required and the organization did a fantastic job in managing this timing schedule really well. My first four races were far from easy as I had 3 average to less good karts and I had to fight hard to score a podium in all races, which I eventually managed to do with 3 3rd places and one victory after a nice battle with local rival Mike Sturm.

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From race 5 on Sunday evening to race 8 on Sunday afternoon I knew there was no option of letting go any points anymore, and with some better karts and some excellent qualification laps I scored 3 victories and a second place which made me jump into the top 10 of the rankings with a 5th place before the semi-finals. I was very happy with my performance so far and was the only driver who was on the podium in each of the qualifier races. One result was dropped, 45 drivers were left for 3 semi-finals and a few strong contenders for the title were German Michael Schöttler, Belgian Mats de Jong and Dutch guys Patrick Bakker and Rico Haarbosch (the defending champion). However Mats and Rico had difficult semi-finals not making it into the top 3 and dropping a bit in the ranking, while Michael and Patrick won their semi-final after being chased by German Dennis Höller and Belgian Giovanni Baccellieri respectively, who all secured their desired their spot in the final by this strong result. In my semi I drew a decent kart, which I needed as some of my direct rivals had very good karts as well, such as Belgian Mathias Grooten and Dutchman Lorenzo Stolk.

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However, none of us was on pole position as the talented youngster Eliano de Vos claimed the pole position in nice style. I was in second place and decided to take the shortcut behind Eliano in the first lap and overtook him directly in the corner afterwards. This turned out to be a great move as Mathias and Lorenzo had to take the shortcut a few laps later when facing some slower drivers that already took their shortcut, hence they had not enough laps to make up some time. I could cover both coming out of the shortcut and had the race under control from that moment. With still like 22 of 31 laps to go I knew I couldn’t defend heavily knowing that some other drivers still had to take their shortcut, but I was very wary for Lorenzo who was looking for an attack in second position. I managed to keep my first place without real problems and also clinched the additional half point for fastest lap. I moved up to third place in the standings only 1 point short of the leader Patrick Bakker and 0.5 point behind Michael Schöttler.

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The top 15 drivers remained and we all had to drive one qualifying lap in the same kart to determine the starting order for the final and more importantly, to determine the order of kart pick. A crucial and deciding moment in the championship, and just on this moment the organization chose to put down a kart with an awful big seat. This was very annoying for me as I drive without an extra seat and moved from left to right in the seat and didn’t feel comfortable during my lap. As a result I made some mistakes and ended up in a very bad 13th position, leaving me one of the worst karts for the final. A big disappointment but I had to make the best out of it, my title hopes were realistically gone. From the first turn I attacked 100% and with a good strategy and a top 5 pace I was able to move up 4 positions quickly and chasing the guys in positions 5-8. Rico drove the pole position and secured his final win already early in the final, firing away with the best kart and moving him up to a very nice second position in the final ranking. In second position was Patrick Bakker who just had to finish top 3 to clinch the desired title. He drove a very strong weekend and didn’t come into trouble in the final, a big congratulation to him for his first big title.

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Meanwhile I tried to attack Eliano and Mats in the last lap of the race but couldn’t pass them anymore, leaving me in 9th position in the final which was a very good result with this kart in such a strong field. Mathias was overtaken by Michael in the final laps of the race which resulted in a very good 3rd place for Michael in the final classification, just before Lorenzo, Mathias and me in 6th. A result that I felt didn’t really fit my driving and performance of the whole weekend, but my qualification for the final was just nog good enough and so I was happy to still take home some prize money. Looking at the quality of drivers in the final, it was amazing to be part of this show and I hope to be back next year for a better result. I would like to thank the organization who, apart from a few improvements that can be made for next year, did a very good job.
Photos courtesy of: Vienna Bos and MAD Brothers’ Racing Team

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British Rental Kart Championship 2018

Ruben makes it an incredible five in a row in the UK
Milton Keynes (GB), 19-21 January

