The first of three rounds had finally arrived and as tradition Genk in Belgium would be the location where the 2017 BNL Karting Series would officially get underway. As ever on track would be the Micro Max, Mini Max, Junior Max, Senior Max and DD2/DD2 Masters classes.
With the Vega tyres a hit at the kick off they would be in for the season which saw a change to the prizes. Rather than Grand Final tickets the drivers would now be competing for a fully funded trip to the US Open. The prize included:
Inscription fee US Open 2017 Las Vegas – Rio Hotel
Practice tyres (2 sets)
Tyres for the event
Chassis + place in the paddock/tent
Overnight stay during the event
Transfer from the airport to the hotel
So pretty much all you needed bar flights and expenses. Price wise it’s probably more than what you get with the Grand Finals and this would be given to the winner in each class.
The US Open this year consists of two rounds with the first round taking place in June at New Jersey and round two (where the BNL champions will go) in Las Vegas at the end of October. The event itself caters for all the Max and Shifter classe and in the unique location of a converted car park in Las Vegas half the battle is who can learn the track the quickest!
Overall it’s a unique experience which is on every kart racers bucket list. To race in the city that never sleeps under the lights of various hotels and casinos!
Despite a grid of six drivers the racing in Micro Max was fantastic to watch all weekend. However, despite all the close racing the driver who seemed to emerge as the most dominant was Senna Versluijs. He took pole position on Saturday morning with the field covered by just half a second.
Senna won the opening final of the weekend with Douwe Dedecker 1.8 seconds back in 2nd with Mitchell van Dijk in 3rd. Lewis Moulaert finished 4th with fastest lap. Final two was a slightly different story. In terms of the end result it was Versluijs who once again took victory by just under two seconds but behind an incident saw the two drivers due to finish 2nd and 3rd out of the race. They were Tom Braeken and Dedecker and their incident allowed
Moulaert to finish 2nd with Amaury Meertens picking up 3rd and fastest lap.
Heading into day two and it was Senna Versluijs who took pole in qualifying once again this time by just 0.156 seconds on his last lap of the session! The day’s first final was the closest of the weekend with Versluijs in battle with Dedecker and Moulaert. The three could hardly be separated and they were joined by Braeken until he unfortunately came off with three laps to go. Up ahead and despite substantial pressure Versluijs was somehow still able to hold on by just 0.079 seconds ahead of Dedecker with Moulaert just 0.179 seconds back in 3rd with fastest lap.
In the final race of the weekend for once there was no Versluijs at the front which opened the door for Dedecker or Moulaert to take a victory. After a battle which lasted the entire race it would come down to a drag race to the line where Dedecker was just able to hold on. It was no disaster for Versluijs who still finished 3rd and leads the championship.
There were 11 drivers entered into the Mini Max class but in terms of the win there was only ever two drivers who were in contention and they were Kris Haanen and Kai Rillaerts. Behind there was a similarly close battle for 3rd between Milan Coppens, Max Stemerdink and Thomas Martens.
After taking pole in qualifying on day one, Haanen led the first final of the weekend from the front but was being closely hassled by Martens who had passed Donny Hoedt. Six laps in and Martens took the lead with the pair stretching clear helped by a huge battle behind. Haanen seemed to be comfortable behind Martens and waited for the last lap where Martens unsurprisingly started defending. This allowed fastest driver on track Rillaerts to catch, but up ahead and out of the last corner Haanen pulled of a perfect switch back move to steal victory from Martens!
Final two saw Rillaerts and Haanen going head to head, with Haanen using the same tactics and seemingly waiting for the last lap. But unlike Martens, Rillaerts was not phased by the challenges of Haanen and held on to take victory with Coppens in 3rd.
Day two and it was Haanen once again quickest in qualifying with the first final arguably being his most comfortable win of the weekend. He cruised to a comfortable victory helped by a huge battle behind which was won by Hoedt who was recovering after a poor first day. Rillaerts was 3rd with fastest lap.
Final two was almost like watching a repeat from day one with Rillaerts and Haanen going toe to toe. Having had a win and two thirds, Rillaerts needed to beat Haanen and that was reflected in his performance as he gave Haanen no chance to get close taking victory with Hoedt an impressive 3rd. That left Haanen as championship leader just four points ahead of Rillaerts, Coppens is 20 points back in 3rd.
The Junior Max class brought a full grid and arguably the most drama of the weekend. No matter what happened it seemed to be Luca Leistra and Ilian Bruynseels who would find themselves at the front, but that changed dramatically come the end of the weekend.
Let’s start with day one, final one. Leistra led from pole, but after a few corners was passed by Bruynseels who got a terrific start. As the pair continued to trade places, Tehmur Chohan from 7th caught and passed them both but his time at the front was brief and he was soon back to 5th with Clayton Ravenscroft and Hannes Morin both coming past. Out front Leistra had just managed to hold off Bruynseels and Morin, but a penalty from Bruynseels dropped him to 4th promoting Chohan to 3rd.
