Ruben Boutens

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

Belgian National Kart Championship 2021

Ruben very strong in BNC but misses out on podium
Kortrijk (Be), 3-4 July 2021

In the strange year 2021 which was still heavily impacted by the Covid-19 situation around the world, the first large international rental kart championship was planned for the first weekend of July, after being postponed twice, the Covid-19 situation now allowed for a large international championship on the Belgian track of Kortrijk, the Belgian National Championship (BNC). The track of Kortrijk is always a special one to me as I drove my first Indoor Kart World Championship there back in 2008 and it was the first time the BNC visited this track after being held in Dolhain in the past four years. On Friday before the race and Saturday morning, there was the opportunity to practice on the track and on Saturday afternoon the championship got underway with the first heat races.

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On Saturday the first three heat races for all drivers were raced and every heat consisted of a single lap qualification and a sprint race including one longcut which was a strategical element you could use. My championship could not have started better with three victories on day one, having drawn some average karts and a very good one, allowing me to lead the championship after day one. My fellow countrymen Rico Haarbosch and Vica Scheldz followed closely with two victories and a podium each. On Sunday morning the last two heat races were driven to determine which 45 drivers would make it into the semi finals after dropping half of their worst points score. My qualifications were very good all weekend and that allowed met to start from pole position in race 4 and 5 again which is always crucial in these short sprint races on indoor tracks as it gives a huge advantage in track position despite the various possibilities to overtake on the track of Kortrijk. I managed to score two more victories and therefore qualified for the first semi final as the points leader again.

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The championship continued with three semi finals of 15 drivers with another hotlap qualification. I qualified just outside the top three this time but as the differences were small, nothing was lost yet. I fought my way up to the top three during the race, both by overtakes on the track and by waiting long to use my longcut. By doing the longcut you basically cut the first corner and therefor you won some seconds in track position but as you missed the crossing of the start/finish line, you missed one lap and had to be careful not to end up with blue flags. When waiting long to make the longcut, you had to take into account traffic from back markers. With very consistent laptimes and a late longcut I was able to jump all my competitors and continue my winning streak with a 6th consecutive victory! I was however not the leader in the championship as Rico just overtook me by scoring three more points for the qualification in the semi final. Rico won the second semi final and the third one was won by the strong Belgian competitor Mats de Jong who won the championship back in 2017.

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After Rico and myself, it were Christian Douven (NL), Bram Gelten (NL), Vica, Thomas Haglestein (BE), Mats, Michael Schöttler (DE), Jarno Hermans (NL), Nicolas Leroy (BE), Fabian Siegmann (DE) and Yoan Medart (BE) to qualify for the grand final featuring the best 12 drivers of the weekend. The qualification for the final consisted of three hotlaps in three different karts for each of the 12 drivers which went out on tracks in four groups of three. I chose to drive in the second group which was with hindsight probably not the best choice as in the last groups when the tyres were warmed up most, the three fastest qualification times were driven. I qualified in fourth position which meant there was still nothing lost. The final was all decisive for the championship and the points leader had the first kart pick, I chose my kart second. The kart differences were however so small that it was almost impossible to pick a kart, which is off course a big compliment to the organisation and not seen very often. In the final 2 longcuts had to be made. Christian qualified in pole position ahead of Vica, Rico and myself. In the second corner of the race, Rico immediately attacked Vica with a late but good move and together they went wide. I could undercut the two exiting the corner but the next corner was a long left hander and I was just not far enough ahead to cut to the inside line and Rico could come back next to me. As a result, I got tangled up on the outside of turn 3 and lost several places and crucial time.

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I started my recovery giving everything I had an waiting long with longcuts while most of my rivals took them in the beginning of the race. It was a very close battle on laptimes and Vica and me were winning back time on Christian and Rico. Rico however closed the gap to Christian as well and overtook him for the virtual lead in the race. Towards the end of the race I started gaining more time and came back into fourth position. Vica overtook Christian with the longcut and started to chase Rico, going bumper to bumper into the last lap. I was chasing Christian and managed to get on his bumper on the last corner, crossing the finish line side by side just a second behind Rico and Vica, but it was just not enough. Rico won hist first BNC title ahead of Vica and Christian, a thrilling final as a crown on a great championship. For me it was however a big disappointment, being dominant in the championship with 6 out of 6 wins up to the final, but still missing out on the podium, that hurts! Congratulations to the podium finishers, all three drove a super weekend and therefore a well deserved podium! Next to the individual championship there was also a team ranking where I managed to take the victory together with Yoan Medart and Eliano de Vos! Big thanks to Mathias Grooten and Gregory Laporte and the track of Flanders Indoor Karting Kortrijk for the amazing championship.

