Ruben Boutens

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

Kart World Championship

Ruben crowned indoor kart world champion after magic tournament
Kart World Championship July 2017, Madrid, Spain

July is the month of the (Indoor) Kart World Championship already for years, and so was it as well in 2017. On the track of Karting Rivas in Madrid new karts were prepared for some spectacular weeks of kart racing. 172 drivers from 22 countries were present for the 13th edition of KWC and for me it was already the 10th time I was present, 10 in a row as I never missed a year since my debut in 2008. Already in May I went to Spain to prepare together with the reigning world champion Rico Haarbosch, to get to know the track and the karts. On July 18th I arrived again by plane, now alongside my dad and girlfriend Edyta who was going to take part for the first time this year. We didn’t give ourselves much time to adapt to the circumstances as we headed to the track already that same evening for a couple of practice heats. A lot of trainings followed in the days after and we drove the reversed track as well. It was nice to meet many friends from all over the world during the practice week again, some guys who were driving in the early editions of KWC like Andres Prieto, Fabio Konrad, Ronald Jones, Diego Morales, Otacilio Oliviera and Francisco Jansley to mention just a few. Around the practice heats we spent some time in and around the city of Madrid to taste some Spanish culture including the food and drinks the country has to offer. With 35-40 degrees every days the holiday feeling was certainly there.

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On Sunday the Nations Cup was on the planning which I entered with The Dutch Value together with Lorenzo Stolk and Rico to defend our title from last year. 40 teams battled for one of the 22 positions in the final race. There were 2 qualifier races of 2 hours, and we were to drive in the first one with many strong teams. Our race went pretty well, we never had to take any risks because a top 11 classification would be sufficient to qualify. After having started 5th Rico took the lead in the race already in the first stint and Lorenzo built up some advantage over 2nd place in the second stint. I then raced the fastest lap time in the third stint and Rico could finish off in the last stint without being in any danger. During the afternoon we had time to eat something together and relax a bit before the tension was on again in the evening. This time I qualified and managed to take pole position in front of Brazilian Fabio Konrad and Spanish Jon del Valle. The 3-hour race started really well as I could sneak away from the rest of the field and when Lorenzo went into the kart as 2nd driver we were leading by more than 16 seconds already. Lorenzo further extended our lead to 23 seconds when Rico was ready to take over as third driver in line. But then something unexpected happened. A spin of a Polish back marker caused a big crash in which Lorenzo was badly involved, he injured his knee and the kart was broken because of the impact. Lorenzo was taken to hospital for a medical check while we were not allowed to continue the race. As there were too few spare karts according to the race direction, no spare kart was given to a Belgian team who had a broken kart just before us, and so we did not get one as well. A huge disappointment, as we were clearly on our way to a second Nations Cup victory. A very sad way to end the almost perfect day so far and with Lorenzo having injured his knee this was a very bad outcome of what should have been a glorious day. Team Great-Britain (who were almost a lap down at 1 hour and 15 minutes to go when the incident happened) capitalised and won the race, Baccellieri, Spinnael and Brierley did a great job and were accompanied on the podium by Extreme team Poland and ClickSpeed Brazil.

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After two more days of practice on Monday and Tuesday the Individual championship started on Wednesday, finally the real battle was about to begin and I could not wait to start. I was directly in the first race of the day and my confidence was high following a very successful training week. We started with new tires and on a relatively cold and dirty track, starting qualification from the front of the field appeared to be a big disadvantage. I qualified only in 5th position and had to battle my way to the front. I was on fire and quickly moved back into winning position when I passed Bartsch from Poland to take back the lead. I had a few seconds lead going into the pitstop and so I did not have to take any risk. With a win and fastest lap my championship started very well. In the afternoon we drove in the normal direction after having driven the reverse direction in the morning. This time I had a pretty good kart and could easily win the race in my favourite direction. As there were some crashes in the other races the organisation decided to drive all qualification races in the reverse direction. That was a pity, but I felt strong on this lay-out as well and could win also my third race on Thursday morning. My 4th race was in one of the hardest groups of all, including many strong drivers like Del Valle, Grooten, Stolk, Balneger, Burillo, Javanainen and Suarez. With a good qualification lap I was again in pole position and also in the race I was not giving away any presents. Mathias Grooten was all race long on my bumper and for the first time I had to take some risk with the pitstop. I just, but only just, met the required 20 seconds in the pit lane with a stop of 20.02 seconds, a bit too much on the limit but it gave me the space I needed to go for the fastest lap as well and I managed to take that point as well going into the last lap of the race.

