Ruben Boutens

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

Polish Indoor Kart Championship 2021

Ruben storms to third PIKC crown in Poland
Szczecin (Pl), 28-29 August 2021

It was Thursday August 26th, one of the most exciting weekends of the year was waiting ahead of us and together with my friend Rico Haarbosch I jumped into the car early mornings to travel from Holland to Poland for the 2021 Polish Indoor Kart Championship (PIKC), the tenth edition of this iconic indoor karting event. No less then 184 drivers across 3 categories subscribed for this yearly returning event, in line with last year again at the end of the summer. The days before the weekend are always fully booked with practice heats. We arrived halfway during the day on Thursday and had three heats scheduled for Thursday evening in both directions. I used the time in between to finish some work and do some running outdoors, slowly clearing my mind and getting into the vibe for the weekend. Practice went well although we could only drive on the indoor track due to the bad weather conditions. Luckily a day later we were able to do our final four practice sessions on the combined indoor/outdoor track and the feeling was very good, I felt ready to start my 8th PIKC campaign and I was more fit than ever before.

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As a result of the enormous interest in the championship and the large number of participants, the championship got underway on Saturday morning really early shortly after 6AM! After two heats with the juniors I was in the very first heat in the Open category with 108 drivers split into six groups of 18 for each round. I couldn’t wish for a better start as I grabbed pole position and managed to win the first race just ahead of four time champion Sebastian Papke from Germany who chased me hard during the race, with an average kart I only missed out on fastest lap and immediately scored important points. The atmosphere around the track was amazing and the entourage of Silver Hotel & Gokart Centre traditionally very good. Podiums were done directly after each race and the timing schedule was strictly managed, rankings updated fast, some of the reasons why so many people love to race in Szczecin year after year.

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My day continued with a victory in race 2 as well and then it started to rain, hard rain and a lot of rain was forecast for the remainder of the weekend. The outside track was closed and the championship continued indoors, a pity because the outside section, despite being quite short and with limited overtaking opportunities, really adds something nice to the track. After a small delay (which was recovered in the course of the evening) the races continued. In my third race I drew a really bad kart and had to fight to limit damage. I battled my way through the heat with a good 3rd position on the grid but was overtaken by the Polish talent Adam Szydlowski during the mandatory pitstop. I tried to find my way passed him but did not manage to do so in a correct way (after an attempt I received an orange flag) and he then quickly pulled away, I finished the race in 4th which was my drop result. I finished the day on a high as in the evening I scored my 3rd win of the day, leading the championship after day one being tied in points with Adam Szydlowski (also with 3 wins) and followed by my roommate and defending champion Rico, Belgian former champion (2013) Mathias Grooten and Dutchman Eliano de Vos (all with two victories so far).

The fourth round of heats finished late on Saturday evening after which the championship continued with round five on Sunday morning, unfortunately still only on the indoor track. With another victory I was left with only wins after dropping the worst result and confidently approaching the final stages of the tournament. As of the semi finals, battle qualification were applied to make the championship as fair as possible, battling with your opponent in the same karts to see who is fastest and has the kart pick for the next round to determine the kart allocation for the race. Additionally, important points could be collected in these battles. In my semi final I won three battles in a row before losing from the Polish home driver Maksymilian Bergiel. A small surprise for me but also with the less good kart I was still focused on winning the race. In the first part of the race I could follow Maksymilian closely however overtaking was difficult as I missed some top speed at the end of the straight. I probably waited a bit too long to go for an attack as Bergiel started to accelerate towards the end of the race and I lost the connection. A second place was the result, definitely no disaster but surely a small disappointment. Third place finish was for the strong Polish driver Wojciech Grzyb. The other three semi finals were won by Rico Haarbosch, Adam Szydlowski and Eliano de Vos respectively. Rico, Adam, Eliano and myself were now all within two points of each other going into the big final, an absolute thriller was waiting!

