RMCET opener winners rule supreme in Sunday’s Finals

Columns: Races
The round 1 winners of the Rotax Max Challenge Euro Trophy 2024 have come away from the weekend’s event in Genk with maximum points and the silverware, as well as the first RMC Grand Finals ticket in the Belgian Cup by Mini MAX won by Zdenek Babicek. Taking the class honours were Jacob Ashcroft (Junior MAX), Vic Stevens (Senior MAX), Enzo Bol (DD2) and Nicolas Picot (DD2 Masters).

Sunday was Finals day at the Rotax Max Challenge Euro Trophy opening round at Karting Genk ‘Home of Champions’ and the class leaders were standouts when it came to the afternoon racing. There were numerous possible contenders for the top positions that could have taken the honours at the first edition of the series for 2024, but the points score tells the story for the championship. In the lead-up to the Finals, the anticipation was building, and you could see it, as the nine Pre-Finals offered the last chance to qualify to be one of the remaining 36 starters and collect maximum points in Belgium. Here, the calculation is based on Heats ranking and Pre-Final total to confirm the grid. 

Ultimately, the competition should be a fair one to the flag for the podium and presumably, see the more experienced drivers racing with the strategic approach one might expect at such international level. With the European Rotax title and RMC Grand Finals tickets on the line, where every race counts in the final standings for the championship, there is always going to be a clash between the best who believe they will be winning and the rest who believe they can win. The start of the season naturally brings the new challengers into the series and the younger rivals moving up through the categories, so it’s bound to be an action-packed event. However, the driving standards should, one would think, be both respected and enforced on all accounts. After all, this is meant to be the competitive level of karting that aims to develop and produce champions – within their own rights. There were unfortunately some “questionable” standards of driving that were surprising and did nothing for the reputation of those involved. It was disappointing and frustrating for competitors.

Meanwhile, the close combat, impressive moves and rising talent generally witnessed by race fans, trackside and online, was very encouraging and really produced some of the most exciting competition from the high quality field of nearly 240 drivers. With 40 nations represented, the championship is shaping up to be an international affair that continues to build momentum. In addition, WSK Promotions have come onboard as the event organiser and promoter in 2024. It is also quite evident, that the parity and reliability of the Rotax MAX Evo engines and MOJO Racing Tyres is delivering the equal performance that guarantees incredibly close racing in every class.

The introduction of the Belgian Cup by Mini MAX provided the opportunity for the first RMCGF ticket to be awarded at the international series being hosted Karting Genk and with this came the chance to be crowned the champion of the national event incorporated into the RMC Euro Trophy. Pre-Final winners Zdenek Babicek (CZE) and Nikita Ljubimov (EST) had the benefit of penalties given out post-race, although not having a dramatic effect on the results otherwise. Babicek ranked highest after all races, only two points over RMCET 2024 Winter Cup champion Albert Friend (GBR) and fastest qualifier AJ Burggraaff (NED). The Final was controlled by the Czech driver and he played it to his advantage on all accounts. Track knowledge and some years of experience – even at the age of only 11 – obviously gave the TEPZ Racing Team driver the upper hand this time. Having luck on side and the pressure to win brought a number of the potential front-runners unstuck as the laps unfolded. In all, eight competitors failed to survive the on-track battles after nine minutes of racing. Close behind leader Babicek, Vince van der Hallen (BEL) came through from row 5 followed by Oliver Warner finishing in P3.  

Belgian Cup by Mini MAX 
1. Zdenek Babicek (CZE)   
TEPZ Racing Team
2. Vince van der Hallen (BEL)
Bouvin Power Racing
3. Oliver Warner (GBR)   
Dan Holland Racing

In Rotax Junior MAX Jacob Ashcroft (GBR) was already heading the field from qualifying Friday and kept the pace up to rank at the top after taking the win in Pre-Final A. Boaz Maximov (NED) made it into the lead, but was unable to stop Ashcroft in the end. The former Mini MAX series title-holder still ranked P2 overall for the final grid. Third in the standings was the leader’s teammate Toms Strele (LAT) who took P3 in Pre-Final B, which was won by Thijs Stevens (NED) in another hard-fought race for the extra points. When it came to the decider, it was Ashcroft with his head down from the lights. The recently-crowned RMCET Winter Cup champ scored another victory for the year, winning by almost four seconds at the line to lead the series going into round 2. The Dutch duo of Ties van Wijk and Maximov completed the podium in what was a fantastic battle for minor placings.

