STRAWBERRY RACING maintained its lead in the Junior and Senior categories of the 2015 Euro Max Challenge, with a gritty drive from Jack McCarthy and twin wins for Pierce Lehane at Wackersdorf last weekend (25/26 July).
Strawberry fielded a large squad in the Junior category, with Nicolas Schoell leading the way for the team, after setting the 4th-fastest lap in timed qualifying. Kiern Jewiss was next best in 5th, with Jack McCarthy 10th, Axel Charpentier 12th, Tom Gamble 14th and Oman’s Khalid Said Al Wahabi in 35th.
It was all change after the heats, with Jewiss taking pole position for the pre-final after winning all three of his heats. Gamble’s two victories put him alongside his team-mate for the first final, with Schoell 6th, McCarthy 8th and Charpentier 9th. Al Wahabi’s woes had continued, putting him in the Second Chance heat but a strong drive to 3rd ensured Khalid progressed to the pre-final.
At the front of the race, Kiern’s advantage evaporated as he was shoved wide on the run into the first hairpin. Very quickly a fierce fight for supremacy had taken hold, with ten drivers disputing the lead. Keeping their cool, Schoell and Gamble edged their way to the front just as the race approached its denouement. On the last lap, the pair called off their previous ‘détente’ and began dicing for the win. Nicolas received the chequered flag first, but Tom was demoted to 13th, following a time penalty. His misfortune promoted Kiern to the podium, in 3rd place. Jack netted vital championship points with his eventual 6th whilst Axel had also been penalised and was classified in 18th position. Khalid had made up ground to finish the race in 24th and, fired up, he would perform even better in the main final.
The second final proved to be every bit as nail-biting as its predecessor. Again, a train of ten karts disputed the lead for the first half of the race. Unfortunately, young tempers began to fray as the competition intensified. In separate incidents Schoell and Jewiss were involved in some wheel-banging exchanges and lost places.
Meanwhile, Jack McCarthy was calmly picking his way through the melee. With the chequered flag being readied, the championship leader launched a last-gasp bid for victory. Crossing the line side by side with Zak Fulk, it took the telemetry system to separate them, with Fulk awarded the win by two thousandths of a second. Gamble completed his strong weekend with 4th, while Al Wahabi claimed a superb 8th place. After fighting his way back up the order, Kiern was involved in another accident on the last lap, as was Axel, dropping both back down the result sheet at the flag. Indeed, for Schoell, Charpentier and Jewiss their ultimate finishing positions were scant rewards for performances that had promised much more.
In Senior Max, points leader Pierce Lehane chipped away through the preliminaries to hit peak form by the time the first final got underway. Starting from P2 the rapid Aussie made the better getaway and snatched the lead. With a clear track ahead of him, Lehane ‘gave it the jandle’ and opened an unbeatable margin. In a far closer contest, John Stewart started 6th and wound up 4th as his rivals proved equal to his overall pace. Jai Nijjar cut a frustrated figure, sidelined by a rare engine failure.
Pierce looked set to repeat his pre-final romp to victory, until the second final reached its midway point. Reeled in by Sam Marsh, Lehane briefly lost the lead but countered and, having retaken the lead, drove a superb race not giving Marsh the chance to attack again, John made sure it was a double celebration for Strawberry as he drove to a comfortable 3rd for the last podium place. Having started at the tail of the field, Jai was unable to make a bigger impression on the race and was ultimately 22nd.
“Pierce’s maximum points haul in Germany ensures that he holds the upper hand at the Championship’s finale in Belgium (5/6 September)”, said Strawberry Team Manager Warwick Ringham, adding: “However, it is still very close and top-flight karting being what it is, anything could happen. And with three of our drivers in the hunt for the Junior title, along with several others, the finals in Genk should be very exciting.”