Rotax Winter Cup Crowns it’s Winners

Last minute win for Juri Vips in Junior while Sean Babington dominates DD2 from start to finish

Winners of the first round of the Rotax Winter Cup at Campillos
(Photo: www.rgmmc.com)

Winners of the first round of the Rotax Winter Cup at Campillos
(Photo: www.rgmmc.com)

From February 10th to 16th 2014, the traditional ROTAX Winter Cup kicked off the year’s first trial of strength successfully. For the fifth time this prestigious karting event welcomed the international ROTAX scene on the Spanish karting track of Campillos near Malaga.

Since its debut in 2010 the Winter Cup has proved to be the perfect preparation for the upcoming ROTAX racing season. Organized by RGMMC Establishment – the host of the popular ROTAX Euro

Challenge for eleven years now – the event guarantees most experienced standards and professional processes in every way. Reinforced by the unbroken, increasing demand for ROTAX racing products, the Winter Cup edition 2014 enjoyed a record-breaking popularity! To quantify the incredible run on the Winter Cup, one only needed to have a look at the list of subscriptions. About 140 drivers entered the race in the three categories of junior, senior and DD2 plus the special classification for the DD2 Masters.

“The feedback from the Winter Cup has been really encouraging, it’s taken a few years to get this event we developed back in 2010 off the ground but we are now experiencing an increase in drivers of nearly 45% from last year. It’s an ideal venue and opportunity for drivers and teams to prepare for the Euro Challenge series. It also affords new drivers to the international arena an insight on how RGMMC operates and what they can expect in the Euro, equally giving us the time as organizers to guide them through their first races outside their national events. That rewards our persistent efforts and confirms our passionate work. Yet we are far away from resting on our laurels. We keep on improving our services on a wide range, starting with some new features already at Campillos”, quotes Roland Geidel, RGMMC CEO.

In the first place a whole new timing system, now directly run by RGMMC Timing, made its debut in Spain. The so-called X2-technology comes from MYLAPS and marks the state-of-the-art on the market. Besides the introduction of X2 the race control system was upgraded to 30 cameras now, all being equipped with high definition. Last but not least the official websites (www.rotaxmaxeurochallenge.com and www.rgmmcmedia.com) have finally been re-launched, offering even more information to the worldwide community.

Global interest and internationality complies with the subscriptions of the Winter Cup, too. One did not only find plenty of new drivers, but over 25 nations coming from all over the world: France, UK, Russia, Belarus, Australia, Morocco, Oman, USA or Japan were only a few countries, which turned the Winter Cup into a small world championship with the highest level of competition. For the first time ever one even welcomed a driver from Israel.

The 1.588 meters long circuit with its long straight and some spectacular up- and downhill passages was a challenge to the drivers, which unfortunately applied to the weather. After a cold and rainy week of testing weather, conditions changed for the better for the qualifying practice on Friday. Already got used to the daily change of conditions, the drivers had to cope with unpredictable and contrary weather for Saturday’s heats being held as wet races. The final phase on Sunday stayed completely dry, which made for best racing conditions at last. Juniors: Juri Vips wins last-minute

Juniors: Juri Vips wins last-minute

Traditionally the junior category saw a lot of talents climbing up to the senior class. But it welcomed a lot of newcomers, too. Especially drivers who remain in junior category had half the battle. Belgium’s Max Timmermanns (Dan Holland Racing), the Austrian Thomas Preining (Team TKP) or Juri Vips (Strawberry Racing) from Estonia were three experienced drivers who belonged to the circle of favorites.

Proving his role as a front-runner Thomas Preining seized his experience in the qualifying practice and put his FA kart on the pole position for the heats. “Since it was finally dry and sunny we had a lot to work on the kart in order to find the right set-up. I am really happy to have reached the best time. Thanks to my new team of TKP which does an awesome job thus far”, said Preining. Behind him his teammate Richard Verschoor from the Netherlands completed a double success for TKP. Zak Fulk (Coles Racing) from the UK took third place of the qualifying session just ahead of his opponents Juri Vips and Spain’s lady driver Marta Garcia (MGL Racing Xtreme).

