Ruben Boutens

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

Indoor Kart World Championship 2019

Ruben to 4th place after exciting week at Victory Lane Karting
Charlotte (USA), 23-27 July 2019

The 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship was organized in the United States of America for the first time since the 2010 edition in Phoenix, Arizona. After 4 consecutive years in Europe, it was time again to reach out to other parts of the world and challenge the best indoor drivers in the world in North Carolina at the fantastic track of Victory Lane Karting in Charlotte. As travelling to America creates a barrier for some European and nowadays also South-American drivers, the number of participants was with 70 somewhat lower compared to the 120-170 drivers in the past years, but nevertheless a great line up including top drivers from different countries was present. My favorite tournament was about to start, and I was very excited to start for the second year in a row with the number one number plate after my second title in Poland last year. The track was more than a minute in length and very challenging given the slippery surface and different grip levels across the hall, combined with the weather of around 35 degrees Celsius all ingredients for a spicy KWC were there. Preparation went well, after some days of practice I felt more than ready to kick-off on Tuesday July 23rd for the first of eight qualifier rounds.

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On the first day you typically don’t want to start off with some bad results and I was focused to make the most out of my races. Racing in indoor karting means you have to adapt to the circumstances and deal well with all karts and groups you face. Everyone will get some less good karts but only the top drivers will manage to still finish in top positions with those karts. On this track the tricky thing was that track conditions changed a lot during the day and even during the race, lowering laptimes by multiple seconds and also changing the differences between different karts. In my first two races I had great battles with the American Ryan Curtin and German Dennis Höller, both duels I ultimately won by overtakes on the track, I finished the day as the only driver with two wins! On day 2 I had a much bigger challenge in race 3 when I had one of the karts which was performing less good, in the number 19 I could still qualify second but in the race I was chased by multiple drivers. After my pitstop I unfortunately got hit by a back marker who made me spin and received a penalty. I lost several places and could come back only to 5th place. Luckily I was able to score the maximum number of points with pole position, fastest racelap and a victory in race 4, which gave me the lead in the championship after day 2.

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We switched race direction every day and on day 3 I faced Michael Schöttler for the first time this week. He was looking very strong and beat me in this race, although I was right on his tail in the first half of the race. In the afternoon I managed to score my 4th win, however I was not satisfied as I missed the best lap by 0.01 of a second, an expensive point. As we had 5 groups per round this year, a lot of top drivers scored several wins and hence the extra points for fastest lap and pole position were very important. After day 3 I was in 3rd place in the ranking, a few points behind Höller and Schöttler who both won 2 races today. Other strong competitors in the front of the pack included the German Tobias Laube, the American track owner Fred Ogrim, Belgian Mats de Jong and Michael Bräutigam, probable the most unexpected man in the top 10 who seemed to raise his pace every day. On day 4 I had two of my most difficult groups and I drew kart 15, which was not a good one at all. I qualified second behind Belgian Stefan Verhofste and managed to stay with him in the beginning of the race. I could even take the lead and capitalize on some battles behind me. It was Mats de Jong who came after me halfway during the race and made an early pitstop. He however missed the button in the pit and therefor lost a lot of valuable points for his ranking. After I made my pitstop I was able to hold off the others and with only the 8th best time in the race I won the race, a great result. My toughest group came in round 8 and this turned out to be a very bad round for me. The kart I drew was not the best but more importantly, it didn’t drive in the race before which appeared to be a big disadvantage in the qualification. I qualified 5th and gave everything I had in the race. As 5th would mean it the result would be dropped, so I took risks in stopping late, hoping for the top 4 to start fighting and also risked a fast entry on my pitstop. I came out behind the top 4 and also received a penalty for my pit entry, which meant I had to count a 5th place in my result.

