Ruben Boutens

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

Indoor European Kart Challenge 2020

Ruben makes it onto the podium after tough draw
Middelburg, 22/23 February 2020

The fourth edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge brought another incredible line up of drivers to Middelburg, Zeeland in the Netherlands. The track was changed again in the week before the championship and a lot of people were positive about the new lay-out. The weekend was very full with a maximum of ten races per driver and on Saturday morning we kicked off with the first of 7 preliminary rounds. I had a difficult draw on race one, with a lot of strong groups and some bad karts, but I was ready to fight for every position. In race one I finished second behind my BlueStar teammate Romano Franssen and before the strong Dutch local Marcel Kouijzer. In race 2, 3 and 4 I had very strong qualification laps which helped me winning all three of them, even while in race 3 and 4 I didn't have the best karts of the frontrunners. In my fifth race I had kart 13 which was one of the worst this weekend, but luckily my group was not super heavy and I managed to turn around a fifth starting position into a fourth finish place. So far this counted as my drop result, however in race 6 on Sunday morning I had kart 8 for the second time, which was also one of the worst karts.

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After day one I was very positive about my chances as I was leading the championship, just before some other super drivers like former world champion Rico Haarbosch from Holland and reigning world champion Michael Schöttler from Germany. Race 6 was very difficult, I drove the entire race in the midpack and despite driving faster laptimes than all other people in this kart, I couldn't finish higher than position 8 and that hurt a lot in the championship where I fell back to place 4. In race 7 I drew one of the best karts, in which I drove the fastest laptime of the weekend with 39.7, a difference of 0.8 seconds between this and the previous kart, which is huge. I was back on place 3 but like anyone else I needed a bit of luck in the draw for the quarter final and semi final where we just had to pick a ball from the bag. In line with earlier this weekend, I wasn't too lucky with a very difficult kart for the quarter final. In the race I tried a different tactic as before, waiting to go through the shortcut, which gave you an advantage of some one and a half second. But I got stuck in traffic pretty fast as some slower drivers already took the shortcut and I was forced to take the shortcut after a lap or 6 to not lose more time on the top 5 drivers. In the end of the race I could close the gap to German Thomas Schaller was who driving in fifth, but I was not abel to pass him anymore. Rico drove a very strong quarter final in his group, he won the race after overtaking poleman Joris Sturm, and set himself on pole position for the title.

Michael Schöttler was very unlucky as the qualification of his quarter final had to be done twice (like many times before this weekend), which cost him four places on the grid, while Rico benefitted in the same situation by jumping from 4 to 2. Guillermo van Pamelen is one of the young local drivers who is improving year by year and as he won his quarter final, he came into second place in the ranking, a big surprise for many drivers. In the semi final I faced Rico for the second time this weekend, but again it never became a real race between us as he drew the best kart in the pack while I had an average one. My qualification was super and I could start from place 2, but after the first corner I knew that this was also the best possible finish position as long as Rico wouldn't make any mistakes. Marcel Kouijzer fought for place three behind me with amongst others Mike Bartelen, that gave me some space and I could secure the second place, moving up in the ranking again to place three as Michael finished in the middle of the other semi final. Patrick Bakker, the 2018 champion dominantly won the second semi final and moved up to place 4 in the ranking, only one point behind me and one point in front of Michael on place 5.

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For the final the karts were picked in the order of the ranking, so I had the third pick and knew I had a good kart. The starting order was determined by setting a single lap in the same kart in reversed order of the standings. When it was my turn it was Michael who put down the fastest time just before Dutch Danny van Domburgh. I didn't do a very good lap as I made a mistake in turn 3, but I took the provisional pole with 0.008. After me it was Guillermo with a very strong performance, beating my time by a tenth he proved to be a well deserved man in the top three, he looked very confident. Rico was the only one who could beat him, with a small margin, but he took control of the final, having the best kart and starting from pole. Given the difference of 9 points between Rico and me and 4.5 points between Guillermo and me, I knew it would not be easy to still climb, while I had Patrick and Michael close behind me in the ranking. Therefore I decided to go with Guillermo and not attack him to build up a gap to Michael. This worked out well, and the pace of Guillermo and me was very similar, while Rico was just a tad faster and secured his third IEKC title in the front of the field, a super strong performance from him. In the final an incredible field was driving including European top drivers like Christian Douven, Opnithi Puyato, Matts Breckpott, Romano Franssen and Eliano de Vos. In the final ten laps of the 35-lap final I came closer to Guillermo and was on his bumper in the last lap, but Guillermo covered the inside well and secured a vice-championship, a super strong weekend for him and well deserved second place. For me a third IEKC podium in four years, not a bad result given the line up of over 100 drivers, and given my kart draw I was satisfied with the final result. All in all an exciting weekend, but to be honest, the kart differences were very big and a lot of karts broke down, I'm curious to see what will happen in the future with this big international championship.

