Ruben Boutens

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

British Rental Kart Championship 2022

Ruben back on the BRKC podium after thrilling weekend
Milton Keynes (GB), 9/10 April 2022

After a year of absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the British Rental Kart Championship (BRKC) was back in April 2022 at the familiar location of Formula Fast Karting in Milton Keynes. Despite the additional rules to enter the UK due to Corona and the Brexit, I did not doubt a second to enter in this new edition of the BRKC as I always enjoyed racing in the event a lot in the past. A bit later in the year than traditionally, but with as much enthusiasm we made our way from Holland to the boat in France, travelling to Dover and driving up to Milton Keynes. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and I spent some time at the track with my BlueStar teammates Vica Schledz and Eliano de Vos on Thursday and Friday to prepare for the races in the weekend. There were new karts which were clearly faster than previously and the feeling was immediately good again, it was great to be back.

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On Saturday morning the championship started with no less than 100 drivers, a large part of them actually coming from the UK. However participants from Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, Spain and even the United States of America were present. Surprisingly no drivers from Belgium made it to England this year. My first heat on Saturday morning was directly one not to underestimate with a lot of strong contenders in it. I qualified in second place right behind my teammate Eliano. In the first laps of the race, it was English driver Bradley Sheppard who made a move at the end of the straight on me but couldn’t make the corner and caused a full course yellow for a second. From that moment, Eliano and I could pull away slowly from the rest of the field including strong drivers like Selina Balneger and Patryk Nieroda. After a couple of laps, I overtook Eliano into the hairpin at the end of the straight and from that moment could control the race until my pitstop. When entering the pit, the first light didn’t work and I was unsure what to do, after losing some 1-2 seconds, I continued and correctly passed the second laser until the light turned green. A lap or so later, Patryk entered the pit and had the same issue, at that moment the race was stopped to fix the laser. Due to this situation, I came back on the track only just in front of Eliano, but in the remainder of the race after having restarted, I could stay in the lead and collect my first medal of the weekend.

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In between races it was great to catch up with some karting friends and enjoy watching the heats of the other drivers with plenty of action in it. Part of the races I saw live at the track, but when being in the hotel for a moment, we didn’t have to miss anything with the live streaming alongside the very entertaining commentary of James Auld. The second round of heats was on the alternative lay-out which was prepared in a split second by the track marshalls, a lay-out none of the drivers had driven during practice. I qualified on pole position in my race and despite being chased by Tomasz Walas and Sebastian Miller in the beginning of the race, I could build up a lead and therefore did not have to take any risks in the pit to secure my second win. At the end of the day, I was up against, amongst others, Sam Slater, Kuba Piechulksi and my teammate Vica for the third heat round. Vica took pole position just before me and a great race followed. Vica and I quickly pulled away in the opening stages of the race, while Vica was covering the inside nicely, not giving me a chance to take the lead. I therefore put my money on the pitstop as I knew this was probably my only chance to win the race. With a perfect pitstop I could make the undercut work and just overtake Vica for the lead. In the remaining laps I covered the inside while Sam was closing in on us, and we finished nose-to-tail on place one and two. A perfect first day for me with the maximum possible score of 30 points.

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I obviously knew from previous years that in the end, only one race really counts in BRKC and that is the grand final, but first I had to make sure to make the final in contrast to 2020 when things went wrong for me in the semi-final. This time I had my unlucky draw in the fourth heat round. Although kart differences were pretty small this year again, in round 4 I could not fight for the victory as Zac Venn to pole position back on the traditional lay-out and didn’t make any mistakes to secure the win in the heat. I had to start from third place and with a risky move I could overtake American Anton Schopler and finish the race in second, still a good result considering no other driver was able to win all heats. Vica was able to score 39 points like me as well, together with Sean Brierley we were tied in points going into the semi-finals. Based on the points (and in case tied looking at race results and fastest laps) the three semi-final groups were formed and another 20 minute race with one required pitstop followed.

