Ruben Boutens

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

Swedish Rental Kart Championship

Ruben with electric karts in Sweden for the first time
Küngälv (Se), 27 January 2019

After having raced in the Belgian (1st), Spanish (2nd) and British (1st last week) national championships in the past months, I travelled to Gothenburg for another KWC qualifier event. I was planning on visiting Sweden already for a couple of years, but flights are typically expensive and this time I finally made it to Sweden for the first time in my life. I arrived at the brand-new track of Gokartcentralen in Küngälv, just 20 minutes North of Gothenburg, where a fleet of electric karts was waiting for us. I drove 3 practice heats on Saturday evening and I had to adapt to the karts as the acceleration and driving style was different compared to normal karts. The championship was organized by Glenn Gyllin who participated in several world championships himself in previous years. Some 60 drivers were presented, most of them coming from either Sweden or Denmark and a lot of strong names amongst them. The format was a special one with first 4 heats including 2 time trials and 2 races with a 2-lap qualification and 2 mandatory longcuts. The worst result was dropped before the top 24 drivers qualified for the semi-final.

190127 srkc 2019

I started my day with 2 victories in the heats while facing amongst others one of the top Swedish drivers of last year’s KWC, Erik Berggren. I could try some more different lines and seat positions, it was strange to not hear any engine sound when accelerating from the pitlane, but I have to say I was positively surprised by the small kart differences and driving of these karts. In my first race I could take pole position and do one of my longcuts while staying in the lead, when the race was stopped because of a kart breakdown. After some discussion it was decided not to restart the race and I won also my 3rd heat. In race 4 I had a difficult kart and I finished in 3rd place behind Danish Nikolaj Marsengo and Carsten Sparholt. I qualified for the semis in 3rd place, tied in points with the top 3, consisting of local star Erkin Bour, Nikolaj Marsengo and Ian Andersen. In the semis we could pick our karts in the order of the ranking, so I had the second kart pick after Ian. The race went really well, after I took pole position I could drive away slowly from the rest of the field and take my longcuts without losing the lead in the race.

190127 srkc 2019 podium

For the final 8 drivers were left and the classic and fair knock-out qualification system was applied to determine the kart allocation and starting order. I managed to win my first duals from Alex Engblom and Nikolaj Marsengo before facing Erkin Bour in the last battle. I noticed that our times were very close all day and ultimately, we were split by 0.01 of a second after 2 laps of the both of us, Erkin won the battle and had the first kart pick. The track was not easy to overtake so I knew I had a difficult race on my hands. In the first few laps a small incident where I was pushed wide cost me a couple of seconds. I tried to bridge the gap and came very close again to Erkin, but just as I was almost on his bumper, he found an extra gear and drove away from me again with small margins. I tried to force something with a double longcut, but I couldn’t reach his bumper again, so I had to settle for second place in the race, which also meant a second place in the championship. Erkin was the deserved winner and took home the 3000 SEK prize money and free KWC entry ticket. I was a bit disappointed just after the race, but happy to be on the podium again in another international race. The third place and junior title was for Nikolaj Marsengo, a great talent! Carsten Sparholt won the masters category and therefor also received a free entry to the 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship in the USA. All in all, it was a great experience and I hope to be back next year!

British Rental Kart Championship 2019

Ruben battles his way to incredible sixth British title
Milton Keynes (Gb), 19-20 January 2019

The British Rental Kart Championship (BRKC) is arguably the most professional indoor kart championship in the world. In no other championship the level of live coverage and entertainment is so good as it is Milton Keynes in the first month of the year during the BRKC at Formula Fast Karting. Additionally, the kart equality and the set-up of the event makes sure it is also one of the fairest championships. No surprise the championship was sold out in a couple of hours, attracting top drivers from all over the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. Weeks before the championship actually starts, the enthusiasm rises as group draws are done, predictions are made, practice heats performed and the prefaces are written. Friday 18th of January 2019 all competitors meet at the track for their last chance to drive around the circuit before the money is on the line. 100 drivers, 90kg minimum weight, 40 heats, 30 semi-finalists, 10 drivers per race, 10 finalists, 2 commentators, 2 different lay-outs, 1 pitstop per heat and 1 hotlap qualification before every race. These were the numbers that we knew before the races got underway on Saturday morning, everyone was excited to find out how the 100 places in the final ranking would be filled in.

No matter if you are watching a BRKC race from the cafeteria inside the karting, from your phone at the beach in Australia, from the couch warm at home or in the cold at the side of the track, it is always a great pleasure to watch. No matter if you are watching the heat of death or a race with 10 drivers you have never heard of before, the legendary BRKC commentator James Auld makes sure you are always at the tip of your chair enjoying the race, as he and co-commentator Spanners Ready provide every race from detailed and passionate commentary and post-race interviews. Half of the drivers was scheduled for 3 races on day 1 whereas the other half would drive their last 2 heat races on Sunday. Happy faces and disappointed faces, celebration of good results and incorrect pitstops, bas pass flags and fantastic overtakes, pitstop strategy and defensive driving, the heats on Saturday had everything to offer you could wish. About my own heats, of which I had 3 on Saturday, I couldn’t complain at all. Only in my last race I didn’t start from pole position as Spanish Ramon Pineiro put in a fantastic qualifying lap, but in the end of the day I was able to win all my 3 races, topping the ranking after day one. I was happy given some of my UK rivals that I faced already, including Ed White, Sean Brierley, Lee Hackett, Dan Healey and Bradley Philpot.

