Ruben Boutens

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

Total 25 hours Eupen

BlueStar shines in the prime endurance race of the year
Eupen (Be), 25-27 September 2020

It’s the 25th of September 2020, I close my laptop after a long week of working, I pull on my BlueStar shirt and step into my car, Flitsmeister open, navigation on, destination: Karting Eupen. I quickly check if I have my face mask on board, the object which seems more important than your karting helmet these days when going to a race. From code yellow to orange to red from Belgium to Holland and vice versa, I heard them all this week. But for me the one and only color this weekend is blue, the blue of my Belgian BlueStar friends with whom I will participate in the 15th edition of the 25 hours of Eupen! A race many indoor kart drivers would love to win, and a race which is feared by many because of the tough physical conditions. On the way to Belgium I picked up my friend Eliano de Vos who will make his debut in the 25 hours of Eupen this weekend for the Dutch/Belgian formation of Blue-Vanquish. As we close in on the Belgian border, we make a quick stop at our favorite haute-cuisine fastfood restaurant symbolised with a large yellow/red M. Would it really be code red?

200927 25h bluestar
200927 25h jos titou (1)

We make the bet, cross the border and when I saw the big smile on the face of Titou Sougné I knew I made the right decision, arrive a Eupen! No handshake these time but a fist bump, a what? I made my way to the briefing where organiser Evelien Bonneux and race director Regis Bovy gave the team captains and some interested drivers the last information. Every hour another briefing, in four different languages, it underlines the professionalism of the organisation and the international character of the event. After the briefing we had 2 and a half hour practice, where I first drove the new track. After my first session, my French-speaking teammate Logan Sougné showed me how to really drive the track, beating my time by some margin. I had to improve my speed and luckily I did so, giving me confidence for the race of tomorrow as I knew from the past years that Logan is always a good benchmark in Eupen. Helmet off, face mask on and direction of family Sougné where I stayed over for the night! A friendly hug when seeing our small BlueStar fan Darcy again and then it was time to take some rest in preparation of the big race!

200927 25h yoan

26 September 2020, drivers Opnithi Puyato, Romano Franssen, Yoan Medart, Logan Sougné, Christian Douven and Ruben Boutens are called for the team photo, together with our motivators and team captains Gregory Laporte and Mellanie Motz we pose for the picture. Face masks on, flash, face masks off for a seco, flash, the picture you secretly prefer but the one you should not show on Social Media. Back to the pitlane where Greg called the team together. With the rule book under his arm he stresses the important items in the regulation, no matter the past successes we have had here, we should push in every stint and not underestimate any of our rivals. We are all six ready, dressed up in blue and motivated like never before. Christian does the qualification, takes third spot, the clock starts ticking, we have 24 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds to go. Christian together with Logan are two of our drivers which are setting the pace at Eupener Karting in the past years, and so he did again in the first hour of the race by taking the lead, our rivals being not far behind.

200927 25h romano

Every hour we are called in for a kart change, 25 stints for every team with 25 different karts, a fair system. Fifteen teams in the race this year, a bit less than previous years, partly because of the Covid-19 situation, but most of the top drivers are present and there is little space for mistakes. The second hour is mine and I do the first of 8 mandatory stints on 95 kg (instead of 85 kg) with a good kart. After ten minutes I hear via the radio: “You are the fastest on track” from my teammates, a confidence booster and I push for every tenth of a second. The level of grip is increasing and the track gets faster and faster. Logan takes over and drives strong laptimes as well. One of our rivals has a look at the side of the track and notices Logan is driving with the fluor yellow bracelet indicating he is on 95 kg as well, a small mental uppercut. Yoan is with his 28 years our oldest driver this year (similar to Romano and me by the way) and he prepared very well for this year’s edition, which was clearly visible in his first stint. A real team player and already a top rental kart driver for more than a decade. I remember us fighting in the final of the 2011 world championship in Eupen as well, a few hundred meters from here and now 9 years later we are still pushing each other to the next level, now as teammates.

