Ruben Boutens

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

Indoor European Kart Challenge

Ruben drives back to second with great comeback
Middelburg, 23/24 February 2019

The third edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge took place in the weekend of 23 and 24 February 2019 at Indoor Karting Middelburg. The championship is known by its incredible high level of drivers and amazing prize pool. From Wednesday to Friday practice sessions took place on the renewed track and I drove most of my heats after work on Friday. I felt ready but kart differences were quite big during practice, which increased the importance of the group and especially the kart draw. My first race on Saturday morning was by far my worst of the weekend. I was driving on place 2 in an average kart when I made a move for the lead in the race. I passed my countryman Kouijzer but slipped away in the next corner which allowed him to overtake me again and I got stuck in the tires when trying to keep up with him on the outside of the corner. I threw away a victory and after contact with some other drivers on the track I fell back to 9th place. Luckily we had a drop result which kept me alive in the championship. The rest of the day I was quite unlucky with my kart draw, and a 4th and two second places was the best I could do, resulting in a 12th place after day 1.

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This year, the final was all decisive in the championship and the standings after the semi-finals would determine the order in which we had to choose our karts, so extremely important. In the 5th and last qualification race on Sunday morning I drew another bad kart, while still having the chance to at least draw 8 good karts. I fought for every position and finished in third place, which made me climb still one place in the rankings. The semi-finals count for double points and I couldn’t afford any bad result, otherwise I could easily miss out on the final. Luckily I had an average kart this time, and I qualified in second position again behind Marcel Kouijzer. In the race we were bumper to bumper in the first half, before his kart slowed down a few times out of nothing. The numbers 3 and 4 in the race came back quickly and I decided to pit. Marcel stayed out and that allowed me to make the difference on track and jump him after his pitstop. I had to fend off Ricardo Vlieger behind me, but I made it to the finish line first. This victory came on a very good moment for me, due to mixed results of other high ranked drivers I jumped to third place in the ranking only behind Haarbosch and Puyato, two guys who were in the front of the ranking from race one and like during the KWC in 2018, very strong all weekend.

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Before the final, the final for the team race took place, a new concept in IEKC introduced this weekend. Ten teams qualified on Saturday evening for the big final of 2 hours and together with Rico Haarbosch and Lorenzo Stolk we tried to put The Dutch Value on top again like in the qualification race. We had to make 2 driver/kart changes and these were not the best for us. We had to deal with difficult karts and were never really in the race for first place from the start. Auto Sturm (consisting of Sturm, Sturm and Bakker) won the race, before another Dutch team, Klaver 4, featuring Verbaarschot, Bartelen and Van Domburgh. After I overtook the number 3 team in the last stint, we finished on the last podium spot.

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Then the big individual final, all 15 drivers had to drive a single lap in one kart one by one, Mats de Jong from Belgium put down a very strong laptime as second driver to go out (41.48). The next 10 drivers all were slower ranging from 41.9 to 41.5 and then it was my turn. I drove a good lap and improved the best time to 41.43, with just Opnithi and Rico left. Opnithi drove the slowest time with 41.9 while Rico did a great job, beating everyone else with a 41.33, amazing lap! In the race Rico and I quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, including De Jong, Grzyb (Pl) and Leloux on the spots behind us. I could stay close to Rico for like three laps, but then he increased the pace and with his first kart pick, it was not possible for me to keep up with him. Opnithi drove a very strong race, staying out very long and coming back to 5th place (still worth 600 euro) in the final standing, just before German Michael Schöttler who is always strong in Middelburg. Mats had the 1 before last kart pick and did everything he could, finshing in 9th position and still taking 200 euro back to Belgium. For third place it was very exciting as a battle between Matts Breckpot and Tim Leloux resulted in a third place for the young Dutchman Leloux, taking home a 1000 euro cash prize. During my race I didn’t take any risk from half way onwards, performing a safe pitstop and finishing the race and championship in second position. This was certainly the best result possible this weekend and thus I was satisfied with my best performance so far during the IEKC, which brought me a nice 1500 euro as well. Rico was the well-deserved winner of the 2000 euro cash prize, a very strong weekend from his side and his second IEKC title. I’m looking forward already to come back stronger next year.

