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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