Ruben Boutens

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

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.

24 hours Dubai

BlueStar experiences unique trip in the Middle East
Dubai (UAE), 14-15 December 2018

In 2017 BlueStar won the endurance championship at Karting Eupen, for which we were awarded a free entry in the 24 hours of Dubai 2018. At that moment this still felt like far away. On 10 December 2018 I however stepped in the plane towards the United Arab Emirates. Together with my girlfriend and 6 other friends from our team we went to Dubai for a memorable week. We combined the race with a great week full of activities like a spectacular speedboat tour alongside the coast of Dubai, a Sahara trip including sandboarding, quad driving, camel riding, 4x4 Jeep touring through the dunes and a BBQ at sunset. We further enjoyed the impressive city of Dubai around the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world), the beach, some amazing restaurants and hotels in Dubai and a huge collection of supercars cruising through the city. With 28 degrees it was a great place to spend time during winter and on Wednesday evening we first went to the Dubai Kartdrome next to the large Dubai Autodrome.

After one hour of practice for our team (Yoan Medart, Mathias Grooten, Romano Franssen, Gregory Laporte and myself) we had a good impression of the track, but we didn’t feel like fast enough already to challenge the fastest drivers. Even though we had a great team, we dampened our expectations as our experience on the track was very limited compared to the teams participating in the Dubai endurance series. We had a pitbox with TV screen to follow the live standings and laptimes. The track itself was very big and had a cool lay-out. In the free practice on Friday morning, every driver had to drive a few laps and we tried to get a good kart for the first stint. Every time you entered the pitlane you had to change karts and we tried to change until we had a good one to start the race with. This didn’t really succeed, and in a chaotic 9-lap sprint race to determine the start order, Romano was positioned around P10. During the race we had to make 24 kart changes with a maximum stint time of 1.5 hour per driver. With always 3 karts in the pitlane and a draw to determine your next kart, it was far from easy to keep track of all the karts in the pits and decide the right moment to come in. In the first 8 hours of the race we lost already a lot of time on the frontrunners while we were struggling in the midfield.

This was a combination of not having the right pace yet, not having the luck of picking the karts we wanted during the pitstops and some tactical mistakes to drive to too long with an average or bad kart as we didn’t optimally keep track of where the good karts were. As the race progressed we improved our driving style and lines, and also improved out strategy and tactics. It was not always easy to judge how far we could go in terms of track limits, as sometimes teams received penalties whereas other teams were never even warned for crossing the white lines and curbstones. We moved up from a position between P15-20 to a top 10 spot. Apart from my first stint where I was too slow, I was very happy with my driving as I could win some place in my 2nd, 3rd and 4th stints. In the last hours of the race we were more often amongst the fastest teams on the track and that made the result a bit more bearable. In the end we finished far behind the winners, but I think if we would have to chance to do the race again, we would finish much higher. In the end we finished on position 8, not a very special result but the experience to race here with so many good teams on this track was definitely a very special one we will not quickly forget. All in all, the organization looked very professional and I would like to thank Karting Eupen for supporting us in our participation in the 24 hours of Dubai.

Belgian National Championship

Ruben adds another big title to his resume
Dolhain (Be), 18 November 2018

The third edition of the Belgian National Championship (BNC), the official Belgian KWC qualifier event, was held at Sunday the 18th of November 2018. A third edition with a cracking and sold-out entry list of 68 top level drivers, mostly from Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The location for this championship was the track of Hurricane Dolhain Kart in the East of Belgium. This time the event was held on a single day, which implied a fully packed day of racing with 4 groups of 17 drivers for all qualifying heat races. A week before the event I drove a 4-hour race together with Tristan Foldesi which served as a good preparation. In addition, I also drove 2 practice session on Saturday evening before race day. I felt comfortable on the track but with so many good drivers I knew there was no space for mistakes today, especially my qualifications had to be spot on today. In the first two races I took pole position and this was the basis for winning the race in both heats. A very good start which was interrupted in the third race. Here it was 2016 Indoor Kart World champion Rico Haarbosch that took his third win in a row, whilst I finished in 3rd behind Rico and BlueStar teammate Christian Douven.