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In the mini final, it was the Polish talent Przemek Kulis who managed to bring home the title. An incredible driver who participated in all three categories this weekend, driving an insane amount of 18 races this weekend! Second and third place went to the other Polish talents Karol Niemczyk and Aleks Demkiv. In the junior category it was Maksymilian Bergiel winning the title in front of Adam Szydlowski and Jakub Piechulski, all finishing within 3 points of each other after an eventful final won by Jakub and which was very painful for Adam who was in top spot to win the championship before the final. Then the super important battle qualification for the best 16 drivers took place for the Open Category. I was first up against Belgian Thomas Haglestein who drove a very strong championship, but I was able to defeat him. In the second round I beat one of the Polish favourites Michal Grzyb, before facing Maksymilian Bergiel again. This time I comfortably beat Maksymilian and was now up against Rico, who beat Romano in his third round. Two super important and potentially decisive laps and in contrast to last year, I could not beat Rico by a small margin and take pole position and the three extra points for pole position! Tied with Rico I started the final!

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I knew I had a decent kart but Rico is always dangerous especially in the first laps, so I was 100% focused on the start which went well. I could open a tiny gap after a couple of laps and then the race was red flagged due to a broken kart of Mateusz Bartsch. A strange situation because in my opinion there was no reason to stop the race, but my gap over Rico was gone again. After a lengthy discussion about the drivers who already stopped in the first laps, it was decided that the full race was restarted. In the restart I had a good first lap and could directly pull away a bit. I felt that I had the title in my hands and extended my lead lap by lap, tenth by tenth. Various other drivers including Mathias Grooten, Wojciech Grzyb and Michal Grzyb were driving equal or even faster laptimes but the gap was made in the first laps already and I controlled the race. Rico was chased by the Grzyb brother but hung on to second place. A super result for me, winning the final and claiming my third PIKC crown after earlier titles back in 2015 and 2019!!! What a super finish to my weekend and great to have Rico with my on the podium on second place once more. For the 15th time in a large individual rental championship (including KWC, BNC, PIKC, IEKC etc.) Rico and I shared the podium of which 10 times we were one and two, very special to compete with him as always and a big congratulations to Rico as well. Third place was for Eliano de Vos, who drove an exceptional consistent weekend with all first or second place up to and including the semi final, a sixth place in the final was enough for him to secure his first large international podium in the Open category, congratulations to Eliano. Amongst all the other top drivers in the final, Michal and Wojciech Grzyb managed to end the championship of a very strong 4th and 5th position. In the newly introduced team championship, Rico and myself teamed up with German Sebastian Papke and despite Sebastian missing the final, we were able to win this team championship, a very nice cherry on the cake! Thanks a lot to the organisation, drivers and other people involved for making this another amazing weekend at Silver Hotel & Gokart Centre during the 10th edition of the PIKC.

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Polish Indoor Kart Championship 2020

Ruben to sixth PIKC podium after crazy week
Szczecin (Pl), 29/30 August 2020

The 2020 kart season is one to remember, not because of the many races, but more because of loads of races being postponed or cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Polish Indoor Kart Championship was originally planned to be organised in April but was postponed twice and ultimately scheduled for the last weekend of August. I was looking forward to the PIKC 2020 a lot, like many other drivers. With some necessary precautions, including wearing of face masks and no crowd at the balcony or around the podium, the organisation was able to still organise a large international rental kart event. After driving a lot of miles in the weeks before, I decided to head to Szczecin already after the TKC race the weekend before in Grimma. I spent some nice time with friends in Poland before starting practice on Wednesday, unfortunately only on the indoor track as a result of the rain. I felt very comfortable on the track and did my last practice sessions already on Thursday early in the morning, and not without a reason!

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While most drivers arrived, I headed back to the Netherlands for a very special day, on Friday my sister was going to marry with Joris and that was a day I obviously couldn’t miss. After a fantastic day I stepped back in the car late in the evening on Friday together with my dad. We drove back overnight and I arrived in the morning well on time for my first of three races on Saturday. Not a very usual preparation and I knew it would be a challenging day without sleep. In my first race we had to qualify in one lap in the normal direction. The outside track was now open and I didn’t drive on it this week yet. Despite that, I qualified in 5th and was motivated to make the best out of the race. With some good overtakes and even a battle for the lead in the last lap of the race, I managed to finish the race in second place just behind my Dutch friend Romano Franssen and before the fast Hungarian driver Andras Gaal. A good start of the championship!