With five different winners after the heats, the juniors proved to be a really competitive grid. Yet one youngster stood out of the pack: Richard Verschoor was the only one being able to take two victories, which made him pole sitter for the prefinal on Sunday. Right next to him Juri Vips captured the second position in the heat ranking in front of Thomas Preining, US youngster Darren Keane (Strawberry Racing) and Dave Wooder (Dan Holland Racing). In the prefinal Richard Verschoor confirmed his great performance and was the man setting the pace.

He defended his lead while his hardest opponents Thomas Preining and Juri Vips dropped back a few positions. Yet Verschoor had no walkthrough. Dave Wooder and Max Timmermans followed in the leader’s slipstream. To the end of the race the fight became more heated: Wooder took the lead but Verschoor came up with a counterstrike. That made the following drivers catch up quickly, turning the leading group into a sextet for the final lap. In the end Verschoor kept his nerve and took the win ahead of Timmermans who was able to overtake Wooder on the last meters.

The junior’s final quickly developed into a fight between Richard Verschoor, Dave Wooder, Juri Vips, Darren Keane and Thomas Preining. The latter especially pushed very hard making his way through the pack. When the race approached the end, the Austrian even captured the lead but his rivals did not give up at all. Verschoor tried to seize his chance in the last passages before the finish line while Preining did not give in. Both of them lost so much speed that it was Vips in third place who came up with a surprising maneuver and overtook the leading duo. By this last-minute attack Vips took the final win. Verschoor still managed second place while Preining had to leave the third podium position to Darren Keane. “When it got into the last lap I watched the leaders quarrelling. I stood a chance and seized it”, explained Vips after the race being happy with his first success of the year. Seniors: Reilly, Zhou and Backman take triple Victory for Strawberry

Seniors: Reily, Zhou and Backman take triple victory for Strawberry

With over 50 entries the senior category promised the greatest show. Besides numerous former juniors the general focus was set on the reigning European junior champion Guan Yu Zhou (Strawberry Racing) who debuted in the highly competitive class. The man from the UK had to prove that he was ready to take the next step successfully. This was not an easy task for the youngster whose rivals gave him a hard time.

The first benchmark was set by Joseph Reilly (Strawberry Racing). The man from the UK was the only driver managing a time under 65 seconds in the qualifying session. Definitively he drove a best time of 1:04.919 minutes thus putting himself on pole position. Behind him Dries Vanthoor (Team TKP) from the Netherlands drove second best time ahead of the former juniors Guan Yu Zhou and Jai Nijjar (Strawberry Racing) who followed in third and fourth position.

A very balanced decision was to find after the heats. After six races one stated five different winners in the evening. Only Joseph Reilly celebrated twice and in doing so defended his first place in the overall ranking. Guan Yu Zhou, Michael Cool (Bouvin Power), Philip Hamprecht (Strawberry Racing) and Tom Grice (Coles Racing) completed the top five positions of the 52 drivers comprising grid.

With a massive crash the seniors opened their prefinal. Most prominent victims of the larger pile-up were Philip Hamprecht and Michael Cool (Bouvin Power) who had been sharing the second starting row. On the top Joseph Reilly and his teammate Guan Yu Zhou stayed untouched by the action and concentrated on their leading roles. But they were put under pressure by Aavo Talvar (Talvar Racing) and Connor Jupp (Dan Holland Racing). When it came to the final spurt positions began to change and Zhou especially proved to be tough. After taking the lead Tonykart driver stood his ground until the finish line. Joseph Reilly took second position in front of Connor Jupp. Aavo Talvar had to give way to Jessica Backman (Strawberry Racing) who gave an impressive debut in the senior class.