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Because of the last race I was now suddenly 19 points behind Schöttler and 9 behind Höller, which reduced my chances on a third consecutive title a lot. I couldn’t do anything about it unfortunately and was ready to fight until the end on the last day for the best possible result. Before each of the 4 semifinals for the top 64 drivers, a shoot-out took place to determine the grid, allowing the winners of each battle to choose their kart and collect an extra point for the ranking. This went all very well beating Vadim Apolka (US), Mike Ibach (US), my countryman Bram Gelten who was very strong this year and in the last battle also Tobias Laube from Germany. In this way I secured myself from a good kart which I optimally utilized in the race by winning it with a good margin and the fastest lap. The other 3 semifinals were won by the strong German drivers Schöttler, Höller and Bräutigam. These three and myself were now the main contenders for the final podium with Schöttler in a great position to win the title given his current shape and advantage of 11 points over Höller. The drivers ranked 17-32 then battled for the 8 remaining final spots on top of the 16 other finalists, a battle won by Dutch youngster Guillermo van Pamelen. We then qualified with the top 16 drivers, a very exciting and probably decisive moment. I beat German Andre Lohse in round one, but then lost to Mats de Jong by a small margin. This gave me the 6th starting position but I still had a decent kart for the final luckily. It was Schöttler who won the last battle from Mats and he therefor started the final from pole position.

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I was excited for the last race of the championship, 45 laps and two pitstops, 24 drivers on the track! At the start Schöttler had some problems to find pace in the first laps, which made the other German drivers Bräutigam, Laube and Höller stop early. A big risk, as they might run into back markers during the long final. I could close the gap to Mats and was chased by American Jerott King from behind. After some laps I managed to pass Mats in the first corner and then only Michael was still in front of me. Michael was not far away but suddenly improved his pace and slowly pulled away again. I drove as consistent as possible and tried to pass the German drivers that stopped early by outpacing them. I managed to overtake both Höller and Laube and keep King behind, but Bräutigam put down an amazing pace and was even challenging Schöttler for the win. I was going to finish third, which was just not enough to jump Dennis in the ranking, and who would win the race would decide if I would be on the podium or not. Unfortunately Schöttler took very safe pitstop, which is completely understandable for which you can’t blame him at all, but this gave the win to Michael Bräutigam by a second. This resulted in a 4th place in the final standing for me, a very painful result but at the same time I knew I did everything I could and should be happy with the result.

wk19 finalisten

The title was for Michael Schöttler, the first German KWC champion and a very well deserved title for him, I’m glad to have such a good driver as my successor. Dennis Höller finishes the 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship as runner-up, very well deserved looking at his performance of the previous 3 years and he was very happy to now finally made it to the podium. Michael Bräutigam completed the all-German podium this year, a surprise I have to say. Although he had some favorable groups, he earned his place on the podium by showing great speed and winning the final, congratulations to him. Some very nice reactions from the German drivers to me also helped me feeling more satisfied about the final result, the 4th place was not the spot I was initially going for, but a 11th top 10 classification in 12 years Indoor Kart World Championship with 6 race wins this week (2nd most behind Schöttler) also made me proud. Mats had a difficult final, with hindsight he probably chose the wrong kart, but his strong performance this week resulted in a still nice 5th place, although he probably hoped for more. The junior championship was won by American Roman Hanes, before the local talent Aidan Kennedy and Dutch Guillermo van Pamelen. Selina Balneger won the ladies championship for the 5th year in a row, there were only 3 women participating this year, but her place in the final proved she had great speed this week. Local hero Fred Ogrim was the best in the masters category for drivers over 40 years, while finishing 6th in the overall championship. In the team championship it was the German squad of Lohse, Schöttler, Bräutigam and Laube who won, while I finished second in an occasional team including Bram Gelten, Dennis Höller and Columbian Alejandro Fenwy under the name of the helmet designer of Dennis, Bram and me, Five Star Designs.

wk19 podium

Looking back I had a great time again in the US, making a fantastic road trip through 8 different states with my dad, driving a very special Nations Cup, enjoying the time in Charlotte including the tension and satisfaction the world championship and meeting great opponents and people from all around the world! It creates fantastic memories and I would like to thank the host track and organization for their efforts, see you next year in Portugal where I will try to go a third title again!

