The season opener on the RGMMC race calendar saw some great racing across the weekend at the Rotax Winter Cup in Spain. The hosting venue, Karting Campillos near Malaga in the south, was once again the ideal location for the 2012 icebreaker event, as competitors from 22 different countries battled it out for the Winter Cup title and the chance to take home free entries to the Rotax Euro Challenge in all categories.
Harrison Scott wins the English showdown in Senior Max
Friday’s qualifying was a Spanish standoff for several minutes after the official timed session got underway, as all 35 drivers played the tactical waiting game. However, it was last year’s runner-up Sean Babington (Dan Holland Racing/Alonso) with a best lap of 1:03.752 who set the pace to claim pole in lap 4 ahead of Euro #3 Edward Brand (Formula K Europe/Formula K) and fellow Brit Andy King (Strawberry Racing/Tonykart). Babington said he was looking forward to Saturday’s racing, especially starting from pole position, claiming “I had a very good set-up on the kart. The DHR team had it spot-on with the really good Ogden engine.”
When it came to the qualifying heats, the pole-sitter was beaten to grid 1 for the pre-final by a very dominant display of driving by Harrison Scott (Tonykart) who sealed all three races with a hat-trick. The confident young driver from Great Britain was incidentally wearing the lucky race suit of former Strawberry Racing team mate Luke Varley, who won both the Rotax European and Grand Finals titles in the Max class back in 2009. With a star-studded senior line-up at Campillos, the racing turned on some great track action for the spectators on the Andilusian hill. The second row was filled with two more British drivers; Charlie Eastwood and Andy King.
Disaster struck early for the outstanding qualifying, with Babington spinning out on the first corner together with several other front-runners. Scott lost the initial lead to 2011 Rotax International Open winner Dave Blom, only to regain it on lap 2 before a non-stop lead-swapping race unfolded, as a shortlist of drivers shared the prime position. With one to go, it was Ed Brand racing alongside Blom in the Formula K Europe team, who took a shot at leading the field to the flag on the last lap, only to be overpowered by Scott fighting back. As the line approached, it was actually Eastwood (Protrain Racing/Formula K) coming from P4 who pushed past the others for an exciting finish. Blom was 2nd to a disappointed Scott, then Brand and Hand made up the first 5. The fastest time went to DHR Senior Rookie Philip Morin, who came from mid-field to 6th in the 13-lapper.
The adrenalin was pumping when it came to the Senior Max final with the young guns at the front all biting at the bit for a start. Eastwood lost the lead on the second lap to Scott after he’d passed Blom in P2, as the heated fight for places inside the top 10 continued long after, giving the leader some space. With 5 laps left of 18 Eastwood was clearly gaining, but it was Scott who secured the race honours by 0.3 seconds. Brand and Blom were unable to prevent Hand moving through to take the remaining step on the podium in the late stages, while Morin followed with a last lap attempt to steal 4th and succeeded. The bunch of five including pace-setter Aavo Talvar in 7th crossed the line scrambling for the chequered flag, as team mates Babington and Wylie carved up the field to come from the lower half of the grid to round out the top 10 behind Portugal’s Francisco Mora. An impressive effort saw the last row of Jiri Forman and Oliver Myers finish on P13 & 14.
Harrison Scott – “We were on the pace all weekend so it made it much easier for me in the races. I wasn’t so lucky in qualifying, but came through in the heats. In the pre-final it didn’t go all our own way, so I started P3 for the final and got into the lead, not making any mistakes. I have to thank the Strawberry Racing team for the opportunity to race, Cream Engines, my mechanic Tom, and my mum and dad for their support.”
Junior Max clash sees the title go to Harry Webb
The official timed practice was a real shuffle for pole position until junior rookie Harry Webb (Strawberry Racing/Tonykart) posted 1:05.178 on his fifth lap. Following his Rotax International Open podium, Thomas Preining (Formula K) looked good for a front row start in the heats, but losing his chain guard meant fellow Formula K Europe driver Fazio Franssen moved to P2; 0.157 seconds off Webb. Third best time was set by Kaan Onder (Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport/Formula K) supported by the Protrain Racing team with the 2011 Rotax Open champ beaten by only 4/1000. The lap times to follow-on were quite close for the Junior Max session.
As was the case for Webb’s senior team mate, he made a clean sweep of the qualifying heats to be on pole as well for the pre-final. Onder started beside him off grid 2, with local driver Alvaro Otero and South African entry Shayur Harpal making up row 2. Franssen’s chances of a better grid diminished with a poor result in heat 1 as it did for a few other drivers who looked almost certain for a top 5 race finish Saturday. It wasn’t so easy!