Photos: en Mad Brothers’ Racing

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Swedish Rental Kart Championship

Ruben with electric karts in Sweden for the first time
Küngälv (Se), 27 January 2019

After having raced in the Belgian (1st), Spanish (2nd) and British (1st last week) national championships in the past months, I travelled to Gothenburg for another KWC qualifier event. I was planning on visiting Sweden already for a couple of years, but flights are typically expensive and this time I finally made it to Sweden for the first time in my life. I arrived at the brand-new track of Gokartcentralen in Küngälv, just 20 minutes North of Gothenburg, where a fleet of electric karts was waiting for us. I drove 3 practice heats on Saturday evening and I had to adapt to the karts as the acceleration and driving style was different compared to normal karts. The championship was organized by Glenn Gyllin who participated in several world championships himself in previous years. Some 60 drivers were presented, most of them coming from either Sweden or Denmark and a lot of strong names amongst them. The format was a special one with first 4 heats including 2 time trials and 2 races with a 2-lap qualification and 2 mandatory longcuts. The worst result was dropped before the top 24 drivers qualified for the semi-final.

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I started my day with 2 victories in the heats while facing amongst others one of the top Swedish drivers of last year’s KWC, Erik Berggren. I could try some more different lines and seat positions, it was strange to not hear any engine sound when accelerating from the pitlane, but I have to say I was positively surprised by the small kart differences and driving of these karts. In my first race I could take pole position and do one of my longcuts while staying in the lead, when the race was stopped because of a kart breakdown. After some discussion it was decided not to restart the race and I won also my 3rd heat. In race 4 I had a difficult kart and I finished in 3rd place behind Danish Nikolaj Marsengo and Carsten Sparholt. I qualified for the semis in 3rd place, tied in points with the top 3, consisting of local star Erkin Bour, Nikolaj Marsengo and Ian Andersen. In the semis we could pick our karts in the order of the ranking, so I had the second kart pick after Ian. The race went really well, after I took pole position I could drive away slowly from the rest of the field and take my longcuts without losing the lead in the race.

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For the final 8 drivers were left and the classic and fair knock-out qualification system was applied to determine the kart allocation and starting order. I managed to win my first duals from Alex Engblom and Nikolaj Marsengo before facing Erkin Bour in the last battle. I noticed that our times were very close all day and ultimately, we were split by 0.01 of a second after 2 laps of the both of us, Erkin won the battle and had the first kart pick. The track was not easy to overtake so I knew I had a difficult race on my hands. In the first few laps a small incident where I was pushed wide cost me a couple of seconds. I tried to bridge the gap and came very close again to Erkin, but just as I was almost on his bumper, he found an extra gear and drove away from me again with small margins. I tried to force something with a double longcut, but I couldn’t reach his bumper again, so I had to settle for second place in the race, which also meant a second place in the championship. Erkin was the deserved winner and took home the 3000 SEK prize money and free KWC entry ticket. I was a bit disappointed just after the race, but happy to be on the podium again in another international race. The third place and junior title was for Nikolaj Marsengo, a great talent! Carsten Sparholt won the masters category and therefor also received a free entry to the 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship in the USA. All in all, it was a great experience and I hope to be back next year!

British Rental Kart Championship 2019

Ruben battles his way to incredible sixth British title
Milton Keynes (Gb), 19-20 January 2019

The British Rental Kart Championship (BRKC) is arguably the most professional indoor kart championship in the world. In no other championship the level of live coverage and entertainment is so good as it is Milton Keynes in the first month of the year during the BRKC at Formula Fast Karting. Additionally, the kart equality and the set-up of the event makes sure it is also one of the fairest championships. No surprise the championship was sold out in a couple of hours, attracting top drivers from all over the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. Weeks before the championship actually starts, the enthusiasm rises as group draws are done, predictions are made, practice heats performed and the prefaces are written. Friday 18th of January 2019 all competitors meet at the track for their last chance to drive around the circuit before the money is on the line. 100 drivers, 90kg minimum weight, 40 heats, 30 semi-finalists, 10 drivers per race, 10 finalists, 2 commentators, 2 different lay-outs, 1 pitstop per heat and 1 hotlap qualification before every race. These were the numbers that we knew before the races got underway on Saturday morning, everyone was excited to find out how the 100 places in the final ranking would be filled in.

No matter if you are watching a BRKC race from the cafeteria inside the karting, from your phone at the beach in Australia, from the couch warm at home or in the cold at the side of the track, it is always a great pleasure to watch. No matter if you are watching the heat of death or a race with 10 drivers you have never heard of before, the legendary BRKC commentator James Auld makes sure you are always at the tip of your chair enjoying the race, as he and co-commentator Spanners Ready provide every race from detailed and passionate commentary and post-race interviews. Half of the drivers was scheduled for 3 races on day 1 whereas the other half would drive their last 2 heat races on Sunday. Happy faces and disappointed faces, celebration of good results and incorrect pitstops, bas pass flags and fantastic overtakes, pitstop strategy and defensive driving, the heats on Saturday had everything to offer you could wish. About my own heats, of which I had 3 on Saturday, I couldn’t complain at all. Only in my last race I didn’t start from pole position as Spanish Ramon Pineiro put in a fantastic qualifying lap, but in the end of the day I was able to win all my 3 races, topping the ranking after day one. I was happy given some of my UK rivals that I faced already, including Ed White, Sean Brierley, Lee Hackett, Dan Healey and Bradley Philpot.