I was able to win the fourth race after having started from 2nd place, as I overtook my other BlueStar teammate Logan Sougne in the first corner. I was chased by 2016 BNC champion Benjamin Kaivers in this race but could hold him off until the finish line. Today the preliminary rounds were focused on scoring good points in order to be able to pick a good kart in the final. The winner of the final would become the new champion and thus were the points only important for the kart pick in the final. In my 5th race I faced Rico and Benjamin again and I drove a very exciting race against Rico, lowering the best laptimes of today during the race. I just came short to beat Rico but the 2nd place was good enough to qualify 2nd in the ranking for the semifinal, 5 points behind Rico en 5.5 in front of the super-fast home driver Yoan Medart. The semifinal included 25 laps (instead of 20 in the heats) and 2 shortcuts instead of 1. I was in the second semifinal and witnessed an interesting first race. It was German Marc Schings who was too fast for the rest of the field, finishing ahead of Yoan and the young Dutch talent Guillermo van Pamelen. Rico had a tough race and finished in 6th position. In the second semifinal I qualified in second place behind Benjamin Kaivers, who I faced in almost all my races today. After he made a shortcut early on in the race, I could increase the pace and jumped him after making my first shortcut. Logan was also close behind and after my shortcut Benjamin also improved his laptimes and followed me closely. I decided to make another shortcut, but Benjamin responded quickly and came out again behind me. I had to defend a couple of laps but on some parts of the track it was hard to overtake so I kept the pace high and managed to win the race.

My 4th victory of today and this brought me back in the lead going into the final, giving me the advantage of the first kart pick. Several top drivers didn’t make it into the final 10, including defending champion Mats de Jong, Tristan Foldesi and Dennis Holler, indicating the insane level of drivers. The 10 closest karts were selected and I picked number 6 which was good in the last couple of races. I think there were 2 other karts which were as fast as this one, the qualification for the final would be even more crucial. All 10 drivers had to drive 3 laps in 3 different karts, an exciting qualification with very close laptimes. I drove very decent laps but I came short 0.04 after 3 laps to take pole position, it was Rico who managed to take pole and Benjamin in third. I knew however that I had a good kart under my ass and hence everything still to play for with 40 laps and 2 shortcuts awaiting in the grand final. The track was very cold and Rico went for a quick shortcut in lap 2 of the race, giving me space to drive my own pace and I quickly started to close in on him. Especially in the first 10 laps I won a lot of time and managed to overtake him with my first shortcut. Benjamin followed quickly after and also jumped Rico for 2nd place. Yoan was still close in 4th while the other finalist, being Douven, Bredohl, Schings, Sougne, Haglestein and Martens were also showing great speed but lost time on the top 3 positions. Benjamin was pushing hard and tried to undercut me with his second shortcut. I countered one lap after and managed to just stay in front, a very close call and the tension was far from gone yet. Rico waited with his second shortcut and that was the sign for me to not start defending hard, as he then might overtake us again. Luckily Benjamin thought the same and the laps were going down quickly. Yoan then was faster than Rico and also tried to make an undercut, but Rico quickly responded and kept his third place. From that moment I knew the victory was close for me and I could defend slightly more where needed.

After 40 laps the chequered flag was waved and I could raise my hands high in the air, I won it! Another big title I never won before and this made me very, very happy. With this field of drivers, it felt even more special to win and it was an honour to receive the trophy and KWC ticket from organizers Mathias Grooten and Gregory Laporte on the podium. In second and third place finished Benjamin and Rico, both well deserved although I have to mention that Yoan was today also one of the absolute frontrunners who would have deserved more than the always doubtful honour of the 4th position. An amazing championship which makes my year even more special. Congratulations also to the other winners, Selina Balneger (women), Kris Cools (Masters) and Christian Douven (Juniors). The atmosphere has been great on and off the track all day and despite a short break because of a failure of the timing system, the organization ran smoothly and without any difficulties, a big compliment to the karttrack, marshals and the organizers. I hope to be back next year to defend my title!