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In the first semi-final it was Spanish former Formula 2 driver Ramon Pineiro who drove a very strong race and claimed the first victory, before the strong Hungarian surprise of this weekend, Ivan Szana and Eliano and Vica in third and fourth position. I was in the second semi-final and this time drew a good kart which enabled me to fight for the top positions. I qualified in third behind local driver and familiar opponent in Milton Keynes, Lewis Manley and behind my teammate Christian Douven who was in second. I had a better kart than Christian and could overtake him in the early stages of the races. Lewis put down strong laptimes from the start of the race and therefore already opened a gap of just below two seconds at that moment. When we crossed the halfway point during the race, I started to close in on Lewis and could put him under pressure a bit when approaching some of the backmarkers who already pitted. Lewis also made his way into the pit to avoid any traffic and made a safe pitstop. From that moment I decided to stay out as long as possible to make up some more tenths to have a shot at passing Lewis via the pitstop, as overtaking on track would be difficult. With only a couple of minutes remaining, I made my pitstop and came out side by side with Lewis. He had a little bit more speed and could just overtake me via the outside line and from that moment covered every bit of the inside line. I tried to keep the pressure on him but he didn’t make a mistake and we finished first and second in this exciting race. A great battle and also a good result for me as I was now almost sure of going into the final with the lead and therefore the first kart pick.

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The third semi-final was won by reigning vice-world champion from Germany, Dennis Höller who showed great speed all weekend but also made some costly mistakes in the pit along the way and therefore entered the final as number eight. The ten drivers for the big final were known, five different nationalities showed the international character of the event once more, a very strong field and the one-lap qualification was super important as always. Ramon Pineiro set the first laptime and one after the other driver failed to beat his time, almost like in 2014 when my sister Annelien set one of the earlier times which no one could beat afterwards. Sean Brierley however put down a very solid lap and claimed pole position, before Ramon and Lewis in third. My lap was not very good, being a bit too cautious and ending up only in 9th place two tenths behind pole position. I knew it would be extremely difficult now to make my was back up to the podium on this tight track. A bit disappointing given the fact that I was so good on pace all weekend, but with relatively cold tyres I struggled, I had to reset and fully focus on the race, in 30 minutes with two pitstops still a lot could happen, and so it happened.

The start of the race was even worse than the qualification, with the cold kart I had problems to follow Ivan in front of me and when I made a move after a couple of laps, I touched my fellow countryman Bram Gelten (who drove a very strong weekend making it into the final) on the back of his kart and both Ivan and organiser Bradley Philpot passed me. I was in last place and already very far behind Sean who was leading the race. I overtook back Ivan directly but then came behind Bradley who started to defend hard. I knew I had to go into the pit as soon as possible to still have something of a chance in the remainder of the race. I made a good pitstop and fortunately came in clear air and from that moment stepped up the pace and starting to drive fastest race laps which I desperately needed. I felt very confident in terms of race pace and that helped me getting into the mix in the final, closing in on Dennis who also made his first pitstop already and was stuck behind Eliano, and therefore decided to go for another pitstop. Around that time, Bram made a pitstop as well and came out of the pit just between Eliano and me. With some late braking moves at the end of the straight, I could make my way passed both Bram and Eliano and then set my target on Vica who was in virtual third place as we outpaced Ramon, Bradley and Ivan who still had to pit and were virtually behind us.

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Vica drove extremely mature all weekend with great results, however was unlucky in the final that the kart selection where we could choose from changed compared to the semi-final where three karts were clearly standing out from the rest and Vica had the third kart pick. He therefore had to take a little bet for the next best kart, but I think in the end he had one of the slowest karts in the final but was still driving in top five position. When I came behind Vica I immediately passed him and set my target on driving consistent and fast laptimes with one stop remaining. Meanwhile, Lewis was lapping very quick laptimes at the back of the field with already two pitstops in the bag, while Sean was doing the same all the way at the front of the field. Virtually a super close battle with me in between them but virtually some 7 seconds behind. Sean decided to pit twice when he saw Lewis started to win time on him and came out right in front of Lewis.