Sunday was the big day, in fact, today the all decisive final was due at the end of the day’s program. But to come there, a first cut of 70 drivers had to be survived to enter the semi-finals. As the difference between place 20 and 40 was so small, clearly some drivers took additional risks to get themselves over the line in their final heat race. After the final heat was finished Sunday afternoon, it was double BRKC champion (2012 & 2013) Lee Hackett who was in the lead with 39 points. I was tied in points with Lee after having had a very difficult 4th heat with some close-fought battles where I ultimately came home in second place behind the fast BRKC debutant Brandon Williams who outqualified me and defended his position well during the race. A few top drivers including Jonny Elliott and Matt Bartsch even didn’t make the semi’s, showing what kind of level we had on our hands this weekend. The semi-finals are always very exciting, even the drivers who are in the top of the ranking are not guaranteed of a place in the final as points are ever so close. Three groups, all 20-minute race preceded by a hotlap qualification. It was my BlueStar teammate Logan Sougne from Belgium who managed to win the first semi-final, while there was some English drama with Sean Brierley (who was very fast all weekend) spoiling his potential semi-final win and place in the final by making an error in the pitlane and Lee Hackett having an unlucky kart-draw and finishing in 7th position.

In the second semi-final it was my other BlueStar teammate Yoan Medart who climbed up to second place in the ranking by winning the race in fine style, underlining his candidacy for another BRKC podium position after having finished 3rd in the last year’s final. I was able to score a 2nd place with a difficult kart after a nice battle with Polish young talents Nowicki and Matys, which was good enough to secure the first place in the ranking. The third semi-final was probably the hardest one with Michal and Wojtek Grzyb from Poland (both frontrunners at the past world championship indoor) and English hopes Ed White and local driver Lewis Manley. It was Ed White who drove a very strong race to the victory which secured his place in the final. While Lewis Manley just made the final with a 6th place finish, it was Wojtek Grzyb who fell down from 4th to outside the top 10. Apart from Logan, Lee, Yoan, myself, Ed and Lewis, the other finalist were British Brandon Williams and Dean Hale, Polish Michal Grzyb and his talented countryman Patryk Nieroda. Dutch youngster Guillermo van Pamelen just missed out on the final after a great weekend and ended up in 12th place. One by one we had to drive our qualification lap in the number 11 kart to determine the starting order of the 30-minute final. The tension was very high, laptimes so close, the track more slippery than you would like. I had the first kart pick, a big advantage but with the kart parity being so good the start position was more crucial to fight for the title. My lap was good, but apparently not good enough for pole position, I qualified in third behind Michal Grzyb and Lee Hackett, and only just before Patryk Nieroda. The top 4 was split by only 0.02 of a second, insane!

The final was underway and two outsiders from the back pitted early, Yoan Medart and Ed White both didn’t qualify in the top 5 but they were certainly not to be underestimated. Lee covered the inside of most corners in the beginning of the race, not much looking behind and following Michal. When Michal pulled away slightly and Ed started to increase his pace at the back of the field, I knew I had to make a move. At the end of the straight, going into the hairpin, I found the right moment to overtake Lee and get into second position. Michal was just a second away and I could close the gap in a couple of laps. He was smart and defended his position at the end of the straight, giving me no possibility to overtake at that point again. I backed off a bit to speed up the pace as the defensive lines cost too much time looking at our advantage to Ed, which was just about 22 seconds at that moment, knowing that we still had to make 2 pitstops of about 10-11 seconds. Halfway through the race I was on Michal’s bumper again as Ed still closed in slowly. If I couldn’t overtake him on the track, my strategy was an undercut with a double pitstop, but if that would give me first place was far from sure. I went for an attack in the final corner of the track where I managed to get past Michal, it was for sure a risky move as a bad pass would probably give Ed the virtual lead in the race. Luckily it worked out perfectly for me although Ed was now only 21.6 seconds away. I know had to make the most out of my kart which was a good one for sure and could get some purple times (fastest racelap) on the scoreboard.

