Ruben Boutens

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

Indoor Kart World Championship 2018

Ruben's road to his 2nd world title in 10 pictures
Szczecin (Pl), 22-29 July

There is no other competition for which my preparation is better than for the Indoor Kart World Championship. Preparation is not only about driving practice heats on location, this also concerns physical training in the weeks and months before the event. It is traditionally warm at the end of July and although this year's location in Poland is no Italy or Spain like we experienced in the last years, it was nevertheless warm and I wanted to be ready. In no way my physical condition may be a limitation in racing or endurance, for me this is one of the important side conditions to perform on my best. Practice in the week before the world championship is the most important aspect of preparation though. Where I would drive probably a handful of heats for other competition, for the world championship I don't want to leave anything to chance. I make sure I arrive on time, to adapt to the circumstances the karts and the track. If practice goes well your confidence rises, something your rivals will notice as well, giving you an edge already before the championship has started. I practice always on 91kg, my starting weight for the races, simulating race conditions as much as possible. A heat on 80kg in a fast kart to beat the best time of the day is absolutely not done.

1 wk18 training

Nations Cup
Traditionally the world championship kicks off with the Nations Cup, a team event where you represent your country in a team of 2-4 drivers. The event is split into 2 races, the first to qualify for the big final where eye-catching trophies are on the line. For the third consecutive year, I fought together with my Dutch Value teammates and friends Rico Haarbosch and Lorenzo Stolk for glory on the 22nd of July. The enormous enthusiasm of Rico in the first laps of the race got us in trouble as we received an early penalty for a too aggressive move. We had to give everything to drive back into the top 7, necessary to qualify for the final, in the remainder of the 2-hour race. We made it with a 6th place, but only just. In the final race a Le Mans start was used where I could take the lead in the race from a third position on the grid, starting a very exciting and close 3-hour race. With great stins of both Lorenzo and Rico we were constantly aiming for the victory, but in the end we arrived in 2nd place only a few seconds behind the winning German combination of Sebastian Papke, Dennis Höller, André Lohse and Tobias Laube. A fantastic race, leaving the Belgian team of Mathias Grooten, Yoan Medart and Romano Franssen behind in third. The top drivers already showed their speed, in anticipation of an even more exciting individual championship, two days to cool down before the torches are lighted again.

2 wk18  nations cup

International line-up
The international character of the world championship is utmost special, walk through the beautiful cafeteria of Silver Hotel and Gokart Center and you will hear at least 10 different languages. Sauntering around the parking place, a moment away from the exhaust gases and the tension on the track, you will see number plates from countries you won't visit every year. The temperament of the Brazilian squad, the strong accent of the Australian racer Scott Mutimer and the Scandinavian tranquility and thoroughness, the world championship is a special come-together of top drivers from all over the world. Familiar faces all over the place, but every year some rising stars are emerging, setting foot on the podium for the first time for collecting one of the special KWC medals after one of the races. The presence of the next generation drivers was particularly noticeable this year, the number of teenagers challenging at the front of the field is rapidly increasing over the past years. The opportunism and inexperience of the youth regularly translates into penalties, but certainly also in admiration of the established drivers, a strong motivation for the older generation to step up once more to keep up with the ever increasing level of competition.

3 wk18 internationale veld

My hunt for a second world title crown started on Wednesday July 25th with the first of 8 qualifier races of 25 laps. Practice went very well, but differences were small, details would make the difference. Studying the details is something that I really enjoy, discussing race lines with teammates while being honest but not giving away all your secrets. Changing the position of the seat slightly, seems something little, but practice showed me it did make a big difference. The time that I put the seat in the position which is most comfortable to drive lies far behind me. I knew exactly at which moment of the day (regarding temperature, race direction and condition of the tyres) I had to put the seat in which position, when I had to put the lead in the side pockets of the kart or under my ass and when I had to warm up the tyres or clearly avoid this. Details that count, that make the difference between pole position in the one-lap qualification or not, resulting in an extra point but more important a good starting position for the race. I fully utilised my practice heats to prepare as good as possible and this paid off in the first two days, where I performed on my best in the karts I had, resulting in two second and two first places.

4 wk18 details

Gene Fireball shouts out loud in the pitlane, he puts drivers on their place and is a remarkable appearance in the organisation of the world championship. With his Brazilian American show background he knows how to entertain and to keep everyone happy. As no other, he knows how to break the tense atmosphere and the nerves that go together with all of the races, throwing some striking texts towards the drivers during the drivers briefing or at the prize giving ceremony at the end of each day. The world championship is for most drivers a rollercoaster of emotions. Did you just score a great victory in one of your races, is the next one already around the corner which turns out not to be so successful as you hoped. Hands in the air when an orange flag is pointed towards you, or smashing your gloves on the ground after a frustrating race. My nerves came especially on day 3 and 4 when I knew I was in a good position in the ranking, I knew the possibility was there to extend my world title crown. My will to win increases the tension you feel, which is sometimes hard to control. Luckily last years title gave me calmness and the experience you need to pull the trigger at the moment your competitors collapse under the pressure of the moment.

