Big Finale of the Rotax Max Euro Challenge Crowns Four New Champions
Win for Kenneally – crown for McCarthy, successful ending for Oberg and Lehane, triumph for Kancsar, first win for Markkanen
From 31 of August to 6 of September 2015 the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge held its all-deciding season finale at Genk (BEL). Following three very exciting weekends in France, Italy and Germany, Europe’s most unique ROTAX-series headed for Belgium and welcomed around 130 drivers from over 30 different nations. Nerve-racking action was guaranteed since none of the championship categories of junior, senior, DD2 and DD2 Masters had been decided yet. As if the highly balanced competition was not thrilling enough, the autumnal weather made for another unknown factor. Conditions were really unpredictable but luckily the rain showers concentrated on Saturday’s heats. The decisive final day saw perfect conditions on the tarmac making for races fraught with action and emotions. In the end Jack McCarthy (junior), Pierce Lehane (senior), Ferenc Kancsar (DD2) and Igor Mukhin (DD2 Masters) took the Euro crowns of their categories. Besides the coveted titles, nine tickets to the ROTAX Grand Finals were awarded among the top three drivers of the main classes, whereby the best Masters won a free season in the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge 2016.
Junior: Win for Kenneally – Crown for McCarthy
The fight for the crown in the junior class was especially exciting as six drivers were still within a chance to win the title. The British sextet was led by Jack McCarthy (Strawberry Racing) primarily Dean MacDonald (Aim Motorsport) and Zak Fulk (Coles Racing) could gain on him, which also applied to Alex Quinn (CRG SPA), Kiern Jewiss (Strawberry Racing) and Frenchman Axel Charpentier (Strawberry Racing).
In qualifying, some other drivers stole the favourites’ show: UK driver Fin Kenneally (Aim Motorsport) drove the fastest time in the session. By a gap of only 0.005 seconds he was quicker than the local hero Eric Stahl (Daems Racing) who established himself in second place. Axel Charpentier followed in third spot ahead of Frenchman Adam Eteki (SG Drivers). Championship leader Jack McCarthy convinced with a solid fifth place while his title opponents Kiern Jewiss and Dean MacDonald had to be satisfied with seventh and 13th place respectively. The other championship aspirants had worse fortunes: Zak Fulk took 20th place and Alex Quinn ended up in 25th position of the 51 drivers comprising field.
In the heats Fin Kenneally showed no weakness. Regardless of the track conditions, the British talent was in control and defended the pole-position with a clean record of three wins. Behind him Belgium’s Eric Stahl took two wins and secured the second place in the rankings ahead of Dean MacDonald, who was the best of the title contenders. Johnathan Hoggard (KR Sport) from the UK and Kenzo Aerts (Daems Racing) from Belgium completed the top five positions. Jack McCarthy (Strawberry Racing) experienced some topsy-turvy heats and dropped back to 17th place in the end, even bringing up the rear of the championship candidates since Zak Fulk (Coles Racing), Kiern Jewiss (Strawberry Racing), Axel Charpentier (Strawberry Racing) and Alex Quinn (CRG SPA) stayed within the top twelve positions.
The prefinal began with a massive start collision, which really shuffled the positions and involved no less than five title aspirants, namely Axel Charpentier, Zak Fulk, Dean MacDonald, Kiern Jewiss and Alex Quinn. After the race they were excluded for cutting the track after the incident, losing every chance to take the championship. At the top, pole sitter Fin Kenneally kept going unaffected by the jumble and was able to defend the lead ahead of Eric Stahl. But from behind, title favourite Jack McCarthy boosted himself from 17th to third place in an early stage of the race. From then on, the Brit did not hesitate long. He overtook the leading duo and pulled away consistently. In the end, he took the win and the championship crown ahead of Fin Kenneally and Eric Stahl, while UK driver Scott Symons (KR Sport) and Taymour Kermanshahchi (Team TKP) from the United Arab Emirates complemented the top five positions.
In the final race, Fin Kenneally took the lead straight away, pulling away from his chasers. His win was never in danger and so he crossed the finish line first with a remarkable gap. Behind him it was Jordan Brown-Nutley (CRM) from the UK showing the best pace towards the end of the race. As a result he managed to overtake Jack McCarthy, who completed the podium positions. Behind the top three, up to seven drivers kept fighting for position – not without body contact here and there. The fourth placed Eric Stahl was excluded from the race afterwards due to unfair driving, which elevated Mark Kimber (Dan Holland Racing) and Johnathan Hoggard (KR Sport) up the rankings.
The final championship standings showed some surprising results: behind Jack McCarthy, who took the crown quite clearly, it was Fin Kenneally securing the vice title ahead of Scott Symons in third place.
