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Winter Cup – Campillos, Spain, 16th February
Strawberry Racing produced a crushing wave of winners at the international Rotax opener with new signings and existing drivers.
After his recent switch to Strawberry Racing, Sean Babington continued in his all-conquering ways at Campillos in DD2. Now fully recovered from a rib injury last year, he qualified fastest, just ahead if Xen De Ruwe and Oriol Dalmau Caballero. Babington continued in control in the heats but in varying weather conditions De Ruwe and Dalmau Caballero remained in position.
In the DD2 prefinal Babington left no doubt after making a perfect start, boosting himself far ahead of the chasing pack. This was already half the battle for the Tonykart driver. From there on he easily controlled the race up to the finish line. Behind the winner, Dalmau Caballero was in 2nd position for a few laps until he had to give way to de Ruwe who took the chequered flag in 2nd position.
There was watery sunshine for the final and Babington appeared relaxed on the grid. De Ruwe was out of contention at the start and Frenchman Anthony Abbasse moved up to 2nd. Babington stayed a comfortable distance ahead of the pack and the battle for 2nd that raged in the closing stages between Abbasse, Andreas Backman, and Michael E Christensen.
There were over 50 Seniors entered and Joseph Reilly set the benchmark as the only driver under 65s in qualifying. Dries Vanthoor and European Junior Rotax champion Guan Yu Zhou followed. There were five different winners in the heats, Reilly being the only one to win twice and therefore took pole. There was a crash at the start of the Prefinal when frontrunners Michael Cool collected Ralf Aron. Reilly, Zhou, and Connor Jupp were the early top three. Reilly pulled away,Jupp tried his luck for 2nd then lost a few places. Once he’d negotiated that, Zhou reeled Reilly back, took the lead and they battled until the last lap with Zhou narrowly beating his team-mate and Jupp coming back to 3rd.
Zhou retained the lead at the start of the final with Reilly 2nd and Jessica Backman (also Strawberry) moving up to 3rd. Zhou and Reilly were elbow to elbow with Backman following but ahead of the pack. Reilly took the lead with two laps to go and managed the race perfectly to win by 0.15s. Backman retained 3rd ahead of Jupp to produce an all-Strawberry podium.
The experienced Austrian Junior Thomas Preining took pole, ahead of his TKP team-mate Richard Verschoor then Zak Fulk of Coles Racing. Strawberry’s Juri Vips was 4th. There were again give different winners in the heats. Verschoor won twice for pole in the prefinal, starting next to Vips.
Verschoor held on to the lead in the prefinal with Dave Wooder from DHR taking 2nd and Vips dropping to 8th. Wooder attacked the leader but lost out, allowing Max Timmermans past.
Timmermans passed prefinal winner Verschoor at the start of the final and Wooder also sneaked through into 2nd. Vips came through to atrack Wooder and Preining also joined the pair and passed before kicking off a duel with Verschoor. It allowed Vips to catch up and take advantage when Preining briefly passed Verschoor. Vips made it three wins out of three for Strawberry Racing, who also had 3rd in this race with Darren Keane. Preining lost out and dropped to 4th in the final corners.