Champions return to glory at the Rotax Winter Cup

Columns: Races
In a weekend that saw unfamiliar torrential rain hit the Kart Centre Campillos in Spain, flooding the circuit throughout the heat races all day Saturday, Sunday’s finals at the Rotax Max Challenge Euro Trophy Winter Cup 2024 were fortunate to be blessed by sunshine, most of the time.

The five winners included four previous RMCET Winter Cup champions – Albert Friend (Mini MAX), Jacob Ashcroft (Junior MAX), Patriks Locmelis (DD2) and Martynas Tankevicius (DD2 Masters). Jayden Thien (Senior MAX) celebrated his first victory at the international Rotax event in a field of 90.

Mini MAX – Second title for Albert Friend
The Mini MAX pre-final was run on a slippery track in the morning, with rain falling just as the youngest drivers got underway. Albert Friend from pole position was in control until he was passed by a persistent Zdenek Babicek, with Oliver Spencer finishing third. Friend remained at the top of the rankings for the final grid and was joined by the Czech driver on the front row. In the afternoon, the cold, gusty winds up to around 60 km/h kept the drivers battling the elements as well as their rivals. The final was a nail-biter as the Minis fought to the flag side-by side with some brilliant strategy coming into play. The race for the lead between Friend, fellow Brit Oliver Spencer and Babicek began just after the lights went out, the trio swapping places many times. A move by Spencer in the closing lap, when Friend waved him by, was short-lived for the lead as Friend immediately reclaimed P1 and drove a smart race to take his second RMCET Winter Cup title since 2022. In the dash to the line, pacesetter Babicek was third ahead of last year’s runner-up Nikita Ljubimov and Harry Taylor.

Junior MAX – Another class victory for Jacob Ashcroft  
The rookies made a big impression in Campillos, leading the Junior MAX category with great racing and good sportsmanship. All weekend, the two drivers to beat were Dan Holland Racing teammates Jacob Ashcroft and Toms Strele. From qualifying to the heats and Pre-Final B, it was Ashcroft on top. Strele went one better to rank best following the heat races and Pre-Final A, to start the Final on pole. Both led with a clear gap of more than 5 seconds across the line. In the mix of the chasers, Lewis Goff and Rotax #1 Mini MAX champ from the RMCGF 2023 Rory Armstrong made up the first three in the initial Pre-Final, while Cameron Nelson and Casper Nissen followed the leader home in the second Pre-Final. However, the pace was set by local Jeremy Reuvers and Japan’s Motoda Simba. The weather moved in for the afternoon decider, with rain forcing a full course yellow for much of the Final. Strele maintained the lead, but Ashcroft made his move in the late stages after the green was given, as the pair swapped places on the drying track. Proving too good this time around, the British driver collected yet another title and his season entry paid in the RMC Euro Trophy two years running and clocked the fastest race lap in the process. With Strele unchallenged as vice champion, there was a tough battle going on behind between a group of five drivers; Lewis Goff securing third place to make it an all-UK podium. Rounding out the top five were Ties van Wijk and Mathias Kjellerup.

Senior MAX – Success for Jayden Thien 
The Senior MAX field was reduced from 90 to 72 by Sunday, with two cut-throat Pre-Finals hard-fought to determine the grids for the showdown in the afternoon, as was the case in Junior MAX. Pre-Final A was won by Lewis Gilbert from Jayden Thien and Kai Hunter, while Pre-Final B victory went to Vic Stevens ahead of Macauley Bishop and Ethan Jeff-Hall. When all the points were calculated, it was Hunter on pole and Oliver Hodgson sharing the front row for the final, in what was looking like a battle of the titans from Great Britain, with the possibility that a couple of outsiders from Belgium and the Netherlands could steal their limelight. Although Hunter had been relentless to lead every lap of his five heat races in the wet, it was his former DHR teammate who threatened his success by take P2 in the Pre-Final earlier and would be the one he thought he could catch after being passed in the latter part of the Final. It wasn’t to be, however, as the 15-year-old Dutch driver, who qualified 15 Friday, left no opportunity to be beaten to his first RMCET Winter Cup title. Hunter ultimately could not respond, therefore having to settle for the vice champion’s trophy. Taking third place two years in succession was Ethan Jeff-Hall, having recently made the step up to cars as well, completed the podium. Bishop and Gilbert finished a most credible P4 and P5 in the competitive Senior MAX class.

Rotax DD2 – Patriks Locmelis defends his title
Patriks Locmelis running with the Biedriba MRG Racing team was outstanding once again on the Final day in Spain in the two-speed gearbox category, making it a double victory Sunday and defending his DD2 title. The quickest driver on the circuit, William Kristensen, carved his way through from start grid 9 for the opportunity to make a couple of attempts to pass the leader in the closing laps of the Final. The Latvian gave him no chance though as they stretched the gap to the next group. Never to be discounted, Poland’s David Aulejtner was the best of the challengers at the chequered flag for third, where nothing separated the front-runners. Two former RMCGF champions just missed out on taking home the prizes; Axel Saarniala followed by the current Rotax DD2 #1 from Bahrain Ragnar Veerus, 

Rotax DD2 Masters – Hat-trick for Martynas Tankevicius
Defending RMCET Winter Cup champion Martynas Tankevicius was initially outpaced by the 2023 European DD2 winner Nicolas Picot on Friday, but won the Pre-Final, then lined up second to the Frenchman for the last race of the weekend for the Masters. With 16 laps to battle, Tankevicius made the decisive move mid-race to go on to make Rotax Racing history with a triple victory in the class. It was another memorable result in the friendly rivalry with Picot, who was himself impressive in the combined DD2 racing to be positioned second at one point. Germany’s Fabian Bock finished third then came Haralds Garkaklis and Prior Sei in fifth.
Find all the event results and links to the livestream videos on the official RMC Euro Trophy website - https://www.rotaxmaxchallenge-eurotrophy.com/

RESULTS
https://www.wskarting.it/results/rotax_winter_results.asp

Livestream from Sunday’s Finals
Pre-finals and Finals racing and highlights can be found on Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy's Facebook page, RMCET website, Motorsport.com and YouTube.

Facebook – ROTAX MAX Euro Trophy
Web – https://www.rotaxmaxchallenge-eurotrophy.com
Web – https://motorsport.com/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@RotaxMAXChallengeEuroTrophy
  
(Text Jen Wade Photo HelloFoto - WSK Promotion)

Created by: abruno - 11/03/24

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