– Fulk, Lehane, DeConto and Mukhin take the Victories
– Most thrilling Races of the Season
– Championship stays unsettled
The Rotax Max Euro Challenge, promoted by RGMMC, looks back on an impressive Comeback in Germany. After 2012 the most unique European Rotax series returned to Wackersdorf from 20th to 26th of July 2015. The third round of the season was held in the Prokart Raceland, which did not only provide most modern facilities but a demanding and diversified track with a length of 1.222 metres, which characteristics proved to be the foundation of innumerable overtaking manoeuvres, resulting in the most exciting races of the season thus far.
About 150 drivers entered the event, representing more than 30 nations from all around the world in the three categories of juniors, seniors and DD2. Since the stop in Southern Germany heralded the final spurt of the season, the focus was set on the top candidates for the 2015 championship crowns. Weather made for perfect race conditions, not being too hot but generally sunny. A few thunderstorms or rain showers did not trouble the event of course, as they were limited to the night and lunch break time. All told one witnessed some exciting days with thrilling action and a highly balanced competition. Finally Zak Fulk (junior), Pierce Lehane (senior), Paolo DeConto (DD2) and Igor Mukhin (DD2 Masters) celebrated the victories of the Euro Challenge comeback in Germany. And even the championship outcome has not been decided yet, which means that the champions will be crowned during the very last race meeting at Genk (BEL) in September.
Junior: Zak Fulks wins by 0.002 Seconds
Dean MacDonald (Aim Motorsport) from the UK was the quickest youngster in the qualifying session. By a time of 51.621 seconds the double winner from Castelletto was the fastest man pushing his fellow countrymen Johnathan Hoggard (KR Sport) and Fin Kenneally (Aim Motorsport) closely to the chasers positions. Behind the UK trio, Austria’s Nicolas Schoell (Strawberry Racing) broke the total dominance of the British armada by taking fourth place in front Kiern Jewiss (Strawberry Racing) – another UK driver ¬– in fifth spot.
The latter set the pace in the heats on Saturday: By a clean record Kiern Jewiss won all of his heats, which boosted him onto the pole position for Sunday’s prefinal. Second place went to his fellow countryman and teammate Tom Gamble (Strawberry Racing), who was able to win two heats. Fin Kenneally completed the circle of race winners, which granted him the third position after the heats in front of UK driver Zak Fulk (Coles Racing) and Friday’s quickest Dean MacDonald.
In the prefinal pole sitter Kiern Jewiss was without luck at the start. He lost a lot of positions during the first hairpin. Meanwhile about ten drivers showed a big fight for the top, changing the lead countless times. As the race approached the end Tom Gamble and Nicolas Schoell were able to head away from the rest of the grid. During the last lap they had an exciting duel, which Schoell finally decided in his favour. Tom Gamble who actually had crossed the line in second spot was given a time penalty, which threw him back to 13th place. So Dean MacDonald inherited the second place ahead of Kiern Jewiss, who had recovered from his unfortunate race beginning. Fourth place went to Zak Fulk ahead of Fin Kenneally.
The junior’s final was as exciting as the prefinal. Again up to ten youngsters kept fighting for the win. In the beginning it was Nicolas Schoell having the best chances for the victory. He lead the pack for quite a few laps until Fin Kenneally proved to be quickest. At halftime the race was far away from being decided. Positions kept changing consistently and the fighting got tougher – unfortunately too tough: Towards the end one lost three potential winners, since Fin Kenneally, Nicolas Schoell and later on Kiern Jewiss were involved in different collisions. This was when Zak Fulk kept cool. The UK driver established himself in the lead. But there was Jack McCarthy (Strawberry Racing) following in his slipstream. The opening round winner of Salbris was to be found among the top ten during the whole weekend, now seeking for the victory. On the last metres of the race Jack McCarthy tried one last attempt, managing to be on eye level with Fulk. By a photo finish and a minimal gap of only 0.002 seconds, Zak Fulk finally took the win ahead of Jack McCarthy. Alex Quinn (CRG S.P.A.), who had only reached the final phase only by the second chance heat, made amends by finishing on a deserved third place, while Tom Gamble and Johnathan Hoggard completed the top five ranking.