Junior MAX - Final
1. Jacob Ashcroft (GBR) 
Dan Holland Racing
2. Ties van Wijk (NED)   
Bouvin Power Racing
3. Boaz Maximov (NED)   
Bouvin Power Racing

The Rotax Senior MAX Finals were bound to be interesting, to say the least, with the calibre of contenders lining up Sunday and the serious stage of the weekend at hand. Pre-Final A was won by 2022 RMCET champion Sean Butcher and Pre-Final B by last year’s winner of round 4 at PFI, Lewis Gilbert. With these results, the British pair finished on equal points in the overall standings with Jayden Thien (NED) and Kai Hunter (GBR), who were classified P2 and P3 respectively, behind class leader Macauley Bishop. It was a crazy first corner at the start of the Final which involved around 12 karts and immediately shuffled the grid for the 15-lapper. Bishop’s lead was lost early as he fell outside the top 10 momentarily. Butcher assumed the lead until Mark Kimber soon took over the race literally. What become somewhat chaotic, enabled Bishop to find his way through to P3. Vic Stevens made a superb pass on Kimber to take first, but it was short-lived. Bishop pounced in the closing lap at the top corner to take the chequered flag, but had a front fairing penalty. Stevens was announced the winner from Austin Lee (GER) and former Euro Junior champ Ethan Jeff-Hall (GBR). 

Senior MAX - Final
1. Vic Stevens (BEL) 
Bouvin Power Racing
2. Austin Lee (GER)   
Kraft Motorsport
3. Ethan Jeff-Hall (GBR)   
Sam Pollitt Racing

It was the late entry of 2023 RMCET DD2 vice champion Enzo Bol who stole the show in the two-speed gearbox category on Sunday. The 15-year-old from the Netherlands drove a faultless race to take the victory just short of three seconds in front of the new two-time RMCET Winter Cup winner Patriks Locmelis (LAT). Bol secured pole position for the showdown after taking P2 in Pre-Final A to Maxim Dirickx (BEL), who ranked fourth following all the racing. Frenchman Antoine Barbaroux won Pre-Final B ahead of Locmelis. Fellow Latvian Tomass Birstins, with third in the first Pre-Final, ended up on equal points with Dirickx in the standings to start from grid 3. After a great start in the Final, Bol was pushing to stretch the gap and set the best lap in the latter part of the race as Locmelis and Birstins worked together in an attempted to hunt down the leader. The competition was fierce further back in the meantime. In the last corner of the closing lap, Bende Szabo (HUN) overtook Birstins for third place and Xen de Ruwe (SLV) followed in P5, making up eight positions and clearly relieved with the result, having qualified 36 on Friday. 

DD2 - Final
1. Enzo Bol (NED) 
SP Motorsport
2. Patriks Locmelis (LAT)   
MRG Racing
3. Bende Szabo (HUN)   

Rotax DD2 Masters defending champion Nicolas Picot expanded on his campaign to retain the title he won in 2023, after taking pole position in qualifying and ranking first in the final stage standings. Heat winner Haralds Garkaklis came into the class as a previous DD2 front-runner in international Rotax racing and put up an impressive effort to finish second to the multiple French winner. In third place was Igor Mukhin (CYP), who was P2 in the Pre-Final. The driver representing Cyprus featured on the E-Kart podium in the first RMCGF Rotax E20 Masters appearance last December in Bahrain. Rounding out the top 5 were RMCET Winter Cup champ Martynas Tankevicius (LTU) and Christophe Adams NED).

Rotax DD2 Masters - Final 
1. Nicolas Picot (FRA) 
2. Haralds Garkaklis (LAT)
3. Igor Mukhin (CYP)   

The Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy will now prepare for the second round of the championship in Germany to be held at another high profile circuit on the tour – Prokart Raceland, Wackersdorf.

Find all the videos from the Finals on the RMCET channel on YouTube or via the link on the official series homepage. 


Media links: 
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@RotaxMAXChallengeEuroTrophy
Web – https://www.rotaxmaxchallenge-eurotrophy.com
Web – https://motorsport.com/
Facebook – ROTAX MAX Euro Trophy 

Stay updated with all the latest ROTAX RACING news at https://www.rotax-racing.com/
Follow on social @rotaxkarting

Text Jen Wade
Photo Credit: PH24 

Created by: abruno - 15/04/24

Browse by Columns





SIM - Racing Simulator




Stay tuned!
Sign up for our mailing list