200927 25h ruben

Despite our strong laptimes thus far, we are closely chased by the German team of PF Racing, including world class drivers as Marc Schings, reigning world champion Michael Schöttler and vice-world champion Dennis Höller who was flying to the fastest lap in the race during the first half of the competition. Additionally, we were challenged by the Belgian team of Acuity Racing, dressed in brand new suits with strong drivers as Bart Paret, Cemil Yamizoglu and rising youngster Vica Schledz. Opnithi was our next driver, his debut in the A-team of BlueStar in this particular race, but already showed his great speed in many international races in the past years and there was no doubt in lining him up this time. Opnithi drove on 95kg as well and while Eupen was not his favorite track in the past, he was superfast this weekend. As he drove without gloves, we had to sanitise his entire kart after every stint according to the rules, which was a bit hilarious in the pitlane as our rivals taking over our kart where not too enthusiastic about the soapy steering wheel. Meanwhile Team Poland was raising some eyebrows as well, Adam Szydlowski and Artur Pel were not only fast, with a total driving time of close to ten hours they were far ahead of most other drivers as they lined up with only four drivers this weekend!

200927 25h finish

Sixth in line was Romano, a very humble guy with most likely the most impressive resume of our team if it comes to endurance races in Eupen. We were very happy to have Romano on board again this weekend, as he was part of our winning team in the past three editions as well. The level of grip further increased and that is something Romano knows how to deal with. After Romano I drove my second stint with another nice kart. When driving in Eupen I’m still inspired by one of my former BlueStar teammates with whom I won the 2011 edition of the 24 hours of Eupen, Kenny Geldhof. He was a master in putting in consistent laptimes every single lap while maximising the capabilities of the kart. Closing in on midnight it was not only counting down to Christian’s birthday and the cake of Jos Douven, we were also preparing for the direction change which is always a major strategic element in this race. As the leader in the race will be picked up by the pace kart, you do not want to be leading and rather spent a substantial amount of the minimum time you have to be in the pit. With 2 minutes to go the pit closed and more than half of the teams was in the pit, with PF Racing being the leader in the race.

200927 25h team spirit

When they left the pitbox, we knew what to do and Greg perfectly timed re-entering the track with Acuity behind us. Acuity however took a bit too much risk, as they were overtaken by Schöttler in the very last lap before the pace kart came out, which cost them almost a lap. We were spot on and gained more than 40 seconds on our two main rivals, for a moment we celebrated as if we already won the race, leaving behind our rivals looking somewhat disappointed. A few minutes later we reset our focus as we knew the race was far from over yet. I went to sleep for a couple of hours and when I came back I saw what I was hoping for, we increased our lead in the normal direction. It is a luxury position when you know you can put anyone from the team in the kart and be almost equally fast. Having no weak spots and increasing your advantage is what can demotivate competitors. We pulled away to over 2 and a half lap when going into the closing stages of the race. When we all did 4 hours of driving, it was up to Logan to finish the race. In his typical aggressive driving style he was once more impressive and was chasing a three-lap lead. In the very last lap he overtook PF Racing going three laps ahead, a great feeling to finish off the race like that, probably our biggest lead we ever had in Eupen!

200927 25h teamchef

Although I’m a great fan of individual races, this weekend was certainly a dream to be part of such strong team. Apart from the first place trophy, we were voted the team with the best team spirit by all other teams, a great honor. Gregory and Mellanie were rewarded with the best team chef trophy! Congratulations to the German team of PF Racing for their second place! For the third position a great battle between Acuity and Blue-Vanquish unfolded in the last hours of the race, which was won by Blue-Vanquish, a great performance of Eliano, Benjamin Kaivers, Jimmy Gaspard, Donovan van den Abbeel, Felix Ferir and Jordan Remels. In my 25th 24 (or 25) hour race, I took my 12th win, but the fourth win in a row with BlueStar in this 25 hour event was making it very special. I would like to thank my teammates, our supporters and parents and the organisation for a great race weekend!