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From that moment, my day only became better. In the second race of the day I picked a very nice kart which helped me a lot in securing my first win of the championship over my BlueStar teammate Logan Sougne and Dutch friend Guillermo van Pamelen. In my third race of the day I had a pretty tough group, including former three times winner here in Poland, German Sebastian Papke. I was sharp in my qualification which was spot on and took the win in the race from there with Sebastian coming home in second. A great first day for me and I was happy I didn’t have a fourth race today as I was looking forward to my bed a lot. Luckily we were able to book a room last minute in Silver Hotel, a great facility and after a visit to the pool and sauna and a good dinner in the restaurant, my bed called me early today!

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On Sunday morning I was waking up full of motivation to make the best out of day two, the day that really counts! In my fourth race I had a difficult group and a not so good kart. I was pushing hard to follow the top three guys having qualified outside the top three, and with a do or die move in the last corner I tried to steal the third place from Adam Szydlowski, betting on this race to being my drop result anyway. The move was too late and I was put back to fourth place, while Polish Michal Grzyb, the man who earlier this year dethroned me in the BRKC after 6 years, took the win over Sebastian Papke. In race five I also didn’t had the best kart draw, however my group was not the strongest of the weekend and I managed to score a good second place behind Belgian Yoan Medart and before Vica Schledz from Holland, one of the rising stars of Dutch indoor karting at the moment. From now on, kart draw was not really a big thing anymore, as the four semi-finals included a battle qualification where the winner of each battle could choose his or her kart to proceed. I felt very strong and beat all my rivals in the battles, taking some important points and the pole position.

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In the race I noticed quickly that I took the wrong decision in my last kart pick, as Yoan was able to follow me easily. With a smart undercut he jumped me in the race and the only thing I could do from that moment was follow as Yoan covered the inside well when he needed to. In his slipstream I could take an extra point for fastest lap, however second place did feel as a disappointing result in this race. The second place made me drop in the ranking to the fifth spot, as former world champion Rico Haarbosch was leading the pack a couple of points clear from three top drivers being Michal Grzyb, reigning world champion Michael Schöttler from Germany and Yoan Medart. I was shortly behind in 5th and everything was still open for the final podium. In the other categories the titles were taken by Mellanie Motz (best women) and Vica Schledz (best junior) from the Netherlands, and in the mini category it was Dawid Wisniewski from Poland who took home the biggest trophy, congratulations to all of you!!

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Then the big final, the all deciding race. In the battles I won my first two matches by some margin, including my direct rival for the podium, Yoan Medart who was strong again all weekend. Michael Schöttler and Michal Grzyb were out in the second round so that made me level them in points already. After having just won his first battle over Dutchman Christian Douven, Rico won his second battle comfortably and I was now facing him in round 3. I came just a little bit short to beat Rico like two years ago in the KWC final, but he moved on and took pole position before Sebastian Papke. I started the race in 3rd place and was chased from the start by Romano Franssen. An exciting race where Rico slowly pulled away from Sebastian and I just couldn’t follow Sebastian. Romano was on my bumper and behind him Michal Grzyb was charging hard. When Romano pitted he could close the gap to me. Meanwhile Schöttler and Medart both pitted already and were losing time. Outside it started to rain a little bit, further increasing the tension. It was between Michal and me for place 2 and 3, and the pitstop was decisive. Michal tried an undercut two laps before the finish, but in the lap after I came in and just made it in front of him again. A tight finish but I ended the race in third spot which gave me enough points to finish the championship on a very satisfying second place!

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Rico was the well-deserved, and first time, champion, big congratulations for a very strong weekend from him. For me climbing from 5th to 2nd in the final felt like a small victory, after such a crazy preparation, the second place meant a lot to me. After two championships and three third places in the past 6 years, I made it now to the podium for a 6th time, incredible. When I saw the other drivers on and next to the podium in the top 5, being Michal Grzyb in third, Sebastian Papke in 4th and Michael Schöttler in 5th, I realised how high the level of this championship is, year after year! It was a very special week with a very nice result. After one more night of sleep we drove back home on Monday. I would like to say thank you ever so much to the great PIKC organisation, even in Corona times they made it happen to organise a great event. Hope to see you all next year!

Photos: Photo Edith

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Polish Indoor Kart Championship 2019

Ruben in fine style to another big title at Silver Hotel & Gokart Center
Szczecin (Pl), 27-28 April 2019

The 8th edition of the Polish Indoor Kart Championship (PIKC) was seen by many as one of the largest and most prestigious indoor kart championships of 2019, with 120 drivers in the open category the event was completely sold out and with the addition of the British commentator James Auld (well-know from BRKC), PIKC 2019 was a better event than ever before. Already on Wednesday the first people arrived for practice heats which continued until the late Friday night. Last year was the first time in my 5 previous appearances that I did not make it to the podium and I was determined to do better this year. Therefore, I arrived earlier than last year and did already one practice heat on Thursday, followed by some more heats on Friday. I felt strong on out on the track straight away and couldn’t wait to start racing.

