Ruben Boutens

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

British Rental Kart Championship 2017

Ruben in style to unbelievable 4th consecutive title
Milton Keynes (GB), 21/22 January 2017

brkc 2017 logo

On Friday the 20th of January I stepped into the car together with my mother, sister Annelien and her boyfriend Joris and my girlfriend Edyta on our way towards another edition of the British Rental Kart Championship (BRKC). It is traditionally the first big event of the year on the calendar and the BRKC is always one I put in my agenda with a big exclamation mark behind it! The organization in the hands of Bradley Philpot, together with the hosts of Formula Fast indoor karting and the finishing touch of the live streaming and commentating by James Auld makes this event a very professional one. It is no longer the question if all 100 available spots will be filled but rather when this will happen. I was one of the lucky names to be on the entry list for the 2017 edition and on Friday afternoon my weekend kicked-off with a couple of practice session on my so beloved track. After 2 short sessions the feeling was right again and I called it a day, already looking forward to the start of the heat races and catching up with some friends from all over Europe.

brkc2017 ruben mathias

On Saturday morning the championship went underway with the first of no less than 40 heats of 20 minutes, preceded by a one-lap qualifying and including a mandatory pitstop. The pitstop system with 2 lasers you have to break for a certain time period works great and leaves some space to gain an advantage over your competitors, however it could be risky as well and already in the first few heats we saw people making mistakes by leaving to early. In my first heat I immediately faced some strong competitors like Russen Endean (GB), Matt Bartsch (PL) and Ramon Pineiro (SP). I was able to qualify in pole position just before British Simon Cleaver, which was a bit of a surprise. In the race I could pull away from the others and Matt was able to move on to second position, a nice start of the weekend for me. We then moved on to the alternative layout for heats 2 & 3, which was pretty similar to last year’s alternative track. My second heat was halfway through the afternoon and was called the ‘heat of death’ by many people, not in the last place because the complete top 3 from last year’s edition was represented, with Lewis Manley (GB) and Stefan Verhofste (BE). I drew kart number 15 which appeared to be a very decent one, which enabled me to take pole position with a lead of over half a second to the first challenger. Calum Conway was particularly strong in this heat and was able to fight himself to a second position at the finish line.

brkc 2017 kristof dielis 2

There was still 9 hours of BRKC racing to go on day one, but for me the day was already finished and so I could change clothes and watch some of the other races while enjoying my two wins of today. During the day I saw a couple of drivers winning their first 2 heats, fellow countryman Thom van Dijk, Belgian Mathias Grooten and British Bradley Philpot and Sean Brierley. But close behind were many strong drivers only just one or a few points down. My sister Annelien was doing a great job as well, she was one of the 50 drivers who already drove her third heat and managed to score a 1st, 3rd and 3rd place, while the last one should have been a 1st as well as she was bumped out of the track at the end of the straight unfortunately. On day 2 I was a lot more nervous than on the first day, I had the feeling that I had a chance of going all the way once more and when ‘the money’ is on the line the tension rises. Heat 3 was on paper my easiest group, but it was this heat that in the qualifying lap I was challenged by Belgian Sander de Baets who only just missed pole position that I stole from him with 0.001 second. In the race he stayed close behind in kart 15, but luckily I could shake him off with a very good pitstop. For the first time I had to take some risk in the pit this year.

brkc2017 ruben by tim andrew

Then in heat 4 I was up against Sean Brierley, a fast driver who looked even more dangerous with a mighty beard on his face. I felt very comfortable and it seemed there were no bad karts, so in every kart you could go for a win. However you cannot underestimate any heat and I have a lot of respect for Sean who showed already last year to be a very strong competitor. In the qualifying I was 0.07 in front of Sean, while in the race I could slowly build up a gap and win my fourth heat of the weekend. Sean would later on during the day just miss out on the final and ended up the championship in 11th position.

