Ruben Boutens

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

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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Indoor European Kart Challenge

Ruben drives fantastic weekend but loses titel hopes in shoot-out
Middelburg, 17/18 February 2018

The second edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge was one with an amazing line up of European top drivers. The circuit of Indoor Karting Middelburg was changed and ready for practice on Wednesday 14th of February. The atmosphere was amazing and approximately 100 drivers were ready to face each other on Saturday morning for the first of 8 heat races. Everyone had to weigh at least 85kg and a shortcut in every 16-lap lasting heat race replaced the pitstop from last year. As the differences in laptimes between the top drivers in practice seemed to be very small, the hotlap qualification before each race was key to success this weekend. No less than 60 races were scheduled during the weekend, an amount normally being driven in 5 days during the KWC, so a very tight timing schedule was required and the organization did a fantastic job in managing this timing schedule really well. My first four races were far from easy as I had 3 average to less good karts and I had to fight hard to score a podium in all races, which I eventually managed to do with 3 3rd places and one victory after a nice battle with local rival Mike Sturm.

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From race 5 on Sunday evening to race 8 on Sunday afternoon I knew there was no option of letting go any points anymore, and with some better karts and some excellent qualification laps I scored 3 victories and a second place which made me jump into the top 10 of the rankings with a 5th place before the semi-finals. I was very happy with my performance so far and was the only driver who was on the podium in each of the qualifier races. One result was dropped, 45 drivers were left for 3 semi-finals and a few strong contenders for the title were German Michael Schöttler, Belgian Mats de Jong and Dutch guys Patrick Bakker and Rico Haarbosch (the defending champion). However Mats and Rico had difficult semi-finals not making it into the top 3 and dropping a bit in the ranking, while Michael and Patrick won their semi-final after being chased by German Dennis Höller and Belgian Giovanni Baccellieri respectively, who all secured their desired their spot in the final by this strong result. In my semi I drew a decent kart, which I needed as some of my direct rivals had very good karts as well, such as Belgian Mathias Grooten and Dutchman Lorenzo Stolk.

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However, none of us was on pole position as the talented youngster Eliano de Vos claimed the pole position in nice style. I was in second place and decided to take the shortcut behind Eliano in the first lap and overtook him directly in the corner afterwards. This turned out to be a great move as Mathias and Lorenzo had to take the shortcut a few laps later when facing some slower drivers that already took their shortcut, hence they had not enough laps to make up some time. I could cover both coming out of the shortcut and had the race under control from that moment. With still like 22 of 31 laps to go I knew I couldn’t defend heavily knowing that some other drivers still had to take their shortcut, but I was very wary for Lorenzo who was looking for an attack in second position. I managed to keep my first place without real problems and also clinched the additional half point for fastest lap. I moved up to third place in the standings only 1 point short of the leader Patrick Bakker and 0.5 point behind Michael Schöttler.

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The top 15 drivers remained and we all had to drive one qualifying lap in the same kart to determine the starting order for the final and more importantly, to determine the order of kart pick. A crucial and deciding moment in the championship, and just on this moment the organization chose to put down a kart with an awful big seat. This was very annoying for me as I drive without an extra seat and moved from left to right in the seat and didn’t feel comfortable during my lap. As a result I made some mistakes and ended up in a very bad 13th position, leaving me one of the worst karts for the final. A big disappointment but I had to make the best out of it, my title hopes were realistically gone. From the first turn I attacked 100% and with a good strategy and a top 5 pace I was able to move up 4 positions quickly and chasing the guys in positions 5-8. Rico drove the pole position and secured his final win already early in the final, firing away with the best kart and moving him up to a very nice second position in the final ranking. In second position was Patrick Bakker who just had to finish top 3 to clinch the desired title. He drove a very strong weekend and didn’t come into trouble in the final, a big congratulation to him for his first big title.

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Meanwhile I tried to attack Eliano and Mats in the last lap of the race but couldn’t pass them anymore, leaving me in 9th position in the final which was a very good result with this kart in such a strong field. Mathias was overtaken by Michael in the final laps of the race which resulted in a very good 3rd place for Michael in the final classification, just before Lorenzo, Mathias and me in 6th. A result that I felt didn’t really fit my driving and performance of the whole weekend, but my qualification for the final was just nog good enough and so I was happy to still take home some prize money. Looking at the quality of drivers in the final, it was amazing to be part of this show and I hope to be back next year for a better result. I would like to thank the organization who, apart from a few improvements that can be made for next year, did a very good job.
Photos courtesy of: Vienna Bos and MAD Brothers’ Racing Team

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Indoor European Kart Challenge

Ruben claims third position after sensational final in first IEKC
Middelburg, 18/19 February 2017

It was early 2016 when a couple of people came up with the idea of organising a big indoor kart event for the top drivers in Europe. After a bit less than a year of detailed preparation, the entry list was completely filled with an impressive 120 drivers from all over Europe, no less than 14 countries were represented. On Wednesday the 15th of February, official practice started on the new track. After three days of practice more than one thousand heats were driven, including some from me. The atmosphere was amazing, it was great to see all these top level drivers coming to my home track in Middelburg. On Friday evening the group and kart draw was done for the 8 qualifier rounds, always an exciting and important moment to see who you will face in which karts. There was a big price pool for the top 10 drivers, the fastest lap, a jackpot lap, the fastest qualifying lap and the highest ranked girl.