A quite tough weekend experienced championship leader Axel Charpentier (Strawberry Racing). The Frenchman did not make it to the very top at first but improved for the prefinal. But a time penalty put him into a disappointing 18th place in the end. In the final he even dropped back to 25th place, equally losing the championship lead. Here Jack McCarthy (233 points) takes the top in front of Dean MacDonald (231 points) and Alex Quinn (227 points).
Senior: Second Double Win for Pierce Lehane
The senior category again proved a high level of competition in the qualifying. In the end not less than 50 of 55 drivers were separated by less than one second. Yet the session was a clear matter for Brett Ward (Aim Motorsport) from Great Britain. He set the pace by a best time of 51.135 seconds and was remarkably faster than Dutchman Rinus van Kalmthout (Daems Racing) who lost more than one tenth of a second on the 1.222 metres long circuit. Third place went to Jonathan Aberdein (KR Sport) from South Africa ahead of his teammate Denis Mavlanov (KR Sport) from Russia. Sam Marsh (Dan Holland Racing) – third placed driver of the championship – completed the top five positions, while Italy’s Alessandro Trombelli (MKS srl) established himself in sixth place in front of title favourite and overall leader Pierce Lehane (Strawberry Racing).
In the heats, Friday’s quickest Brett Ward was without fortune. After winning the first heat, he got involved in two incidents in the further races, which finally threw him back to 30th place of the ranking, equally meaning that he ended up in the second chance heat. Although he finally managed the final qualification, he was not meant to play a decisive role for the top positions any more. Quite the opposite applied to Rinus van Kalmthout, who seized his chances during the heats. He did a consistent job, finishing in second place twice and finally adding one victory to his prey. So the Dutchman established himself in the lead of the ranking. Behind him Pierce Lehane was able to improve after his moderate qualifying result. Two heat wins and a fifth place put him on the second place ahead of Dennis Mavlanov, who was in brilliant shape by winning two heats. Sam Marsh and Luke Varley (Sodikart) from the Emirates completed the top five positions.
In the prefinal Pierce Lehane was in brilliant shape. He gained the lead right after the start and managed to pull away a little bit. For the entire race the Australian kept a secure gap to his chasers, consequently winning the prefinal. Behind him Rinus van Kalmthout managed to take the second place ahead of Dennis Mavlanov, who came up with a strong final spurt towards the end. Patrik Pastorok (Kart One Arena) from Slovakia and John Stewart (Strawberry Racing) from the UK completed the top five positions.
The final race was an almost clear matter for Pierce Lehane again. He led the race for most of the time. Only by halftime he shortly had to leave the lead to Sam Marsh, before he did a successful counter strike. In the end Lehane won closely but controlled, taking the maximum points for the championship. Sam Marsh followed in second place, while John Stewart conquered the last podium position ahead of Austria’s Niki Kresse (KSB) and Rinus van Kalmthout.
When it comes to the championship standings, Pierce Lehane confirmed his dominion. By 244 points the Australian leads pretty comfortable ahead of Sam Marsch (222 points) and Rinus van Kalmthout (208 points). Yet this is nothing to rest on, as the dropping results may play a decisive role at the final round at Genk.
DD2: DeConto wins – Impressive Debut of Lammers
The DD2 category came up with a big surprise after the qualifying. As most of the top drivers were set in the first group by lottery, the second group was expected to be slower. In fact it was so much slower that the 101 per cent rule had to be applied, which mixed up the grid in the end. Frenchman Anthony Abbasse (Sodikart) set the benchmark in the DD2 class by a time of 49.593 seconds thus conquering the pole position for the heats on Saturday. Next to him it was the German local hero Luka Kamali (CRG S.P.A.) driving the quickest time in group 2 by 50.128 seconds. Italy’s Paolo DeConto (CRG S.P.A.) tied in with his latest success from Castelletto and confirmed his performance by the third place ahead of Switzerland’s Philipp Seewer (Spirit Racing). Giving his debut at the Rotax Max Euro Challenge Bas Lammers – recently having switched to Sodikart – was in brilliant shape. The Dutchman who belongs to the most experienced and successful drivers of the international karting scene complemented the top five positions, which were missing championship leader Ferenc Kancsar (BirelART/KMS). The man from Hungary had to deal with unexplainable problems and only ended up in 31st place.