Final two saw lots of good recovery drives from drivers who had poor final one races, but out front it was once again Leistra and Bruynseels who would contest victory. That was after a brief drop down the order for Leistra before he was back hassling Bruynseels with the latter eventually winning. Behind there was a good battle for 3rd between Nick Cuppens, Kobe Pauwels and Jasin Ferati who finished in that order with Lewis Gilbert charging through to take 6th with fastest lap!
Final one on day two was the most dull race in terms of a lead battle with Leistra taking the win from pole going practically unchallenged all race. However, behind it was all going off with drivers shooting up and down the order after a very hectic first lap. Ravenscroft start on the front row and eventually finished 2nd but needed to recover to 6th after a bad first lap. Similarly, Morin had left himself work to do from 7th on the grid but eventually made it to 3rd by the end of the race.
The last final of the weekend threw up one of the most bizarre races I have ever seen! After two false starts and crawling around at a slow pace karts started to pack up on drivers with a total of five drivers not taking the start which included Morin, Gilbert, Chohan, Rhys Hunter and Sem van Til! Isaac Smith was another, but he pushed his karts to the pits and managed to start the race from the pits. Problems were rumored to be down to ‘carb settings’ and the general slow pace on the warm up lap with karts practically crawling around.
Once we eventually got going it was Ravenscroft who took the lead not after losing it to Leistra. Lap three saw huge drama with Bruynseels and Leistra taking each other out at turn one and would both go no further. The incident was deemed a racing incident and it opened the door for someone to take the championship lead. Cue, Ravenscroft who went on to win the final and event! Behind also taking advantage of all the incidents was Ferati who was 2nd, Jason Lockwood drove very well for his 3rd as did Kai Hunter who was a hugely impressive 4th!
It could be argued that Senior Max brought the most competitive grid with day two qualifying being particularly close! But first we of course had the first day of finals which was all about local driver, Dylan Lahaye.
Dylan may not have qualified on the front row for the first final, but it didn’t take him long to get to the front and once there he cruised off to take a comfortable win of almost three seconds! Joe Turney certainly put in the most impressive performance coming from 10th to 2nd with his KR Sport teammate, Harrison Thomas 3rd. Pole-sitter Myles Apps was caught up in an incident which heavily affected Noah Roovers just two laps from the end.
After all the hard work in final one you had to feel sorry for Turney who was forced down the order on lap two of final two after taking an early lead. It left Lahaye in a pretty comfortable lead and despite challenges from the recovering Apps and in form Jordan Brown-Nutley he managed to hold on to take his second win of the day.
Day two as a similar story in terms of how the races panned out but it was Harrison Thomas he took Lahaye’s position. Thomas hadn’t qualified pole but he passed both Brown-Nutley and Mark Kimber on lap three. Later in the race and it was Lahaye who was surprisingly low down the o0rder in qualifying and he almost caught Thomas who was just able to hold on to take victory with Brown-Nutley 3rd.
The final race of the weekend saw frantic start between the three leaders; Thomas, Lahaye and Brown-Nutley but it was Thomas who emerged as the leader early on. Briefly in 2nd was Kimber but he eventually chose to work with Lahaye in the attempts to chase Thomas down. Despite their best efforts they never quite got there and they battled with just two laps to go, with Lahaye eventually coming out on top. Kimber was 3rd but had a front fairing penalty which promoted Brown-Nutley to 3rd who did good to hold off Apps. The two wins for Thomas leave him just four points behind Lahaye in the championship.
DD2 & DD2 Masters
After an opening qualifying session that saw the top eleven drivers covered by less than 0.3 seconds the DD2 category was always going to be close! However, Glenn van Parijs made his victory in final one look easy with Vincent Jewell and Kevin Ludi left fighting for 2nd. They were also joined by Barrie Pullinger but all finished in that order.
Final two was a much closer affair. Having just come up from Senior’s, Jewell took the lead from his teammate van Parijs four laps in with Ludi keeping both tabs on the pair. The three were never to swap places again but were only split by 0.293 seconds across the line showing how close of a race it was!
At the end of the day, Ian Gepts led the Masters category from Tamsin Germain and Euri Hatzistehpanis.
After a poor first day, Constantin Scholl had found pace overnight and was out to make amends taking pole in qualifying. However, he would be unable to prevent van Parijs from his second win of the weekend despite his best efforts. The two were well clear out front with their nearest challenger Christof Huibers in 3rd. After his transponder packed up in qualifying Ludi did a good job to come from last to 6th and set the fastest lap!
The last final of the weekend saw disaster strike for Jewell who pitted before the race even began with problems. He eventually got them fixed and was able to take the start from the pit-lane. Out front there was no such problems for van Parijs who led Scholl around out front. The pair never really battled but were both being caught hand over fist by a hard charging Joey Alders who just ran out of time in his attack with van Parijs taking three wins and Scholl doing a good recovery job with two 2nd place finishes.
In the Masters class it was Gepts who won the event with Germain 11 points back in 2nd and Christophe Adams 3rd.
Written by Chris McCarthy
Images courtesy of KartPhoto