Ruben Boutens

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

Indoor European Kart Challenge 2021

Ruben for 4th time on the podium in 5th edition IEKC
Middelburg, 9-10 October 2021

The fifth edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge (IEKC) at Indoor Karting Middelburg took place in October 2021 after being postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. As a result of the postponement, several drivers who initially registered didn't show up unfortunately. The championship started on Saturday morning with 48 drivers from various countries in Europe. The planning included ten preliminary rounds of every time six groups, but due to the no shows, in the first heats some groups consisted of only six drivers. The organisation in consultation with the drivers then decided to redo the group draw from heat two onwards, using four groups of 12 drivers. This made the competition more fair and much more enjoyable to drive.

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On the first day, seven races were planned for each driver and my day went very well, I scored four victories and three second places despite some challenging karts. After day one Rico Haarbosch once more appeared to be my main rival for the title, with Eliano de Vos, Vica Schledz, Christian Douven and Danny van Domburgh all close behind. I drove this weekend in twelve different suits, from old to new, changing suit for every race was fun to do. During all the years that I’m active in go karting I collected a lot of different suits from different teams and most of them I still fit perfectly, so I though it was fun to use some of them this weekend.

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On day two it was difficult to stay in the race for the championship, with a couple of races with strong opponents and drawing less good karts. I scored two more second places and a 4th place in the remaining heats and therefore I was down to third place in the ranking after the preliminary rounds behind Rico and Danny. For the semi finals, everyone had to qualify one lap in the same kart. A nice system which is fair and I was able to take pole position in my semi final ahead of the strong Belgian driver Arnaud Teuwen. In the race we started in a random kart and I was not really lucky, drawing kart 28 which was not good and which I already drove before this weekend. Arnaud was challenging me and decided to make his pitstop early to try an undercut. I countered him a lap later and came out ahead of him.

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I however had to defend my position a couple of laps later, but couldn’t defend too hard as there were still many drivers to pit. Arnaud was able to pass me and quickly pull away, but I managed to finish in second place. With Rico winning his semi final, the title was practically gone and I had to fight for the second place on the podium which was far from easy. In the battle qualification for the final with the best 14 drivers, I was able to beat Jarno Hermans, Christian and Danny to then meet Rico once more in the final battle. Opposite to the outcome during the PIKC in Poland recently, Rico now just beat me and had the first kart pick.

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In the 35 lap final Rico was able to pull away while I could follow on a couple of seconds. I was dependent on what was going to happen behind me, as Danny had to finish a couple of places back to overtake him in the standings. Luckily for me, both Vica and Christian were on the move and able to finish behind me, so my second place was secured. Danny fell back a bit further and unfortunately for him, after a very strong weekend, that cost him the third spot on the podium. Vica was able to clinch third place, just ahead of Danny, Christian and Arnaud. Eliano did not take part in the grand final due to a disqualification in the semi final unfortunately, better luck for him next time. All in all it was Rico with an astonishing fourth title in five years time, a very nice performance and this weekend I could be happy with second place given the challenging karts I drew. The junior title went to Vica, the women’s title was for Esmee de Vilder and Dennie Sturm was crowned Masters champion. Thanks to the organisation for the prices and prize money and hope to see a 6th edition of the IEKC next year with an increased number of drivers again.

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Indoor European Kart Challenge 2020

Ruben makes it onto the podium after tough draw
Middelburg, 22/23 February 2020

The fourth edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge brought another incredible line up of drivers to Middelburg, Zeeland in the Netherlands. The track was changed again in the week before the championship and a lot of people were positive about the new lay-out. The weekend was very full with a maximum of ten races per driver and on Saturday morning we kicked off with the first of 7 preliminary rounds. I had a difficult draw on race one, with a lot of strong groups and some bad karts, but I was ready to fight for every position. In race one I finished second behind my BlueStar teammate Romano Franssen and before the strong Dutch local Marcel Kouijzer. In race 2, 3 and 4 I had very strong qualification laps which helped me winning all three of them, even while in race 3 and 4 I didn't have the best karts of the frontrunners. In my fifth race I had kart 13 which was one of the worst this weekend, but luckily my group was not super heavy and I managed to turn around a fifth starting position into a fourth finish place. So far this counted as my drop result, however in race 6 on Sunday morning I had kart 8 for the second time, which was also one of the worst karts.