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KWC Nations Cup

Ruben & Mike with Dutch Value to 2nd place
Charlotte (USA), 21 July 2019

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The 2019 Indoor Kart World Championship was organized in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since the 2010 edition of the IKWC in Phoenix, Arizona, the championship first returned to the United States of America. A far trip overseas but what an adventure. The world championship would not be a world championship if it was only held in Europe, and hence I was very happy to travel to States again in the hunt for more glory. Together with my dad I spent one and a half week travelling through some amazing places in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvenia, West Virginia and Virginia. From the Smokey Mountains National Park to the music city of Nashville, to the Nascar on the Kentucky Speedway, major league baseball at the Cleveland Indians, everything you wish was in this trip. On Thursday 18 July we came back in Charlotte to try the track at Victory Lane Indoor Karting. It was not an easy track at all, more than 60 seconds in length and many difficult corners with changing grip levels, mostly slippery. After some 15 training sessions it was Saturday evening and I was ready for the Nations Cup. But I had one problem, I had no team, BlueStar was, apart from me, not present this year and my teammates from the last 2 years (Rico & Lorenzo) were also not here. Last minute I decided to team up with my young friend Mike Dijkgraaf and together we formed the Dutch Value as we are both Dutch Value members from the beginning.

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It was a brave idea, I would drive the majority of the 6 hour race, and the temperature was no less than 35 degrees with a very high humidity. That was a challenge, 16 teams lined up on Sunday morning for the 5-minute grid formation. It was very slippery on the track in the morning and the pole position was taken by Jerott King from the USA by a large margin. I was second, just in front of the German driver Dennis Höller and track owner Fred Ogrim. In the beginning of the race there were a lot of nice battles, I was able to take the lead right from the start, like last year, with a Le Mans start. After a few laps Jerott passed me and built up a lead. I fought with Fred, Dennis and Mats de Jong from Belgium who came from behind and was very fast as well. After one and a half hour most drivers went in the pit for their first of 5 obligatory pitstops, it was extremely warm and not easy to drive a long stint. I continued until I passed the halfway point after 3 hours and then did our first kart and driver change. Mike went in while I got on the scales, and that was scary. I lost 8 pounds which is equal to almost 4kg, a new record for me but not so positive. I took a 4kg margin so I was just good, but I had to drink a lot.

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Luckily Mike was fast as well so I had some time to recover and drink well. We had a little hick up as Mike left the pit too early as we had to look to the light at the other side of the pit instead of our side, because we drew the kart in the other pitlane. This resulted in a stop and go penalty of 20 seconds. Meanwhile Michael Schöttler had taken over from Dennis for the German team and was very very quick, he secured a half lap advantage while Selina Balneger for the Belgian Traxxis team replaced Mats and was chasing Mike. After almost one hour I took back over from Mike and tried to drive away from third and fourth place. Some Belgian, American, Brazilian, Colombian and British drivers were chasing us. I had a very good second stint of one and a half hour before I made another stop handing over to Mike again. I felt not very good anymore, but after some more drinks I went back in the kart for the last 20 minutes, we were far in front of third place now and only just over half a lap behind the German drivers. André Lohse and Tobias Laube were fast as well and I came a little bit closer, but not enough to challenge them anymore for first place, they prolonged their Nations Cup title from last year, an amazing performance from the German squad!

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But what a result for us, the only team on the grid with 2 drivers including the just 14-years old Mike, we were super super happy with this result and even achieved the same position as last year with Rico and Lorenzo. We have to say that the field last year was a bit stronger than this year, but strong teams behind us proved what a race we drove. In third place one lap down it was Guillermo van Pamelen, Mats and Selina who took the third place for Traxxis. The American teams just finished outside the podium after a great race. A great start from our championship and we collected the trophy with the Dutch flag in our hand, we were proud of this achievement and celebrated at the local Longhorn Steakhouse which was one of the best restaurants in town. In the restaurant I almost went down and I didn’t feel good at all, but after taking sufficient salt and drinks it was better again in the late evening. One more day of practice on Monday and the individual championship was around the corner!

190721 nationscup podium