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For a moment, Bradley came in front and then in between them when he made his first pitstop, which gave me the opportunity to close in further while lapping fastest laps for a couple of laps in a row. I was in a great rhythm and clearly winning a lot of time, but with only 5 minutes remaining I knew third place would probably be the maximum result as Lewis backed off and didn’t attack Sean to avoid losing time. My last stop came some three minutes before the end, I came back on track in third with a big gap both in front and behind. In the last laps I could close the gap to Sean to 2.7 seconds (down from over 7 seconds in the beginning of the race) setting the fastest lap of the weekend. Of course the qualification was disappointing, but I was really happy to still make it onto the final podium for the 7th time and sincerely enjoyed the final coming to the front all the way from the back!

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But the BRKC title 2022 and the 1000 pound cash prize was for Sean Brierley, really well deserved after three wins in the heats and a very good hotlap qualification. Sean didn’t make any mistakes in the final and finally brought the BRKC trophy back home after Lee Hackett in 2013, a super performance. In second place a remarkable performance for Lewis Manley, for the third time he has made it to the podium, which is outstanding in a championship like this, big congratulations to him. Vica ended the race in a very good 4th place, just in front of the other Dutchies Bram and Eliano who battled in the final laps of the race for P5 after a really strong championship for both! Apart from the individual championship, there was also a team championship again and for the second time, we won the title with BlueStar Racing Team, a title to be proud of given the very consistent high level and team spirit we showed during the weekend! Another British Rental Kart Championship was behind us, I can only have lots of respect for all the people involved in organising it, Bradley Philpot, Phil Stanley and his entire Formula Fast crew, Darren Cook for arranging the live coverage and James Auld for being the voice of BRKC as long as we can remember. I’m already looking forward to a new edition next year!

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24 hours Kortrijk 2022

BlueStar adds most wanted 24 hour race to their resume
Kortrijk (Be), 5/6 February 2022

It was early morning on Saturday 5th of February, I was in the car heading towards Belgium, the sun bullying my eyes, it seemed to be a wonderful day. On the way I picked up some of my kart friends and just like 13 years ago, we parked at Worldkarts Kortrijk, the track where I love to come already since 2008 during my first participation in the Indoor Kart World Championship. Additionally, it is also the track where I drove my first ever race for the Belgian BlueStar Racing Team in 2009. BlueStar at that time existed for a couple of years and is headquartered in Kortrijk, the place where it all begun and the track is still as beautiful as many years ago. That race in 2009 was the 24 hours of Kortrijk, my second ever 24 hour race and we finished second in that year, just behind the winners which had a young Stoffel Vandoorne in their team (who later made it to Formula One).

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And exactly that race, the 24 hours of Kortrijk, was planned for the first time since 2009 again this weekend. How special to enter this race in 2022 with BlueStar again. I’m happy to still be part of the team after all these years and even more so to be one of the favourites for winning the race again. The team composition changed dramatically since 2009, our big man at that time was reigning world champion Gregory Laporte, this year together with Mathias Grooten and Jurgen Knockaert responsible for the race direction and therefore he could only watch our performance from the side-line. Luckily the new generation of BlueStars arrived and what a generation! I remember very well I was sitting in the briefing room impressed by the circumstances and drivers around me, carefully listening and hoping I would be as good as the top drivers at that time someday. We were sitting at the exact same chairs at the first floor again for this year’s briefing, next to me my teammate Yoan Medart with whom I already drove many 24 hour races before and also with Christian Douven, one of the top drivers of our team at this moment. With my other two teammates this weekend, Eliano de Vos and Vica Schledz, I didn’t drive a 24 hour race before. They however did not seem to be too much impressed by the occasion, in fact, they looked determined to show our rivals their back.

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BlueStar was represented by no less than three teams this weekend, a luxury problem to select a first team from all our drivers and we could shine for a group picture in our new race suits. We were well prepared by doing a couple of training session in the weeks preceding the race and decided on team line-ups based on laptimes. Even though we were really close, we knew we could not underestimate our opponents. That was also proven during qualifying where we missed the top three after three sessions with three drivers in three different karts after having one less good kart. One last check on the rules, charging the radios, checking my weight on the scales, taking some energy drink and then it was time to head to the starting grid. Ahead of me the 2019 world champion (German Michael Schöttler place 3) and 2016 world champion (Rico Haarbosch place 2) and on pole position Guillermo van Pamelen for AP Motorsport who was teaming up with Filip Vieira, Stefan Verhofste and Jules Vanhulle. From the start of the race, I had to give everything to stay close to the top three, damage control with a difficult kart.