The senior’s final went off without a hitch and was quite unspectacular at the front. Zhou established himself in first position while Reilly followed in his slipstream. The leading duo soon had a comfortable gap to the rest of the grid and kept a sort of ceasefire until the end of the race. Two laps before the flag; Reilly overtook Zhou successfully and did not leave his teammate any more chances for to strike back. Reilly saw the checkered flag closely ahead of Zhou. In third place Jessica Backman drove a solid and impressive race. A few seconds behind the leaders she completed a triple success for Strawberry Racing and was rewarded best international result ever. DD2: Babington dominates from Start to Finish

DD2: Babington dominates from start to finish

In DD2 Belgium’s Xen de Ruwe – newly racing for the ART Grand Prix team – started as top candidate for the victory. After winning the Winter Cup in 2012 and 2013 he aimed for the triple in 2014. His hardest opponent proved to be Sean Babington, designated DD2 vice champion of the Euro Challenge 2013, who recently joined the A-team of Strawberry Racing. Yet Sodikart’s Anthony Abbasse from France and Spain’s local hero Oriol Dalmau Caballero (Motor Club Deportivo Creixell), third of the Grand Finals in New Orleans, were two more front-runners who wanted to join the battle for victory.

In the qualifying practice Sean Babington was quickest man on the track. He managed a time of 1:03.487 minutes and was slightly faster than the reigning Winter Cup champion Xen de Ruwe and Oriol Dalmau Caballero. “I finally recovered from my rib injury last year, so that I am completely fit again. We struggled a bit in the free practice sessions but managed to find a perfect set-up for the qualifying”, stated pole sitter Babington. Andreas Backman (Strawberry Racing) from Sweden and Anthony Abbasse kept in touch with the leader and completed the top five positions as fourth and fifth. Yet Abbasse got some bad news: The technical check registered underweight, which threw him back to the very back of the grid.

Babington had the ball on his feet after the heats, too. In a dominant way he controlled the lead in each race, regardless the conditions were like. That put him on pole position for the prefinal on Sunday. Behind the front-runner, Xen de Ruwe did a solid job. He took the second place in the ranking just ahead of Oriol Dalmau Caballero who managed to defend his third position from qualifying.

Pole sitter Sean Babington left no doubt in the prefinal. He did a perfect start boosting himself far ahead of his chasers. That was already half the battle for the Tonykart driver. From there on he easily controlled his lead up to the finish line. Behind the winner, Oriol Dalmau Caballero was in second position for a few laps until he had to give way to Xen de Ruwe who saw the checkered flag in second position.

At the start of the final Babington defended his lead again, equally profiting by a slight collision involving Xen de Ruwe, who lost a lot of positions subsequently. So Oriol Dalmau Caballero seemed to be Babington’s hardest rival, but the local hero had to retire from the race soon after. That was when Anthony Abbasse came in. After being disqualified in the qualifying practice he caught up during the heats, taking fourth place in prefinal and finally asserted himself in second place in the final. Yet the Frenchman was not able to challenge Babington seriously. In the end Babington celebrated a perfect and dominant weekend ahead of Abbasse and Andreas Backman.

A close decision was reserved for the DD2 Masters classification. In the qualifying the top three drivers took positions right next to each other. Best man seemed to be Guillaume Berteaux (Kartagene) who set the best time until he was disqualified due to a technical non-conformity. So Florent Lambert (Tatum Racing) inherited the pole ahead of Martin Pierce (Praga Racing Team). After the wet heats Mikko Laine (DM Racing) asserted himself in best position. He put his Tonykart in a remarkable eleventh position of the overall grid. Yet the Finn could not confirm his excellent performance in the prefinal. He dropped back a lot of positions, while on the other hand his opponent Florent Lambert (Tatum Racing) did not show any weakness. He was best of the Masters drivers securing tenth place in the overall grid. In the decisive final Lambert did a remarkable job again by finishing twelfth. Nevertheless that was not enough since Guillaume Berteaux was slightly faster. The Frenchman recovered from his disqualification in qualifying and finished only one position ahead of Lambert, which meant the first place on the podium.

All told Campillos (ES) witnessed an exciting fifth edition of the ROTAX Winter Cup. Deserved winners, fair sports and thrilling action were the ingredients of a perfect season opener, which course of events again was followed by thousands of viewers live on RGMMC TV. But this was only a foretaste for the eleventh season of the ROTAX Euro Challenge 2014, starting 2nd to 6th April 2014 in Genk (BE). For all those who already kick their heels, RGMMC provides all recorded videos of the ROTAX Winter Cup on www.rgmmcmedia.com. So stay tuned on www.rotaxmaxchallenge.com.

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