8 hour nightrace Silver Hotel & Gokart Center

Ruben & Rico on fire in 3rd edition of Silver nightrace
Szczecin (PL), 28 October 2018

The third edition of the 8 hour nightrace at Silver Hotel & Gokart Center was organised in the weekend of 27 and 28 October 2018. After two successful editions in 2015 and 2016, The Dutch Value was also present during the 2018 edition. This time again with myself, after having won this race in 2015 together with Corne Snoep, together with Rico Haarbosch. Only a couple of months ago this beautiful track was the scene of a fantastic edition of the Indoor Kart World Championship, and the karts were ready to go again for a nice endurance race. A field of 13 teams lined up, including international flavour from Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and of course Poland. Before the start of the race we had a 30 minute free practice and 6 minutes qualification. In this session it was very close between a couple of teams, and in particular between Sebastian Papke from PPR RT (winners of the 2016 edition) and Rico from our team. Just a few hundreds of a second split the two for the fastest lap in the qualification. It was four time Polish Indoor Kart Champion Papke who ultimately took the pole position.

The start of the race was in Le Mans style, running to the kart to jump in and launching the 8 hour race at midnight. The outdoor part of the track was open for this race, but the circumstances were quite different from those during the world championship of last summer. At that time tarmac was flying around because of the heat, while it was now cold and sometimes rainy, making the track quite tricky. In the opening lap it started to drizzle outside which surprised Rico, creating a gap between us and the leader. Afterwards, Rico was fast and slowly started to close in on Sebastian and overtook him halfway through the first stint. We had 14 stints of c.35 minutes, and besides that we had to make 4 extra stops. We decided to start with double stints and everytime PPR RT got our gat of the stint before while we got the kart of Hussarya team Poland, one of the strongest Polish teams and a challenger for the win tonight. It was therefore easy to compare laptimes and in the second stint Rico seemed to be fast. Papke did 3 stints in a row and won time on us after having made his first extra pitstop to get in clean air. Hussarya was closing in on us as well, and they had a strong line up including the numbers 2 and 4 of the past world championship, Jakub Klek and Michal Grzyb.

In the 3rd stint I came out on track for the first time and took over the kart from Klek. It was very nice to see that I was slightly faster as him in this kart, and we could virtually take back the lead from PPR RT in this stint. In the fourth stint I could further increase the lead by bringing the fastest racelap so far to 49.34, every team got all the 14 different karts during the night. In the mid pack of the field, Team Holland impressed with a very young team including Dutch talents Mike Dijkgraaf, Tess Verschoor, Max op den Kamp and the more experienced driver Guido van den Heiligenberg. They were surprisingly fast, matching laptimes of most top teams and were competing for a top 5 position in the pro ranking (for teams consisting of 4 or more drivers). At the front of the field we increased our lead with a couple of strong stints, also in less good karts. PPR RT dropped back a little bit because of an incorrect pitstop (resulting in an extra pitstop of 43 seconds!), while the Belgium Traxxis team drove consistent stints and made their way up onto the podium. Traxxis won the team championship during the past Indoor Kart World Championship and now drove with Kenny Verbinnen and Peter Neefs, coached by Ward Maenhout.

In my penultimate stint, the 11th of the race, I set the best lap time on 49.14, which would remain until the end of the race, confirming we were the fastest team today in terms of race pace. Hussarya was however less than 2 laps behind and still going strong, featuring the Skoda rally driver Mikolaj Marczyk as well. Mikolaj competed in several big indoor kart competition before and has always been a strong competitor not to underestimate. In the closing hours of the race many people complained about a headache or being sick of the dirty exhaust gasses inside the building. This made the race physically hard and as Rico still felt relatively fit, we decided to let him drive the final 2 stints. Our advantage over Hussarya increased to almost 2 laps, while Traxxis was holding PPR RT off on 20 seconds for the final spot on the podium. After 8 hours the chequered flag was waved and we could celebrate a very nice win in this great race. We were very happy with our performance and were glad we came again to Poland. After the podium celebrations we quickly passed by the breakfast before heading to our beds again, we needed it after this race by night! We would like to thank Remi Drzazga for the smooth organisation and hope the rumours of a 24 hour race next year will be realised!