Ruben Boutens

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

Indoor European Kart Challenge

Ruben claims third position after sensational final in first IEKC
Middelburg, 18/19 February 2017

It was early 2016 when a couple of people came up with the idea of organising a big indoor kart event for the top drivers in Europe. After a bit less than a year of detailed preparation, the entry list was completely filled with an impressive 120 drivers from all over Europe, no less than 14 countries were represented. On Wednesday the 15th of February, official practice started on the new track. After three days of practice more than one thousand heats were driven, including some from me. The atmosphere was amazing, it was great to see all these top level drivers coming to my home track in Middelburg. On Friday evening the group and kart draw was done for the 8 qualifier rounds, always an exciting and important moment to see who you will face in which karts. There was a big price pool for the top 10 drivers, the fastest lap, a jackpot lap, the fastest qualifying lap and the highest ranked girl.

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On Saturday morning, the first of 40 races for that day was started, the organisation went inch perfect as it came to the timing schedule, the updates on the ranking, the prize giving ceremonies in between the races and the timing system didn’t let us down a single time. So all ingredients for a nice championship were there. In my first race of the day I finished second just behind one of the many strong German drivers present, Michael Schöttler was one of the guys showing incredible pace. In my second race I had a really bad kart, but still managed to finish in second position behind my Belgian Bluestar teammate Yoan Medart. In the third race I scored my first win of the weekend with a perfect score, extra points for qualifying and fastest lap were very important. The fourth race was rather frustrating as I had to start the 2 lap qualifying with a cold kart, which caused me to qualify in 4th position only. In the race I could move up to third with a good pitstop, but that could have been a first or second place. Then in race 5 I was able to score my second win beating reigning world champ Rico Haarbosch in a direct confrontation. It was the first race of the weekend in reversed direction and I was very happy to win because it was a very strong group including the top 3 from the last world championship as also the very Rickard Javanainen from Sweden was in it, qualifying on pole position an ultimately finishing in 4th position. Rickard is one of the very big sportsmen in the game, always fair on the track and great to have a chat with him, he won one of his races but just didn’t make the semi-final on Sunday after having quite some bad luck.

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My Sunday didn’t have the best start either as I faced 3 very tough groups with no so good karts. I was fighting for podiums instead of victories and with a 7th place after day 1 I was hoping for some good points. In race 6 I was able to come back from 6th on the grid to 3rd at the finish, mainly by good tactics. In race 7 I was going for another podium with a below average kart, but took too much risk on the pitstop and got penalised. As I had all podiums so far it was not so painful now, because you have one drop result, but I knew my worst kart and hardest group were coming up. When my steering wheel came loose in the last heat races I could not do more than reaching the finish in 7th position, now the penalty from last race really made me drop in the ranking. I qualified for the semi-final only in 15th position. The top 45 continued and the tension rose. The special prepared grandstand was fully packed and I drew an ok kart for my semi. I was happy with this and very motivated to give it all for the 31-lap race, 15 laps more than the heat races.

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I knew much could still happen as we now had double points, and I qualified in third spot behind fellow Dutchman Romano Franssen and German Felix Weber. In the race not many position changes happened at the front, but that didn’t make the race less exciting. Alex Nolting was very close behind and I could stay close to Felix. Romano was able to pull away and the 2 pitstops we had to make didn’t change the order in the end, I ended up 3rd which made my rise in the ranking to 8th position now. Rico Haarbosch and Michael Schöttler won the other two semi finales, while home driver Lorenzo Stolk lost the points lead by finishing 4th. The final 15 drivers were announced for the big 46-lap final and the kart draw took place, what a moment, my heartbeat went up big time. I had kart 6, together with 18, 20 and 13 one of the best of the weekend so I was very happy. Rico couldn’t complain either as he had kart 20 again after having it in the semi-final already. He took full advantage of knowing this kart, driving to pole position before Mats de Jong from Belgian in kart 13, just before me in third.

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Lorenzo and Romano were behind, strong performance from Lorenzo in kart 10 which I had in the semi final. Not so good for me, as these were exactly the guys I had to overtake in the ranking when looking at the final podium. In the race the visor was on 2 guys, and what a race it was. We were pushing each other to the absolute limit in terms of consistency. After 20 laps Mats made a first small mistake and I immediately capitalised by overtaking him at the end of the straight, then starting my charge for first. I was catching Rico centimetre by centimetre and lowered the best lap of the race. I missed the top speed to overtake Rico on the track, so I knew it was coming down on the 2 mandatory pitstops. Rico went into the pits first with 6.5 laps to go, a lap later I came in and exited the pit side by side with Rico. I was on the outside so I remained second. A lap later Rico dived into the pits again and I gave everything I had to put down my best lap. I made my last pitstop with 2.5 laps to go and with a perfect timing I managed to grab the lead. 2 laps of defending followed but I made no mistakes and claimed one of my best victories I can remember, it felt amazing with the large crowd on the side of the track.

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While seeing the chequered flag I realised I won a magnificent race, however Rico was crowned the first IEKC champion so I respected this by giving him the well-deserved moment of fame, another big title and €1500 cash comes his way! It was Lorenzo who secured the second place and a €1000 cash prize by finishing 4th in the final. It then was between Mats, Romano and me for 3rd, all finishing within one point, but third place was mine as I won the final which was the criteria when tied in points. I was very happy with this result, coming back from 15th after the heats! Big congratz also to the other top 10 finishers, Mats, Romano, Mike Bartelen, Tobias Laube, Julian Walter (who also had the best lap of the weekend), Michael Schöttler and Filipe Viera, and to the best woman Selina Balneger (who also had the best qualifying of the weekend). We may say, without a doubt, this first edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge was a big success, I think the majority will return for a new edition next year. I want to thank the kart track, volunteers, organisers and last but not least the sponsors who made possible this amazing weekend! For the full results check the website of the IEKC.

Photos courtesy of: Susi Trauernicht, Indoor European Kart Challenge, Jeffrey Kerkhove, Kim Kortenjann

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