Sunday’s chilling Andilusian wind blew over the Campillos circuit as Webb strengthened his pre-final lead from the lights, hunted down by another international Junior Max newcomer Connor Hall (Coles Racing/Tonykart). The 13-year old Welsh champion overpowered Onder on lap 4 after setting best lap so far and consistently got faster to close in on the leader. By the 7th lap, he had passed Webb to take 1st until they swapped places again, with Hall then regaining the lead going into the next lap. It was a narrow win, but earned Hall pole for the final with Onder starting directly behind him after finishing 3rd; nearly two seconds off Webb in the end. Otero fell out of contention, as Franssen beat Lars Lamborelle home for 4th in another close dash for the line.
The final was a definite nail-biter! Hall got off to a good start, while Onder and Lamborelle led Webb from the inside. As 2nd and 3rd traded places in the opening lap, a surprise attack let Webb take P2 in a well-executed move. The three-way battle for 3rd intensified, after Cem Bolukbasi overtook Onder, allowing the pack to stack up to 12 karts creating an incredible race nearing the half-way mark. With 4 laps left, the clash of the junior titans began once Webb snatched the lead from Hall and they got into a dicing match to the final lap. Webb used as much of the track as possible to defend, so Hall looked for a way past on turn 7, driving a wider line knowing his chances were becoming limited. It was Webb’s satisfying victory, but probably not the last time they’ll go head-to-head in 2012. 3rd eventually went to Lamborelle in the shuffle for the podium place, leaving Onder to settle for 5th as he split the Paul Carr Racing/Kosmic duo of Bolukbasi and Henrique Baptista, who were both quick all week. In 7th was Otero then Pepijn Steeman and Florian Janits, ahead of Jessica Backman.
Harry Webb – “Obviously it’s a good for my first season racing in Europe out of Mini Max. I wasn’t expecting to take pole in qualifying here, but the kart was handling amazing and my engine was really fast. It was a tough battle between me and Connor in the final. I wasn’t able to get away from him so it was just a matter of battling my way through it for the win. The racing been tough because of the level, but I’ve really enjoyed it and now looking forward to the Euro-Max this year. A big thanks to Strawberry Racing, Cream Engines and also my dad who worked as my mechanic this week.”
Belgian Xen de Ruwe proves unbeatable in ROTAX DD2
Pushing it to the limit, the 2-speed gearbox karts suited the long and challenging Campillos layout, posting qualifying laps more than a second faster than the Max times Friday. 18-year old Xen de Ruwe (Formula K Europe/Formula K) dominated the competitive Rotax DD2 class at the 4th Winter Cup and was setting the pace from the start of unofficial practice, but he fought hard to take a convincing win. His best lap of 1:02.407 was too good for Birel drivers Kevin Ludi (Spirit Racing) and former senior world #2 Mario Vendla (Kartdago).
Again, the Belgian made a white-wash of Saturday’s qualifying heats under fire from Ludi in all three races, giving the Swiss driver an outside start on row 1 for the pre-final to follow. Although Vendla came closest to match Ludi in the points ranking, his first heat let him down, leaving the second row shared by Paul Grainger (Tatum Racing/Tonykart) and Italy’s Lorenzo Scatigna in the Haase DD2 kart. On equal points in P5 was the reigning British Rotax 177 champ Lucas Orrock (Paul Carr Racing/Kosmic) who made an impressive comeback after being forced to miss the official timed practice due to a nagging rib-muscle strain.
It wasn’t all so easy for De Ruwe in the pre-final to begin, losing his lead on the opening lap briefly to Grainger and getting a warning board from the officials in the process. Meanwhile, Orrock took 3rd amidst a dice for the top 3 with Ludi and Dzmitry Rymasheuski (Talvar Racing/ Intrepid) from Belarus, putting pressure on Grainger for P2. An appearance within 6 laps from European #3 Jules Szymkowiak (G-Star Raw Racing/Zanardi), who’d missed the qualifying heats from being ill, saw him fight to overpower Ludi for 3rd as Orrock fell to 6th. The 16-year old also claimed P2 still shadowed by Ludi at the flag, but it was De Ruwe with a comfortable win by 3+ seconds. Vendla took 4th after Grainger hit the brakes across the line to secure an inside row for the final (resulting in a DQ), only to be hit hard by Orrock unable to avoid the #616 kart , who was then classified 5th.