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Every hour we were changing karts, all 20 teams driving in the 24 selected karts for the event. It was basically a sequence of 24 one hour sprint races, never could you relax or lose focus. Every tenth of a second counted, both in terms of race pace, but also in the pit and with overtaking backmarkers. Hola Lulu was off to a good start with Rico behind the wheel and extended their lead in the first hours to half a lap. Despite my kart I could well enjoy the first stint, my pace was good and together with Max op den Kamp, one of the talented youngsters of Talent Factory, we could put in consistent laptimes. Really cool to see how fast these young drivers improve! Vica, Christian and Eliano kick-off their campaign with stints 2, 3 and 4, as if they are used to driving 24 hour races already for years, being super consistent and kicking some ass, exactly what you need to be in contention for the win in races like this.

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The evening kicks in and we are about to go out in the so called superkarts which were brought over from Worldkarts Poperinge as a special element in this race. The karts are lighter and faster than the normal kart and every team drives three stints in it. After our team practice I was the one to drive these karts and it was important to quickly pass drivers in the normal karts. In that case, you could easily make up a lap in one hour time. 18 hours still to go, I launch myself of the brake pedal towards the light in the pit, 60 seconds of rest and away we go again. Christian chasing Hola Lulu with 21 seconds behind. Hola Lulu is on full strength this weekend with experienced international kart drivers like Matts Breckpot, Arnaud Teuwen, Dylan de Wolf, Kevin Caprasse and Rico. Apart from their speed, their pitstop were risky but allowing them to win some time. Not all teams drove the same amount of time at 95kg and in the superkarts, therefore the preliminary standings were not always representative, however when we were more than two laps at some stage during the first half of the race, we knew there was work to do.

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Yoan made is debut in the race with our first stint on 95k of which we had to do 4. Yoan is a long standing BlueStar driver and much appreciated force in our team, not only because of his speed but also because of the role he is taking next to the track, keeping everyone sharp and taking responsibility when he can. Still before midnight we received our first official warning, a moment of Christian where he lost his patience in overtaking a backmarker, it was the only small mistake I could discover of him during the entire race. He was quickly back on pace and putting down laptimes as consistent as a Swiss watch. Meanwhile Vica and Eliano briefly left the arena for a few hours of sleep. I was doing a double stint in the middle of the night. While waiting for the 60 seconds to tick away during the kart change, I shortly closed my eyes, heard the noise of the big air ventilators, the sound of sliding tyres into turn one, this was the feeling of a 24 hour race of which I did too few in the past couple of years (only 1 since 2018). The light went out and full throttle I left the pit again. In my second stint in the superkart I could almost fully close the gap to the leaders in the race. Eliano was present in the pit again to take over from me, for me time to quickly head upstairs for a quick sleep.

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I could barely sleep, watching the live-timing on my phone one more time, turning around. Suddenly one hour past and I woke up just before my alarm. The feeling you better had stayed away from bed at all, heading down the stairs again facing some other drivers which didn’t look great either. Coming back in the cafeteria I was happy to see we were leading the race by over a lap, the youngsters had stepped up in some nice karts, although it had to be mentioned Hola Lulu did its four mandatory extra driver changes (costing them some 40 seconds). Christian was in the kart and no name was yet filled out on our schedule for the next hours. No one seemed to be very enthusiastic to take the next stint when asking, so I decided to go for it although I was not feeling that fantastic at that moment. Yoan and I kicked off the stint doing our four mandatory extra driver changes as well which went smoothly, we kept the lead in the race while entering the 17th hour. In the 18th hour Hola Lulu took back the lead in their final stint in the superkart, it remained a battle with only a handful of seconds separating the two of us.

