Rotax Max Euro Challenge Drivers Beat the Heat at Spain
It was the hottest race of the season thus far: From 14th to 20th July the halftime event of the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge was held under the burning sun of Spain. Scene of action was the Circuito Internacional de Zuera, situated in northern Spain right between the cities of Barcelona and Madrid. The 1.700 metres long track is well-known to the European ROTAX elite as it is venue of the popular International Open for several years now. High speed was the keyword, which describes the fastest course of this years’ calendar best. And indeed slipstreaming proved to be the key factor to success but the summer race came up with another challenge: The drivers and the equipment faced a real endurance test due to a blistering heat of about 40°C. So the driver’s physical shape played an important role – not to forget the endurability of tyres and engines. In the end Dave Wooder (junior), Harry Webb (senior), Sean Babington (DD2) and Martin Pierce (DD2 Masters) mastered the challenge best and took the victories in Spain.
Dave Wooder Dominates the Junior Category
Coolest guy of the junior category was Dave Wooder (Dan Holland Racing). Already in the qualifying practice he demonstrated his ambition. By a time of 1:05.438 minutes the UK driver was more than two tenth of a second quicker than his opponents. In best chasing position was lady driver Marta Garcia (MGL Racing Xtreme) underlining her skills with a remarkable performance at her home race. Behind the local hero New Zealand’s Marcus Armstrong (Dan Holland Racing) and the UK drivers Dean MacDonald (Strawberry Racing) and Ayrton Simmons (Coles Racing) complemented the top five positions.
During the heats Dave Wooder tied in with his performance from Friday’s qualifying. He was unbeatable on the track and celebrated three wins, thus putting his FA kart on pole position for the prefinal on Sunday. In the chasing role was Dean MacDonald who established himself in second place, by three very consistent heat results. Marcus Armstrong belonged to the small circle of heat winners and was rewarded with third place in the ranking ahead of Darren Keane (Strawberry Racing) from Ireland. Pretty unlucky was Marta Garcia. She was involved in a collision in her first heat, which made her drop back to a disappointing 17th place. In her following heats she cut her losses, set the benchmark and crossed the finish line first in both races. Finally she still ended up on sensational fifth position in the ranking.
In the prefinal pole sitter Dave Wooder could maintain his lead only for one lap until he had to leave way to Marta Garcia and Dean MacDonald. These two showed a close fight on the top, switching the lead a few times. But towards the end Wooder recovered and had the best pace. He overtook one opponent after the other and regained the lead. But Garcia kept in his slipstream and pushed really hard in the last lap. Finally Wooder defended the victory closely in front of the Spanish girl. McDonald could not keep his speed until the end and dropped back to fifth position, while Marcus Armstrong and Darren Keane saw the chequered flag in third and fourth position.
A real walkthrough was the final for Dave Wooder. After a perfect start he was able to pull away from the grid enlarging his leading gap lap after lap. In the end he completed the double win easily. Marta Garcia had to be satisfied with second place. Yet the lady driver did a remarkable race on home soil, which she underlined by the fastest lap time. Third place went to Dean MacDonald ahead of Richard Verschoor (Team TKP). Both of them gained important points in the championship table, as championship leader Thomas Preining (Team TKP) struggled for the first time this season. After a moderate qualifying, the heats did not go according to plan for the Austrian and in the finals he only managed positions 16 and 25. That made him drop back to fourth place in the championship, while Dean MacDonald is leading the standings ahead of Verschoor before the final round at Salbris (FRA).
Fourth Victory in a Row for Senior Harry Webb
With over 50 drivers the senior category represented the largest grid within the framework of the ROTAX Euro Challenge again. The first best time was driven by Luke Varley (KMS – Birel Motorsport). His lap of 1:04.993 minutes was fast enough to take the lead in the first qualifying group. But unfortunately it was far away from the pace the second group had to offer. All told seven drivers were quicker than Varley who finally had to be satisfied with eighth position in the overall classification. On the very top Castelletto double winner Harry Webb (Strawberry Racing) set the benchmark by a gap of impressing 0.288 seconds ahead of Canada’s Zack Clamandemelo (Intrepid Driver Program). The championship leading duo Edward Brand (Intrepid Driver Program) and Joseph Reilly (Strawberry Racing) followed on third and fourth place, while Josh Price (Strawberry Racing) completed the top five positions.
During the heats one man stood out of the pack: Harry Webb did not show any weakness: After his best time on Friday he added three heat wins on Saturday, which was the maximum he could achieve. Consequently the former junior world champion took the pole position for the prefinal on Sunday. Oliver Hodgson (KR Sport) from the UK followed in second place after the heats. The UK man took one win and additionally finished second and third during his races. So he put his Tony Kart on a starting place in the first row for the prefinal, equally pushing back Edward Brand, Josh Price and the newly designated Ferrari Academy driver Guan Yu Zhou (Strawberry Racing) to the following positions.
The prefinal was not as thrilling as expected: Pole sitter Harry Webb did not leave any doubt and celebrated a dominant start-finish-win, which was never in danger. Even the second place for his teammate Guan Yu Zhou was a clear matter, which applied to the third place of Zack Clamandemelo.
A very impressing job did championship leader Joseph Reilly. After a time penalty in the heats, he had to pick up the prefinal from tenth place. He caught up bravely during the ten laps and was rewarded with fourth place – just ahead of his championship rival Edward Brand (Intrepid Driver Program) in fifth position. But due to unfair driving Reilly was excluded after the race, which made Brand gain another position while Lars Lamborelle (Strawberry Racing) completed the top five positions.
