The European Karting Calendar officially gets underway this weekend with the WSK Champions Cup once again taking place at the Adria Circuit in Italy. After a ‘collective test’ at the weekend this will be the first we see of the World’s best in action. In this article we’ll go through some driver changes, who will be flying the flag for Great Britain and who I think could draw first blood!
Mini – 91 entries
Drawing in the most numbers this year is the Mini class. It’s WSK’s version of Cadet racing and with 91 drivers on the grid should provide some fantastic racing. Here are some ones to watch along with the two Brits who will be present.
Finishing 3rd in last year’s WSK Super Master Series, Andrea Antonelli (ITA) comes into the Champions Cup as the highest ranked Mini driver. His successful campaign last year saw him take two 2nd place finishes along with some impressive Pre-Final results. The Energy Corse driver could be considered the favourite for the event.
Martin Stenshorne put in some impressive performances last season with 9th place in the Super Master Series. The Norwegian driver was particularly impressive at La Conca where he took 2nd place losing out on victory by less than two tenths of a second!
Last on our list is Francesco Pulito. The Italian had a strong end to his 2017 campaign with a 2nd place at round four of the Super Master Series! It was a race that saw him 0.071 seconds short of a win, but boosted him to 10th in the championship.
The reigning Vice British Cadet Champion, Arvid Lindblad, is one of two British drivers to head to Adria building on what was just one solitary Brit in 2017 in the shape of Bray Kenneally. Racing with Oliver Rowland Motorsport last season Arvid was never far from the front and took home enough trophies to fill a whole trophy cabinet. He’ll be an exciting watch this weekend!
Another young talent heading to Adria is the British Cadet number seven seed Josh Irfan. Still a young driver, Josh was particularly impressive towards the end of last season. There’s no doubt he has the pace to do well in Adria as long as he can qualify well in a huge grid!
OK Junior – 83 entries
With the age limits for OK Junior decreasing all the time it’s no surprise to see the grid completely out weighing the Senior grid. But with a big entry should come some exciting racing and an almost impossible race to predict.
First up on my list is CRG’s Gabriel Bortoleto. The Brazilian driver had a mixed 2017 season with 8th place in the CIK-FIA European Championship and 14th in the WSK Super Master Series. Throughout both of those championships came particularly impressive performances with a 2nd at Sarno (CIK) and good Pre-Final performances in WSK. Now many from Juniors have graduated to Seniors, I believe this has cleared the way for Gabriel to go well this year.
Gabriel Bortoleto © KSP Reportages
Last year was very much a break through season for French driver, Sami Megeutounif, on a Worldwide scale. In the OK Junior class, Sami represented his home nation in the CIK-FIA Academy finishing an impressive 5th place in the championship with a 2nd place at round two (Le Mans). Sami also qualified for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Portimao and had a brilliant weekend finishing the final in 2nd place! He’s a driver in form and is ready to challenge for WSK and CIK titles!
Sami Megeutounif © KSP Reportages
An exciting addition to the OK Junior class this year will be reigning WSK Mini champion, Gabriele Mini. His win last year came after a successful 2016 campaign which saw him finish 3rd so it’s fair to say Gabriele is more than ready to tackle OK Junior. How he’ll do really depends on how quickly he adapts to the class but expect him to be at least threatening the top ten this weekend.
It’s fair to say the favourite for this weekend’s event is Harry Thompson. The reigning European Vice-Champion and newly signed Red Bull Junior driver had a fantastic 2017 season with a podium at the World Championships too. He was the IAME International Final Champion, British Champion, South Garda Winter Cup Champion and was 3rd in last years Super Master Series. Do I really need to write anymore about why he shouldn’t win?
Harry Thompson © KSP Reportages
Zak O’Sullivan was surprisingly quick in his adaption to the OK Junior last season. He finished 9th in the Super Master Series and 12th in the European Championship. He was only ever let down by mistakes and at times race craft, but that’s part of learning to beat the best in the game. I think he could be a podium finisher this weekend!
It’s good to see Joseph Taylor on the grid for this weekend. His CIK-FIA Academy campaign last year saw him unlucky to finish in 6th place which shows what pace the Fullerton driver had. Perhaps a year to prepare for a big 2018 season the Champions Cup could be the start of a European title assault for Taylor.
Taylor is an exciting addition to the OK Junior field as talked about in our interview with him earlier this week. Racing with Dino Chiesa’s new Kart Republic outfit it’s pretty impossible to predict how he’ll go given the chassis is brand new. One thing we do know is he’s going in with the same track record Harry Thompson had a year ago and we all know how well he did…
Kai Askey is definitely a star of the future in our sport and had a hugely impressive debut season in Junior X30 last year. He was quick to adapt to the class and European racing with 3rd at the IAME International Open in April and later followed that with a 5th in the X30 Euro Series (despite one DNS) and an 8th place in the IAME International Final. In the capable hands of Ricky Flynn Motorsport, I can’t see him doing badly!