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We kept motivating each other to push to the limit in every stint and when Vica won some time in a very difficult kart, our confidence in a good ending rose. Yoan and Vica both did another stint at 95kg and the third and final stint in the superkart in the 21st hour should bring us back to the lead, in which we succeeded! In our best of three superkarts I could build up a lead of over a lap with only one stint on 95kg left. On the third place in the race it was AP Motorsport which was able to shake off the second BlueStar team in the battle for the last podium spot, some two laps behind us. The German top teams had to give up on their podium hopes as well in the second half of the race. With (luckily again) a lot of people cheering at the side of the track, the closing stages of the race approached. The race was finished without major incidents, unfair behaviour and mechanical malfunctions, a big compliment to owner Kristof Goethals (a very passionate racing enthusiast) and his crew and of course also to the participating drivers and teams. With only one hour to go we were still in the lead by a lap, Eliano checking out one last time with Christian entering the final hour with one of our most difficult karts. But that didn’t hurt him at all, although Kevin Caprasse could decrease the deficit to 34 seconds, the win was not questioned anymore in the final moments of the race and after 24 hours and 1616 laps, BlueStar could finally add this so much desired victory in the 24 hours of Kortrijk to our resume. It was fantastic to be part of this team of five (and our entire BlueStar representation this weekend) and we proudly received the winners trophy in our new suits. The race was over, engines off and driving back home, already making plans for new adventures with our team. I would like to thank all sponsors of BlueStar who contributed to our success this weekend!

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Swedish Rental Kart Championship 2021

Ruben grabs silver again for third year in a row in Sweden

Kungälv (Se), 11-12 December 2021

For the third year in a row, I travelled to Goteborg in Sweden to take part in the Swedish Rental Kart Championship. After the winter editions in the beginning of 2019 and 2020, the championship was now postponed to the last month of the year due to the Covid-19 situation. Together with my mom we left Holland on Thursday to combine the race weekend with a mini vacation around the nice city of Goteborg. Luckily, not much Covid related measures applied in Sweden, which made the trip a lot more fun, especially as in the Netherlands the country is in partial lockdown at the moment. On Friday I went to the Gokartcentralen track in Kungälv to do some practice.

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The track was still the same as last year, the karts however were completely new Sodi’s! The karts were still electric and that always requires some time to adapt to, as the reaction on throttle is totally different compared to driving in thermic karts. A funny new system introduced was that the karts could also be reduced in power as an alternative for taking weight with you, I tried it a couple of times and surprisingly the difference between changing the mode on the steering wheel and taking actual weight with you was rather small. After ten short 8-minute heats, we left the track and I felt prepared for the weekend.

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This year, the race days were split between juniors and seniors and therefore we only had to be present halfway through the afternoon on Saturday. Like last years, the program started with two heats of 8 minutes where the fastest laptime was decisive. In the first heat I had to compete against an old friend and rival, Amanda Costa Paz from Portugal (and living in Belgium). He has a lot of experience driving in electric karts on the track of Wavre in Belgium, and was already very quick during practice. In the first heat I was able to take the first place, while in the second heat I was beaten by a Swedish youngster, I didn’t have the best kart in that heat. From heat 3 onwards, we were back to actual races with a one lap qualification and one longcut to be made. I could win all of my three remaining races on Saturday, wrapping up the day in the evening with a first place in the intermediary standings.

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On Sunday morning the championship continued with the finals for the junior drivers. Adam Szurpit from Poland (also living in Belgium) was crowned Swedish Rental Kart Champion for juniors after an exciting final! Then it was our turn in the semi final where we had to drive 8 laps in 8 different karts. A nice and fair system and from the first battle it was a close fight between Amandio and me as we were in the same group again. In the end it was Amandio with the advantage and claimed the first place. Adam was in our group as well and used his rhythm from the track time in the morning to his advantage by driving an extremely strong semi final, finishing in third not far behind us! In the other semi finals it were 2019 champion from Sweden Erkin Bour and Danish Nikolaj Marsengo who were the fastest. Going into the final, it was Nikolaj with the points lead, 2 points clear of Erkin, who was one point ahead of me and 2 ahead of Amandio.

