Ruben Boutens

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

Indoor European Kart Challenge

Ruben drives fantastic weekend but loses titel hopes in shoot-out
Middelburg, 17/18 February 2018

The second edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge was one with an amazing line up of European top drivers. The circuit of Indoor Karting Middelburg was changed and ready for practice on Wednesday 14th of February. The atmosphere was amazing and approximately 100 drivers were ready to face each other on Saturday morning for the first of 8 heat races. Everyone had to weigh at least 85kg and a shortcut in every 16-lap lasting heat race replaced the pitstop from last year. As the differences in laptimes between the top drivers in practice seemed to be very small, the hotlap qualification before each race was key to success this weekend. No less than 60 races were scheduled during the weekend, an amount normally being driven in 5 days during the KWC, so a very tight timing schedule was required and the organization did a fantastic job in managing this timing schedule really well. My first four races were far from easy as I had 3 average to less good karts and I had to fight hard to score a podium in all races, which I eventually managed to do with 3 3rd places and one victory after a nice battle with local rival Mike Sturm.

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From race 5 on Sunday evening to race 8 on Sunday afternoon I knew there was no option of letting go any points anymore, and with some better karts and some excellent qualification laps I scored 3 victories and a second place which made me jump into the top 10 of the rankings with a 5th place before the semi-finals. I was very happy with my performance so far and was the only driver who was on the podium in each of the qualifier races. One result was dropped, 45 drivers were left for 3 semi-finals and a few strong contenders for the title were German Michael Schöttler, Belgian Mats de Jong and Dutch guys Patrick Bakker and Rico Haarbosch (the defending champion). However Mats and Rico had difficult semi-finals not making it into the top 3 and dropping a bit in the ranking, while Michael and Patrick won their semi-final after being chased by German Dennis Höller and Belgian Giovanni Baccellieri respectively, who all secured their desired their spot in the final by this strong result. In my semi I drew a decent kart, which I needed as some of my direct rivals had very good karts as well, such as Belgian Mathias Grooten and Dutchman Lorenzo Stolk.

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However, none of us was on pole position as the talented youngster Eliano de Vos claimed the pole position in nice style. I was in second place and decided to take the shortcut behind Eliano in the first lap and overtook him directly in the corner afterwards. This turned out to be a great move as Mathias and Lorenzo had to take the shortcut a few laps later when facing some slower drivers that already took their shortcut, hence they had not enough laps to make up some time. I could cover both coming out of the shortcut and had the race under control from that moment. With still like 22 of 31 laps to go I knew I couldn’t defend heavily knowing that some other drivers still had to take their shortcut, but I was very wary for Lorenzo who was looking for an attack in second position. I managed to keep my first place without real problems and also clinched the additional half point for fastest lap. I moved up to third place in the standings only 1 point short of the leader Patrick Bakker and 0.5 point behind Michael Schöttler.

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The top 15 drivers remained and we all had to drive one qualifying lap in the same kart to determine the starting order for the final and more importantly, to determine the order of kart pick. A crucial and deciding moment in the championship, and just on this moment the organization chose to put down a kart with an awful big seat. This was very annoying for me as I drive without an extra seat and moved from left to right in the seat and didn’t feel comfortable during my lap. As a result I made some mistakes and ended up in a very bad 13th position, leaving me one of the worst karts for the final. A big disappointment but I had to make the best out of it, my title hopes were realistically gone. From the first turn I attacked 100% and with a good strategy and a top 5 pace I was able to move up 4 positions quickly and chasing the guys in positions 5-8. Rico drove the pole position and secured his final win already early in the final, firing away with the best kart and moving him up to a very nice second position in the final ranking. In second position was Patrick Bakker who just had to finish top 3 to clinch the desired title. He drove a very strong weekend and didn’t come into trouble in the final, a big congratulation to him for his first big title.

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Meanwhile I tried to attack Eliano and Mats in the last lap of the race but couldn’t pass them anymore, leaving me in 9th position in the final which was a very good result with this kart in such a strong field. Mathias was overtaken by Michael in the final laps of the race which resulted in a very good 3rd place for Michael in the final classification, just before Lorenzo, Mathias and me in 6th. A result that I felt didn’t really fit my driving and performance of the whole weekend, but my qualification for the final was just nog good enough and so I was happy to still take home some prize money. Looking at the quality of drivers in the final, it was amazing to be part of this show and I hope to be back next year for a better result. I would like to thank the organization who, apart from a few improvements that can be made for next year, did a very good job.
Photos courtesy of: Vienna Bos and MAD Brothers’ Racing Team

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