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On Saturday morning the championship started with the first of 5 qualifier rounds in the normal direction. I had a tough heat to start with the top 3 from the past Indoor Kart World Championship which was driven at Silver Hotel & Gokart Center as well, Polish Jakub Klek (2nd), Dutch Rico Haarbosch (3rd), but also Opnithi Puyato. In the morning it was raining and the outdoor part stayed open, which made the qualification lap tricky. I made some small mistakes and had to start from P4. In the race I could win just one position by overtaking Polish Dawid Chart halfway through the race. I was faster than the leaders (Klek and Puyato) but had not enough time to close the gap in the 15 laps, Haarbosch finished behind me in 4th. In my second race my group was slightly more easy and I qualified in 2nd behind German Carsten Waibel. During the race in reversed direction I could follow him closely and overtake him on track. My young countryman Eliano de Vos finished in 3rd. Eliano is one of the Dutch talented youngsters, and eventually won the Junior Championship during the PIKC this weekend, beating Dawid Zagol from Poland and David Papp from Hungary.

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I had to wait 6 hours but never a dull moment with amazing racing which were completed during the first day of PIKC 2019, a pleasure to watch from the side of the track. In race 3 I had a very difficult group again, but taking pole position made my life easier this time. I could slowly pull away from one of the top contenders from Poland, Michal Grzyb, the number 5 from the past world championship and runner-up in the British Championship earlier this year. Rico was in this group as well and could overtake Michal later in the race, I didn’t have to take risks during my pitstop and took the maximum points score with the fastest lap as well. During the last race of the evening around 10 o’clock I was out on track for the fourth time today and I increased my number of victories to 3 today, a great result in another strong group, with Lars-Ole Jens from Germany chasing me and finishing 2nd before Mellanie Motz, the Dutch woman who was crowned undisputed women’s champion this weekend!

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On Sunday morning the remaining heats of round 4 were raced before I was scheduled for my 5th race. With my current results I could race this one without pressure, I decided to go full attack for my 4th win as my back-up with the drop result was a decent 3rd place. I could take pole position once more and with a relatively easy win and fastest lap I scored 87 out of 88 points in the preliminary rounds, an amazing result which gave me a 6 point advantage over Filipe Vieira from Portugal who was second in the ranking before a handful of other top drivers still going for the title, including 4-time and reigning PIKC champion Sebastian Papke from Germany, Grzyb, Romano Franssen (NL), Jens, Christophe Verhoeven (BE) and Klek, Dennis Holler (DE) and Puyato. In the battle qualification for the first semi-final I could first beat Matys (PL) and De Wolf (BE) before facing Rico. We were very close, but I was beaten by 0.03 and was left with a slightly less good kart. Starting in 3rd behind Rico and Lars-Ole Jens I still had a good chance for a nice result and with the three of us we were clear of the rest of the pack quickly. With an early pitstop Jens tried to make a tactical move, however I was able to close the gap on Rico, drive the fastest racelap and overtake Lars-Ole with the pitstop. Rico covered me well 2 laps later and I finished in 2nd, a good result which guaranteed me the lead in the championship going into the final. The other semis were won by Romano Franssen and Filipe Vieira, both very strong in the battles and race.