I felt that the control of the race came back in my hands, and I waited until the last 5 minutes to perform my pitstops, to build up a slightly bigger gap, so I didn’t have to take any big risks in the pit. I exited the pit only a second before Ed, the crowd was on their feet and the atmosphere amazing. Both Ed and I went into the 31.5 laptimes which were the fastest times of the entire weekend! When I saw the chequered flag I felt fabulous, winning for the 6th year in a row is another dream come through, it is almost incredible for myself as well to win the biggest trophy and the ₤1000 cash prize. I knew at the beginning of the weekend I had a chance again to go for another title, but with so many big names on the grid I never take something for granted, everyone starts from zero and every single mistake can cost you a place in the final. Given the amazing live-coverage on Youtube a lot of people followed the race via internet, which makes performing well at this event even much more special. Ed White and Michal Grzyb finished in 2nd and 3rd place respectively, while Lee Hackett and Lewis Manley fought their way into the top 5 as well. Together with Logan and Yoan I secured the team championship, for which we all three received a fantastic trophy of glass. Once more I would like to thank the English people, commentators, organiser Bradley Philpot, track staff and camera crew for their warm welcome and the great weekend. I can imagine many people would love to see a different winner sometime, but it means a lot to me to win this title again! Hope to see you all in again in 2020 at a new edition of the British Rental Kart Championship!

Thanks to Mad Brothers Racing Team; Bradley Philpot and Lee Marshall for the Pictures !

Racehall of Champions

Ruben steals the show in last big race of the year
Aarhus (Dk), 27-28 December 2018

Like previous years, for the last race of the year I drove to Denmark to participate in the Racehall of Champions. A magnificent track which hosted the 2013 Indoor Kart World Championship. Together with talented youngsters Eliano de Vos and Hugo Leenaars and Selina Balneger I arrived on the track on Wednesday evening for some first practice. The track was changed a bit compared to last year and I still loved the wide and fast track which was very good for overtaking. On Thursday a 5-hour endurance race was organised, 18 teams battled in 3 different weight categories for the victory. I raced together with Ian Andersen and Ayrton Walczak, two very nice guys who are always fast in Racehall. I started the race and after qualifying in 2nd place, I had a bit of a challenging first stint as I was chased by some Danish drivers and at the same time, I couldn’t follow the German team of WRT Lubeck who had a nice first kart and made very well use of it. We had to make 3 kart changes and Ian went out on track for the 2nd stint. He drove very good laptimes and closed in on WRT Lubeck. We came back to 10 seconds behind the leaders, but at that moment, Ian entered the pit for the mandatory fuel stop, while there was already another team in the pit. A costly mistake as we had to wait more than 50 seconds before we could press the button and enter the kart change zone. We were now again a lap behind and chances on victory sharply declined.

Ayrton did everything he could in his stint, lapping very consisted and fast laptimes and coming closer to the Germans again. As he was fast, we decided to wait long before performing our final kart change. I stepped in to this last kart for the final 10 minutes of the race. We managed to come pretty close to the leaders but ultimately finished in 2nd place behind Andre Lohse and Lars Ole Jens who drove a very strong race. The Dutch team with Selina, Hugo and Eliano finished on a very good 2nd place in the 65kg class behind the team of Consulting Denmark Jr. On Friday was the most important day for me with the individual championship in 4 different categories, the Juniors (65kg), Seniors (80kg & 100kg) and Old Boys (110kg). I participated in both the 80 and 100kg class. I was very much focused to finish the year on a high, I really wanted to win today and I started with a win in my first heat race in both categories. I felt strong out there and knew that the starting position in the final would be very important as the races were short. In the past years I was often one of the fastest drivers in the final but had to overtake too many drivers. In the second round of heats I finished 3rd and 2nd while Ayrton Walczak (80kg) and Lars Ole Jens (100kg) took the win. In round 3 I could score 2 victories again, meanwhile I drove the fastest lap of the day of all categories in a very good kart, I was ready for the final.