brkc 2017 finalists

It was time for the semifinals and I was the only one to complete the series of heats with a perfect score, closely followed by Mathias and Regis Gosselin (BE) just one point behind. I deemed these drivers the most dangerous and they both won their semifinal! However many more top racers were present in the semis and no mistakes were allowed. For the first time I missed pole position this weekend, which was claimed by British Chris Daines. The top 4 was within 0.035 of a second, ridiculously close, as we are used to in BRKC! The race was again the same format as the heats and like in heat 4 we were back on the traditional layout. My kart missed some top speed which made it a tad more difficult to place an attack at the end of the straight, and I decided to try to follow Chris and pull away together.
Thom van Dijk and Andy Gaban (BE) behind me kept following though, and when Thom started to increase the pressure I decided to go for a late move into the main hairpin. This worked out well as I was able to take the race lead and after Chris made his pitstops I could create a little margin by driving just a bit more consistent than the guys behind. I knew second place would be enough to maintain the lead in the ranking and thereby the first kart pick for the final, so I didn’t want to take all the risks in the pit. As the guys in 3rd and 4th were still close I could not take it too easy in the pits, my pitstop was solid and I came out in the lead again, I also won the semifinal in front of Chris and Thom. A few big names dropped after the semis, including 2014 runner up Annelien (19th), 2015 runner up Stefan (29th) and Bradley (13th) who had to drive a very difficult kart after switching karts before qualifying. I was interview right after my race and they asked me about the winning streak of 12 races since the semifinal of 2015 in which I finished 2nd behind Annelien. I knew it was going very well but at the same time there was only one race that counted also in this weekend, the big final which was about to go underway.

brkc 2017 by edyta

As I was able to choose the first kart I knew I had a good kart so qualifying was going to be crucial. Even though I won the BRKC in the past 3 years at this track, I never managed to come out first in the shoot-out qualifying for the final, having qualified 2nd in 2015 and 2016. Now it wasn’t so easy as well as we saw the laptimes going slower and slower as the shoot-out progressed. Mathias only managed to qualify 6th being the 8th driver out and also Regis could not beat the times of the first 2 qualifiers Sam Spinnael (BE) and Lewis Manley (fastest so far). I knew I had to put in a very good lap and took all the risks by going flat out. It paid off, I heard to sound of the crowd going wild just after I crossed the line and checked the score board showing my name all the way on top, I was delighted and tried to stay calm as the final still had to start. After a quick photoshoot the engines were started and the 30 minute final include 2 pitstops was started.

brkc2017 ruben met fans

I was lucky to have Lewis and Sam behind me, they had the 2 last kart picks and I could pull away directly from Lewis. Regis anticipated on the defending driving of Lewis and immediately dived into the pits in lap 2. Sam followed a lap later and as Mathias didn’t storm to the front that fast, I knew I had to keep an eye on especially Regis who overtook Sam with his pitstop. Laptimes were pretty similar but when the tyres warmed up a bit more, I was able to outpace them by on average a tenth or so per lap. From this moment I knew I could well win the final again. I decided to save my stops for the end of the race, there was no reason to visit the pit early and I overtook some back markers which happened without any problems. Mathias moved on to 2nd position in the race but still had to make a pitstop, like Thom in 3rd position. A train of Lewis defending his 7th position in front of Matt, Chris and Andy was causing Mathias to make his first pitstop a bit earlier then planned. I waited until I would come out ahead of them after my first stop which I made like 8 minutes before the end of the race, not much later being followed by my second stop. I didn’t have to take any risks and came out 3-4 seconds in front of Regis who had pulled away from Sam. Sam and Mathias then fought for the last podium position including a free world championship ticket. Mathias overtook Sam but then made a big mistake by leaving the pits too early and fell all the way down in the ranking. Sam capitalized and made it to third, before the other youngster Thom and Bjorn Vermeulen (BE) who came home in a very good 5th place.

brkc 2017 podium

Some people might think that is normal for me to win yet another (BRKC) title, but let me be clear, it is absolutely not. Being in the final of an event like BRKC is already something really special and every time I’m able to lift the biggest trophy on the top step of the podium is such a moment of ultimate glory which feels better than anything else. Getting the respect from so many other competitors out there and reading the reactions from many people from really all over the world (and I don’t exaggerate) who followed the races via the magnificent live stream is so great. BRKC is an event with such a powerful concept and I’m grateful to everyone who participated and contributed to making this event as good as it is. Likely I will be beaten in BRKC some time, the time will learn us when it will be, but I would almost say that if I would be beaten some year I hope it’s by a British driver because the British people make us feel very welcome over and over again every year. To be continued in 2018!

Photos courtesy of: Tim Andrew, Bradley Philpot, Edyta Paleckza, Marc Alexander Stordeur, Belinda Norris, Janneke Boutens.

Race Report and Full Results on BRKC.co.net

brkc 2017 happy