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With 4 out of 4 wins I went into day 5 as the championship leader, but both Rico and German Dennis Höller were very close as they were scoring multiple victories as well. On day 3 I raced to my 5th victory in a row with one of the less good karts, a very important one and it proved that the kart differences here were quite small and the driver could make a big difference. In race 6 I faced Rico for the first time and I was excited to battle against him. He had a slightly better kart than me and qualified in pole position in front of me. I was ready to fight though, and overtook Rico in the first corner after a perfect start. Because Rico didn’t give up his position, we both went wide a little bit and Belgian Kenny Verbinnen and Polish Bartsch moved up in front of us. I defended from time to time on Rico and could overtake Bartsch again. Because of my defensive driving the strong Brazilian driver Felipe Leite (vice world champion in 2014) could overtake us with an early pitstop. For me this was not a big problem as a third position in front of Rico would extend my points lead as I was the only one with only victories up until then, and so I could drop this race anyway. But as race 7 and 8 were still around the corner I could not take too much risk though. I ended day 3 with a 3-point lead in the championship over Rico. On Saturday I had a very smooth day, missing only 1 point for pole position and claiming 2 more victories, while my nearest rivals Rico and Dennis were dropping some points, Rico because of a penalty and Dennis because of some lower results with average karts.

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Then the final day was there, with a 13-point advantage I was ready for the semi-final, knowing however that nothing was won yet. The memory of last year was still fresh but also in other previous years some drivers who were leading the championship all week long lost the championship on the last day. I was in the first semi and we were driving in normal direction again, we now started the battle qualifications and like last year, I won all of them comfortably and could choose a good kart to race with in the 30-lap race. The race went pretty straightforward as I could pull away from the rest of the field and also secure the fastest lap of the race in an early stage of the race. In this way I didn’t have to take any risk with my pitstop and scored maximum points. After my race I went back to the hotel to cool down and follow the other semis via de live timing. Rico was well on his way to do the same as me, taking maximum points home, but then he made a big mistake by screwing up his pitstop when he left the pits too early. A very costly mistake as he lost 5 positions following a 30-second penalty. Mats de Jong could profit and won the race. The other semi finales were won by Spanish Suarez and Belgian Mathias Grooten. Together with Rico, Mathias and Mats we had already a very big lead in the team championship going into the final. I was quite nervous and knew only a broken kart or some penalties could still ruin my championship. I was very focused and eliminated Opnithi Puyato, Fernande Lara and Dennis Höller in the battle qualification before facing Rico who just kicked out Mathias. I had 2 average laps and was only 1 time faster than Rico, but overall he was a bit faster and had the first kartpick for the final.

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I was happy with my second starting position and let Rico go in the beginning of the race. Mathias was behind me but could not attack, followed by Höller and Giovanni Baccellieri. The race lasted 45 laps but it felt like an endurance race. I still had everything under control and with my 2 pitstops I didn’t take any risk, I waited until I saw 20 seconds on the screen and this cost me some positions in the race. I didn’t start a fight and dropped back to 5th place. No problem for me, I was just praying my kart would not brake down and wanted to avoid any contact with other drivers. For the last time ‘ultima vuelta’ was displayed and the tears were in my eyes, I was really emotional and remember all the things I had gone through in the past years of successes and disappointments, especially the 2nd place of last year. But this was my moment, here was the checkered flag and I screamed out loud. I realised I was the new indoor kart world champion and this was the moment I waited for for so long. After they checked my weight (I had a 3kg margin :P) I ran to my father and mother to celebrate with them, then with my girlfriend Edyta and all the other people who wished me well. I was so so happy and finally had the big honor to receive the largest trophy from Poul Horneman, the big man behind KWC and it felt so good. I would like to thank once more all the people who supported me during my career, especially my sponsors! And I want to congratulate the final top 5 with Rico on 2nd position and winning a second Junior title, Mathias in 3rd position and Dennis and Giovanni on 4 and 5 like last year. What a strong podium and what a trophy! Also congrats to the winners in the masters (Roman Schneider) and women (Selina Balneger) class, and with my BlueStar teammates we won the team championship, for me the 4th team title after 2009, 2015 and 2016. What an amazing week it was and the adventure comes to an end, my dream has come through and I will always remember this magnificent championship with great pleasure. I cannot wait to drive next year in a new edition of KWC with number 1.

