Ruben Boutens

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

Racehall of Champions

Ruben steals the show in last big race of the year
Aarhus (Dk), 27-28 December 2018

Like previous years, for the last race of the year I drove to Denmark to participate in the Racehall of Champions. A magnificent track which hosted the 2013 Indoor Kart World Championship. Together with talented youngsters Eliano de Vos and Hugo Leenaars and Selina Balneger I arrived on the track on Wednesday evening for some first practice. The track was changed a bit compared to last year and I still loved the wide and fast track which was very good for overtaking. On Thursday a 5-hour endurance race was organised, 18 teams battled in 3 different weight categories for the victory. I raced together with Ian Andersen and Ayrton Walczak, two very nice guys who are always fast in Racehall. I started the race and after qualifying in 2nd place, I had a bit of a challenging first stint as I was chased by some Danish drivers and at the same time, I couldn’t follow the German team of WRT Lubeck who had a nice first kart and made very well use of it. We had to make 3 kart changes and Ian went out on track for the 2nd stint. He drove very good laptimes and closed in on WRT Lubeck. We came back to 10 seconds behind the leaders, but at that moment, Ian entered the pit for the mandatory fuel stop, while there was already another team in the pit. A costly mistake as we had to wait more than 50 seconds before we could press the button and enter the kart change zone. We were now again a lap behind and chances on victory sharply declined.

Ayrton did everything he could in his stint, lapping very consisted and fast laptimes and coming closer to the Germans again. As he was fast, we decided to wait long before performing our final kart change. I stepped in to this last kart for the final 10 minutes of the race. We managed to come pretty close to the leaders but ultimately finished in 2nd place behind Andre Lohse and Lars Ole Jens who drove a very strong race. The Dutch team with Selina, Hugo and Eliano finished on a very good 2nd place in the 65kg class behind the team of Consulting Denmark Jr. On Friday was the most important day for me with the individual championship in 4 different categories, the Juniors (65kg), Seniors (80kg & 100kg) and Old Boys (110kg). I participated in both the 80 and 100kg class. I was very much focused to finish the year on a high, I really wanted to win today and I started with a win in my first heat race in both categories. I felt strong out there and knew that the starting position in the final would be very important as the races were short. In the past years I was often one of the fastest drivers in the final but had to overtake too many drivers. In the second round of heats I finished 3rd and 2nd while Ayrton Walczak (80kg) and Lars Ole Jens (100kg) took the win. In round 3 I could score 2 victories again, meanwhile I drove the fastest lap of the day of all categories in a very good kart, I was ready for the final.

The Junior category featured many strong drivers, but it was Eliano who was the star of the day by winning 2 of his 3 heats and winning the final in great style after driving one of the midfield karts. Eliano was fast from the beginning on this track and deserved the win like no other driver. Hugo also drove for the first time in Denmark and was one of the youngest participants. He showed great potential in all his races and finished in a good 11th position in the final. For the finals we had to draw a kart which was a very exciting moment, I just hoped I didn’t draw a very bad one and that was not the case. In the 80kg class I could pull away from the beginning of the final, building up a small gap to Selina and Ayrton who were fighting for second place. Behind them, an interesting and intense battle for 4th took place, which was ultimately won by Polish Wojtek Stefaniuk. My girlfriend Edyta improved her performance from last year, finishing in a strong 6th place! I was able to secure my first ever win in the Racehall of Champions, a very very nice title which already made my day very good!! There was however another title for grab, as I could start from pole in the 100kg class as well. In this final the competition was even stronger, from the start of the race I had German Lars Ole Jens, Ian Andersen from Denmark and countrymate Selina close behind my bumper. In the middle of the race I was able to slightly pull away, before Ole Jens came closer again. It was a very good race, but I didn’t make any mistakes and finished off the year in the best possible way, with a double win in the Racehall of Champions. After my victories in the Indoor Kart World Championship, British Rental Kart Championship, Belgian National Championship and Formula Karting Championship I could add another big title to my amazing list of results in 2018. I was honored with some big wreaths and an amazing collection of great prizes on the Racehall podium. I would like to thank the organization and ATR Team for making this event possible, and I’m already looking forward very much to 2019!

Spanish National KWC Qualifier

Ruben improves one place finishing 2nd in the Spanish NQS
Madrid (Sp), 23 December 2018

Less than a week after I returned from Dubai, another great karting trip was around the corner. Together with my dad I travelled to Spain to participate in a new edition of the Spanish National Qualifier Series for the Kart World Championship. In March of 2018 the previous edition was held in which I managed to finish 3rd behind Rico Haarbosch and Jon del Valle. This time tickets for the 2019 world championship in the USA were on the line. On Saturday morning the 22nd of December I arrived in Madrid and it was cold in Madrid as well, unlike what we were used in previous visits to the capital of Spain. In the afternoon I had 4 practice sessions, 2 in both directions and the layout was changed compared to last time. It was not easy to be quick straight away, in my last heats I noticed that I was slightly slower than the quickest drivers on the track, including Jon del Valle who was very fast. After a good dinner we went to bed early to be ready for the raceday on Sunday.