After the shuffled ranking of the qualifying session on Friday, there was a lot of controversy about the results, especially since the “slower” drivers benefited from that decision. But in the heats it was Luka Kamali (CRG S.P.A.) disabusing his critics. The German who had set the best time in the slower qualifying group crossed the line first in two heats and took another second place, not only taking his first pole position in the Euro Challenge but keeping the international top drivers behind. The chasers list was lead by Anthony Abbasse and Paolo DeConto in second and third spot, while Finland’s Roope Markkanen (VRT) and Germany’s Niklas Gränz (CRG S.P.A.) completed the top five positions. Ferenc Kancsar recovered from his setback in the qualifying and made his way up to ninth place.
Pole sitter Luka Kamali set the pace in the beginning of the prefinal. He pulled away at first but soon the chasers closed the gap. Especially Bas Lammers, who had picked up the race from seventh place, kept pushing very hard. He was able to overtake Kamali a few times, but the German could counterattack until he finally had to leave the way to Lammers. Equally Paolo DeConto and Roope Markkanen closed the gap to the leading duo and passed Kamali, too. As a result Bas Lammers gained the necessary metres, he needed to take the prefinal victory. Paolo DeConto crossed the finish line in second place, while Luka Kamali made a last move in the last lap, boosting him to third place ahead of Roope Markkanen and Ferenc Kancsar.
Bas Lammers did the best start for the final. But the Dutchman was not able to keep the lead. Paolo DeConto and Luka Kamali managed to overtake him in an early stage of the race. From then on, Paolo DeConto pulled away metre by metre. In the end the Italian driver took an impressive win and saw the chequered flag more than three seconds before his chasers. Meanwhile Luka Kamali kept defending his second place against Bas Lammers, Switzerland’s Kevin Ludi (Spirit Racing) and Anthony Abbasse. By halftime Lammers was able to pass Kamali and the positions seemed to be settled. But towards the last laps, Lammers visibly lost performance. Kamali and Ludi did not hesitate long and boosted themselves to the podium positions, while Lammers finished in fourth sport ahead of his teammate Anthony Abbasse. Ferenc Kancsar secured the eighth place in the final and defended the championship lead closely. By 246 points he stays on top of the table, but Paolo DeConto (243 points) is close on his heels. Even Germany’s Marcel Schirmer (RS Competition) in third place (222 points) still has realistic chances for the championship crown.
As for the DD2 Masters classification Tamsin Germain (DG Racing) actually was the quickest driver in the qualifying practice. But the British racing lady had the disadvantage of being in the quicker group and the 101 per cent rule made her drop back to 23rd place in the overall grid, leaving the top to Igor Mukhin (CRG S.P.A). The man from Russia then was in good shape for the following heats. He finished all races within the top ten and was took the 14th place in the overall grid, rewarding himself with the Masters’ pole position. Unfortunately he could not play out that advantage in the prefinal. Here it was Japan’s Kawase Tomokazu (Uniq Racing Team) who took the win ahead of Igor Mukhin and Hungary’s Geza Fodor (Ricciardo/KMS). In the final Mukhin struck back and celebrated the victory, while Fodor finished second in front of Tamsin Germain. In the championship table Igor Mukhin asserted his leading positon by 147 points ahead of Tamsin Germain (111 points) and Kawase Tomokazu (107 points).
Now the Rotax Max Euro Challenge approaches the great season final. At Genk (BEL) the series will hold its last round from 31st of August to 6th of September, finally crowning its 2015 champions. So stay tuned on the official website www.rotaxmaxeurochallenge.com or rgmmcmedia.com, where you get all information regarding reports, photos, results and live TV stream.