Salbris Celebrates Rotax Euro Champions 2014
First Win for Verschoor, title for Preining - Webb takes crown as Cooper defends
After stops in Genk (Belgium), Castelletto (Italy) and Zuera (Spain) the last round of ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge 2014 was held in France from 1st to 7th September 2014. Again the organising RGMMC Establishment welcomed full grids in the three categories of junior, senior and DD2 which represented drivers from 28 nations from all around the world. The 1.500 metres long circuit of Sologne Karting in Salbris marked the decisive stop of the year. Finally the event could not have been more thrilling, as the champions were crowned in the very last race of the year. In the end Thomas Preining (junior), Harry Webb (senior), Ben Cooper (DD2) and Martin Pierce (DD2 Masters) took the overall victories, shining as bright as the sun above France.
Juniors: First Win for Verschoor – Title for Preining
In the junior category Austria’s Thomas Preining (Team TKP) was the pacemaker in the beginning of the season. He took four wins in a row but struggled during the round in Spain, which made him drop back to fourth place in the championship table. Yet Preining still had the chance to take the final triumph. But that should not be an easy task. Championship leader Dean MacDonald (Strawberry Racing) from the UK showed a most consistent season and there was no hint why he should relapse just at Salbris, which applied to Dutchman Richard Verschoor (Team TKP) and Belgium’s Max Timmermans (Stawberry Racing), who followed in second and third position of the table.
In the qualifying Thomas Preining set the best time. The fourth times season winner underlined his ambitions for the European crown by a fastest lap of 1:02.909 minutes. But Max Timmermans kept close on his heels, missing the pole position by a blink of an eye. Third quickest was Alex Quinn (Coles Racing) from the UK, while his fellow countryman Dean MacDonald took a respectable fourth place after the session. Title candidate Dutchman Richard Verschoor had to be satisfied with eighth position. Yet this solid result still left him all opportunities for the heats, where he had to catch up to his championship opponents.
Thomas Preining was the dominating man in the junior’s heats, too. He won each of his races and defended his pole position from Friday apparently with ease. But his opponents did not make any big mistakes either: Especially Max Timmermans stood out of the chasing pack by winning two out of his three heats. His reward was the second place in the heat ranking. Right behind him, Richard Verschoor made it up to third place. Marcus Armstrong (Dan Holland Racing) from New Zealand took fourth position ahead of Dean MacDonald, who complemented the top five positions after the heats.
In the junior’s prefinal pole setter Thomas Preining had a walkthrough. He defended his lead and controlled it up to the finish line. Behind the title candidate his teammate Richard Verschoor was in second place for a long time. But finally he had to give way to a fulminant driving Alex Quinn. Yet Verschoor gained the intermediate championship lead by finishing third. Behind the top three Dave Wooder (Dan Holland Racing) and Dean MacDonald completed the ranking. Championship favourite Max Timmermans had no luck at all. Starting from first row he dropped back a lot of positions and eventually could make it up to the top ten. That made him lose all chance for the Euro crown.
With some tactical racing Thomas Preining started into the final race. Being a part of the leading group, the man from Austria did not take any risks and left way to his teammate Richard Verschoor, knowing that only a really bad result could prevent him from winning the championship. So Preining was satisfied with second position, which made him the new Euro champion. On the other hand Verschoor was happy, too, as he celebrated his first season win, equally crowning him vice champion 2014. Third place on the podium was reserved for Marcus Armstrong ahead of Dean MacDonald, who established himself in third position of the championship table.
Seniors: Harry Webb takes European Crown
Having a look at the senior class, the largest grid within the framework of the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge, the championship decision concentrated on a neck-and-neck duel between the UK drivers Edward Brand (Intrepid Driver Program) and Guan Yu Zhou (Strawberry Racing), who were separated by only two points. On the other hand there was Harry Webb (Strawberry Racing). After he had missed the opening round at Genk, he gave his comeback in Italy, winning all races thenceforth. Since the UK driver could theoretical gain full points in Salbris, he could achieve the not unlikely sensation of winning the championship last-minute.
And indeed Webb did an outstanding job from the very beginning. The UK youngster drove in his own sphere being more than two tenth of a second quicker than the rest of the grid in the qualifying. Sweden’s Victor Oberg (PDB Racing Team) took second best time ahead of Denmark’s Martin Mortensen (RS Competition). But the latter was disqualified in the afternoon due to a technical non-conformity. So it was title contestant Guan Yu Zhou inheriting the third position. He established himself clearly in front of the championship leader Edward Brand, who ended up on a moderate ninth place.
In the heats Harry Webb tied in with his top performance from Friday’s qualifying. In a distinctive manner the British driver celebrated three wins, which were never in danger at all. Conquering the pole position for the prefinal, Webb kept up his chances for the European crown. In second position Glenn Van Parijs (Bouvin Power) surprised his opponents. After the Belgium driver had been sixth after the qualifying, he was in brilliant shape for the heats, in which he took two wins and a second place. Guan Yu Zhou followed in third place ahead of Victor Oberg. Edward Brand was able to close the gap to the leaders slightly but a seventh place in the heat ranking still marked the tail light of the favourites.