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Belgian National Championship 2019

Ruben’s comeback brings him to fifth in the final
Dolhain (Be), 16/17 November 2019

The fourth edition of the Belgian National Championship was organised in the weekend of 16 and 17 November at the track of Hurricane Dolhain Karting in the East of Belgium. This championship serves as one of the qualifier events for the 2020 Kart World Championship in Portugal and the organisation attracted 60 drivers from all over Europe including a very strong pack of contenders who could potentially make it to the final. On Friday and Saturday morning there was an opportunity to practice, and I arrived on Saturday in very cold conditions. The track was recently changed and was tight, which meant overtaking was not easy and qualification would be crucial. The races were preceded by a one lap qualification and one shortcut was required in every race. As the shortcut gave you an advantage of only a few seconds, the risk of running into back markers was very high when you would not take it in the first possible lap, therefore in almost every race the top drivers took the shortcut immediately, limiting strategic opportunities.

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In my first race I was initially lined up in 11th after qualification, which was surprising as my lap felt decent and I had some overspeed compared to the drivers around me in the first laps of the race. When the race was stopped by a red flag it became clear that my transponder was changed with someone else, and that I should have started from position 3, that was relief! The race was completely restarted and I finished the race also in third place, as Jimmy Gaspard and Opnithi Puyato were too fast in front of me. In race 2 I qualified 2nd behind Selina Balneger who defended well during the race. Yoan Medart was attacking me from behind and found his way past me in the closing stages of the race, I finished again in 3rd and was not happy with this result as I gave the position away to Yoan to easily. In race 3 I didn’t draw a good kart either, and the group was incredibly strong. I qualified only in 8th place and could pass two drivers during the race to finish eventually in 6th position, not a good result and as a result, I ended day one as number 16 in the standings.

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On day 2 I had to make up points as only the top 12 would make it to the final, so I needed a couple of good results to climb. With temperatures below zero I took pole position in the first race on Sunday morning. Finally an extra point (which could be scored with both pole position and fastest racelap) which were so important given the small differences in points between the drivers in the ranking system. In the race I could secure the victory over my countryman Guillermo van Pamelen and Belgian Tristan Foldesi. In race 5 I had a decent kart, and only Stefan Verhofste was faster than me in the number one kart which proved to be the best kart of the pack in all qualifier races. With these results I jumped to place 7 and I went into the first semifinal. I drew an average kart and qualified in fifth place this time. The race was a bit longer than the previous races and after some nice fights with the German drivers Thomas Schaller and Marcel Schlenker I finished on position 4. Not a great result, I remained number 7 in the ranking which meant I had the 7th kart pick for the final which was decisive for the final result.

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The 12 finalist, excluding some very big names like vice world champion Dennis Holler who didn’t make the final, were divided in four groups for a qualification of one lap in three different karts. My first and last lap were very strong, however with a less good second lap I had to start the 40-lap final from 7th place. The race pace of all finalists was extremely close and therefore it was not easy to make up time. This time the shortcut could actually be used at later stages of the race without risking to run into slower drivers early, and therefore I waited as overtaking on track was very hard. My pace was good and helped me pass both Florian Bredohl and Bastien Cabrera via my strategy. Opnithi started in the back of the field and was fast, after my second of two shortcuts I came side by side with him. When he noticed me being on his inside, he tried to cover the inside for the next corner, which made me hit the tire walls and an iron pin inside the tires. I came off the ground for a second and lost a lot of speed, but the race direction decided to swap our positions based on this move. This gave me 5th place in the end, not the great result from last year, but given the level of competition this weekend also not a bad result.

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The four drivers in front of me were all super strong during the weekend, on fourth place Christian Douven, a few seconds behind German drivers Michael Schottler in second and Marc Schings in third. But the BNC title 2019 was for Belgian home driver Yoan Medart, a very strong competitor for years who now added this big title to his resume, well deserved. The top 3 in the race finished like they started and the whole field of 12 drivers passed the checkered flag within 11 seconds of the leader, incredible and underlining the high level of drivers and kart equality in the final. The fights for the junior championship was decided in the last laps of the race, with Rico Haarbosch making a move on Bastien for 7th place in the race, which allowed Eliano de Vos to pass by Bastien as well and securing the BNC 2019 junior title, a very good result for him as well. All in all it was a very nice edition of the BNC to be part of, where qualification (and to a smaller extend kart draws) were decisive, in both aspects I just came short to compete for the title this year, but I’m looking forward to the next one. I would like to thank the kart track, Gregory Laporte and Mathias Grooten for the organisation during this weekend!

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