Exciting Halftime of Rotax Max Euro Challenge at PF
Brits defend their Home Ground, Breath taking Race Action in all Categories with wins for Babington, Litchfield, Zhou and Manetti
Back to the home of motorsport: After 2005 the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge finally returned to Great Britain. For the halftime race of the season the amazing PF International circuit in Brandon, close to Grantham, hosted the third round of the year from 18th to 21st of July.
PF International is one of the most modern tracks in Europe. After its opening in 1994 it has been developed constantly. After a major transformation in 2011 the track measures 1.382 metres and incorporates a spectacular bridge with flyover, which is almost unique in karting! So it was no surprise that the European ROTAX elite was crazy about the race at UK’s premier karting facility.
Again the categories of MAX Junior, MAX Senior and DD2 came up with full grids, counting about 130 participants all told for the season halftime. But not only the great facilities of PF were attracting the drivers: As the stop on the Island marked the summer race, the organizing RGMMC Establishment organised a barbecue with hog roast and live music on Friday, which was free of charge to all drivers. So Friday evening the paddock was reserved for party time and welcomed plenty of guests, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge in an amiable atmosphere. Finally the key personalities of RGMMC, Roland, Lynn and James Geidel were rewarded for their efforts with a congratulation cake and some personal words of race director Nigel Edwards and commentator Ken Walker. Even if the party was a highlight of the UK trip, priority was given to the racing action, which proved to be the most spectacular of the season this far.
MAX Junior: Win for Guan You Zhou after tough Final
Josh Price (Price Racing) set the first benchmark in the qualifying practice of the junior category. By only 0.002 seconds the youngster from the UK was quicker than Austria’s Thomas Preining (Protrain Racing). David Wooder (Dan Holland Racing) from the UK managed the third best lap, thus putting him one position ahead of championship leader Connor Hall (Strawberry Racing), who took fourth position of the 45 juniors.
In its six heats the juniors celebrated not less than five different winners. Juan Manuel Correa (Josh Hart Racing) from the USA, the British drivers Josh Price, Guan Yu Zhou (Strawberry Racing), Philip Rawson (Dan Holland Racing) and Connor Hall were the successful youngsters who crossed finish line first. For the overall ranking it was Hall, taking the pole position for the prefinal. The championship leader was the most consistent driver and the only one, who won a second heat as well. Philip Rawson, Guan Yu Zhou, David Wooder, Jai Niijar (Strawberry Racing) and Juan Manuel Correa completed the results of the heat ranking.
The high level of competition should go on in the prefinal: Guan Yu Zhou, Connor Hall, Philip Rawson, David Wooder and Josh Price were the protagonists of the race, changing positions and the lead throughout the nine laps without pause. When the race drew to a close Hall got into problems, being involved in a smaller collision, which made him drop back a lot of positions. Finally place 15 was the most he could get – a disappointing result for the odds-on favourite. On top the rest of the pack went on fighting up to the finish line, which was crossed by Rawson first. By a minimal margin Price, Zhou and Wooder followed right behind.
Who thought that the prefinal was thrilling, was disabused in the final. Rawson, Price, Wooder, Zhou were the pace makers again. After only a few laps the group grew, as Preining and even Hall hooked up with the leaders. This sextet honoured a cease-fire quite a long time of the race distance until the last two laps were heralded. What came next was countless of overtaking action, which unfortunately did not go off without a hitch. First victim was Hall again, being pushed within the leading group. But he was lucky by keeping his kart on track, rather then Preining and Price, whose collision made them drop back numerous positions. Finally only the chequered flag could stop the breath taking battle of the juniors and it was Rawson crossing the line first in front of Zhou, Hall and Wooder. But as expected, the race control analysed the rough incidents and finally penalized Rawson by ten seconds and even excluded Wooder completely. By this Guan Yu Zhou inherited the win ahead of Connor Hall and Mathias S Kristensen (RS Competition). The championship remains an open matter: Hall defended the lead, now counting 242 points, in front of his teammate Zhou with 224 points. Kristensen is third with 206 points.
MAX Senior: Local Hero Litchfield takes Victory
In the qualifying practice it was Philip Morin (Dan Holland Racing), being quickest man of the 44 seniors, even breaking the lap record (56.500 sec.) for senior class on the 1.382 metres long circuit. The Swede was only 0.050 seconds faster than his teammate Pierce Lehane on second position. Third place went to Mark Litchfield (Paul Carr Racing), being best British driver ahead of championship leader Harry Webb (Strawberry Racing) in fourth position.
Webb was the most consistent man in the heats. He won two races and took two second places, which boosted him on pole position for the prefinal. Australia’s Pierce Lehane did a good job as well. He finished first in two heats and took place two in the overall ranking, just ahead of Morin. The latter actually was the most successful man on track in the heats, as he took three wins in the Saturday races. Yet one heat did not go according to plan, which prevented him from doing better than third place in the grid for Sunday. Britain’s Connor Jupp (Dan Holland Racing), the reigning world champion Charlie Eastwood (Strawberry Racing) and local hero Mark Litchfield (Paul Carr Racing) took the other victories of the heats, being placed on positions four, five and eight in the overall ranking of the heats.
