Ruben Boutens

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

24 hours of Brussels

Ruben & Mathias perform the impossible!
Brussels, 22&23 April 2017

It was in 2010 when I really discovered the art called endurance racing. It was in April of that year when I was invited for one of the biggest 24-hour indoor kart races in Europe to drive in one of the top team consisting of Bart van de Vel, Mathias Grooten and Nikki Swannet. We won that race, and during this race I drove a stint of over 2 hours for the first time in my life, a new experience. In the years after I realised how special it was to have won this race, only in 2015 I managed to win it for the second time. It was around that time I started speculating with Mathias about driving the race just with the two of us. An incredible idea which started as a crazy plan but late 2016 we decided to finally go for it in the 2017 edition. Prepared as much as we could we arrived in Brussels on the 22nd of April, ready for one of the biggest challenges in our karting careers. Although we were going to drive the race with 2, we had the help of a couple of our Bluestar teammates and especially Robin Borremans who wanted to help us during the entire weekend in coaching and tactics, so we could focus on racing and recovery afterwards as much as possible.

170423 24h team

After the free practice we decided that Mathias was going to do the 15 minute-qualifying session. We had an average kart and Mathias managed to qualify in third position. During the race we had to drive 6 hours on minimum 90kg, the remainder on at least 80kg. We didn’t quite have an exact schedule of how we were going to divide the stints but we wanted to do the hours on 90kg with the best 3 karts. We had to do both 10 kart and driver changes which means stints of 2 hours and 10 minutes. During the first 4 hours we both drove a good stint with average karts, first falling back a bit to fifth place and then coming back to second place. A couple of strong competitors were Bluestar 2 with some world class drivers, Hola Lulu Racing and DWT Racing, all with a very strong 4 or 5-man line-up. After Mathias did the first hours on 90kg I was going for a double stint of almost 4 and a half hour. In the beginning of the race we were every time a bit faster than our opponents with the same karts, so we could take the lead and start building an advantage which we might have needed approaching the second part of the race. During this stint the lights fell out for like five minutes and the race was not stopped. Especially inside it was extremely dark and also dangerous as some drivers slowed down. I tried to stay up to speed as much as possible as I saw the score board was still on and we won a lot of time here, sometimes even up to 3 seconds a lap. After my second stint I still felt ok and Mathias did sleep for a while. In the next stint a change of direction took place, a novelty in the 27-year history of this event, and it was done with no team winning or losing any time! We then had another strong kart and Mathias drove again one stint on 90kg, because we wanted to change the weight to 80kg again afterwards.

170423 24h podium

This worked out well as Mathias was again one of the fastest guys on track even with 90kg. The other side of the medal was that I had little time to recover after my long stint, having had my second massage during the race. I felt during this third stint that I was losing a bit of energy, I still drove good laptimes but the consistency was a bit less good. We were 2 laps ahead of our competitors but I was worried at this time, knowing how long we still had to go. At the end of my stint it started raining just before the kart change and Mathias then continued after having to puke just before stepping into the kart. After eating a bit, I wanted to go to bed as quick as possible and asked my teammates to wake me up when needed. I could sleep for an hour of 2 and was then waked up again. Mathias was driving for 3 hours and I had to prepare again. The sleep did help me, and before I stepped in the kart once more I took some painkillers, some energy drink and a couple of shots of sugar. Like in my previous stint I wore a neck protector (something I practically never do) and a sweater over my suit to feel less pain. During the driver change Mathias shouted at me, ‘keep pushing, keep pushing’, a little bit extra motivation and out on the track I was again. It went well, I could maintain our 2-lap lead and started to enjoy the race again while the sun came up. Slowly I started to believe in something special. With 4 and a half hour to go Mathias took over the steering wheel again and DWT was still dangerous, starting to close in slightly and coming back to one and a half lap behind while we had to were a driver change behind and still had to drive 1 hour and 45 minutes on 90kg.

170423 24h mathias en ruben

I was then facing Filipe Vieira who was closing in on me as he drove on 80kg, DWT was very strong this race and the race was not over yet. Luckily, I was able to still drive fast and consistent times and could limit the loss. We were strongly supported from the side of the track and after the last driver change Mathias came out on track just 35 seconds in front of DWT. We were surviving on our very last portion of energy but the finish was coming closer. And after 24 hours we were the ones who saw the chequered flag first, we did it, we made it, it was amazing!! A magnificent performance and a fantastic feeling when we realised we had won one the 24 hours of Brussels just with the 2 of us. Both mentally and physically it was exhausting and that made it the best victory of my karting career so far. As many people told us beforehand we would not be able to remain competitive until the end of the race, it made it even more special and the admiration and appreciation of our opponents and the spectators was great. When opening the bottles of champagne on the podium and lifting the trophy with our last bit of power we didn’t feel the pain, but a couple of hours later we both suffered a lot. DWT finished the race in a very well deserved 2nd place on just 38 seconds behind us. Bluestar 2 took home the third position being 5 laps down on us, beating Hola Lulu with just a single lap. The days after were not the best in terms of physical fitness, but it was worth the pain more than ever. We want to thank our sponsors Foamzoo and Kinepolis and our Bluestar teammates and friends who supported us during the race!

