Ruben Boutens

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

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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