It was almost a carbon copy of 2017 with Mark Kimber winning an X30 Euro Series final in Salbris with ease. His win even more impressive this time with the extended grid in 2018 along with the impressive 4.2 second margin the Strawberry Racing driver had to his countryman, Danny Keirle, at the flag.
Kimber was on fire right from the off taking pole position on Friday ahead of a surprise Danny Buntschu. Keirle was 3rd with Winter Cup champion, Clayton Ravenscroft 4th of the 79 entries. Joe Turney and Jordan Brown-Nutley both found themselves well out of position and after being disqualified from the session Owen Byatt had the almost impossible task of trying to make the A Final.
Keirle and Kimber were the stars of the heats with Keirle just snatching pole position. Both drivers took three wins a piece but it was a 2nd for Keirle over Kimber’s 3rd that would secure him pole. However, with the championship points yet to be awarded it certainly wouldn’t have bothered Kimber.
Camille Prouteau was flying the flag for the French drivers and would line up on 3rd with Ravenscroft still 4th. Drivers who had made good progress throughout the heats included Joey van Splunteren in 7th (17 places gained), Enzo Giraud in 12th (25 places gained), Morgan Porter in 17th (34 places gained) and Hannes Morin in 18th (46 places gained). Most impressive of all was Byatt who came from 79th to 16th in the heats!
Some choice driving in the heats had left us with a competitive Second Chance Heat grid which meant we would be waving goodbye to some big names. The six drivers to qualify through were Elie Goldstein, Niels Koolen, Sean Butcher, Patrick Rundquist, Kamil Donicz and Joe Turney. Amongst the big names to go were Angus Moulsdale (2017 Junior Champion), Milan Petelet, Joel Deputch, Louie Westover (2017 British Junior Champion) and Xavier Handsaeme (2017 CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy Champion).
The Pre-Final was not the ten-kart battle for the lead some may have expected. A congested field saw the top four get a break and split off into pairs with Kimber and Prouteau out front and Keirle and Rens van Pelt in chase. For Prouteau this was a brilliant performance he had been able to keep Kimber honest all race although Kimber still had that extra edge which saw him take the win by over half a second. Behind, van Pelt made up for a disappointing Winter Cup to beat the reigning CIK-FIA World Champion to the flag! Ravenscroft was still in the fight for a podium after finishing 5th.
There was no such luck for Noah Roovers who found himself falling backwards, whilst Jordan Brown-Nutley was doing the opposite. The Dan Holland Racing driver finished 11th from 24th on the grid to get off to a reasonable start.
The final itself provided no real excitement in terms of a lead battle and we had to wait right until the final few laps before some battling for podium positions began. Once the green lights went on it was as if Kimber had already won the race as he quickly pulled out a 1.5 second lead. Danny Keirle had done similar things leaving Ravenscroft to fend off the likes of Van Pelt and Prouteau in 3rd. Quickly adding himself to that queue was 2010 Rotax Max Euro Challenge Champion, Joey van Splunteren. The Dutch driver slowly worked his way through the pack and had caught Ravenscroft as we hit half race distance. To be fair to Ravenscroft he was in the process of closing down Keirle when he lost 3rd but that was unfortunately where his race started to fall apart.
Ravenscroft was keeping van Splunteren honest but Prouteau and Carlos Saval were closing in with a four-way battle now forming for 3rd. Fifteen laps in and van Splunteren appeared to be gaining a slight tow from Keirle which helped him drop Kimber who now had to defend from Saval. A few corners later and Saval pushed Ravenscroft wide, a lapse in concentration or forceful tactic it had dropped Ravenscroft well out of the fight for 3rd and left Saval with a five second penalty.
Attention then turned to van Splunteren who was putting pressure on Keirle and as the last lap board came out was close enough to challenge the Brit. However, the experience of the Evolution driver showed. With a long season ahead and no opportunity to pass he would settle for 3rd behind Keirle with Kimber winning by over four seconds!
Prouteau finished 4th and with Siim Leedmaa picking up 5th and Ravenscroft 6th. After his disqualification, Byatt will be delighted with 12th despite a penalty, but the bad luck story unfortunately went to Thomas Fleming. The BMR driver had been superb all weekend and never got the chance to improve on his 7th in the Pre-Final after he was forced to retire from the race early.
In terms of the championship Kimber sits pretty at the top with 89 points, Keirle is 2nd with 83 and Prouteau 3rd with 82.
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
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