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For the first battle in the final I was facing Sebastian Papke immediately, he made a faulty pitstop in the semi-final and just made it to the final as 16th and last driver. I was hoping not to be kicked out directly, but beat Papke and moved on to round 2. There was Rico again, this time I felt confident to beat him after a very good first lap, but a few minor mistakes on the second lap screwed my chances up as I lost by 0.02 seconds, a big disappointment which made my life much harder for the final. I was happy to see that Rico won the final battle from Grzyb, which was now my biggest rival, while Vieira starting behind me in 6th was another dangerous opponent. In the first laps I could overtake Opnithi with a late move which costs me a warning. Behind me were Filipe and Christian Douven (NL) and I could slowly pull away from them. It was a two-man battle for the lead of in the race, which was won by Grzyb who made an early pitstop and executed a successful undercut to win the final. I was behind Franssen in 4th place and knew I had to finish 5th to be equal in points with Michal, 4th would give me a 1-point advantage. I covered Christian who came close to me in the final laps of the race, with the pitstop I kept my position and the title was in the pocket. An amazing title to win, my second PIKC crown and this one felt even better than 4 years ago as I did it this time 100% on own strength instead of some accidents by others. The weekend felt like the world championship from last year continued and I’m grateful to have my name once more on the wall of fame in Silver Hotel & Gokart Center. Michal Grzyb and Filipe Vieira finished the championship in a well-deserved 2nd and 3rd place! I would like to finish my reporting saying thanks to the organization which was outstanding once more, a great championship, I’m looking forward to the 2020 edition already!

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Polish Indoor Kart Championship

Ruben too late on fire to compete for title
Szczecin, 28/29 April 2018

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On the 26th of April I went to Poland again for my 5th participation in the Polish Indoor Kart Championship at Silver Hotel & Gokart Center in Szczecin. Always one of my favourite events, and this year extra special because of the new karts, the new track (including outdoor part) and the fact that this track will host this year’s Kart World Championship in July. On Friday I had my regular training sessions but I noticed many of my main rivals were already driving the day before (while I was at work :P) and I felt that after my 2 heats of practice in each direction, my speed was OK but I was not yet 100% comfortable with the karts and the track. On Saturday morning the first races kicked of in 8 groups of 20 people, totalling 160 participants in this 7th edition of the PIKC, an incredible field of drivers and a really high level. My first race went exactly as I hoped, I drew a decent kart and could do a safe qualification lap without making any mistakes resulting in pole position. During the race I could drive away from German Lars Ole Jens and Dutchman Romano Franssen, giving me some space when I made my pitstop. The new systems works very well as you no longer have to push any button, but the time is recorded via the transponder. I won the race including an extra point for fastest race lap.

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The weather was very good and during the day the outside and track temperature were rising. This gave a lot of difficulties while driving, as there was a lot of grip, making karts to start jumping easily. Besides that, tires were overheated quickly which caused the karts to go sliding on very annoying parts in the corners. I had to adjust my driving style a lot which gave me some problems in race 2 and 3 of day 1. In the second race I had a very tough group and with a somewhat less good kart I only managed to finished in 5th position after a difficult race. In race 3 I was in 5th place again when I drove the fastest lap of the race in the later stages of the race after changes my way driving. Now I knew for sure I was not fast enough today as finishing in 5th with fastest racelap is never a good result. I moved up to 4th because of a penalty of one of the drivers in front of me, leaving me in 11th place after day 1. I was already quite a lot of points behind championship leader and Belgian BlueStar teammate Yoan Medart.

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On day 2 I felt much more confident and had a better feeling with the karts. In race 4 I was facing two-time world champion Mathias Grooten for the second time and I qualified behind him in 2nd position, quite far off the pole position time. My race pace was however back where it should be, I could follow Mathias all race long and pulled off the fastest racelap as well. This time I was pretty happy with my second place and I moved back into the top 10 before going into the semi-final. I was in the first group and had to race against championship leader Yoan Medart. The qualification was now the KWC knock-out battle system which allowed you to pick your kart when winning a battle. I won my first three rounds, including the battle against top German driver Dennis Höller. In the final I was driving against Yoan and he out qualified me and had the first kart pick. I had a nice kart as well and could give him a so-called run for his money. I was close to Yoan for the entire race but had little chance to overtake him as he was covering the inside when needed and had some better top speed on the straights. For the 4th time in 5 races I took the fastest race lap and again I could be happy with my result.

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During the other 3 semi-finals I enjoyed a dive in the swimming pool of Silver and focused on my last race of the weekend. I was realistically too far away to go for the podium, but 5th place was for sure still possible. The qualification for the final was again a knock-out 1 versus 1 battle qualification. I won my first battle against Belgian Deloitte colleague Peter Neefs and then raced Mathias. I lost this battle unfortunately and had to start the race in 7th position. Sebastian Papke didn’t look as dominant during the weekend as in the previous years and he was very luck in the semi-final when he lost the battle to Giovanni Baccellieri but incidentally got the super kart. But now he showed great speed by winning the battle from first Mathias and then Yoan in the final. It was between Yoan and Sebastian for the title and what a race it was. Sebastian drove away slowly and took the fastest lap a number of times, which would be enough for him to claim the title. But Yoan was still in second place and a number of guys including 2016 world champion Rico Haarbosch were very close to the fastest lap time. I was battling with fellow countryman Romano for 6th position in the race and the championship, we had some nice overtakes and in the end Romano won it because he had a better pitstop. Michael Grzyb was very strong again in the final and overtook Mathias with his pitstop, he was the first Polish driver in the past years to realty fight with the top drivers for the podium positions, hats off!