5 wk18 sfeer

The world championship is long and no driver survives the week without any form of setback. Nor do I, and this week maybe, certainly not me. Karts in general excelled in reliability during the championship, however I was one of the few drivers to experience mechanical failure of the kart during one of my races. While leading race 6, the drive belt from the engine broke and my race was over. I lost costly points, a setback you don't want to experience during a world championship. The malfunction was a result of the heat, as the tarmac on the outside part of the track was suffering and starting to crumble. Small pieces of tarmac were on the track and unfortunately came between the drive belt of my kart which tore. The same dust and stones already cost me a victory in one of the earlier races, as one of the slower drivers in the field drove through the outside line, which put many debris on the ideal line just in front of me. I felt like driving on ice and had to start from 11th position, kick-starting a great comeback race, which I eventually finished in 2nd place. These setbacks were of course very annoying, however I didn't let myself being distracted, after 11 years of participation in the world championship indoor (and experience outdoor) I have went through enough bad luck to put myself over it quickly.

6 wk18 tegenslag

Equality of the karts
The equality of the karts was fantastic this year. In all of my 8 qualifier races I was battling for the victory, in 8 different karts that were not identical, but close enough to be able to make the difference as a driver. This has been different in the past. Nothing is so frustrating as a slower driving beating you with some too fast kart, or drawing a relatively easy group but scoring a bad result as you simply have a kart which is too slow to challenge your direct opponents. This was almost never the case this year, with every kart a podium position was possible something many top drivers proved. Luckily not all of them, because after day 4 I was in second place in the ranking, leaving me a very good starting position for the final day. Only the fast Polish driver Michal Grzyb was one point ahead of me. Many strong rivals and international top drivers such as Sebastian Papke, Yoan Medart, Rico Haarbosch, Romano Franssen, Mathias Grooten, Dennis Höller and Giovanni Baccellieri spoiled some points and were well behind in the standings.

7 wk18 gelijkheid vd karts

Overtaking and tactics
Strategy is an essential part of success during big tournaments, only pure speed is not enough and strategy gives you the opportunity to deal with the circumstances in a smart way. Strategy includes tactics, when to make a pitstop, but also on which moment during the race you have to attack another driver or when you have to be patient. Tactics always has been some of my key strengths, and so was it during this world championship. Making a late pitstop waiting for rivals to starting fighting with each other after their pitstop or running into backmarkers is often a good option. This year however the overheating of the tyres made an undercut pitstop strategy interesting, as tyres could cool down and laptimes often improved after making a pitstop. How much risk do you take while making a pitstop, something causing many errors in the pack. Don't be tempted to leave early when having a 2-second lead in the race. Further my overtakes have been crucial this year, not only when driving back from 11th on the grid to 2nd at the finish line in race 2, but also when taking the lead going into the first corner of the semi final from position 2. After some rain we drove on a wet outdoor track for the first time this week, and with some defensive lines I was able to secure an important win, giving me the championship lead going into the final for the third year in a row.

8 wk18 inhalen en tactiek

The final started with the knock-out battle qualification, extremely important for collecting extra points but moreover for selecting a decent kart to drive the final. This is the moment to shine, to show who really is the fastest driver in one lap. In recent years I was not always able to drive my best laps in these battles, something I definitely wanted to change this time. My battles went superb, I won all of them, beating top drivers as Dennis and Rico. The difference with Dennis was very small, after both of us winning our semi final, Dennis showed that he deserved much more this year than only a place in the top 10, but due to ups and downs and some bad luck there was no place on the podium for him this year. After my last battle I could choose my kart, but the best kart was certainly not there to choose from. In his penultimate battle Michal Grzyb gave this kart away to Jakub Klek, my closest rival in the ranking, trying to give me a less good kart. Luckily I won my last battle, so I still had a good kart, but boy this was a tricky situation with the 55-lap final waiting for us. I knew what to do, finishing in the top-3 would do at all time. But with 19 drivers hunting me down, it was very exciting. The race went very well, I could let Rico by in the beginning of the race, while Klek opted for an early pitstop which virtually brought him the lead in the race. The other drivers couldn't follow, a perfect situation for me as I just followed Rico and didn't take any risks during my pitstop. After 55 laps the championship was over, I was champion again, again CHAMPION!!!!

9 wk18 finale

After the final I put my hands in the air, in contrast to two years ago, it was now me who was 2 points on the right side of the line. I made the maximum out of it this week and the satisfaction was mega. The number one belongs to me for another year, the largest trophy is going with me to the Netherlands again, what an honour. The top 5 consisted furthermore of home driver Jakub Klek who won the final, Rico Haarbosch who came back very strong and made it to the podium for the third year in a row, Polish Michal Grzyb at 4 and a very strong Christophe Verhoeven from Belgian at place 5. I received many congratulations, posed for pictures with some young fans. The appreciation I got from fellow drivers from all over the world was incredible. The trophy I could lift on the final podium was so beautiful that I wanted to take it with me on every picture, no problem that it was so heavy that I could hardly lift it with one hand. From different media various request for interviews came in and some nice articles were written about my renewed success. An amazing experiences and a fantastic title, which makes me very proud again. Next year I will travel to the other side of the ocean to race again in the United States for the first time since Phoenix 2010. In Charlotte, North Caroline we will battle again at the track of Victory Lane Karting, I can't wait.

Thanks to Edyta Paleczka for the pictures.

Congratulations to the other champions:
Juniors: Rico Haarbosch (NL
Women: Selina Balneger (NL)
Masters: Artur Pel (PL)
Teams: Traxxis Racing Team (BE)

10 wk18 waardering