Sunday was the big day, in fact, today the all decisive final was due at the end of the day’s program. But to come there, a first cut of 70 drivers had to be survived to enter the semi-finals. As the difference between place 20 and 40 was so small, clearly some drivers took additional risks to get themselves over the line in their final heat race. After the final heat was finished Sunday afternoon, it was double BRKC champion (2012 & 2013) Lee Hackett who was in the lead with 39 points. I was tied in points with Lee after having had a very difficult 4th heat with some close-fought battles where I ultimately came home in second place behind the fast BRKC debutant Brandon Williams who outqualified me and defended his position well during the race. A few top drivers including Jonny Elliott and Matt Bartsch even didn’t make the semi’s, showing what kind of level we had on our hands this weekend. The semi-finals are always very exciting, even the drivers who are in the top of the ranking are not guaranteed of a place in the final as points are ever so close. Three groups, all 20-minute race preceded by a hotlap qualification. It was my BlueStar teammate Logan Sougne from Belgium who managed to win the first semi-final, while there was some English drama with Sean Brierley (who was very fast all weekend) spoiling his potential semi-final win and place in the final by making an error in the pitlane and Lee Hackett having an unlucky kart-draw and finishing in 7th position.

In the second semi-final it was my other BlueStar teammate Yoan Medart who climbed up to second place in the ranking by winning the race in fine style, underlining his candidacy for another BRKC podium position after having finished 3rd in the last year’s final. I was able to score a 2nd place with a difficult kart after a nice battle with Polish young talents Nowicki and Matys, which was good enough to secure the first place in the ranking. The third semi-final was probably the hardest one with Michal and Wojtek Grzyb from Poland (both frontrunners at the past world championship indoor) and English hopes Ed White and local driver Lewis Manley. It was Ed White who drove a very strong race to the victory which secured his place in the final. While Lewis Manley just made the final with a 6th place finish, it was Wojtek Grzyb who fell down from 4th to outside the top 10. Apart from Logan, Lee, Yoan, myself, Ed and Lewis, the other finalist were British Brandon Williams and Dean Hale, Polish Michal Grzyb and his talented countryman Patryk Nieroda. Dutch youngster Guillermo van Pamelen just missed out on the final after a great weekend and ended up in 12th place. One by one we had to drive our qualification lap in the number 11 kart to determine the starting order of the 30-minute final. The tension was very high, laptimes so close, the track more slippery than you would like. I had the first kart pick, a big advantage but with the kart parity being so good the start position was more crucial to fight for the title. My lap was good, but apparently not good enough for pole position, I qualified in third behind Michal Grzyb and Lee Hackett, and only just before Patryk Nieroda. The top 4 was split by only 0.02 of a second, insane!

The final was underway and two outsiders from the back pitted early, Yoan Medart and Ed White both didn’t qualify in the top 5 but they were certainly not to be underestimated. Lee covered the inside of most corners in the beginning of the race, not much looking behind and following Michal. When Michal pulled away slightly and Ed started to increase his pace at the back of the field, I knew I had to make a move. At the end of the straight, going into the hairpin, I found the right moment to overtake Lee and get into second position. Michal was just a second away and I could close the gap in a couple of laps. He was smart and defended his position at the end of the straight, giving me no possibility to overtake at that point again. I backed off a bit to speed up the pace as the defensive lines cost too much time looking at our advantage to Ed, which was just about 22 seconds at that moment, knowing that we still had to make 2 pitstops of about 10-11 seconds. Halfway through the race I was on Michal’s bumper again as Ed still closed in slowly. If I couldn’t overtake him on the track, my strategy was an undercut with a double pitstop, but if that would give me first place was far from sure. I went for an attack in the final corner of the track where I managed to get past Michal, it was for sure a risky move as a bad pass would probably give Ed the virtual lead in the race. Luckily it worked out perfectly for me although Ed was now only 21.6 seconds away. I know had to make the most out of my kart which was a good one for sure and could get some purple times (fastest racelap) on the scoreboard.

I felt that the control of the race came back in my hands, and I waited until the last 5 minutes to perform my pitstops, to build up a slightly bigger gap, so I didn’t have to take any big risks in the pit. I exited the pit only a second before Ed, the crowd was on their feet and the atmosphere amazing. Both Ed and I went into the 31.5 laptimes which were the fastest times of the entire weekend! When I saw the chequered flag I felt fabulous, winning for the 6th year in a row is another dream come through, it is almost incredible for myself as well to win the biggest trophy and the ₤1000 cash prize. I knew at the beginning of the weekend I had a chance again to go for another title, but with so many big names on the grid I never take something for granted, everyone starts from zero and every single mistake can cost you a place in the final. Given the amazing live-coverage on Youtube a lot of people followed the race via internet, which makes performing well at this event even much more special. Ed White and Michal Grzyb finished in 2nd and 3rd place respectively, while Lee Hackett and Lewis Manley fought their way into the top 5 as well. Together with Logan and Yoan I secured the team championship, for which we all three received a fantastic trophy of glass. Once more I would like to thank the English people, commentators, organiser Bradley Philpot, track staff and camera crew for their warm welcome and the great weekend. I can imagine many people would love to see a different winner sometime, but it means a lot to me to win this title again! Hope to see you all in again in 2020 at a new edition of the British Rental Kart Championship!

Thanks to Mad Brothers Racing Team; Bradley Philpot and Lee Marshall for the Pictures !