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The final reached its climax in the final lap when Rico exited the pits and came side by side with Yoan on the outside of the first corner. It was on the limit and the race direction decided to wave an orange flag for Rico during this last lap, while Michael also slipped past Yoan in that some move. Rico didn’t slow down again and finished the race in second position, but he was put back to 4th (behind Yoan) after the race. Emotions all over the place and big disappointment especially for Yoan who seemed to be the strongest driver all weekend but lost his title in the final to Sebastian Papke. He was crowned PIKC champion for the 4th time in 5 years, an amazing achievement and if he will enter the KWC later this year, he will be one of the favourites for sure. Mathias claimed the 3rd position on the podium, which was his 2nd PIKC podium after his win in 2013. Fourth and fifth position were for Rico and Michael. The ladies category champion was Mellanie Motz from the Netherlands, while Thom van Dijk and Wouter Poleij won the junior and mini championships. Wouter was impressive as he qualified for the semi-final at the age of 12, a crazy performance in this pack of drivers!!! For me ‘only’ a 7th position which is the first time here I didn’t make it to the podium, but I was very happy with my performance on the second day. I would like to thank the entire organisation of the PIKC and I look very much forward to the KWC, if I can improve my qualifications a bit, I will be ready to defend my world title!

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Polish Indoor Kart Championship

Ruben secures fourth PIKC podium in four years
Szczecin, April 29th & 30th 2017

The PIKC has quickly evolved into one of the most popular indoor karting events of Europe, only established in 2012 it now already is a certainty on the calendar in the spring. While a few years ago most drivers arrived only on Friday, now many Northern European drivers already hit the Polish tarmac by Thursday or even Wednesday. For me it was Friday afternoon when I crossed the Polish border for the fourth year in a row, looking forward to face a whole bunch of strong international opponents again. After a few practice sessions I felt ready for the championship and we dived into the swimming pool of the hotel on Friday night, already speculating on who would be the drivers to beat this weekend. On Saturday 3 heats for all drivers were on the planning, the traditional set up including a hotlap qualification and a single pitstop required, all on 90kg. The first race immediately was a cracker, featuring the top 4 of last years’ event and so I had a chance to challenge Sebastian Papke straight away. Starting only from 7th position I had a difficult race in front of me, but when the tyres came up to temperature I was able to work my way up through the field and could even challenge the leader and last years’ runner-up Christian Wolf. Performing my pitstop on the penultimate lap I could close in even further and on the very last corner I overtook Christian and secured my first win of the weekend.

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It then was a long wait until my second race, but at Silver Hotel & Gokart Centre you never have to be bored as there were many interesting races to follow and a lot of fellow countrymen to support from the side of the track. During day one it was the German driver Lars Ole-Jens who was impressively fast, scoring no less than 3 victories out of 3 races and showing Germany had more title contenders than just Sebastian Papke to offer! With a close second place behind young Dutchman Thom van Dijk in race 2 in reversed direction and a strong victory over Belgians Vermeulen (last years’ number 5) and Deloitte colleague Peter Neefs, I was very happy with my own results as well. After the first medals were awarded on Saturday evening the nice atmosphere remained until almost midnight in both the restaurant and swimming pool, when some chose to get some sleep and others opted to discover some more Szczecin nightlife. When a couple of drivers was still drunk or asleep it was good old Corné Snoep that powered away from his rivals in heat first heat of round 4. My round four and five went according to plan, scoring another second place behind my only teammate form last weekend during our winning 24 hours of Brussels, Mathias Grooten and in front of Artur Pel from Poland. In race 5 I could finally score my first triple with pole position, fastest lap and victory. With 3 out of 5 victories and a 2nd place as a drop result I showed I could perform strong in the less good karts as well and I was ready for the semi-finals.