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Dutch Open Kartchallenge

Ruben after 3 titles beaten for the first time in DOK
Roosendaal, June 3rd & 4th 2017

In the first weekend of June 2017 the 4th edition of the Dutch Open Kart Challenge took place on a brand-new circuit at Kart Centre Roosendaal. With more than 100 participants divided in several different categories a great weekend was waiting for us. Besides the main senior category with 60 drivers there were many other interesting battles to watch, resulting in the new kids champion Wouter Poleij, Junior champion Guillermo van Pamelen, Heavy weight champion Willem van Oosterhout.

2017 dok 3 junioren guillermo van pamelen

For my championship I had to drive 5 qualifier rounds on 90kg, with a single lap qualification and one pitstop required during the race. An additional point was granted for both pole position and fastest racelap. I felt very comfortable on the new track and on the first day I was never really challenged and could take home 3 times the maximum score, so I was very satisfied about day 1, while Rico Haarbosch did the same and some other guys were also still close in the ranking. On day 2 I was challenged much more during my heats by Romano Franssen, Mats de Jong and Lorenzo Stolk. With 2 average karts I was able to score pole position and victory twice, however I did not manage to grab also the fastest racelap with these karts. As Rico did so, he was one point ahead of me heading into the semi-finals. As we were placed first and second in the classification we were not in the same semi-finale and therefore we would meet only in the big final, a shame but that was how it was. In my semi-final I had to settle for second position for the first time as Selina drove a very strong race and took victory over me by a few seconds, I was now 4 points down on Rico as he capitalised on some hard battles during his race and drove easily to another first place. We then drove a shoot-out qualification for the big final, all finalists in the same kart one lap. It was very very close and when it was my turn Lorenzo set the best time thus far.

2017 dok 5 edyta

My lap was not excellent, but luckily it was the fastest so far, with only Rico still to come. Top 5 in the shoot-out received extra points and the kart pick would be based on the starting order as well, so this was crucial. Rico did not make any mistakes and beat my time by 0.03 seconds, so close but it was Rico with the first kart pick. In the first laps of the race I could stay with him as he was defending, on my tail was Lorenzo trying to overtake me. For me the only goal was to score the title, but after Rico pulled away a few kart lengths I knew with this kart I had to focus on securing my second place in the final race. Lorenzo was close all race long but I was able to stay in front of him after the 2 pitstops we had to make. After 5 victories and 2 2nd places it was quite a good weekend for me, but unfortunately not enough to score a 4th consecutive DOK title. But Rico was a well-deserved successor and I want to congratulate him for a very strong weekend. I hope next year we face each other more often before the final race so we can battle it out on the circuit. 3rd place went to ladies champion Selina, who just scored enough points to hold of Lorenzo and became the first female driver to end up on the final podium, very well done! All in all it was a great weekend on the new track and nicely organised by the kart track.

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12 hours of Eupen

Romano, Rico & Ruben win again
Eupen, 6 & 7 May 2017

On the 6th of May 2017 a new edition of the 12 hours of Eupen took place. This race is always one of the big indoor kart endurance races and so was it this year with 25 strong teams at the start including many fast Belgian and German drivers. Our team, BlueStar 1 consisted of Romano, Rico and myself, trying to give our victory from last year (then representing The Dutch Value) a good follow-up. After some practice on the slightly changed track, Romano started the 20-minute qualifying session in reversed direction. It was very close between the top 5 teams and we put Rico in the kart for the final minutes. He qualified in third position just behind the Belgians Benjamin Kaivers for TGK and Mathias Grooten driving for Modave. In the beginning of the race Rico did a double stint of 1 hour and 40 minutes and immediately took the lead. There was a lot of tactic involved in the race as numerous pitstops had to be made, and more importantly after 6 hours there was a change of direction preceded by a pace kart situation, here you could win or lose a lot by making the right decision in pit stop strategy.

