Rain stirs up Sunday’s finals at the RMCET in Belgium

Columns: Races
The temperature climbed to over 30 degrees Celsius across the weekend at the Karting des Fagnes circuit in Belgium and rain arrived just in time for the final races at the third round of the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy 2023.

For some of the front-runners, the showers disrupted their successful campaign for points when it counted most. For others, the weather provided the break they needed to capitalise during the afternoon of somewhat chaotic racing that unfolded. 18 qualifying heats were run on Saturday, where points for the championship are calculated from the combined races and finals Sunday, while the podium is decided by the last race of the weekend.

The Rotax Mini MAX field returned for their second round of the European series, led by round 1 winner Jacob Ashcroft, who came away from the second Belgian event of the year with another victory. Pole-sitter Nikita Ljubimov (EST) won two of Saturday’s qualifying heats, to rank P1 over remaining race winner Cole Denholm (GBR). Unfortunately, the RMC Grand Finals 2021 Micro MAX champion was caught up in the battle for top positions with the series leader in the pre-final, which impacted their results in the early stages of the race. Instead, it was Denholm who secured pole for the final, taking the win in a close battle ahead of Felipe Reijs (NDL), Maxim Bobreshov (ARE) and Albert Friend (GBR). The meeting was declared ‘wet’ for the final as the rain moved in. Starting from row 11, last year’s RMC Grand Festival champion, Ashcroft, showed his experience with a confident victory, leading by 0.372 seconds after 10 laps over Denholm. However, finishing P1 and P2 in the finals has promoted Denholm to the top of the overall standings to be eight points ahead of his Dan Holland Racing teammate with Friend ranking third. Rounding out the podium was Lars Lambers (BEL), who was presented with his RMC International Trophy entry ticket to Le Mans along with Denholm. Next up, it was Kristian Sejersen (DNK) and Zdenek Babicek (CZE) in fifth place. 

Mini MAX Championship
1 - Cole Denholm (LN-Dan Holland Racing) - 310 pts
2 - Jacob Ashcroft (LN-Dan Holland Racing) - 302 pts
3 - Albert Friend (Tony Kart-Strawberry Racing) - 291 pts

The fastest qualifier in Rotax Junior MAX, Kasper Schormans (NLD), remained the leader in the ranking after the heats Saturday with a three-from-three success rate, confirming his pole position for Sunday morning’s pre-final. Belgium’s champ Mateja Radenkovic was at the top of the table coming into the event, so it was no surprise he won two of the races as well to line up alongside his Dutch rival. Ranking P4 behind Beau Lowette (BEL) by one point was British driver Timo Jungling, also with one victory. The pre-final saw the pecking order change though, as Schormans’ dominant performance came under fire from Alberto Fracassi. A fantastic battle played out for minor placings, but the Italian won by a nose across the finish line from Lowette with just 0.014 seconds. Argenti Motorsports’ Kenzo Craigie sealed P3, with Schormans and Frenchman Luka Scelles right behind. With the onset of the rain for the final, Schormans was able to get back to the front of the field and drive away with ease, although a five-second penalty would drop him to second on the podium. Setting the best lap of the race, Armand Hamilton (HUN) took his maiden karting victory in a stunning drive at Mariembourg. The young Aussie driver, who relocated to Europe earlier this season with his Hungarian-based family to pursue his racing career, had ranked third in qualifying Friday and was elated to find himself on the top step of the podium. Lowette lost his P3 finish with a front fairing penalty, to be fifth, which also demoted championship leader Radenkovic in both finals. Jungling collected the silverware instead at round 3 ahead of Archie Clark (GBR), who respectively trail the Belgian in the overall points tally. 

Junior MAX Championship
1 - Mateja Radenkovic (Tony Kart-Bouvin Power) - 454 pts
2 - Timo Jungling (LN-Dan Holland Racing) - 435 pts
3 - Archie Clark (Kosmic-KR Sport) - 421 pts

As was the case in the previous class, the Rotax Senior MAX pacesetter won each of his heat races to top the ranking Saturday. Local driver Kai Rillaerts has been on the RMCET championship podium twice as Junior MAX title winner and last season as Senior MAX runner-up. It was defending champ Sean Butcher (GBR) that took race honours in the other two heats to rank second, as he did in official timed practice, and Jules Roussel of France who won the remaining race to be fourth. In the initial final, winner of the RMCGF 2018 Mini MAX title Farin Megger (DEU), off grid position 3, was riding on the bumper of his former teammate Rillaerts in P1, pushing to pass, but failed to find the chance. The front group began to shuffle and by lap 17, Devyan Roest (NLD) held P2 ahead of Butcher. In P4 was second round winner Mark Kimber (GBR), heading the chase at one stage on his fellow Strawberry Racing driver, with another of their teammates Austin Lee (DEU) taking P5. The wet conditions did not favour Rillaerts in the final, after an unmatched performance the entire weekend – and the competition was not holding back. Several laps in and Lee moved into first, but by lap 5, Kimber kept his title hopes well alive for yet another shot at being European and World #1 when he took control of the race until the chequered flag. A start penalty didn’t prevent RMCET 2022 Junior MAX champion Ethan Jeff-Hall, running in the same British outfit, from taking P2 ahead of Butcher [who sits second in the series points] and Lee, both with a dislodged front fairing and +5 seconds. Kai Hunter (GBR) had a penalty that dropped him off the podium, as did Tommie Van Der Struijs (NLD) in P6, while Matthew Higgins (GBR) moved up to fifth as a result. Two drivers from Italy posted quickest lap in each final, although not featuring at the prize-giving: Ella Pappacena, with the support of his coach/mechanic Bas Lammers, famous at Mariembourg for his own past success. Meanwhile, Matteo Pianezzola was fastest in the rain during the last race of the weekend. 