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I was in the last semi-final and saw how the fast Germans Dennis Höller and Maxi Siese won the first two semis. I was pumped to do the same in race 3 and faced reigning world champion and my friend Rico Haarbosch for a third year in a row in the semi-final of the PIKC. While he was able to beat me in the two previous years it was now me who could pull the victory over the line in a thrilling race. I had to overtake both Rico and the strongest Polish driver of the weekend, Michal Grzyb and then won the race on consistency and a solid and fast pitstop, taking over the lead in the championship. A remarkable performance from Mellanie Motz who won the title ladies title over Selina Balneger and my girlfriend Edyta Paleczka as she was the only girl to make it to the 10-driver final line-up! Corné could celebrate his second master (35+) title and it was then time for the Junior final. Rico Haarbosch was the man to beat and took pole position in fashion for the final. He was challenged hard by the Polish youngsters Dawid Klarman (who in the end won the final) and Jakub Ziobro but Rico scored enough points to win his second PIKC junior title just in front of Jakub Ziobro, congratulations to the podium!

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In the final shootout where all 10 senior finalists drove the same kart for a hotlap a couple of important points were on the line. 2.5 for the pole position and 1.5 and 0.5 for P2 and P3 on the grid. It turned out to be a 5-man show, between Grooten, myself and the 3 Germans Papke, Ole-Jens and Siese. The 5 of us had an edge over the rest of the field all weekend and it was Siese to take pole with just 0.05 and 0.06 second advantage over Papke and myself in third spot. Kart differences were small and the best 2 karts were drawn in the back of the field, and so a very exciting final was about to start. I had kart 11 which was very fast on the straight but had an awful lot of understeer in left hand corners. This made it very difficult for me in some stages of the final. It was first Grooten who pitted from 4th position while the top 3 was on each other’s bumper. Papke then made his pitstop and I closed the small gap to Siese in just 2 laps. I decided to go for an attack and took over the lead in the race, but with this move we both lost some time to Papke. As the times were so close it was hard to make up this time again and when Siese also pitted and when I saw I didn’t win any time on Papke I dived into the pit as well. I came out on the track side by side with Mathias and Ole-Jens, but was on the outside and dropped back to virtually a 4th position in the race just before Siese. The title suddenly seemed to be out of reach as Papke in the lead only had to hold out Mathias who closed in by the final laps of the race.

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I hoped to be second in the final ranking but by driving the fastest lap it was Maximilian Siese who grabbed second place just 0.5 point in front of me. A very nice championship came to an end and I have to congratulate Sebastian Papke with a 3rd title in 4 years time, very strong performance from the tall German racer. My third place was disappointing for a few minutes, knowing I was really close and realising I had won 4 races including the semi-final, but I also knew that being on the podium here for a 4th consecutive year is very nice and so I could be happy with this outcome at the end of the day! Compliments to organisers Remik Drzazga and Bartek Malutko, bringing to live an event like this for so many people involved is far from easy and there will always be some criticism, but I have to say hats off for a great edition of PIKC 2017 which I enjoyed all weekend long. The level of drivers was again very high, prizes were great and things like the timing schedule, kart draw, ranking updates, live timing and live coverage and medal ceremonies were very professional. From my side I cannot wait until next year!

Photos courtesy of: Susi Trauernicht

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Polish Indoor Kart Championship 2016

European indoorkart community gathers in Poland
Szczecin, May 7-8

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In the weekend of May 7th and 8th 2016 the fifth edition of the Polish Indoor Kart Championship took place at Silver Hotel & Gokart Centre in Szczecin, Poland. What started like a small event in 2012, has grown very rapidly to one of the most prestigious and high-quality events on the yearly calendar of every rental kart racer. The immense popularity of the Polish KWC qualifier is the result of hard work and dedication of the organisers of the event, Bartosz Malutko and Remigiusz Drzazga together with a team of marshals and officials. This year the event was sold out with no less than 112 senior and 28 junior drivers within a few weeks after the announcement of the date. I was lucky to be one of these 112 drivers, and after my victory of last year I had the honour to have my name on a big banner which was placed at the podium area of the kart track showing the names of all 4 previous winners. As a reigning champion it’s fair to say my goal was to defend that title, although I already knew this was not going to be easy at all. On Friday May 6th the official practice day took place and every had a chance to discover the new layout of the track, both in normal and reverse direction. The track appeared to be very much fun and gave good opportunities to overtake. Together with a couple of my Dutch friends and my Bluestar Racing teammates who also arrived in Poland I did some practice sessions in both directions.