Another British Cadet to graduate this year is Alex Dunne. Finishing 4th in last years British Championships it’s fair to say he is ready for this change and has not messed around going in with reigning European and World Champions, Forza Racing! Perhaps the current number one team in the whole sport Jamie Croxford should have Alex up to speed in no time!
Matthew Rees will make it four British Juniors racing with Ricky Flynn this year and is another one that could be an exciting watch. The young Welsh driver, had a strong start to the British Cadet Championship but running overweight eventually caught up with him meaning he got a result he perhaps didn’t deserve. Now in OK Junior I’m sure he’ll be relishing a fresh challenge.
Luca comes back for another campaign in 2018, he finished 47th out of 89 competitors in last year’s Super Master Series. Racing with the new Lennox Racing Team this season, could a change of outfits see him shoot up the order?
Luca Griggs in Mini
OK – 41 entries
The OK class may be missing some big hitters this weekend, but the field contains some new and old faces to the class which should make the racing exciting to watch!
Despite a move into car racing, Nicklas Nielsen just can’t stay away from our fantastic sport and who can blame him! Nicklas raced in last year’s Champions Cup finishing 6th place before going on to race in ADAC F4 and the Ferrari Challenge Europe. Now back to keep race fit he’ll be out with the KSM Schumacher Racing Team with what I can only imagine will be a win or bust mentality.
Tijmen van der Helm
Tijmen van der Helm was one of the best performers across all three European engine classes last year, all of which has seen him land a spot in Schumacher’s team alongside Nielsen. To summarise, he was Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals Champion, CIK-FIA Academy Vice Champion and 6th at the IAME International Final. Expect him to be somewhere near the podium if not on it!
Andrea Rosso is the reigning WSK Super Master Series Champion in the OK Junior so should be an exciting addition to the Senior class. He didn’t quite have the same fortunes in his CIK-FIA campaign but finished the year strong with 10th at the World Championship. I feel the CRG driver is ready to do good things in OK.
Antoine Potty caught my eye at last years IAME International Final where he finished 3rd in the X30 Junior class in a field of over 130 drivers! Included were many drivers on the grid this weekend and with that said he fits in a ‘one to watch’ list perfectly. It will certainly be a learning weekend for the VDK Racing driver, but he could be a surprise package.
It goes without saying that Pedro Hiltbrand is one to watch for the Champions Cup but the main reason he is on this list is to talk about his move back to CRG. Pedro was crowned Karting magazine’s first ever International Driver of the Year in 2016 after becoming the World and European Champion. That saw him switch from to the Tonykart Factory Team but an unsuccessful 2017 by his standards now see’s him back to CRG once again. Will the move prove to be costly or effective this weekend?
It’s crazy to think that just two years ago Dexter Patterson had just won the British Cadet Championship and now he is graduating to OK the current Junior World Champion! Staying with Forza Racing the task of getting ready for the Seniors will certainly not be easy for the young Scot, but coming in as Junior Champion will give him confidence. Racing against the likes of Hiltbrand and Nielsen will certainly be a challenge for Dexter and the Champions Cup will just be the first step in preparing for the all important European and World Championships later this year.
Dexter Patterson © KSP Reportages
Racing alongside Dexter with Forza Racing and also graduating to Seniors is Jonny Edgar. Recently signed as a Red Bull Junior this could prove to be one of his last seasons in kart racing. He comes in with a strong CV after winning both the European and Swedish championships last year. Similar to Dexter, the racing side could be tough at first, but Jonny’s European title was certainly no fluke!
© KSP Reportages
KZ2 – 23 entries
Last up is the smallest class in the shape of KZ2. For whatever reason some big teams have not entered any drivers for this weekend so expect some fresh faces towards the front!
French driver, Adrien Renaudin, had a strong debut season in KZ2 last year finishing 8th in the European Championship. That was certainly helped by his win at the last round in Essay (FRA) where in tricky conditions he cruised to a comfortable victory. I can see him picking up from where he left off this weekend.
© KSP Reportages
Similar to Nicklas Nielsen, Leonardo Lorandi has returned to Karting after racing in the Italian F4 Championship last year. He graduated from Karting the WSK Super Master Series Champion in KZ2 and had a good debut campaign in cars with 6th in the championship. It’s great to see him back and I think he’ll be challenging for a win this weekend.
It’s what I believe will be Jean Nomblot’s first competitive European race in shifters after graduating from the Rotax and X30 classes. After qualifying for the Grand Finals Jean finished 2017 very strongly with a podium at the event. It’s a race he almost won, but nevertheless 3rd a very creditable result. Racing in CPB Sport with fellow countrymen and one to watch Adrien Renaudin, I think Jean could be a dark horse this weekend.
Written by Chris McCarthy
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