It was a perfect weekend for Britain’s Lewis Gilbert at the X30 Euro Series opener with the KR Sport driver scoring maximum points at Salbris to take an early championship lead. The Winter Cup Champion, Mari Boya, was the best of the rest finishing 2nd place with Luca Leistra completing the podium in the final.
Absent from the podium, Georgi Dimitrov was the early favourite for the win after taking pole position on Friday afternoon. Boya and Gilbert weren’t far behind with Alex Lloyd also looking strong in 4th place. A close session saw 35 drivers covered by one second with brilliant racing expected from the Juniors.
The all too familiar names of Boya and Gilbert were the most consistent in the heats taking two wins a piece to lock out the front row of the Pre-Final grid. Dilano Van’t Hoff had a good run to finish 3rd but perhaps most impressively of all brand new to the class and championship in 2018, Josh Rowledge was an impressive 4th after the heats with his best finish being a 2nd in heat two!
Things had completely fallen apart for Dimitrov who failed to finish his second heat which dropped him to 18th in the standings. Alex Lloyd, Josh Rattican and Luke Preston all suffered from similar fortunes after having impressive qualifying performances but one bad result was proving hugely costly in a 51 kart grid.
The second chance heat provided no surprise victims with Tom Lebbon amongst the six drivers to qualify through to the final. The Brit would go on to gain 17 places in the Pre-Final.
The Pre-Final saw the Juniors put on a pretty good show for viewers tuned into the Telemundi Media live stream. It quickly became a three-horse race with Boya and Gilbert being joined at the front by Van’t Hoff. All three took their turn to lead and it was a race that could have gone to all three drivers. But Van’t Hoff was the driver who hit the front at just the right time leaving it until the last lap to steal victory from Gilbert.
However, that would change post-race with a five second front fairing penalty dropping the Dutch driver to 7th. Gilbert picked up the win, Boya a front row start for the final with Lloyd gaining six places to finish 3rd. Dimitrov had finally got his weekend back on track and finished 4th from 18th on the grid.
Drivers who weren’t so lucky included Rowledge and Cian Shields. It was particularly disappointing for Rowledge who had been in contention for a podium up until that point.
The start of the final saw Lloyd replace Van’t Hoff’s position as he took the lead of the race early on. But as they have been all weekend both Boya and Gilbert eventually started to break away as the race moved into the second half. Behind our ‘one to watch’ Luca Leistra was calving his way through the field and cruised into a comfortable 3rd position. But out front there was still the small matter of the race win to settle and a three tenth lead going into the last lap was enough for Lewis Gilbert to take round one victory ahead of Mari Boya.
Just off the podium Dimitrov and Van’t Hoff completed the top five. There was an impressive performance from Shields who gained 16 places on his way to 8th. Preston gained 11 places to finish 11th, but the driver who gained more than anyone was Rowledge who gained 19 places to finish 13th despite a penalty. Early race leader, Lloyd also picked up a penalty and dropping him from 6th to 12th.
In terms of the championship Gilbert leads the way on 89 points, with Boya 2nd on 85 points and Dimitrov 3rd on 80 points.
The next round of the championship will take place at Mariembourg (BEL) on the 24th – 27th May.
Written by Chris McCarthy
Images by Alex Vernardis / The RaceBox