Traditionally, the Spanish championship is not about races but about time trails, stopping the clock as fast as possible after one lap. A fair system although the tension of overtakes, strategy and defending is absent. We started with 13 groups of 4 drivers who all drove 4 heats while rotating 4 different karts. In the morning the start was delayed because of rainy conditions which made the first level of the track very slippery and according to the organisation too dangerous to drive. We therefor only used the lower level of the track. On a drying track I was able to clock the fastest time in my group in all 4 sessions, qualifying for the final knock-out round. We had some time to go for lunch and to visit the hotel for a hot shower, before returning to the track. There was a draw to determine the schedule for the 32 drivers left, including the best 2 of each group and the 6 fastest numbers 3. Winners of a group couldn’t face a winner of another group in the first round, however the system allowed for facing all drivers in the second round. Potentially, the 4 best drivers could be in the same quarter and in that case, only one of them could reach the podium, as losing a round implied you were knocked-out of the tournament. A fair system to determine the winner but not always for the number 2 and 3.

We now raced again on the full track and in reversed direction. In the first round I raced Valentin Aparicio, which I knew really well from previous events. I could win from him with quite a big margin and went to the second round against Christian Bartolome. Another good driver but again I could proceed to the next round. Now I knew I had to be on my best, as I faced Jon del Valle. My laps were good and luckily, I beat him in both karts, a bummer for Jon as he might well have been amongst the 3 fastest drivers, but he was out. In the semi-final I had to race against Busian Fontan Alcalde who finished 5th in the previous edition. In one kart it was pretty close, but in the other kart I won by 0.8 second and hence I qualified for the final round. This was against Fernando Lara who beat Jorge Suarez, Cristian Perez and Victor Plaza already. I beat him during the KWC in 2017 and in the previous edition where he finished right behind me in 4th, but I certainly knew he was dangerous. In the first lap I was slightly quicker, but in the second one Fernando beat me fair and square, he was about 3 tenths quicker on the 1 minute and 6 seconds track and as I made no big mistakes in my final lap, he was the deserved winner of the day, well done!

I was of course disappointed not to take the win as I felt very strong during the whole day, but I knew 2nd place is a good result and as only non-Spanish driver today, I was happy to be on the podium again and secure another KWC entry ticket (my 3rd now). Victor Plaza ended up in a nice 3rd spot, also congratulations to him. I would like to thank the organizers Jose Burillo and Ana Pozuelo and the track of Karting Rivas for hosting this great event. I hope to come back next year to take the win and would like to thank all Spanish people for the warm welcome (despite cold weather :P). On Monday we visited the city of Madrid before we headed back home during Christmas on Tuesday.

24 hours Dubai

BlueStar experiences unique trip in the Middle East
Dubai (UAE), 14-15 December 2018

In 2017 BlueStar won the endurance championship at Karting Eupen, for which we were awarded a free entry in the 24 hours of Dubai 2018. At that moment this still felt like far away. On 10 December 2018 I however stepped in the plane towards the United Arab Emirates. Together with my girlfriend and 6 other friends from our team we went to Dubai for a memorable week. We combined the race with a great week full of activities like a spectacular speedboat tour alongside the coast of Dubai, a Sahara trip including sandboarding, quad driving, camel riding, 4x4 Jeep touring through the dunes and a BBQ at sunset. We further enjoyed the impressive city of Dubai around the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world), the beach, some amazing restaurants and hotels in Dubai and a huge collection of supercars cruising through the city. With 28 degrees it was a great place to spend time during winter and on Wednesday evening we first went to the Dubai Kartdrome next to the large Dubai Autodrome.

After one hour of practice for our team (Yoan Medart, Mathias Grooten, Romano Franssen, Gregory Laporte and myself) we had a good impression of the track, but we didn’t feel like fast enough already to challenge the fastest drivers. Even though we had a great team, we dampened our expectations as our experience on the track was very limited compared to the teams participating in the Dubai endurance series. We had a pitbox with TV screen to follow the live standings and laptimes. The track itself was very big and had a cool lay-out. In the free practice on Friday morning, every driver had to drive a few laps and we tried to get a good kart for the first stint. Every time you entered the pitlane you had to change karts and we tried to change until we had a good one to start the race with. This didn’t really succeed, and in a chaotic 9-lap sprint race to determine the start order, Romano was positioned around P10. During the race we had to make 24 kart changes with a maximum stint time of 1.5 hour per driver. With always 3 karts in the pitlane and a draw to determine your next kart, it was far from easy to keep track of all the karts in the pits and decide the right moment to come in. In the first 8 hours of the race we lost already a lot of time on the frontrunners while we were struggling in the midfield.

This was a combination of not having the right pace yet, not having the luck of picking the karts we wanted during the pitstops and some tactical mistakes to drive to too long with an average or bad kart as we didn’t optimally keep track of where the good karts were. As the race progressed we improved our driving style and lines, and also improved out strategy and tactics. It was not always easy to judge how far we could go in terms of track limits, as sometimes teams received penalties whereas other teams were never even warned for crossing the white lines and curbstones. We moved up from a position between P15-20 to a top 10 spot. Apart from my first stint where I was too slow, I was very happy with my driving as I could win some place in my 2nd, 3rd and 4th stints. In the last hours of the race we were more often amongst the fastest teams on the track and that made the result a bit more bearable. In the end we finished far behind the winners, but I think if we would have to chance to do the race again, we would finish much higher. In the end we finished on position 8, not a very special result but the experience to race here with so many good teams on this track was definitely a very special one we will not quickly forget. All in all, the organization looked very professional and I would like to thank Karting Eupen for supporting us in our participation in the 24 hours of Dubai.