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On Saturday morning the event kicked off with a long briefing where all procedures and potential penalties were explained, afterwards a group picture was taken and all drivers could collect their goodie bag! 55 races were scheduled, 50 qualifying heats, 3 semi finals and a final for both the Junior and Senior category. In all races you had to do a one lap qualifying, perform one pitstop and the sum of points collected during all the rounds (minus a drop result from the qualifying heats) would decide the final classification. On the first day, under very warm and sunny circumstances, all drivers in every class drove 3 heats. In my first two heats I had nice battles with, amongst others, Polish Jakub Klek and Belgian Stefan Verhofste. I finished my first race in second place and scored a victory in the second one. My first day however didn’t end like I hoped, as I ended up in the boarding of the track after a clumsy move by a German competitor whilst leading the race holding both pole position and fastest racelap (both worth 0.5 extra point). This cost me dearly in the ranking as my main rival Sebastian Papke scored a hat trick of victories on day 1.

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After a nice evening in the hotel with a fantastic atmosphere amongst all drivers and fans, everyone prepared for a second day full of tension and adrenaline. Today all big trophies were on the line and already on the first day many people could not control their nerves as especially during the pitstops a lot of mistakes were made. My 4th and 5th heat went particularly well with both first places and also the quickest lap time of the whole weekend on 90kg with a 37.53! The confidence was there and I moved up to 2nd place in the ranking, a few points behind the ‘man to beat’ Sebastian Papke and ahead of the other strong German Christian Wolf and my Dutch roommate and reigning junior world champion Lorenzo Stolk. Moving into the semi finals I could not complain about the karts I had driven in the heats, but now I didn’t draw the best possible one. But after many championships I know that winning a title is often the result of performing well in less good karts as well, so that was what I tried to do in my semi final. 36 drivers gave it all to try to collect their desired spot in the big final for the best 10 drivers. I managed to end up in 3rd position during my semi after qualifying 4th. This was not ideal for me as Papke and Wolf both won their races.

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The final 10 drivers were Mateusz Bartsch (Poland), Artur Pel (Poland), Yoan Medart (Belgium), Bjorn Vermeulen (Belgium), Tristan Foldesi (Belgium), Cristoph Maliszewski (Germany), Lorenzo Stolk (Holland), myself, Christian Wolf (Germany) and Sebastian Papke (Germany). In this sequence everyone had the opportunity to set a laptime in one and the same kart to determine the final starting grid, top 3 scored extra points. My lap was not very good, a pity because my hotlaps this weekend proved to be very decent and now I qualified only 4th, 0.09 second down on the pole lap time of Papke and just behind Stolk and Foldesi. In the final I drove one of my best races, overtaking the 2 young guys in front of me and chasing Sebastian for the duration of 36 laps in the final. After exchanging fastest lap time several times Sebastian won the race hardly one second ahead of me. Christian Wolf was also strong and with a 3rd place in the final he secured a 2nd place in the championship behind Sebastian Papke. This meant I ended up in 3rd, a result I could live with given the top class quality of the field. Being here on the final podium for a third consecutive year feels really good and looking back at all my races while collecting a handful of nice prizes, I could only be satisfied with my performance.

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I want to congratulate all podium finishers in the different categories; Artur Pel won both the masters title and more important the Polish national championship ahead of Mateusz Bartsch and Michal Ryndzionek, which gave all these 3 drivers a KWC ticket like Sebastian Papke. Selina Balneger (11th place in the general ranking) and Mellanie Motz finished on top of the ladies championship for Holland, while fast lady Edyta Paleczka showed her talent and finished up in a nice 3rd position just before my sister Annelien! In the separate event for Junior drivers, it was Tristan Foldesi who dominated the championship, he won all races and defeated my Dutch Value teammate Rico Haarbosch and Thom van Dijk also from the Netherlands. I want to thank all Polish people for their very friendly and welcoming attitude to all international drivers, this is a very special weekend for many kart drivers and will likely also stay like this in future years. I definitely hope to come back again next year for PIKC 2017 and look already forward to race against many PIKC participants during the Kart World Championship in Italy this year in upcoming July, see you there!

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