Jake Dennis, the first Under 18 World Champion

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Columns: Races

Even though he didn’t take victory on the Val d’Argenton circuit, it all turned out well for Jake Dennis (Top Kart) as he ended up the happiest driver on Sunday evening at the end of the third and final round of the new World Championship for drivers under 18 years of age.

Report CIK / photos CIK-KSP

The winner of the opening round at Wackersdorf in Germany, the British driver had arrived in France as a co-leader in the Championship after his fifth place in the Spanish round at Alcaniz.

Second in the provisional classification after the qualifying heats, the protégé of ex World Champions Terry Fullerton and Martin Hines secured himself a place on the front row for the Final. Unfortunately, the anticipated duel between Jake Dennis and Teemu Suninen (Maranello) failed to materialise : the Finn, 7th on the starting grid, was involved in a collision in the first corner and eventually set off again in last place.

« I clearly saw that Teemu was in the gravel », explained Jake Dennis, inevitably very happy. « From then on I didn’t want to take any unneccessary risk. When Stefan Riener and John Norris got close to me, I quite simply let them past to make sure I did not get involved in a collision. In any case I did not have enough speed to get the victory today and so I concentrated solely on the Championship. I knew that a place in the top 10 would be sufficient and I eventually finished 8th. But I knew that was good enough to take the World Crown. I dedicate this title to the Racing Steps Foundation. Without their financial support I would not be here ! My thanks also to Terry Fullerton for all his help. I am proud to be the first Under 18 World Champion ! » By winning the Championship, Jake has also delivered a World Championship to Top Kart. He will also be further honoured at the FIA Annual Gala, along with the World Champions in Formula 1, in Rallying, in Touring Cars and in GT.

In addition to the honour for Dennis, this third round of the Under 18 World Championship was marked by the first ever victory in a World Karting Championship for a driver from Thailand. So unlucky in Spain where he was amongst the fastest drivers, Tanart Sathienthirakul (Intrepid) was this time not going to let slip his opportunity. Starting on pole position, Tanart led the final from start to finish and built up a significant lead over Finnish driver Matias Köykkä (Maranello), who became the Vice-Champion of the World, and over the Austrian Stefan Riener (Intrepid), who made superb progress from his 20th place on the starting grid. In a top 10 showing decidedly fine style, we found the Irishman John Norris (Intrepid), Italian Damiano Marchesan (Parolin), the Frenchman Vincent Fraisse (Intrepid), British driver Sam Snell (Intrepid), the new World Champion Jake Dennis, the American Andrick Zeen (Sodi) and Northern Ireland’s Adam Stirling (Intrepid), 3rd in the Championship after his victory at Alcaniz. As for poor Teemu Suninen, his misfortune dropped him down to 28th place, which in turn dropped him to 4th position in the Championship in which at one time, he had been one of the revelations and one of the brightest stars.

Academy Trophy : Tiihonen in suspense right to the end

As with the Under 18 class, suspense was maintained right to the end of the last round of the new CIK-FIA Academy Trophy, organised as a supporting class to the Under 18 World Championship. In this competition where all the drivers – coming from 34 different countries – have exactly the same machinery, the French lad Anthoine Hubert arrived at the Val d’Argenton circuit as the Championship leader. But the Finn, Niklas Tiihonen, several points adrift took all his chances. Right from the qualifying heats, it was clear that the battle for the title was going to come down to a duel between these two young drivers, after the outcome on the three circuits.  But, for the minor battles, the races remained very open…

Closely following in the wake of Tiihonen during the first of the two races, the Argentinian Federico Paoloni mounted an attack on the last turn… But though he then took the chequered flag in first place, the Argentinian was then penalised and dropped down to 9th place. Consequently Niklas Tiihonen won this first race in front of his rival Anthoine Hubert, thus cranking up the pressure a notch. However he still did not have his destiny in his own hands before the second race. If Hubert again managed to finish immediately behind him in the second race, it would be the French lad who would be the first winner of the Academy Trophy. If he fared worse, the title would go to the Finn… From the start Tiihonen took control over Hubert. But, 6 laps from the end, the French lad was to yield in the face of constant challenges from Norwegian Oystein Helgheim, third in the first race. It was then the Greek  Filipos Kalesis who benefitted from the scrap between Hubert and the driver from Monaco Charles Leclerc to secure his 3rd podium of the year… and 3rd place in the Championship. With his 4th place, Anthoine Hubert missed out on the title by only three points.

« I am so happy », confided Niklas Tiihonen for his part. « To win this Championship where everybody has the same machinery is a big moment in my young career. » In any case there we have a formidable launching pad for this young Finn who we must be hearing more of in the future. After all, this is, as well, the principle role of karting !

Press Release by: World Karting Championship « U18 » - 04/10/10

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