Kartodromo Internacional Lucas Guerrero in Valencia was the venue for this years annual Rotax Winter Cup, the same track which hosted the Rotax Max Grand Finals in 2014 just after it had been built. It’s 1428 metres in length and is designed specifically for Karting with a tight technical section followed by a combination of fast and flowing corners making for plenty of overtaking.
93 drivers made the trip to the circuit for what promised to be a great event to kick off the European Rotax season and with free entries at stake for the full Euro Challenge, there was plenty to play for.
Junior Max provided the biggest grid of the weekend with 36 drivers entered. Adam Smalley drew first blood of the weekend taking pole positon on Friday, but he was unable to convert that into victories in the heats. Instead it was two wins a piece for Axel Charpentier and Oli Caldwell with Tom Canning and Carlos Saval Martin taking the others.
The Pre-Final proved to be a hugely entertaining race with the 10 covered by 1.2 seconds across the line. Despite huge pressure Charpentier was able to take victory from team mate Mark Kimber with Canning 3rd.
Off the front row Charpentier was able to hold onto his lead at the start of the race with Canning going with him. Kimber had dropped places but was quickly back into 3rd by lap 4. Kimber was not alone and had Smalley and Lauri Leppa for company and with the trio closing on the leaders Canning decided to hit the front on lap 6.
But when Charpentier took the lead back from Canning on lap 9 things started to get very tight. Kimber was now 2nd with Leppa 3rd and everyone else 4th with the lead group now stretched to 15+ karts.
As the last lap board came out all of a sudden Charpentier and Kimber found themselves with a gap behind after Smalley’s move on Leppa half way through the lap. On the penultimate lap Kimber tried going round the outside of his team mate in the chicane and it nearly ended in tears but he decided to give it another go. It was do or die and unfortunately both drivers completely missed their braking points which forced Kimber to cut the chicane. Both were penalised for the incident handing victory to Adam Smalley.
Senior Max provided 34 drivers with plenty up last years’ front running Juniors among the field all making for an exciting weekend of racing. Leonard Hoogenboom took pole on Friday, but like Smalley in Juniors he was unable to win any of the heats with Berkay Besler and Nicolas Schoell taking two a piece. Jonathan Hoggard and Josh White won the other heats.
From the inside of row two Schoell took Pre-Final victory from Besler who just missed out. Hoggard took an impressive and the lead trio were over a second clear of Glenn van Parijs in 4th.
All weekend Besler had looked a certain podium finisher but unfortunately his Winter Cup dreams ended at turn 1 as he was pushed wide leaving him down in 22nd place. There were no such problems from Schoell and with Gamble leading a fierce battle for 2nd he was able to check out early doors.
Behind things quickly settled down with Gamble and White pairing up in pursuit. KR Sport team mates Hoggard and Mavlanov attempted to do the sign but they were quickly caught by the hard charging Jack McCarthy and Rinus van Kalmthout. It was McCarthy who led the attack but his 4th place was short lived with Hoggard coming back at home just a corner later.
Up ahead there was no catching Schoell who took lights to flag victory by 0.9 seconds from Gamble with White 3rd, Hoggard 4th and McCarthy 5th.
DD2 & Masters
The DD2 saw the smallest grid of the weekend with 21 drivers entered but what it may of slightly lacked in numbers it certainly made up for in talent. For the first time in 5 years it was Ed Brand who took pole (I know hard to believe!).
However, it was Kevin Ludi who dominated the heats taking all three victories with Brand taking two 2nd’s and a 3rd. But in the Pre-Final things quickly turned sour for Brand who got caught up in an incident dropping him to dead last! He managed to recover to 13th and things didn’t go so well for Ludi either who finished 7th. The win went to Spaniard Oriol Dalmau Cabellero with VilleViiliainen 2nd.
So the Final looked set to be an interesting race with Ludi and Brand down the order and when the ran fell just before the race it made things even more captivating. From the front rowViiliainen stormed off to take a demanding lead with Cabellero doing the complete opposite! It was a huge scrap for 2nd with drivers struggling for grip, many took their turn to sit in a podium spot but through it all came one man.
Brand from 13th on the grid was slowly picking his way through the order and with five laps to go he was in 2nd withViiliainen three seconds up the road. But the CRG driver was taking huge chunks out of the Fin and on the penultimate lap made the race winning move to take a dramatic victory!Viiliainen held on to a comfortable 2nd and how about Masters driver Slawomir Muranski taking 3rd overall and Masters victory! Excellent performance!
With the Winter Cup now iver next up it’s the first round of the Euro Challenge which will be taking place at Genk in Belgium on the 3rd April.
For more information on teh championship visit their website at – http://www.rotaxmaxeurochallenge.com/