Ruben Boutens

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

Belgian National Kart Championship 2021

Ruben very strong in BNC but misses out on podium
Kortrijk (Be), 3-4 July 2021

In the strange year 2021 which was still heavily impacted by the Covid-19 situation around the world, the first large international rental kart championship was planned for the first weekend of July, after being postponed twice, the Covid-19 situation now allowed for a large international championship on the Belgian track of Kortrijk, the Belgian National Championship (BNC). The track of Kortrijk is always a special one to me as I drove my first Indoor Kart World Championship there back in 2008 and it was the first time the BNC visited this track after being held in Dolhain in the past four years. On Friday before the race and Saturday morning, there was the opportunity to practice on the track and on Saturday afternoon the championship got underway with the first heat races.

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On Saturday the first three heat races for all drivers were raced and every heat consisted of a single lap qualification and a sprint race including one longcut which was a strategical element you could use. My championship could not have started better with three victories on day one, having drawn some average karts and a very good one, allowing me to lead the championship after day one. My fellow countrymen Rico Haarbosch and Vica Scheldz followed closely with two victories and a podium each. On Sunday morning the last two heat races were driven to determine which 45 drivers would make it into the semi finals after dropping half of their worst points score. My qualifications were very good all weekend and that allowed met to start from pole position in race 4 and 5 again which is always crucial in these short sprint races on indoor tracks as it gives a huge advantage in track position despite the various possibilities to overtake on the track of Kortrijk. I managed to score two more victories and therefore qualified for the first semi final as the points leader again.

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The championship continued with three semi finals of 15 drivers with another hotlap qualification. I qualified just outside the top three this time but as the differences were small, nothing was lost yet. I fought my way up to the top three during the race, both by overtakes on the track and by waiting long to use my longcut. By doing the longcut you basically cut the first corner and therefor you won some seconds in track position but as you missed the crossing of the start/finish line, you missed one lap and had to be careful not to end up with blue flags. When waiting long to make the longcut, you had to take into account traffic from back markers. With very consistent laptimes and a late longcut I was able to jump all my competitors and continue my winning streak with a 6th consecutive victory! I was however not the leader in the championship as Rico just overtook me by scoring three more points for the qualification in the semi final. Rico won the second semi final and the third one was won by the strong Belgian competitor Mats de Jong who won the championship back in 2017.

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After Rico and myself, it were Christian Douven (NL), Bram Gelten (NL), Vica, Thomas Haglestein (BE), Mats, Michael Schöttler (DE), Jarno Hermans (NL), Nicolas Leroy (BE), Fabian Siegmann (DE) and Yoan Medart (BE) to qualify for the grand final featuring the best 12 drivers of the weekend. The qualification for the final consisted of three hotlaps in three different karts for each of the 12 drivers which went out on tracks in four groups of three. I chose to drive in the second group which was with hindsight probably not the best choice as in the last groups when the tyres were warmed up most, the three fastest qualification times were driven. I qualified in fourth position which meant there was still nothing lost. The final was all decisive for the championship and the points leader had the first kart pick, I chose my kart second. The kart differences were however so small that it was almost impossible to pick a kart, which is off course a big compliment to the organisation and not seen very often. In the final 2 longcuts had to be made. Christian qualified in pole position ahead of Vica, Rico and myself. In the second corner of the race, Rico immediately attacked Vica with a late but good move and together they went wide. I could undercut the two exiting the corner but the next corner was a long left hander and I was just not far enough ahead to cut to the inside line and Rico could come back next to me. As a result, I got tangled up on the outside of turn 3 and lost several places and crucial time.

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I started my recovery giving everything I had an waiting long with longcuts while most of my rivals took them in the beginning of the race. It was a very close battle on laptimes and Vica and me were winning back time on Christian and Rico. Rico however closed the gap to Christian as well and overtook him for the virtual lead in the race. Towards the end of the race I started gaining more time and came back into fourth position. Vica overtook Christian with the longcut and started to chase Rico, going bumper to bumper into the last lap. I was chasing Christian and managed to get on his bumper on the last corner, crossing the finish line side by side just a second behind Rico and Vica, but it was just not enough. Rico won hist first BNC title ahead of Vica and Christian, a thrilling final as a crown on a great championship. For me it was however a big disappointment, being dominant in the championship with 6 out of 6 wins up to the final, but still missing out on the podium, that hurts! Congratulations to the podium finishers, all three drove a super weekend and therefore a well deserved podium! Next to the individual championship there was also a team ranking where I managed to take the victory together with Yoan Medart and Eliano de Vos! Big thanks to Mathias Grooten and Gregory Laporte and the track of Flanders Indoor Karting Kortrijk for the amazing championship.

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