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After day one I was very positive about my chances as I was leading the championship, just before some other super drivers like former world champion Rico Haarbosch from Holland and reigning world champion Michael Schöttler from Germany. Race 6 was very difficult, I drove the entire race in the midpack and despite driving faster laptimes than all other people in this kart, I couldn't finish higher than position 8 and that hurt a lot in the championship where I fell back to place 4. In race 7 I drew one of the best karts, in which I drove the fastest laptime of the weekend with 39.7, a difference of 0.8 seconds between this and the previous kart, which is huge. I was back on place 3 but like anyone else I needed a bit of luck in the draw for the quarter final and semi final where we just had to pick a ball from the bag. In line with earlier this weekend, I wasn't too lucky with a very difficult kart for the quarter final. In the race I tried a different tactic as before, waiting to go through the shortcut, which gave you an advantage of some one and a half second. But I got stuck in traffic pretty fast as some slower drivers already took the shortcut and I was forced to take the shortcut after a lap or 6 to not lose more time on the top 5 drivers. In the end of the race I could close the gap to German Thomas Schaller was who driving in fifth, but I was not abel to pass him anymore. Rico drove a very strong quarter final in his group, he won the race after overtaking poleman Joris Sturm, and set himself on pole position for the title.

Michael Schöttler was very unlucky as the qualification of his quarter final had to be done twice (like many times before this weekend), which cost him four places on the grid, while Rico benefitted in the same situation by jumping from 4 to 2. Guillermo van Pamelen is one of the young local drivers who is improving year by year and as he won his quarter final, he came into second place in the ranking, a big surprise for many drivers. In the semi final I faced Rico for the second time this weekend, but again it never became a real race between us as he drew the best kart in the pack while I had an average one. My qualification was super and I could start from place 2, but after the first corner I knew that this was also the best possible finish position as long as Rico wouldn't make any mistakes. Marcel Kouijzer fought for place three behind me with amongst others Mike Bartelen, that gave me some space and I could secure the second place, moving up in the ranking again to place three as Michael finished in the middle of the other semi final. Patrick Bakker, the 2018 champion dominantly won the second semi final and moved up to place 4 in the ranking, only one point behind me and one point in front of Michael on place 5.

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For the final the karts were picked in the order of the ranking, so I had the third pick and knew I had a good kart. The starting order was determined by setting a single lap in the same kart in reversed order of the standings. When it was my turn it was Michael who put down the fastest time just before Dutch Danny van Domburgh. I didn't do a very good lap as I made a mistake in turn 3, but I took the provisional pole with 0.008. After me it was Guillermo with a very strong performance, beating my time by a tenth he proved to be a well deserved man in the top three, he looked very confident. Rico was the only one who could beat him, with a small margin, but he took control of the final, having the best kart and starting from pole. Given the difference of 9 points between Rico and me and 4.5 points between Guillermo and me, I knew it would not be easy to still climb, while I had Patrick and Michael close behind me in the ranking. Therefore I decided to go with Guillermo and not attack him to build up a gap to Michael. This worked out well, and the pace of Guillermo and me was very similar, while Rico was just a tad faster and secured his third IEKC title in the front of the field, a super strong performance from him. In the final an incredible field was driving including European top drivers like Christian Douven, Opnithi Puyato, Matts Breckpott, Romano Franssen and Eliano de Vos. In the final ten laps of the 35-lap final I came closer to Guillermo and was on his bumper in the last lap, but Guillermo covered the inside well and secured a vice-championship, a super strong weekend for him and well deserved second place. For me a third IEKC podium in four years, not a bad result given the line up of over 100 drivers, and given my kart draw I was satisfied with the final result. All in all an exciting weekend, but to be honest, the kart differences were very big and a lot of karts broke down, I'm curious to see what will happen in the future with this big international championship.