170507 12h eupen bluestar

After Rico, Romano did his first stint and put down the fastest lap of the race, extending our lead. After Romano it was my turn and I had some problems with the high grip level. It took me some time to adjust but after a while I could drive competitive and very consistent laptimes. Rico was in the kart again when the direction change took place, and I guided him through the pit stop strategy which made us win some time. After a short powernap Romano was then ready to go for his second stint and proved his value once more by driving a fantastic stint. We were in 4th position because of more time spent in the pits but virtually we were leading the race by approximately 1 lap. I was very tired but had to put on my helmet again around 6.30 in the morning. When entering the track I was at full focus again and I drove a very strong stint with one good and one bad kart. The top 13 teams all shared the same karts and so we just had to minimalize the loss with less good karts.

170507 12h eupen bluestar 1 en 2

Rico was still in good condition and stepped into the kart again for the final part of the race. We still had a lead of 1 lap and he was able to maintain this advantage. Bluestar 2 with Logan Sougné, Yoand Medart and Simon Delvenne drove very strong to claim the second position, just in front of Blitz Racing team, the German drivers with a very strong line up (in the past driving for Euro Racing). 4th and 5th position were for the Belgian teams of TGK and Acquity, the former being very quick but losing some time on tactics. After 12 hours we finished the race again in 1st position, a very good result for us and this made us very happy on the podium. Compliments to the track for a very strong organization!

170507 12h eupen podium

Polish Indoor Kart Championship

Ruben secures fourth PIKC podium in four years
Szczecin, April 29th & 30th 2017

The PIKC has quickly evolved into one of the most popular indoor karting events of Europe, only established in 2012 it now already is a certainty on the calendar in the spring. While a few years ago most drivers arrived only on Friday, now many Northern European drivers already hit the Polish tarmac by Thursday or even Wednesday. For me it was Friday afternoon when I crossed the Polish border for the fourth year in a row, looking forward to face a whole bunch of strong international opponents again. After a few practice sessions I felt ready for the championship and we dived into the swimming pool of the hotel on Friday night, already speculating on who would be the drivers to beat this weekend. On Saturday 3 heats for all drivers were on the planning, the traditional set up including a hotlap qualification and a single pitstop required, all on 90kg. The first race immediately was a cracker, featuring the top 4 of last years’ event and so I had a chance to challenge Sebastian Papke straight away. Starting only from 7th position I had a difficult race in front of me, but when the tyres came up to temperature I was able to work my way up through the field and could even challenge the leader and last years’ runner-up Christian Wolf. Performing my pitstop on the penultimate lap I could close in even further and on the very last corner I overtook Christian and secured my first win of the weekend.

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It then was a long wait until my second race, but at Silver Hotel & Gokart Centre you never have to be bored as there were many interesting races to follow and a lot of fellow countrymen to support from the side of the track. During day one it was the German driver Lars Ole-Jens who was impressively fast, scoring no less than 3 victories out of 3 races and showing Germany had more title contenders than just Sebastian Papke to offer! With a close second place behind young Dutchman Thom van Dijk in race 2 in reversed direction and a strong victory over Belgians Vermeulen (last years’ number 5) and Deloitte colleague Peter Neefs, I was very happy with my own results as well. After the first medals were awarded on Saturday evening the nice atmosphere remained until almost midnight in both the restaurant and swimming pool, when some chose to get some sleep and others opted to discover some more Szczecin nightlife. When a couple of drivers was still drunk or asleep it was good old Corné Snoep that powered away from his rivals in heat first heat of round 4. My round four and five went according to plan, scoring another second place behind my only teammate form last weekend during our winning 24 hours of Brussels, Mathias Grooten and in front of Artur Pel from Poland. In race 5 I could finally score my first triple with pole position, fastest lap and victory. With 3 out of 5 victories and a 2nd place as a drop result I showed I could perform strong in the less good karts as well and I was ready for the semi-finals.

