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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