200927 25h podium

25 hours of Eupen

BlueStar realizes fantastic hattrick in Eupen’s finest
Eupen, 29/30 September 2018

The 25 hours of Eupen, as if 24 hours weren’t enough. Eupen’s most prestigious race was back in the last weekend of September. Together with my fellow BlueStar teammates, Christian Douven, Mathias Grooten, Logan Sougne, Romano Franssen, Yoan Medart and our team captain Gregory Laporte I was entering this race again. A very strong line up of 18 teams with plenty of international flavor prepared for one of toughest races of the season. On Friday evening the briefing and practice took place, a relaxed atmosphere was present and some final preparations by all teams were done. As we won the race in the last 2 years, we were seen as the favorite by many people. However, we were well aware of the competition out there and especially the Belgian/German team of Acquity Racing was on full power and looking for their first victory in this race. On Saturday morning the track was cold as ice, something that would change quickly. I started the 25-lap qualifier and handed over to our top talent Logan Sougne halfway through the session. He managed to grab the 3rd spot on the grid, behind both Acquity teams and before some strong Polish teams.

The race was underway and Logan took second place quickly. Only Marc Schings from Acquity was too quick for us in the beginning of the race, but no stress as we would exchange all 19 karts during the race. This meant we had to do 19 stints of about 1 hour and 20 minutes, including 6 on 95kg instead of 85. Logan did a good stint and I went out on track for the second, immediately on 95kg. Right after me Yoan and Romano did two more stints on 95kg, and we all managed to drive laptimes which were still amongst the fastest in the field. We build up a lead from the second stint onwards and felt confident about our pace so far. The professionalism of the organization was seen in many aspects, interviews broadcasted live with all teams, massage available in the lounge upstairs and the crew very helpful both on and off track. As the evening came closer I did my second stint already, again on 95kg and I was able to match the pace of our main rivals in the previous stint on 85kg. This felt very good and we tried to increase our lead over Acquity Racing.

After an hour of 6 our lead stabilized, Acquity seemed to be our only real rival this weekend, but they certainly didn’t give up yet. When I finished my second stint I was going for some fresh air and a pizza outside the karting track, with 6 drivers you have time to relax and I could prepare already for some more action during the night. Meanwhile Christian and Mathias did their first stints, the first adapting amazingly quick to the circumstances and the latter struggling a bit more on the very grippy and tricky track. Halfway through the race, the direction was changed and the leaders were picked up by a safety kart. We tried to avoid being in the lead, as you always lose time being the first behind the safety kart, and we could play around with our strategy as we had to spend a certain time in the pit. Acquity was also alert and in the end, we were in the lead halfway and hence, lost some time. Our advance was reduced to a virtual 25 seconds and we felt the competition in every stint. Acquity had quite a different strategy as they drove the first half of the race with 3 drivers in one direction, and left the other 3 for the normal race direction.

While some people went to bed for a while, I was ready to step back into the race in the middle of the night. Some crucial hours were awaiting us and I could drive my first stint on 85kg. The grip level was insane and also very narrow. Being off the main grip line with 20 centimeter could mean that you completely lost the kart in under- or oversteer and that made it very, very hard to drive consistent laptimes. Bjorn Aelberts from Acquity was a little slower than me on fastest laptime, but his average was impressive and so he stayed very close. Our advantage was reduced to 20 seconds when I entered the track, but as Cemil Yamizoglu from the Acquity squad had a very bad kart, I could take back a full lap. The stint after, we had this same kart, and I took this kart on me as well, driving a stint of 2 hours and 40 minutes. I could limit the damage in this kart to maximum half a lap, which still gave us a lead of a lap and 10 seconds. My job was done for the moment, I went upstairs to the sleeping room, trying to catch some sleep.

I had full confidence in my teammates, and especially role of Gregory was not to be underestimated, he kept us sharp all race long, being on the side of the track or in the pitlane for the entire weekend, always supporting and motivating us. That was necessary, as Acquity kept pushing as well. When I woke up again, it was exciting to check the score board, and we were luckily still in the lead with an advantage of about a lap. The last couple of hours arrived and Christian, Logan and Yoan once more pulled the trigger. It was great to see them excel in such a big race. Acquity was strong until the end, coming back into the same lap in the last hour of the race and finishing just 40 seconds behind us after 25 hours!! That’s not even one and a half second per hour. But we made it, a fantastic feeling and with great team spirit we secured our third victory in a row at the 25 hours of Eupen! A great round of appreciation we would like to give to the organizers and all participating teams who made this event worth remembering again. Hope to se you all next year!