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The final started with a battle knock-out qualification. In the first round I was able to beat my old Swedish friend Rickard Javanainen with whom I shared the Kart World Championship podium back in 2016 in Italy. In the second round I was up against Victor Sparholt from Denmark, a young and talented driver. With a minimal margin of a couple of thousands of a second I won the battle. In the last battle I drove against Amandio who beat Nikolaj. It was a tense battle as both of us were faster in one of the karts, however in total Amandio just beat me and had the first kart pick. Amandio took a less good kart with him into the final battle, and therefore my chances to beat him in the race seemed small.

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With the standing start I departed well and it was Nikolaj with a jump start, giving him a 5-second penalty. I didn’t know this and as Amandio disappeared in front of me quickly, I focused on the guys behind me. For me Nikolaj was not that import as he could finish either directly behind me or in front of me to still be in front of me in the final classification. After taking the long-cut, we were side by side and Nikolaj tried to pass me but pushed me wide. He therefore received another 5 second penalty and despite being in front of me, he lost his podium chances in the final ranking. I finished the race in second place, in front of Victor and Erkin, the latter scoring another final podium with a third place this year. So all in all it was a good weekend for me, unfortunately no title and a second place again like in the previous two years, again so close but a nice goal for the next years! This year I was beaten fair and square by Amandio, he was the deserved winner of SRKC 2021.

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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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Coppa Campioni 2021

Exciting race weekend in Italy without luck in the final for Ruben
Jesolo, 11-12 September 2021

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The Coppa Campioni (Champion Cup Kart or CCK) was a famous international gokart race in the 70’s and 80’s held at the historic track Pista Azzurra in Jesolo, Italy. In 2021, the Italian brothers Piernatale and Rocco Formini together with the track in Jesolo decided to organise a new edition of the Coppa Campioni attracting some of the best international rental kart drivers. In the weekend of 11 and 12 September the event took place and several days before the weekend, I arrived in Jesolo to combine the championship with a holiday at the beach in Italy. Luckily we were presented with great weather during the entire week which made the stay even better. On Wednesday evening I drove my first session on the track which was completely new to me, together with my friend and BlueStar teammate Eliano de Vos. The karts and the track were great and on Thursday and Friday we drove some additional practice sessions, which was very helpful for me as in the past years I did not race too much on outdoor tracks so I needed the practice to get up to speed.

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The championship started under a fantastic sunrise on Saturday morning, featuring 67 drivers from all over Europe including some familiar faces from the indoor kart scene and some new (Italian) drivers I did not meet before. The atmosphere was great and further boosted by the Italian commentator who was making a great show around the races all weekend long. On Saturday 6 rounds of heat races with three groups of 22/23 drivers were planned, a full program with plenty of exciting races. Every race consisted of a 2-lap qualification session followed by a 14-lap race including one pitstop. It was not only great to drive the 15 horse power 390cc Sodi Karts around the track but also great to watch some of the action from the grandstand or somewhere around the track. Racing on outdoor tracks is quite different compared to indoor races, overtaking is much easier, defending much harder and it typically pays off to work together using slipstreams instead of fighting for track position like we more often used to do on indoor tracks. On Pista Azzurra we experienced that the tyres were easily overheated which created some understeer and sometimes also bumping of the kart, which made some karts challenging to drive.

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My Saturday comprised a lot of different races, including a lead from start to finish but also fighting my way back from the midfield with a less good kart through traffic by first-lap overtakes, smart strategy and defending my position. The kart differences were quite big which in my experience is in almost all outdoor rental karting events I have participated in over the last 15 years. Changing weather conditions and long straights cause differences in karts to be amplified and with a bad kart it is much harder to obtain a strong result which on indoor tracks is sometimes possible. After six races I scored a win and a second place with two very good karts, two sixth positions with an average and a less good kart and a 9th and 11th position with two really bad karts. All in all I ranked 9th of 67 drivers after day one, indicating I was not the only one with mixed results. I however really enjoyed the racing and also noticed that my pure pace substantially improved during the day, much better compared to what it was during the practice days which gave me good hope for the final day of racing.