The prefinal was a clear cut for Harry Webb, who did not leave any doubt and took another start-finish win. Yet Glenn Van Parijs was strong, too. The man from Belgium actually was the fastest man on track and conquered the second place, thus displacing Guan Yu Zhou to third place. Edward Brand struggled: In the beginning he was able to establish within the top three but towards the end he lost pace, ending up in eighth place. Even in the final he was unable to keep the speed of the top.
Which did not apply to Harry Webb: In the final race he was a class of his own again. His win was never in danger, which not only granted him the race win but the European crown! Behind the new champion it was Josh Price, Lars Lamborelle and Guan Yu Zhou complementing a quadruple triumph for Strawberry Racing. In the championship standings Guan Yu Zhou took the vice title ahead of Edward Brand.
DD2: Ben Cooper defends the Euro Title
In the direct drive category of DD2, title-holder and championship leader Ben Cooper (KMS – Birel Motorsport) was leading the championship before the final showdown. The former world champion was still waiting for his first season win but left his mark by a tactical and consistent dominance. But his lead of only seven points gave him no time for a rest. Jordan Lennox Lamb (CRG SPA) and Sean Babington (Strawberry Racing) were close on his heels, having best chances to turn the tide in Salbris.
But first of all Andreas Backman (Strawberry Racing) was the one, upstaging the favourites in the DD2 class. The man from Sweden was the fastest man in the qualifying while the title candidates had to line up behind the pole sitter. Ben Cooper took second position ahead of his rivals Sean Babington and Jordan Lennox Lamb (CRG SPA). In the heats Andreas Backman was without fortune. He struggled in two races, occasionally getting off the track and finally dropping back to eleventh place in the ranking. As a result he left way to the title favourites. They set the pace in most of the races and arranged the victory among themselves – actually each of them was successful once. Yet it was Sean Babington, who scored best and gained the pole position ahead of Ben Cooper and Jordan Lennox Lamb. Seeing the title trio in the top three positions, one could not expect a more thrilling situation for the finals on Sunday.
With a perfect start into the DD2 prefinal Sean Babington and Ben Cooper headed away from the rest of the grid, while their opponent Jordan Lennox Lamb struggled hard and dropped back to a chanceless position due to a time penalty. So the decision concentrated on the duel between Babington and Cooper, who arranged the win among themselves. When the race approached the end, the fight became tougher and the lead changed several time until Babington had the advantage in the very last lap. Even in final the fight between the two title contestants continued: But unfortunately it lasted only a few laps when it came to a slight collision between them. Cooper was given a five seconds penalty while Babington had to retire with a gearbox defect only a few metres later. As a result the championship was decided in Cooper’s favour, who finally finished third in the race. Andreas Backman was the lucky guy profiting by this incident. He celebrated his first season win ahead of Jordan Lennox Lamb, who had shown a sensational catch-up from the end of the grid. “It is not a great way to win the championship but that’s racing. Now I am really happy”, stated Ben Cooper, who successfully defended his crown. Behind the old and new champion it was Jordan Lennox Lamb who took the second place in the overall classification ahead of Andreas Backman.
As for the DD2 Masters it was Guillaume Berteaux (Kartagene), who showed an impressing performance on home soil. He took the prefinal win ahead of Martin Pierce (Praga Racing Team) from Ireland and Frenchman Christophe Adams (Sonic Racing Kart). In the final he repeated that success and saw the chequered flag in tenth position of the overall grid. Second place went to Christophe Adams again, while Tamsin Germain (DG Racing) completed the podium. In the championship Martin Pierce (Praga Racing Team) had a walkthrough. Already before the final round his lead was quite comfortable so that his overall win was no real surprise.
Christophe Adams and Tamsin Germain took the following positions in the championship ranking 2014. “The final round was very exciting and came up with most worthy winners in the end. Looking back on the Euro Challenge season 2013 it was a great success again. After eleven years our series is still growing and set new records in 2014 again. But that is no reason to rest. We already set the course for 2015: Our opening round will be held at Salbris (FR) from 1st to 5th of April, being followed by the race at Castelletto (IT) from 27th to 31st of May. From 22nd to 26th of July we are happy to return to Wackersdorf (DE) until Genk (BE) will be host of the final round from 2nd to 6th of September. The dates and tracks are subjected to the final approval of the CIK-FIA”, says Roland Geidel, RGMMC CEO.
Although the season of the ROTAX Euro Challenge is over now, there is one last highlight to come: From 20th to 26th of October Zuera (ES) is venue of the ROTAX International Open, marking the last chance to qualify for the ROTAX MAX Grand Finals in Valencia (ES) in November. All told there are seven last chance tickets waiting for the best drivers, as well as free and assisted places to the 2015 ROTAX Winter Cup at Campillos. Moreover all Open drivers will be entered into a free lottery draw, where one person in each class will win one complete free season in the 2015 ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge.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.