In the prefinal Webb managed to defend his pole position after start. But quickly he had to leave the way for his opponents. So Morin, Eastwood, Brand and Litchfield were the ones, who rotated in the leading role, while Webb kept close on their heels. After a long race with plenty of overtaking Litchfield took the win in a photo finish by a margin of only 0.049 seconds ahead of Brand, Webb, Eastwood and Morin.
The 16 laps lasting final was not less thrilling. Up to ten drivers were in the run for victory and the lead changed almost every lap. With Philip Morin, Harry Webb, Mark Litchfield, Ed Brand, Charlie Eastwood and John Stewart (ST Racing) one counted six different race leaders! While most of the race was exemplary karting, the competition became more heated in the final spurt: Championship leader Webb clashed with Brand, thus losing a lot of positions and finally retiring from the race with a puncture. Unfortunately Brand was even involved in another incident: It was the very last lap when the Intrepid driver tried to attack the leading Litchfield. Brand hit Litchfield from behind, causing a real chain reaction: While Brand took the lead and the win, Litchfield had to struggle hard in order to keep his kart on track. The following Eastwood and Stewart tried to avoid the situation but found themselves being piled up unintentionally. After the race Brand was given a penalty of ten seconds, which threw him back to 18th place. The victory went to Litchfield, who won his home match right in front of Kyle Fowlie (Strawberry Racing) and Connor Jupp, both inheriting a podium position after a turbulent final. Yet the results have to be considered provisionally due to an appeal of Ed Brand.
Although he is still without a season win, Philip Morin’s consistency is rewarded in the championship. After PF, where he finished fourth, he took over the lead by 227 points. Only five points behind Charlie Eastwood still has all chances for the title, which applies to Harry Webb, being tied with his teammate.
DD2: Sean Babington on Cloud nine
In DD2 category Xen De Ruwe (FK Racing Team AB Ltd), winner of the last round in Italy, kept up his dominant performance. Although the man from Belgium had never been to PF before, he took the best time in qualifying practice ahead of Andreas Backman (Strawberry Racing) from Sweden and Hungary’s Ferenc Kancsar (KMS Europe). The best British drivers were Lucas Orrock (Orrock Racing) and Sean Babington (Dan Holland Racing) in fourth and fifth position.
On Saturday Ben Cooper (KMS Europe) was the one, setting the pace. The Birel driver won all of his heats, which put him on pole position for the prefinal. Yet championship leader Xen De Ruwe (FK Racing Team AB Ltd) had everything in check. He finished two heats in first position, thus being placed in the first row alongside Ben Cooper. Third man in the pack was Sean Babington (Dan Holland Racing). Although he was without victory, he drove three good heats, which put him in third position right in front of opening round winner Miika Laiho (MPT Racing).
Seven drivers were fighting for the win in the prefinal. Ben Cooper, Xen De Ruwe, Sean Babington, Miika Laiho, Patrick Pearce (Tatum Racing), Barrie Pullinger (Dan Holland Racing) and Andreas Backman wanted to seize their chances. But Cooper was unbeatable this time. After the Canadian took the lead he was able to control his opponents up to the finish. Pearce ended the race in second position ahead of de Ruwe, who showed lucky afterwards: “After slight collision my rear axle was broken. So actually I am happy to have seen the flag on place three”, the championship leader stated.
But fortune was supposed to leave him in the final. One only counted the second lap, when De Ruwe got off the track, as a result of the close fighting in the leading group. The FK driver dropped back to the end of the grid but cut his losses with a remarkable tenth place in the very end. On the top Sean Babington took the lead at an early stage of the race. While the rest of the pack kept fighting, he increased the gap more and more, finally winning by an impressive margin of almost six seconds. “I am really speechless. It is my first year in DD2 and this far I was still waiting for my first victory. Finally taking the win is great – especially right here at my home match”, said Babington after the race. Behind the man on cloud nine positions were far away from being settled. About ten drivers kept fighting for the remaining podium positions, which finally went to Pullinger and Backman.
As for the Masters classification Italy’s Alessandro Manetti (Josh Hart Racing) did the most outstanding job. In the qualifying practice he put his Praga kart into seventh place in the overall grid. Even in the heats Manetti was unbeatable. He defended his top position easily and even managed to lead the overall grid of the DD2 occasionally, which was finally rewarded with a brilliant fifth place in the starting grid. But in prefinal his solo show was stopped. Manetti got involved in a collision, which forced him to retire. Tamsin Germain (DG Racing) inherited the Masters win ahead of Dennis Kroes (Team Kroes) and Christophe Adams (Sportkarting Formula K). For the final Manetti was back again. From the back of the grid he caught up and finished in 15th position, by this winning the Masters final ahead of Kroes and Adams.
Again RGMMC broadcast the action right to many thousand viewers all around the world. In order to provide an even more authentic experience, the coverage even came in amazing HD pictures. If you missed it, you find all action from the PF event at www.rgmmcmedia.com, where you will find the recorded races powered by the RGMMC Television channel. The decisive race of the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge will be held in France. Salbris will be venue of the fourth round form 2nd to 8th September. So stay tuned on the official website www.rotaxmaxeurochallenge.com, where you get all information regarding reports, photos, results and live TV stream.