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On Saturday evening I enjoyed a great dinner with my Belgian and Dutch friends from BlueStar Racing team at one of the many good Italian pizzeria’s in town. On Sunday morning the Coppa Campioni continued with the semi finals, live streamed on Motorsport tv which further raised the excitement amongst drivers and spectators. Every driver drove two semi finals, three groups were formed based on the ranking and grid positions in the first semi final were based on the ranking after the heats (excluding the worst result). In the second semi final, the starting order was based on the result of semi final one with the top 8 starting with a reversed grid. As in the heat races, kart draw was important. To qualify for the final, a top 22 position was sufficient and there was no specific advantage for the higher classified drivers in the final as for the final a new kart draw and qualification is done and the result of the final was also the final classification in the championship. Therefore I didn’t want to take stupid risks as I had quite some margin to make the top 22 after the semi finals. Starting my first semi from 3rd position, I was able to follow the fast guys in front of me being the German Dennis Höller and my Belgian Bluestar teammate Logan Sougne. We could pull away with the three of us quickly and halfway through the race I was able to pass Logan. After the pitstops and working nicely together with Dennis and Logan, I made a decisive overtake on Dennis in the final lap and was able to win the race!

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That meant I had to start the second semi final from eight position. In the first lap, I chose the outside line after the standing start and that paid off as was in sixth quickly after the start. During the race I had good pace with what I think was an average kart and could climb up the ranking, waiting long to make my pitstop. After the pitstop I came out on 4th place and overtook Dennis Höller on the final lap after his pitstop while we crossed the finish line side by side. A great battle with a lot of respect for each other. With my semi final results I made it to the final in 7th position, but as mentioned before, the position did not really matter anymore which was of course a pity for the drivers in the top of the standings like my Dutch BlueStar teammate Christian Douven, the fast Italian youngster Nicolo Soffiati and Dennis Höller.

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After the semi finals there was a great show with old gokarts, amazing to watch and there was a live music performance on stage as well. Everyone was ready for the big finals. All drivers had to chance to drive a final race, as there was also a C final and B final for the people ranking below position 44 and 22 respectively. After watching the drivers presentation and the action in these interesting races, it was time for the big all decisive final of 20 laps. Kart draw was now super important with these 22 top drivers lining up and in the three minute qualification session I quickly found out that I had not been lucky at all. I qualified in 13th position but the difference in speed with the front runners was really big so even before the final started the disappointment was already there as I knew my chances on the podium were gone. Of course I gave everything in the final to make the best out of it. The first lap was quite eventful with many drivers being a bit more aggressive than before, which resulted in many drivers going off the track and I was able to win several positions by avoiding the crashes, but I was also pushed wide and losing some places again.

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In the end I finished the race in 15th place after working together with the fast Belgian driver Gilles Vervisch in a large part of the race. At the front of the field it was Dennis Höller controlling the race from pole position with a very strong pace in line with his whole weekend and he in the end claimed the Coppa Campioni title 2021, a great win and a big title for him, in my opinion very well deserved and great to see how happy he was crossing the line in first. For second place a lot of position changes took place including my BlueStar teammate Vica Schledz, a great young Dutch talent who was battling with my other BlueStar teammates Logan, Christian and Yoan and also the Italian driver Maicol Mattioli and Belgian Benjamin Kaivers. Christian did not have to best kart either and definitely deserved more than the 6th position he ended. It was in the end Mattioli who took 2nd place after a great comeback in the final, just before Logan, Benjamin and Yoan. A great podium finish for my Belgian friend Logan as well, congratulations to him! Despite my disappointing final and the dependency on the karts, I sincerely enjoyed this great outdoor event and was proud to see all six BlueStar drivers being in the final and being part of most of the battles at the front of the field in the entire weekend! Additionally, there was also a great atmosphere the entire weekend, not only with all Dutch drivers but with our foreign competitors and friends as well. With some small changes to the rules I think the championship has the potential to become even more high level, fair and exciting in the next years and I would love to be part of it in the future again. Thanks to the organisation for inviting us to this first renewed edition of the Coppa Campioni.

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