Senior MAX Championship
1 - Mark Kimber (Tony Kart-Strawberry Racing) - 467 pts
2 - Sean Butcher (Kosmic-KR Sport) - 463 pts
3 - Kai Rillaerts (Tony Kart-Strawberry Racing) - 416 pts

Aiming to add the RMC Euro Trophy in DD2 to his Rotax title from Bahrain RMCGF 2021, Martijn van Leeuwen (NLD) might not have been at the top in qualifying, but he stormed home to secure double victories in both the heats and finals at the challenging Karting des Fagnes circuit, he claims to know very well. On a dry track, fellow countryman Enzo Bol was once again hammering the current series leader who’s a decade older than the 2-speed gearbox rookie. The youngster took pole position in the experienced DD2 field before winning the first heat race and setting best lap in the pre-final on Sunday. Bol finished P2 ahead of Jakub Bezel (CZE), with his teammate and former Senior MAX Grand Finals champion Axle Saarniala (FIN) in fourth ahead of class front-runner Maxim Shchurko (LTU). In the final, last year’s Rotax DD2 #3 in Portimao, Jakub Bezel, had the advantage over Bol at the line, with yet another podium for the Dutch driver ranking P2 in the series standings. Making up the minor positions were RS Competition Danish teammates Victor Frost Bay and Sebastian Schou, initially split by Petr Bezel prior to post-race penalties. Van Leeuwen was simply unstoppable though, taking his last win Sunday in the wet by an impressive 6.5 seconds to make it an RMCET trifecta. 

DD2 MAX Championship
1 - Martijn van Leeuwen (KR-Schepers Racing) - 492 pts
2 - Enzo Bol (KR-SP Motorsport) - 452 pts
3 - David Aulejtner (LN- Wyrzykowski Motorsport) - 416 pts

The defending champion in Rotax DD2 Masters, Denis Thum, was fast from the onset. But following the heats, Nicolas Picot (FRA) was the top-ranked driver in the 32 years+ category ahead of the German and the 2022 runner-up Martynas Tankevicius (LTU) was one place behind on equal points. The Masters showed their pace and drew upon their many seasons of competition karting. Multiple French champion Picot led the way in both finals for maximum points in Belgium and ranks P3 in the standings, while additionally finishing P6 overall on the day in the combined DD2 classes. His closest rivals Tankevicius and Thum remained second and third in each final, with the Lithuanian leading the championship tally by a mere five points with one event to go. In the pre-final, Christophe Capitaine (FRA) and round 1 winner Michael Becker (GER) made up the top 5, while a change in positions saw Lukas Devera (CZE) and Igor Mukhin (CYP) narrowly miss out on collecting trophies in Mariembourg.

DD2 MAX Masters Championship
1 - Martynas Tankevicius (BirelART-Lenktyniu Linija) - 464 pts
2 - Denis Thum (LN-Kraft Motorsport) - 459 pts
3 - Nicolas Picot (Tony Kart) - 455 pts

With one round now remaining to crown the RMCET 2023 title winners in all eight of the Rotax categories, all eyes will be on the fourth and deciding edition at Paul Fletcher International Kart Circuit at Brandon in the UK from September 8-10. The newest generation of Rotax kart racing will feature for their second and final round at PFI, when the Rotax E20 E-Karts make their anticipated race debut at the A Grade CIK-FIA homologated British track. The Sodikart Sigma DD2 chassis fitted with the Rotax electric powertrains offers an ideal ‘Arrive & Drive’ concept for any Junior, Senior and Masters competitors interested in experiencing the latest e-technology from the Austrian engine manufacturer. There are RMC Grand Finals tickets on the line in the RMCET E20 Senior and E20 Masters classes and a €5.000 voucher for the series winner in E20 Junior. This brings the total to 12 RMCGF 2023 tickets to be awarded at the last [guaranteed to be] sensational edition of the RMCET in the UK, with the Rotax season highlight taking place in the Kingdom of Bahrain on December 2-9. 

If you missed the track action from Mariembourg, you can watch all the weekend’s race videos for round 3 and previous 2023 events on the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy channel on YouTube.



Registration is now open for the last round of the RMCET 2023 taking place at PF International – Find more info on the RMC Euro Trophy official website

Download the Rotax Global app free for easy mobile access – on the App Store or Google Play Store

Text  Jen Wade
Photos  Nina Megger  

Created by: abruno - 11/07/23

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