Rotax Euro Challenge Celebrates First Winners Of The Season
The ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge finished a successful season opener at Genk. Some thrilling final races of the three categories of juniors, seniors and DD2 did not only entertain the spectators along the 1.360 metres long track but thousands of live stream viewers from all around the world. Except for some rain drops in the morning, the Belgium weather made for a sunny sky and mild temperatures. In the evening Axel Charpentier (juniors), Nicolas Schoell (seniors), Kevin Ludi (DD2) and Martin Pierce (DD2 Masters) were the beaming winners of the first round of the year.
Adam Smalley (Coles Racing) had the best start into the junior’s prefinal. In fact the Brit even pulled away a few metres. But he could not keep his leading gap since seven more juniors gained on the leader quickly. From then on the top kept changing consistently and one saw Oli Caldwell (KR Sport), Glenn Van Berlo (Hugo Motorsport) and Axel Charpentier (Strawberry Racing) in the leading role for at least one time. As the race approached the end, Axel Charpentier showed the best performance and took the win ahead of Glenn Van Berlo, Adam Smalley, Oli Caldwell and Lauri Leppa (VRT) from Finland.
After the start of the final, Axel Charpentier had to leave way to Glenn Van Berlo, equally having a lot pressure from behind. The lead changed a few times between Van Berlo and Charpentier until the race approached its decisive stage. Up to 20 youngsters closed the gap to the leading group and a big fight began. This was when Charpentier seized his chance to pull away, leaving his opponents behind. Finally the Brit took the second win of the day, crossing the line over seven seconds in front of Glenn Van Berlo and Adam Smalley. Yet the latter was given a time penalty due to unfair driving which threw him back to 19th place. So Lauri Leppa inherited the last podium place ahead of Oli Caldwell and Mark Kimber (Strawberry Racing).
The senior prefinal began with a massive pile-up, which involved almost half of the grid, mixing up the positions dramatically. It took quite a few laps until the order became clear again, coming up with Nicolas Schoell (Strawberry Racing) as the new leader. Together with his Irish teammate Gary Donnelly (Strawberry Racing), the Austrian pulled away from the rest of the grid. Finally the ex junior won the prefinal close ahead of Donelly by a gap of 0.651 seconds. Third place went to Glenn van Parijs (Bouvin Power) from Belgium who had picked up the race by 21st place only! Sam Marsh (Dan Holland Racing) and Charlie Turner (TBA) completed the top five positions of the semi final.
Nicolas Schoell was in control of the final race, too. Although he had to struggle with his opponents the first laps – even losing the lead shortly – the Austrian showed no weakness and defended the top against all chasers during the 17 laps race distance. By a secure gap of 1.294 seconds, Schoell saw the chequered flag first in front of his teammate Gary Donnelly. The fight for the third place was far more open. Up to eight drivers aimed for the last podium position and in the end it was the reigning vice champion Rinus van Kalmthout (Daems Racing) conquering the third place. Sam Marsh finished fourth ahead of Frenchman Thomas Drouet (RM Concept).
For the DD2 prefinal, pole sitter Martin Mortensen (RS Competition) could not tie in with his speed from Saturday. He quickly was pushed of the throne and even off the track, only ending up in 21st place. Equally Kevin Ludi (Spirit Racing) and Jordy Lievens (Vici Motorsport) were in best shape. Throughout the race they were able to head away from their opponents. They settled the victory amongst themselves. In the end Kevin Ludi crossed the line first ahead of Jordy Lievens, while Barrie Pullinger (Dan Holland Racing) from the UK, Dzianis Slavinski (Uniq Racing Team) from Belarus and Mick Wishofer (VPDR) from Austria followed up to fifth place.
In the final, Kevin Ludi and Barrie Pullinger set the pace at first. Both headed away from the grid until they began fighting by halftime. Consequently Mick Wishofer, Lukasz Bartoszuk (CRG S.P.A.) and the reigning DD2 champion Ferenc Kancsar (VPDR) closed the gap. An exciting final spurt began and Ludi seized the chance to pull away. Metre by metre the Swiss bunked off and finally took his longed for victory. Almost two seconds behind him Bartoszuk asserted himself in second spot in front of Wishofer and Pullinger. Kancsar finished on a conciliatory fifth place, regarding that he started the weekend with 34th place in the qualifying due to technical problems. As for the DD2 Masters, Martin Pierce (Uniq Racing Team) was a class of his own. He celebrated both wins, in the prefinal and the final. On the podium Slawomir Muranski (Wyrzykowski Motorsport) from Poland and Dennis Kroes (Team Kroes Goedsign/JVD Power) from the Netherlands completed the top three.