Photos courtesy of: Serge Coppieters

170423 24h champagne

Belgian Indoor Kart Championship

Ruben wins another big title in 2016
Brussels, October 9th 2016

During the weekend of October 8th and 9th, the Italian PGK-Z karts were started again on Belgium territory, for the Belgian Indoor Kart Championship at FKI Brussel. Like in 2015 the starting grid included many top of the bill drivers, especially a lot of Belgium stars of course, including Matts Breckpot, Giovanni Baccellieri, Arnaud Teuwen, Kevin Caprasse, Mats de Jong, Filipe Viera and Regis Gosselin. After the junior and ladies championship and the race of the champions on Saturday, the main championship started with over 80 drivers on Sunday morning. The day consisted of 4 qualifier heats of 20 minutes, a semi-final for the top 40 drivers and the big final for the best 20 drivers. Only for the first heat there was a 10 minute qualifying session, for the others it was just a hotlap. After some Saturday practice and the KWC earlier this year I felt very comfortable with these karts and I believed I could go for the win today. The track was perfect for these karts, as it was wider and faster than for example the track in Martinsicuro and we could use the power and the gears of the karts, even 5th gear we used quite often. The day started well with a tight pole position over Matts Breckpot in heat 1. In the race however my kart started to lose power very quickly and I got overtaken at the exit of a corner by Matts.

161009 bikc ruben 2

The kart still shifted up and down perfectly, it just lost all the accelerating power and in no-time I had a whole bunch of drivers behind me. I could defend my position even while I was driving laptimes up to 3 seconds slower compared to my pace in qualifying. Unfortunately, in the penultimate lap I got pushed wide and fell back to 6th position. Luckily we had to drop one of the 4 heats, so there was nothing lost yet. In race 2 I had not much more luck, I was the only driver to start with a kart that didn’t drive yet on the day, my tires were ice-cold and I had to start a hotlap right away. I did what I could but only qualified in 7th position. In the race I was able to move up, and when my tires were up to temperature after a lap or 5, the gap to the leaders was already too big to still catch them in this short race. I was able to collect the extra point for the fastest race lap and a third place, but I was pissed-off and not happy with this result. As I had to come back in a championship more than once in the past, I was not planning to give up yet and was fired up for race 3.

This race was by far my most enjoyable of the weekend, with an amazing fight between Regis, Arnaud and me. In this order we qualified separated only by a few hundreds of a second. During the race we pulled away from the rest of the field quickly and Arnaud was the first who was able to pass, he took over the lead. I was able to catch Regis as well and could stick with Arnaud. I knew I had to place an attack quickly as he is a very good defender and we were approaching the end of the race. While I was not very close to his bumper yet I attacked and made a good move. I had to defend a bit every now and then, but I could take my first win of the day including fastest lap. Then in my 4th heat there was not much tension as I drew a very fast kart and could win the race with quite some margin. I lowered the best time of the day with half a second (!) and took pole position and fastest racelap with 0.6 seconds over the second quickest times. Hereby I moved up in the ranking to 6th position and there was still everything to play for. In my semi-final I had a good kart but certainly not the best, a super hotlap gave me another pole position and this was very important.

161009 bikc publieke tribune

In the race I was chased by the fast Belgian driver Sam Spinnael who gave me a hard time all race long. Close behind in third was his teammate Regis Gosselin and I managed to stay away of both of them to claim my 3rd victory in a row! With only the final left I was in second position in the standings just a single point behind reigning champ Giovanni. Regis, Rico, Kevin, Matts and Filipe were all still close behind, especially because in the final you could earn the most points. All you need now was a decent kart and a very good hotlap. My kart was ok and I drove another good hotlap, I could line up in second position behind 3 times Sodi World Series Champion Kevin Caprasse. Kevin was too strong in this race and was able to build a nice lead, while I knew the second place would be enough for me to take the title. The title now was the only thing that counted and I had to be very careful as Mats, Matts and Filipe were close behind. Something that made my life even harder was that the fuel supply to the engine came of the fuel tank and the fuel was flowing over my leg. I was very much worried that this would mean the end of my race but I was able to put it back while holding off the other guys.

It happened three more times and I every time I needed to find a place where I didn’t had to shift for a moment. Luckily I saw the chequered flag in second position and I was over the moon with this title!!! Finally a big title in the PGK-Z karts which I like so much, in the 5th edition of the BIKC I’m the first non-Belgian driver to win, amazing! It felt great to win one of the last big indoor championships of the year and I want to thank the PGK-Z crew from Italy, the organisation of Marc Pilloy and the FKI crew. The 2nd and 3rd position went to Kevin Caprasse and Matts Breckpot, well deserved! Giovanni just missed the podium in 4th place but deserves a big compliment as well! Except from a mega trophy the top 3 won a participation in a 3 hour endurance race in a real race car on the French circuit of Magny-Cours as well, this will be my first time on a race circuit by car and I can’t wait to step into this car next year in April!

161009 bikc podium masters