With basically a grid full of karts sporting new MOJO tyres for the final, the race was on for young and Masters (32+ years). It was exciting from the start as De Ruwe and fellow Belgian arch rival Szymkowiak played hard ball for the first half of the 18 laps as the lead swapped, while both getting a driving standards flag for what they later claimed were “unintentional” incidents. Orrock retired early with mechanical issues as the battle for positions became quite intense, letting De Ruwe pull a small gap while Szymkowiak got into a dice with the very much on-pace Ludi for 2nd. With 4 laps remaining, Haralds Garkaklis (DFK/Gillard) who’d been quickest in the pre-final secured P2 with the leader in his sights. It was De Ruwe’s deserving victory, however, taking the 2012 title ahead of the Latvian driver and Szymkowiak for a very marginal 3rd over Ludi. Vendla put up a good challenge to be 5th overall ahead of Grainger with best lap of the race. The Rotax Open champ and official Sodikart pilot Antoine Lepesqueux was the first of the French in 7th, then came Fred Aliksaar, Scatigna and rounding out the top 10 the DD2 Masters winner Christophe Adams.
Xen de Ruwe – “I’m very happy with my result; it’s a great start to this season! The race package was complete with the new Formula K kart and HRS engine so I was quite fast all week from the beginning of the practice. The start of the final was close with Jules and we both made a mistake to run into each other, but I was able to take the lead again and never looked back. I’m pleased I made the change to the Formula K Europe team which is a good atmosphere to work in. I want to thank all the team for their support and also my parents.”
Running within the Rotax DD2 category, the best qualifier in the Masters was Russian Igor Mukhin (Formula K Europe/Formula K) who ranked 8th in the Friday session 0.778 seconds off the pole time of his team mate Xen de Ruwe. Adams was next fastest with yet another former Winter Cup Max Masters winner Florent Lambert (Tatum Racing/Tonykart) posting the 3rd best lap just outside the top 10 overall. It was only Mukhin’s second event following the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in the U.A.E. late last year, “For me, it’s a new chassis, new class and a new team – so I’m very happy. To be in this class, you have to push hard because we have all the same equipment as the DD2 drivers. Congratulations to my team mate Xen; he did a really good job for pole position. I’m hoping my times can be even more consistently competitive in the racing.”
2011 European Rotax DD2 Masters champion Christophe Adams (Team Une Fois/Sodikart) sealed the latest Winter Cup title in Spain in a close finish that saw the first five Masters take the chequered flag in succession in the final Sunday. In the lead-up to the finals, Adams ranked 8th to be one point ahead of Mukhin, so they would start together on row 4 for the pre-final, with Lambert off row 5. It was Mukhin who had the best result in the race though, finishing 8th, but after having some misfortune during the final, he could only manage P12. Adams was the leading DD2 Master ahead of Ian Donaldson (Intrepid Cyprus/Intrepid), Mukhin, Lambert and Colin Davis, another of the European Max Masters champions from recent years now racing the DD2, was 5th.
Christophe Adams – “I enjoy racing the DD2 Masters and the competition was close too. It’s the first time I’ve driven the new Sodikart, which I considered using after Antoine Lepesqueux won the Rotax International Open last year in Zuera. I made lots of changes throughout this week and in the final also, looking for the ideal set-up. It was good and I am happy to win. Thank you to the people who support me and RGMMC for the prize of free entries for the Euro Challenge where I’m looking forward to racing in the Max Masters class again too.”
In addition to the spectacular trophies that were presented at the prize-giving ceremony Sunday afternoon, RGMMC Establishment as the organisers and promoters of the Rotax Euro Challenge awarded free entry for the entire four-round series in 2012 to all four winners of the Rotax Winter Cup titles, plus free entry for a select number of rounds to the podium place-getters in the Junior, Senior and ROTAX DD2 classes. Registration for round 1 of the championship to be held at Karting Genk in Belgium closes on February 26th.
For the complete results from the 2012 Rotax Winter Cup together with more information about the Rotax Euro Challenge – visit the official homepage at www.rotaxmaxeurochallenge.com
Photos: Bas Kaligis / RGMMC Media
RESULTS 2012 ROTAX WINTER CUP (Campillos, Spain)
ROTAX SENIOR MAX
1. Harrison Scott (GBR) – Tonykart/Strawberry Racing
2. Charlie Eastwood (GBR) – Formula K/Protrain Racing
3. Ash Hand (GBR) – Tonykart/Strawberry Racing
ROTAX JUNIOR MAX
1. Harry Webb (GBR) – Tonykart/Strawberry Racing
2. Connor Hall (GBR) – Tonykart/Coles Racing
3. Lars Lamborelle (NED) – Intrepid/TKP
1. Xen de Ruwe (BEL) – Formula K/Formula K Europe
2. Haralds Garkaklis (LAT) – Gillard/DFK
3. Jules Szymkowiak (BEL) – Zanardi/G-Star Raw Racing
ROTAX DD2 MASTERS
1. Christophe Adams (FRA) – Sodikart/Team Une Fois
2. Ian Donaldson (ESP) – Intrepid /Intrepid Cyprus
3. Igor Mukhin (RUS) – Formula K/Formula K Europe