It is early January, the start of another year in my karting career and BRKC approaching means the start of a fantastic pipeline of KWC National qualifiers series. The number of Facebook notifications is increasing day by day as the BRKC Facebook group is coming back to life, it is on fire actually. And whether this fire is used to prepare pizzas or to heat up the ever so cold area of Milton Keynes, I don’t really mind, I just cannot wait to step into the car again to go. BRKC is most likely my favorite KWC qualifier series, and not only because the track suits my driving style so much or because I won it already 4 times. It is a combination of many more things. When I arrive at Formula Fast it feels a little bit like coming home, Lewis Manley immediately tells me my exact heat times and which rivals I will face during the weekend. He tells me he can’t wait to race me on Sunday afternoon in heat round 4, and so do I look forward to this. Lewis is just one of many excellent competitors who feature in BRKC, before racing him I will face plenty of other strong drivers. So let’s first focus on some two practice heats. It is always a bit exciting to go out after a year again, I hope I will still be able to do the same as the years before. But when I see Ollie Demetrios Fox and Phil Stanley sitting down behind their desk or on the main marshall post on the track, I calm down. I know with these kind of guys, the organization, the kart reliability and the kart parity is in very good hands. And it is not only because of them, many members of the track staff are familiar faces who know what to do and are part of the extending success of the BRKC at Formula Fast.

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I come back from my first training session, ended up second. I knew my pace was good, but 2nd place means I drop a bit in the Formula Fast club ranking, I don’t like this. I saw the names of Dalton and Dylan Norris topping the ranking, the guys who supported me during last year’s event and were present again during the weekend, probably my rivals here in a few years time. I go back upstairs and Lewis reminds me of my winning streak of 13 races lasting for almost 3 years now, this guy knows everything. But hey, this winning streak is not only credits to me, only when karts are very equal you have the chance to win time after time again, in fact it is just an honorary mentioning of Formula Fast’s kart parity, which is incredible. Back to why I like the BRKC so much in comparison with other championships. The way BRKC is presented to the karting community and outside world is from a different level. Bradley Philpot makes sure the website is better than many professional web designers could produce, the commentating of James Auld which comes live and together with the broadcasting of Darren S Cook’s team in the living rooms of so many people all over Europe during the weekend, it makes BRKC just a bit more special than other championships. In my opinion this is the best advertisement the indoor or rental kart sport could get, much more professional you can’t make it and this is definitely a game changer. When people see me and many other drivers race during BRKC via the live-stream, with interviews by the newest addition to BRKC, Richard Spanners Ready, right after the race, people start looking to indoor karting with more respect than ever before. BRKC is pure entertainment and that’s where sport is all about.

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I’m enjoying breakfast inside the inspiring stadium of the Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday morning, ready to head to Formula Fast for my first 2 heats today. When I arrive at the track I see a lot of familiar faces again. A handful of people come to me and say something like: “Hey Ruben, ready to come and pick up number 5 this weekend?” Some of them (not only drivers) really mean it, they think it really is that easy for me to win year after year again. I know some of them try to make me more nervous, they know very well how hard it is and might try to put the pressure on me. But I nicely reply all with something like: “I hope so but let’s see what will happen because the competition is very strong again this year!” I know the pressure is on me, especially after my world title in indoor karting of last summer, but what can I change about it. Nevertheless I am nervous for my first race of the day, but at the same time, I’m ready for it. My qualification is good, I take pole position but only just ahead of the entire top 6 which is within a tenth and a half! In the race I can pull away and win my 14th race in a row here. Later on during the day I face serious competition of both Dan Healey and Sean Brierley who are chasing me hard on the alternate layout, but I conclude my day with 2 wins and can enjoy the other action with a satisfied feeling.