The Junior category featured many strong drivers, but it was Eliano who was the star of the day by winning 2 of his 3 heats and winning the final in great style after driving one of the midfield karts. Eliano was fast from the beginning on this track and deserved the win like no other driver. Hugo also drove for the first time in Denmark and was one of the youngest participants. He showed great potential in all his races and finished in a good 11th position in the final. For the finals we had to draw a kart which was a very exciting moment, I just hoped I didn’t draw a very bad one and that was not the case. In the 80kg class I could pull away from the beginning of the final, building up a small gap to Selina and Ayrton who were fighting for second place. Behind them, an interesting and intense battle for 4th took place, which was ultimately won by Polish Wojtek Stefaniuk. My girlfriend Edyta improved her performance from last year, finishing in a strong 6th place! I was able to secure my first ever win in the Racehall of Champions, a very very nice title which already made my day very good!! There was however another title for grab, as I could start from pole in the 100kg class as well. In this final the competition was even stronger, from the start of the race I had German Lars Ole Jens, Ian Andersen from Denmark and countrymate Selina close behind my bumper. In the middle of the race I was able to slightly pull away, before Ole Jens came closer again. It was a very good race, but I didn’t make any mistakes and finished off the year in the best possible way, with a double win in the Racehall of Champions. After my victories in the Indoor Kart World Championship, British Rental Kart Championship, Belgian National Championship and Formula Karting Championship I could add another big title to my amazing list of results in 2018. I was honored with some big wreaths and an amazing collection of great prizes on the Racehall podium. I would like to thank the organization and ATR Team for making this event possible, and I’m already looking forward very much to 2019!

Spanish National KWC Qualifier

Ruben improves one place finishing 2nd in the Spanish NQS
Madrid (Sp), 23 December 2018

Less than a week after I returned from Dubai, another great karting trip was around the corner. Together with my dad I travelled to Spain to participate in a new edition of the Spanish National Qualifier Series for the Kart World Championship. In March of 2018 the previous edition was held in which I managed to finish 3rd behind Rico Haarbosch and Jon del Valle. This time tickets for the 2019 world championship in the USA were on the line. On Saturday morning the 22nd of December I arrived in Madrid and it was cold in Madrid as well, unlike what we were used in previous visits to the capital of Spain. In the afternoon I had 4 practice sessions, 2 in both directions and the layout was changed compared to last time. It was not easy to be quick straight away, in my last heats I noticed that I was slightly slower than the quickest drivers on the track, including Jon del Valle who was very fast. After a good dinner we went to bed early to be ready for the raceday on Sunday.

Traditionally, the Spanish championship is not about races but about time trails, stopping the clock as fast as possible after one lap. A fair system although the tension of overtakes, strategy and defending is absent. We started with 13 groups of 4 drivers who all drove 4 heats while rotating 4 different karts. In the morning the start was delayed because of rainy conditions which made the first level of the track very slippery and according to the organisation too dangerous to drive. We therefor only used the lower level of the track. On a drying track I was able to clock the fastest time in my group in all 4 sessions, qualifying for the final knock-out round. We had some time to go for lunch and to visit the hotel for a hot shower, before returning to the track. There was a draw to determine the schedule for the 32 drivers left, including the best 2 of each group and the 6 fastest numbers 3. Winners of a group couldn’t face a winner of another group in the first round, however the system allowed for facing all drivers in the second round. Potentially, the 4 best drivers could be in the same quarter and in that case, only one of them could reach the podium, as losing a round implied you were knocked-out of the tournament. A fair system to determine the winner but not always for the number 2 and 3.

We now raced again on the full track and in reversed direction. In the first round I raced Valentin Aparicio, which I knew really well from previous events. I could win from him with quite a big margin and went to the second round against Christian Bartolome. Another good driver but again I could proceed to the next round. Now I knew I had to be on my best, as I faced Jon del Valle. My laps were good and luckily, I beat him in both karts, a bummer for Jon as he might well have been amongst the 3 fastest drivers, but he was out. In the semi-final I had to race against Busian Fontan Alcalde who finished 5th in the previous edition. In one kart it was pretty close, but in the other kart I won by 0.8 second and hence I qualified for the final round. This was against Fernando Lara who beat Jorge Suarez, Cristian Perez and Victor Plaza already. I beat him during the KWC in 2017 and in the previous edition where he finished right behind me in 4th, but I certainly knew he was dangerous. In the first lap I was slightly quicker, but in the second one Fernando beat me fair and square, he was about 3 tenths quicker on the 1 minute and 6 seconds track and as I made no big mistakes in my final lap, he was the deserved winner of the day, well done!

I was of course disappointed not to take the win as I felt very strong during the whole day, but I knew 2nd place is a good result and as only non-Spanish driver today, I was happy to be on the podium again and secure another KWC entry ticket (my 3rd now). Victor Plaza ended up in a nice 3rd spot, also congratulations to him. I would like to thank the organizers Jose Burillo and Ana Pozuelo and the track of Karting Rivas for hosting this great event. I hope to come back next year to take the win and would like to thank all Spanish people for the warm welcome (despite cold weather :P). On Monday we visited the city of Madrid before we headed back home during Christmas on Tuesday.