200223 eikc podium

Swedish Rental Kart Championship 2020

Ruben beats everyone but ends up second
Kungalv (Se), 2 February 2020

In the first weekend of February 2020 it was time for the Swedish Rental Kart Championship, organised at the track of Gokartcentralen in Kungalv for the second year in a row, a track with electric karts close to the large city of Gothenburg. Last year I first participated in the championship and I really enjoyed it despite just not winning the title, so I decided to come back in 2020 to have another go. On Saturday 1 February the track was open for practice heats, which were necessary as the electric karts demand a slightly different driving technique and I always have to adapt to that. I felt confident after some heats and looked forward to race day on Sunday.

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The championship had a nice format, including 5 qualifying heats which were divided in 3 time trials of 9 laps where only the best laptime counted, and afterwards 2 12-lap races with a hotlap qualification and 2 longcuts. In my first heat I had some strong names like Nikolaj Marsengo who finished 3rd here last year as well as Arnaud Teuwen who recently won the Racehall of Champions in Arhus. The kart differences were quite small, however I had one of the slowest ones and had to push to set a good laptime. I ended up third, which was not a good start for me, but luckily this weekend included one drop result. In the second and third heat I faced some strong names as well, including the champion of last year Erkin Bour, a very strong Swedish home driver. In these two heats I could put down the fastest laptime and score important points.

After a small lunchbreak the races started, starting from standing position with the lights. The track changed completely compared to last year, which was very nice. Overtaking however was still very difficult, so the qualification was key today. The strategic element with the longcut resulted in a laptime which was like one second slower, so also with the longcut there was not much to play around with. In my fourth heat I could take pole position by good margin and win the race without problems finishing in front of the fast Belgian driver Mathieu Detry. In my last heat I have to say that I was very unlucky. One of the karts broke down before the start of the qualification, and the kart was changed. As the replacement kart was cold, I could understand that the kart should be warmed up, but unfortunately it was the driver himself (instead of someone from the track) that was allowed to go on track of 4 or 5 laps. Now he had a huge advantage and this cost me pole position by half a tenth. As it was a very good kart as well, I could not attack him anymore in the race and finished 2nd which cost me 2 very important points.

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For the semi-finals the top 24 drivers were divided in three groups of 8 and the highest ranked driver was able to choose the kart first, while not being able to pick a kart you have driven before. This was an interesting rule which I didn’t see before, and it helped me a lot today as the five best karts were all still available for me. I was in 6th place after the heats which meant I was in the same group with the championship leader which was Dylan de Wolf from Belgium after winning all his five heats. In the qualification I took pole position by a small margin, and during the 16-lap race I could consolidate the lead and only had to defend after I made my two longcuts when Dylan still had to go through the longcut. A good victory which moved me up into fourth position behind Arnaud, Erkin and Dylan, tied in points with Erkin and Dylan and only 2 behind Arnaud. It was then time for the junior final which was a close battle between a number of talented drivers, resulting in a renewal of his championship for Danish Nikolaj Marsengo. Victor Sparholt, also from Denmark, and the Belgian Rayhan Mouoya ended up in second and third place.

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Before the final race of 20 laps a knock-out qualification was planned between the best eight drivers. I first had to battle against number five from Sweden, Kim Kettunen. I won the battle and advanced to round two against the highest ranked, Arnaud. I drove two decent laps and also won my second battle, while Dylan beat Erkin. In the final matchrace I won by more than 2 tenths margin and I picked the same kart I had in the semifinal. I was super happy with my qualification laps and ready for an exciting final. The first longcut of the top 4 drivers happened relatively quickly during the race, but didn’t change anything in positions. Erkin and Dylan then went for their second longcut and Arnaud was chasing me, but we drove similar laptimes. It was exciting because all four drivers could still win the championship, but I had the control over the lead in the race. After my second longcut I came out ahead of Dylan and was on the bumper of Arnaud. He then made his last longcut and was then fighting side by side with Erkin for third place. This gave myself and Dylan a gap of a couple of seconds. It seemed to be a battle for the championship between Dylan and me now with a couple of laps to go.

Then things turned differently as Dylan decided not to go for his own title chances but sacrificed his own position and slowed down a few seconds to let Arnaud by in the final lap of the race. Now Arnaud would be tied in points with me and win the title as this time the final was not decisive but the number of wins and so on. A very disappointing move as we race an individual championship which was now massively influenced by team tactics. I know unfortunately this kind of games happen more often and I am the first to admit that in 2013 in Denmark I also tried to help my former teammate Corne by defending on a driver who made the mistake to do an early pitstop. At that time, I immediately received a black flag as it was not allowed, and it created so much badwill from spectators that since that race I never sacrificed my own position in a race to help other drivers, let’s say everyone makes mistakes.

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All in all the championship ended on a low, not only for me becoming runner up (as the 3rd place in heat 1 lost it two the 2nd place of Arnaud in heat 2, with the other 6 results being equal) after winning the battles and the final, but also for the people involved as the shine of the title was completely gone. I still want to congratulate Arnaud and Dylan on their podium, they made the level of the championship increase this year and despite the final they both drove a strong championship. Looking back at my own championship I’m still very much satisfied with my performance, both in pure speed, qualification and race force I showed to be on top of my game and there was nothing more I could do. Hopefully next year things will enroll more fair play, I hope to be back again as I have to complement organiser Glenn Gyllin and the kart track for a great event.

200202 srkc resultaat