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On Saturday morning, the first of 40 races for that day was started, the organisation went inch perfect as it came to the timing schedule, the updates on the ranking, the prize giving ceremonies in between the races and the timing system didn’t let us down a single time. So all ingredients for a nice championship were there. In my first race of the day I finished second just behind one of the many strong German drivers present, Michael Schöttler was one of the guys showing incredible pace. In my second race I had a really bad kart, but still managed to finish in second position behind my Belgian Bluestar teammate Yoan Medart. In the third race I scored my first win of the weekend with a perfect score, extra points for qualifying and fastest lap were very important. The fourth race was rather frustrating as I had to start the 2 lap qualifying with a cold kart, which caused me to qualify in 4th position only. In the race I could move up to third with a good pitstop, but that could have been a first or second place. Then in race 5 I was able to score my second win beating reigning world champ Rico Haarbosch in a direct confrontation. It was the first race of the weekend in reversed direction and I was very happy to win because it was a very strong group including the top 3 from the last world championship as also the very Rickard Javanainen from Sweden was in it, qualifying on pole position an ultimately finishing in 4th position. Rickard is one of the very big sportsmen in the game, always fair on the track and great to have a chat with him, he won one of his races but just didn’t make the semi-final on Sunday after having quite some bad luck.

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My Sunday didn’t have the best start either as I faced 3 very tough groups with no so good karts. I was fighting for podiums instead of victories and with a 7th place after day 1 I was hoping for some good points. In race 6 I was able to come back from 6th on the grid to 3rd at the finish, mainly by good tactics. In race 7 I was going for another podium with a below average kart, but took too much risk on the pitstop and got penalised. As I had all podiums so far it was not so painful now, because you have one drop result, but I knew my worst kart and hardest group were coming up. When my steering wheel came loose in the last heat races I could not do more than reaching the finish in 7th position, now the penalty from last race really made me drop in the ranking. I qualified for the semi-final only in 15th position. The top 45 continued and the tension rose. The special prepared grandstand was fully packed and I drew an ok kart for my semi. I was happy with this and very motivated to give it all for the 31-lap race, 15 laps more than the heat races.

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I knew much could still happen as we now had double points, and I qualified in third spot behind fellow Dutchman Romano Franssen and German Felix Weber. In the race not many position changes happened at the front, but that didn’t make the race less exciting. Alex Nolting was very close behind and I could stay close to Felix. Romano was able to pull away and the 2 pitstops we had to make didn’t change the order in the end, I ended up 3rd which made my rise in the ranking to 8th position now. Rico Haarbosch and Michael Schöttler won the other two semi finales, while home driver Lorenzo Stolk lost the points lead by finishing 4th. The final 15 drivers were announced for the big 46-lap final and the kart draw took place, what a moment, my heartbeat went up big time. I had kart 6, together with 18, 20 and 13 one of the best of the weekend so I was very happy. Rico couldn’t complain either as he had kart 20 again after having it in the semi-final already. He took full advantage of knowing this kart, driving to pole position before Mats de Jong from Belgian in kart 13, just before me in third.

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Lorenzo and Romano were behind, strong performance from Lorenzo in kart 10 which I had in the semi final. Not so good for me, as these were exactly the guys I had to overtake in the ranking when looking at the final podium. In the race the visor was on 2 guys, and what a race it was. We were pushing each other to the absolute limit in terms of consistency. After 20 laps Mats made a first small mistake and I immediately capitalised by overtaking him at the end of the straight, then starting my charge for first. I was catching Rico centimetre by centimetre and lowered the best lap of the race. I missed the top speed to overtake Rico on the track, so I knew it was coming down on the 2 mandatory pitstops. Rico went into the pits first with 6.5 laps to go, a lap later I came in and exited the pit side by side with Rico. I was on the outside so I remained second. A lap later Rico dived into the pits again and I gave everything I had to put down my best lap. I made my last pitstop with 2.5 laps to go and with a perfect timing I managed to grab the lead. 2 laps of defending followed but I made no mistakes and claimed one of my best victories I can remember, it felt amazing with the large crowd on the side of the track.

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While seeing the chequered flag I realised I won a magnificent race, however Rico was crowned the first IEKC champion so I respected this by giving him the well-deserved moment of fame, another big title and €1500 cash comes his way! It was Lorenzo who secured the second place and a €1000 cash prize by finishing 4th in the final. It then was between Mats, Romano and me for 3rd, all finishing within one point, but third place was mine as I won the final which was the criteria when tied in points. I was very happy with this result, coming back from 15th after the heats! Big congratz also to the other top 10 finishers, Mats, Romano, Mike Bartelen, Tobias Laube, Julian Walter (who also had the best lap of the weekend), Michael Schöttler and Filipe Viera, and to the best woman Selina Balneger (who also had the best qualifying of the weekend). We may say, without a doubt, this first edition of the Indoor European Kart Challenge was a big success, I think the majority will return for a new edition next year. I want to thank the kart track, volunteers, organisers and last but not least the sponsors who made possible this amazing weekend! For the full results check the website of the IEKC.

Photos courtesy of: Susi Trauernicht, Indoor European Kart Challenge, Jeffrey Kerkhove, Kim Kortenjann

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