In the final Reilly cut his losses. Having picked up the race from last position, he finally managed a solid seven place in the end. On the top it was Webb again, who drove in a sphere of his own. No one was able to keep the pace of the UK driver, who in the end saw the finish line five seconds ahead of the rest of the grid, thus taking his fourth win in a row. As for the further podium positions Clamandemelo, Zhou and Lamborelle showed a thrilling fight which reached his peak in the last lap: In a photo finish they crossed the line alongside and finally it was Zhou in second place ahead of Clamandemelo and Lamborelle. Brand closed the gap on the last metres and saw the chequered flag in fifth position, securing enough points to conquer the championship’s lead before the final round in France.
DD2: Sean Babington Takes First Season Win
In the direct drive category of DD2, title-holder and championship leader Ben Cooper (KMS – Birel Motorsport) was till waiting for his first win of the season – an instance the former world champion wanted to change at Zuera. An indeed the title defender was the benchmark at first, setting the best time in qualifying practice. Although keeping the top for quite a long period Andreas Backman (Strawberry Racing) dropped back to second place in the last seconds of the session. Yet the man from Sweden underlined his good shape and still asserted himself ahead of his more experienced opponents named Anthony Abbasse (Sodi), Ferenc Kancsar (KMS – Birel Motorsport) and Jordan Lennox Lamb (CRG SPA).
In the heats Cooper remained the man to be beaten. The Canadian with British origin was successful twice and completed his heats by a strong second place. That meant the defence of the pole position from Friday. “The heats were really good. Actually I intended to win all races but I made a small mistake, which cost the hat trick. The finals won’t be easy. The pressure from behind is big and some of my toughest opponents will surely catch up quickly”, stated the pole sitter with regard to his long list of potential chasers, like Andreas Backman, who confirmed his performance, too. He came out of the heats in a promising second position and was able to assert himself ahead of Ferenc Kancsar from Hungary and Xen De Ruwe (Intrepid Driver Program) from Belgium. For Anthony Abbasse and Jordan Lennox Lamb the heats did not go according to plan. The two factory drivers crashed in the first race, which cost them important points in the heat ranking. But the duo did not make any mistakes in the following races: As expected both were able to gain top positions again, which Abbasse remarkably underlined by winning heat 2. Finally the Frenchman was classified ninth in the ranking, while Lennox Lamb followed in fifth place. Last but not least there was another man coming from behind: Sean Babington (Strawberry Racing) had to retire from Friday’s qualifying with a broken battery. But he seized the heats in order to improve his position dramatically. He ended up on place seven in the starting grid and was supposed to be the great surprise for the finals.
The prefinal experienced a changing of the guard. Pole sitter Ben Cooper was not able to tie in with his qualifying performance. Already in the first laps he lost ground and struggled to hold his position. Finally he crossed the finish line fourth ahead of Anthony Abbasse and Ferenc Kancsar, who found Cooper a hard nut to crack. Yet there were drivers who managed to pass the reigning champion: First and foremost it was Sean Babington. The UK driver did a brilliant start and boosted himself to the top after only a few laps. During the remaining distance he was able to control the lead. By a gap of over one second Babington took his first win of the season. Behind him Jordan Lennox Lamb and Andreas Backman were in good shape, securing places two respectively three in the end.
In the final race Babington, Lennox Lamb and Cooper formed a trio, which set the pace throughout the race distance. They headed away from the rest of the grid easily and brought about the decision among themselves. Especially Cooper was quick again and grabbed the lead for a few laps. Yet Babington did not give up: After some tough wheel to wheel actions Babington asserted himself in the lead and defended it bravely up to the finish. Behind Babington, who secured his best season result, Cooper took second position and defended the championship lead. Third in the podium was Lennox Lamb, establishing on the second place in the points table ahead of Backman, Babington and Abbasse.
As for the DD2 Masters classification Tamsin Germain (DG Racing) was going strong and drove the best time in the qualifying session, ending up on a brilliant 13th place in the overall grid. But the lady driver from the UK was unlucky in the heats. She was involved in a collision, which made her give way to Martin Pierce (Praga Racing Team). The man from Ireland was classified 19th after the heats, while his rivals Tamsin Germain and Belgium’s Christophe Adams (Sonic Racing Kart) took positions 22 respectively 24. In the prefinal it was Adams taking the win ahead of Germain and Pierce. But the prefinal winner had to retire in the decisive second race, leaving way to his opponents. So it was Martin Pierce winning the race ahead of Tamsin Germain and Franck Rouxel (Sodi Shop).
“Once again Zuera proved to be worth the journey. As expected the halftime race was a guidepost for the championship’s outcome, which is still an open case in all categories. Equally the Spanish round was a small foretaste of the upcoming ROTAX International Open later this year. In October we will come back to Zuera, offering the chance to win seven last tickets for the ROTAX MAX Grand Finals in Valencia. “, says Roland Geidel, CEO of the organising RGMMC Establishment. Now the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge approaches the great season final. At Salbris (FRA) the series will hold its last round from 1st to 7th September, finally crowning its 2014 champions. So stay tuned on the official website www.rotaxmaxeurochallenge.com or www.rgmmcmedia.com, where you get all information regarding reports, photos, results and live TV stream.