170430 pikc ruben achter

I was in the last semi-final and saw how the fast Germans Dennis Höller and Maxi Siese won the first two semis. I was pumped to do the same in race 3 and faced reigning world champion and my friend Rico Haarbosch for a third year in a row in the semi-final of the PIKC. While he was able to beat me in the two previous years it was now me who could pull the victory over the line in a thrilling race. I had to overtake both Rico and the strongest Polish driver of the weekend, Michal Grzyb and then won the race on consistency and a solid and fast pitstop, taking over the lead in the championship. A remarkable performance from Mellanie Motz who won the title ladies title over Selina Balneger and my girlfriend Edyta Paleczka as she was the only girl to make it to the 10-driver final line-up! Corné could celebrate his second master (35+) title and it was then time for the Junior final. Rico Haarbosch was the man to beat and took pole position in fashion for the final. He was challenged hard by the Polish youngsters Dawid Klarman (who in the end won the final) and Jakub Ziobro but Rico scored enough points to win his second PIKC junior title just in front of Jakub Ziobro, congratulations to the podium!

170430 podium dames

In the final shootout where all 10 senior finalists drove the same kart for a hotlap a couple of important points were on the line. 2.5 for the pole position and 1.5 and 0.5 for P2 and P3 on the grid. It turned out to be a 5-man show, between Grooten, myself and the 3 Germans Papke, Ole-Jens and Siese. The 5 of us had an edge over the rest of the field all weekend and it was Siese to take pole with just 0.05 and 0.06 second advantage over Papke and myself in third spot. Kart differences were small and the best 2 karts were drawn in the back of the field, and so a very exciting final was about to start. I had kart 11 which was very fast on the straight but had an awful lot of understeer in left hand corners. This made it very difficult for me in some stages of the final. It was first Grooten who pitted from 4th position while the top 3 was on each other’s bumper. Papke then made his pitstop and I closed the small gap to Siese in just 2 laps. I decided to go for an attack and took over the lead in the race, but with this move we both lost some time to Papke. As the times were so close it was hard to make up this time again and when Siese also pitted and when I saw I didn’t win any time on Papke I dived into the pit as well. I came out on the track side by side with Mathias and Ole-Jens, but was on the outside and dropped back to virtually a 4th position in the race just before Siese. The title suddenly seemed to be out of reach as Papke in the lead only had to hold out Mathias who closed in by the final laps of the race.

170430 pikc podium algemeen

I hoped to be second in the final ranking but by driving the fastest lap it was Maximilian Siese who grabbed second place just 0.5 point in front of me. A very nice championship came to an end and I have to congratulate Sebastian Papke with a 3rd title in 4 years time, very strong performance from the tall German racer. My third place was disappointing for a few minutes, knowing I was really close and realising I had won 4 races including the semi-final, but I also knew that being on the podium here for a 4th consecutive year is very nice and so I could be happy with this outcome at the end of the day! Compliments to organisers Remik Drzazga and Bartek Malutko, bringing to live an event like this for so many people involved is far from easy and there will always be some criticism, but I have to say hats off for a great edition of PIKC 2017 which I enjoyed all weekend long. The level of drivers was again very high, prizes were great and things like the timing schedule, kart draw, ranking updates, live timing and live coverage and medal ceremonies were very professional. From my side I cannot wait until next year!

Photos courtesy of: Susi Trauernicht

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24 hours of Brussels

Ruben & Mathias perform the impossible!
Brussels, 22&23 April 2017

It was in 2010 when I really discovered the art called endurance racing. It was in April of that year when I was invited for one of the biggest 24-hour indoor kart races in Europe to drive in one of the top team consisting of Bart van de Vel, Mathias Grooten and Nikki Swannet. We won that race, and during this race I drove a stint of over 2 hours for the first time in my life, a new experience. In the years after I realised how special it was to have won this race, only in 2015 I managed to win it for the second time. It was around that time I started speculating with Mathias about driving the race just with the two of us. An incredible idea which started as a crazy plan but late 2016 we decided to finally go for it in the 2017 edition. Prepared as much as we could we arrived in Brussels on the 22nd of April, ready for one of the biggest challenges in our karting careers. Although we were going to drive the race with 2, we had the help of a couple of our Bluestar teammates and especially Robin Borremans who wanted to help us during the entire weekend in coaching and tactics, so we could focus on racing and recovery afterwards as much as possible.

