Genk (BEL) was venue of the first round of the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge 2014. Over 200 drivers took part in the event, which already started on Thursday. After two days of qualifying procedures only the best 102 drivers remained for the final phase on Sunday, which marked a premium selection of the world’s fastest ROTAX drivers. Consequently the final races proved not be most balanced and thrilling…
In the juniors category Thomas Preining (Team TKP) was the one to be beaten. The Austrian youngster was in best shape and finally took two wins, which were never really in danger. For the FA driver it was his first Euro win ever. Behind the double winner Dean MacDonald (Strawberry Racing) was the one who saw the chequered flag in second place in both races staying out of trouble and leaving the rest of the grid to its own quarrels. Especially pole-sitter Max Timmermans (Dan Holland Racing) and Richard Verschoor (Team TKP) were the ones who were fighting for the last podium place. While Timmermans took the third place in the prefinal ahead of Verschoor, the final was supposed to end in tragedy. In the very last corner they collided, leaving way to Rinus van Kalmthout who luckily crossed the line in third place. But the Dutchman was penalized due to unfair driving which made him drop back to 24th place in the end. So after all it was Verschoor who managed the jump on the podium.
In the senior’s category Guan Yu Zhou (Strawberry Racing) and his teammate Joseph Reilly (Strawberry Racing) were the driving force. Already in the prefinal Zhou early asserted himself in first place while Reilly came up with a brilliant start, which boosted him from seventh rank up to second position. Once in front the duo had quite an easy job bringing home their top positions. Third place went to Edward Brand (Intrepid Driver Program) who drove a remarkable prefinal, which he had picked up from 13th position.
The final quickly turned into a triple fight between Zhou, Reilly and Brand. Although the trio headed far away from the grid a yellow phase and a subsequent interruption of the race – due to an accident in the back of the grid – undid the advantage. Yet the trio was confident enough to repeat its performance after the race was re-started. For the most part of the remaining laps Zhou stayed in control. As the race approached the end Zhou had to give way to Reilly and Brand. While he finally was able to regain second place in the last lap, by pushing Brand back to third place, there was no way to bother Reilly anyway. The latter crossed the finish line first thus underlining his performance he already showed by his victory at the ROTAX Winter Cup in February.
Paolo De Conto (KMS – Birel Motorsport) and Jordan Lennox Lamb (CRG SPA) proved to be the protagonists of the prefinal race in DD2, although both of them had to deal with Jonathan Thonon (Praga Racing Team). The Belgian had a great start and set the leaders under pressure. But this was only a flash in the pan. As fighting got tougher he slightly struggled with Xen de Ruwe (ART GP) who had to retire from the race, while Thonon finally had to be satisfied with fifth place. The leaders kept unimpressed and dedicated themselves to their own battle. Unfortunately this ended quite dramatically. In the last but one corner De Conto aimed for a last minute manoeuvre against Lennox Lamb. As a result both got off the track. Lennox Lamb rescued 13th position, while De Conto shortcut the track and got excluded – even worse he had no permission for the final either. The lucky guy who inherited the last-minute-win was Denmark’s Mads Thomsen (HL Kart Racing). Second place went to title defender Ben Cooper (KMS – Birel Motorsport) ahead of Sean Babington (Strawberry Racing) who had started the race from place 18.
The final began with a small rain shower which was not suppose to bother the grid any further since the track quickly dried during the warm up laps. After the start it was Cooper establishing himself in the lead. But his opponents breathed down his neck. Almost 15 drivers kept in his slipstream and started to fight for positions. Here Babington got involved in a collision that made him drop back to the end of the grid. At the race’s halftime Lennox Lamb and Thonon were the ones taking over the leading role, pushing Cooper back in third place. Even Frenchman Damien Vuillaume (Flandria Competition Kart) found a way to pass Cooper if there would not have been a time penalty for unfair driving which finally made him drop back to 25th position. On the top Lennox Lamb and Thonon showed an impressive duel. Several times the lead changed until a photo finish had to identify the winner: By only 0.018 seconds Lennox Lamb was crowned winner of the opening round ahead of Thonon and Cooper.
As for the DD2 Masters the drivers experienced a kind of small final since all Masters took part in the second chance heat: Here the favourites Florent Lambert (Tatum Racing) and Martin Pierce (Praga Racing Team) struggled right after the start being involved in slighter collisions. That was when Frenchman Guillaume Berteaux (Kartagene) took the lead of the Masters until Cristiano Morgado (Dan Holland Racing) recovered from his unlucky starting position at the end of the grid. The man from South Africa crossed the finish line in seventh place of the overall grid, closely missing the qualification for the finals. Yet he did a convincing job, winning the Masters classification ahead of Guillaume Berteaux (Kartagene) and Tamsin Germain (DG Racing).