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Indoor European Kart Challenge

Ruben drives back to second with great comeback
Middelburg, 23/24 February 2019

The third edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge took place in the weekend of 23 and 24 February 2019 at Indoor Karting Middelburg. The championship is known by its incredible high level of drivers and amazing prize pool. From Wednesday to Friday practice sessions took place on the renewed track and I drove most of my heats after work on Friday. I felt ready but kart differences were quite big during practice, which increased the importance of the group and especially the kart draw. My first race on Saturday morning was by far my worst of the weekend. I was driving on place 2 in an average kart when I made a move for the lead in the race. I passed my countryman Kouijzer but slipped away in the next corner which allowed him to overtake me again and I got stuck in the tires when trying to keep up with him on the outside of the corner. I threw away a victory and after contact with some other drivers on the track I fell back to 9th place. Luckily we had a drop result which kept me alive in the championship. The rest of the day I was quite unlucky with my kart draw, and a 4th and two second places was the best I could do, resulting in a 12th place after day 1.

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This year, the final was all decisive in the championship and the standings after the semi-finals would determine the order in which we had to choose our karts, so extremely important. In the 5th and last qualification race on Sunday morning I drew another bad kart, while still having the chance to at least draw 8 good karts. I fought for every position and finished in third place, which made me climb still one place in the rankings. The semi-finals count for double points and I couldn’t afford any bad result, otherwise I could easily miss out on the final. Luckily I had an average kart this time, and I qualified in second position again behind Marcel Kouijzer. In the race we were bumper to bumper in the first half, before his kart slowed down a few times out of nothing. The numbers 3 and 4 in the race came back quickly and I decided to pit. Marcel stayed out and that allowed me to make the difference on track and jump him after his pitstop. I had to fend off Ricardo Vlieger behind me, but I made it to the finish line first. This victory came on a very good moment for me, due to mixed results of other high ranked drivers I jumped to third place in the ranking only behind Haarbosch and Puyato, two guys who were in the front of the ranking from race one and like during the KWC in 2018, very strong all weekend.

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Before the final, the final for the team race took place, a new concept in IEKC introduced this weekend. Ten teams qualified on Saturday evening for the big final of 2 hours and together with Rico Haarbosch and Lorenzo Stolk we tried to put The Dutch Value on top again like in the qualification race. We had to make 2 driver/kart changes and these were not the best for us. We had to deal with difficult karts and were never really in the race for first place from the start. Auto Sturm (consisting of Sturm, Sturm and Bakker) won the race, before another Dutch team, Klaver 4, featuring Verbaarschot, Bartelen and Van Domburgh. After I overtook the number 3 team in the last stint, we finished on the last podium spot.

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Then the big individual final, all 15 drivers had to drive a single lap in one kart one by one, Mats de Jong from Belgium put down a very strong laptime as second driver to go out (41.48). The next 10 drivers all were slower ranging from 41.9 to 41.5 and then it was my turn. I drove a good lap and improved the best time to 41.43, with just Opnithi and Rico left. Opnithi drove the slowest time with 41.9 while Rico did a great job, beating everyone else with a 41.33, amazing lap! In the race Rico and I quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, including De Jong, Grzyb (Pl) and Leloux on the spots behind us. I could stay close to Rico for like three laps, but then he increased the pace and with his first kart pick, it was not possible for me to keep up with him. Opnithi drove a very strong race, staying out very long and coming back to 5th place (still worth 600 euro) in the final standing, just before German Michael Schöttler who is always strong in Middelburg. Mats had the 1 before last kart pick and did everything he could, finshing in 9th position and still taking 200 euro back to Belgium. For third place it was very exciting as a battle between Matts Breckpot and Tim Leloux resulted in a third place for the young Dutchman Leloux, taking home a 1000 euro cash prize. During my race I didn’t take any risk from half way onwards, performing a safe pitstop and finishing the race and championship in second position. This was certainly the best result possible this weekend and thus I was satisfied with my best performance so far during the IEKC, which brought me a nice 1500 euro as well. Rico was the well-deserved winner of the 2000 euro cash prize, a very strong weekend from his side and his second IEKC title. I’m looking forward already to come back stronger next year.

Photos: Photoedith.nl en Mad Brothers’ Racing

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