170423 24h team

After the free practice we decided that Mathias was going to do the 15 minute-qualifying session. We had an average kart and Mathias managed to qualify in third position. During the race we had to drive 6 hours on minimum 90kg, the remainder on at least 80kg. We didn’t quite have an exact schedule of how we were going to divide the stints but we wanted to do the hours on 90kg with the best 3 karts. We had to do both 10 kart and driver changes which means stints of 2 hours and 10 minutes. During the first 4 hours we both drove a good stint with average karts, first falling back a bit to fifth place and then coming back to second place. A couple of strong competitors were Bluestar 2 with some world class drivers, Hola Lulu Racing and DWT Racing, all with a very strong 4 or 5-man line-up. After Mathias did the first hours on 90kg I was going for a double stint of almost 4 and a half hour. In the beginning of the race we were every time a bit faster than our opponents with the same karts, so we could take the lead and start building an advantage which we might have needed approaching the second part of the race. During this stint the lights fell out for like five minutes and the race was not stopped. Especially inside it was extremely dark and also dangerous as some drivers slowed down. I tried to stay up to speed as much as possible as I saw the score board was still on and we won a lot of time here, sometimes even up to 3 seconds a lap. After my second stint I still felt ok and Mathias did sleep for a while. In the next stint a change of direction took place, a novelty in the 27-year history of this event, and it was done with no team winning or losing any time! We then had another strong kart and Mathias drove again one stint on 90kg, because we wanted to change the weight to 80kg again afterwards.

170423 24h podium

This worked out well as Mathias was again one of the fastest guys on track even with 90kg. The other side of the medal was that I had little time to recover after my long stint, having had my second massage during the race. I felt during this third stint that I was losing a bit of energy, I still drove good laptimes but the consistency was a bit less good. We were 2 laps ahead of our competitors but I was worried at this time, knowing how long we still had to go. At the end of my stint it started raining just before the kart change and Mathias then continued after having to puke just before stepping into the kart. After eating a bit, I wanted to go to bed as quick as possible and asked my teammates to wake me up when needed. I could sleep for an hour of 2 and was then waked up again. Mathias was driving for 3 hours and I had to prepare again. The sleep did help me, and before I stepped in the kart once more I took some painkillers, some energy drink and a couple of shots of sugar. Like in my previous stint I wore a neck protector (something I practically never do) and a sweater over my suit to feel less pain. During the driver change Mathias shouted at me, ‘keep pushing, keep pushing’, a little bit extra motivation and out on the track I was again. It went well, I could maintain our 2-lap lead and started to enjoy the race again while the sun came up. Slowly I started to believe in something special. With 4 and a half hour to go Mathias took over the steering wheel again and DWT was still dangerous, starting to close in slightly and coming back to one and a half lap behind while we had to were a driver change behind and still had to drive 1 hour and 45 minutes on 90kg.

170423 24h mathias en ruben

I was then facing Filipe Vieira who was closing in on me as he drove on 80kg, DWT was very strong this race and the race was not over yet. Luckily, I was able to still drive fast and consistent times and could limit the loss. We were strongly supported from the side of the track and after the last driver change Mathias came out on track just 35 seconds in front of DWT. We were surviving on our very last portion of energy but the finish was coming closer. And after 24 hours we were the ones who saw the chequered flag first, we did it, we made it, it was amazing!! A magnificent performance and a fantastic feeling when we realised we had won one the 24 hours of Brussels just with the 2 of us. Both mentally and physically it was exhausting and that made it the best victory of my karting career so far. As many people told us beforehand we would not be able to remain competitive until the end of the race, it made it even more special and the admiration and appreciation of our opponents and the spectators was great. When opening the bottles of champagne on the podium and lifting the trophy with our last bit of power we didn’t feel the pain, but a couple of hours later we both suffered a lot. DWT finished the race in a very well deserved 2nd place on just 38 seconds behind us. Bluestar 2 took home the third position being 5 laps down on us, beating Hola Lulu with just a single lap. The days after were not the best in terms of physical fitness, but it was worth the pain more than ever. We want to thank our sponsors Foamzoo and Kinepolis and our Bluestar teammates and friends who supported us during the race!

Photos courtesy of: Serge Coppieters

170423 24h champagne