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My highlight of the day however comes from my sister, being out of karting for more than 9 months because of a persisting neck injury. I sport already together with Annelien since a very young age, whether it is in judo or in karting, going without here does feel a bit odd. On Friday I already knew she was still very fast, proving me right in her first race of the day by finishing in a very strong second position behind one of the title contenders Matt Bartsch. I cheer harder for her than for myself, always share part of my prize money with her and although I know her injury is not yet gone, I really did me good to see her being one of the frontrunners again. Talking about Matt Bartsch, on Sunday morning he ended my winning streak by beating me in heat 3. As I said to Richard Spanners Ready in the post-race interview, I prefer to end my streak now than in the final. I had to move on and knew I still had a good position, only Jonny Elliott and Sam Spinnael made it 3 wins out of 3. Heat 4 was probably my coolest one, having to start with a cold kart which is always a serious disadvantages in the qualification and the early stages of the race. I was lucky to grab 3rd position on the grid with the smallest of margins (0.001) over 4th place. This was crucial however, as Lewis Manley sprinted away from pole position and I first had to overcome Jacob Lewis. When I did so, my hunt for Lewis started, inch by inch I got closer and when the tires got up to temperature, I got him into sight again. For the first time this weekend I had to take risks during my pitstop, knowing that Lewis pitted just a few laps before me when I had almost closed the gap. This was to my advantage, as I now had the opportunity to jump him via the inside line coming out of the pits, and so it happened. My girlfriend Edyta finished in a very strong 5th place this same race! I was very happy with this important win, and also winning my semi-final made me climb back to the number one spot before going into the final again.

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I had my list of karts prepared, I was happy I just needed the top one on this list, but given the kart parity, it was not even easy to choose which was the best kart. I decided to go for number 13, the kart I drove in the first race of the weekend and was fast in all semi-finals. I was focused on my hotlap qualification, everyone knew it was going to be close again, but somehow this time I had my nerves under control. This didn’t save me from making a small error going into the main hairpin, missing the apex by a bit, the rest of my lap was pretty good. I made it to second place, just 0.005 apart from my BlueStar teammate, one of the top rookies in this tournament, Yoan Medart was amazing all weekend and as I knew he had the third kart pick, I knew I had a serious race on my hands. In the first few laps Yoan blocked nicely and I was starting to be worried, some guys behind us made their first pitstop and then you know you have to be very alert. Especially Ed White and Thom van Dijk were lapping incredibly fast laptimes which made me realize I had to make a move soon. For the 4th time in 5 years I could grab the lead going into the hairpin at the end of the straight, overtaking Yoan and trying to set the pace. But Yoan kept with me, while Thom was putting down the same laptimes as well. My fellow countryman Thom is one of the upcoming Dutch talents and like last year, very strong at Formula Fast again. All I could do was trying to lower my laptimes, stay consistent and don’t make any mistakes. After like 15 minutes a small gap to Yoan was initiated and I knew I now had to focus on my pitstops and on Thom. A quick calculation within my kart told me I had an advantage of around 23 seconds to Thom, implying 2 pitstops which didn’t have to be on the ultimate limit. However Yoan stopped before me and after his 2 pitstops he fell back well after Thom, my heartbeat went up.

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Fulfilling my pitstops was a big relief, I saw 4 green lights and came out of the pitstop with a one-and-a-half second gap to Thom with only a handful of laps to go. I knew by then, my 5th title was up for grab and this was a very special feeling. Winning never gets boring, but winning BRKC is always a very big honor. I’m super grateful for the respect I received again during the weekend and of course also after the finish of the final race. I honestly feel like I’m just one of the 100 competitors every year again, but at the same time, I’m very proud of my 5th consecutive championship here as well, the trophy will certainly get a prominent place at home. I’m having a final chat with James Auld and Lewis Manley, my hair smells to champagne quite badly and the journey back is waiting for us. 2018 has started fantastic again for me, I look over my shoulder to give the track probably my last look of this year, grab the trophy and move on in the direction of Holland. I hope to see all racers again during one of the other KWC (qualifier) events this year, and if not, see you hopefully next year at Formula Fast.

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