Senior: Successful ending for Oberg and Lehane
With Pierce Lehane (Strawberry Racing) and Rinus van Kalmthout (DAEMS Racing), two drivers were still able to snatch the crown in the prestigious class. John Stewart (Strawberry Racing) also belonged to the circle of favourites with theoretical chances in the highly competitive category, which already had a sensational outcome in store in qualifying: no less than three drivers drove an identical best time of 55.708 seconds. Consequently the second quickest time decided the ranking and so it was Russia’s Denis Mavlanov (KR Sport) taking first place ahead of the Dutchman Rinus van Kalmthout and Australia’s Pierce Lehane. Fourth place went to Dutchman Luc Willemse (Team TKP) in front of Sam Marsh (Dan Holland Racing) from the UK.
During the heats Denis Mavlanov suffered a dramatic setback. In his first heat, he was not allowed to start due to a non-conformity of his kart. Although he recovered from his losses in his other heats by finishing third and second, he fell back to twelfth place in the rankings. Meanwhile, championship leader Pierce Lehane kept cool. The Australian took two wins and a third place, which granted him the pole position. Second place went to Luc Willemse, who belonged to the circle of heat winners, which also applied to Rinus van Kalmthout and the Dane Martin Mortensen (RS Competition) who took positions three and four in the order. John Stewart (Strawberry Racing) completed the top five before the prefinal on Sunday.
In the prefinal, Luc Willemse was the one who managed to get the best start. But the Dutchman could not defend the lead, being pushed back to eighth place in the end. Subsequently, it was Pierce Lehane setting the pace. He gained the lead quickly and headed away from the rest of the grid. With a winning margin of more than two seconds, the Australian did not only take the race victory, but also decided the championship in his favour. Behind the new titleholder, Rinus van Kalmthout finished second ahead of Belgium’s Glenn van Parijs (Bouvin Power), John Stewart and UK driver Edward Brand (CRG SPA).
Without any championship pressure, Pierce Lehane was supposed to be the favourite for the final win. But after leading the first metres, the new champion dropped back dramatically and had to retire with technical problems. Rinus van Kalmthout therefore took the lead. Yet the Dutchman was not quick enough to defend the lead this time. After a few laps Sweden’s Victor Oberg (PDB Racing Team), who had picked up the race from sixth place, set the pace. Once in the lead, he pulled away metre by metre and celebrated a dominant victory. Behind him the battle was far closer as four drivers fought for the podium. Finally, Edward Brand saw the chequered flag in second spot closely ahead of Oliver Askew (BirelART/KMS) from the USA, Rinus van Kalmthout and Denis Mavlanov.
In the championship table there were no more changes at the top: while Pierce Lehane was crowned the new champion, Rinus van Kalmthout defended second place ahead of John Stewart.
DD2: Triumph for Kancsar, first win for Markkanen
In the DD2 class, the championship decision concentrated on the duel between Ferenc Kancsar (BirelART/ KMS) and Paolo DeConto (CRG SPA). During the first trial of strength Ferenc Kancsar did not leave any doubt. With a time of 54.177 seconds the title favourite from Hungary set the pace in the qualifying, and was remarkably faster than his opponents – who were led by Germany’s Marcel Schirmer (RS Competetion) and Switzerland’s Kevin Ludi (Spirit Racing). Championship contender Paolo DeConto (CRG SPA) followed in fourth place, still in a promising position to stop Kancsar from an easy victory. The top five were completed by Constantin Schoell (BirelART/ KMS) from Austria.
The heats were very balanced: in the end, there were five different winners to celebrate. Ferenc Kancsar did the most consistent job, however. Although the championship leader won only one heat, he secured two more second places which allowed him to defend the lead. Right behind him, Paolo DeConto boosted himself into second place – not only improving on his moderate qualifying result, but also making for a neck and neck championship fight. Finland’s Roope Markkanen (VRT) was the only one able to win two heats, and was rewarded by the third place in the rankings. Fourth place went to Constantin Schoell ahead of Kevin Ludi.
The prefinal started with an unlucky accident at the back of the grid. A kart flipped over and the driver had to be recovered. Afterwards the race was re-started and saw a brilliant performance by Ferenc Kancsar. The Hungarian drove in his own league, taking an easy win – especially since his rival Paolo DeConto had to retire from the race after a collision had damaged his tyre rim. That was the chance for Kevin Ludi who had a great final spurt, securing the second place in front of the Finnish duo Rasmus Markkanen and Roope Markkanen (both VRT), while Marcel Schirmer completed the top five positions.
Roope Markkanen stood out in the final: after a wild start phase, in which Kevin Ludi was pushed off track, Markkanen took the lead quickly. Together with Ferenc Kancsar the Finn pulled away from the chasers. Consequently both battled the win among themselves. Although Kancsar had some successful attempts, Markkanen was able to strike back and finally took his first win in the Euro Challenge. But Kancsar, too, had reason to cheer. The man from Hungary won the championship, since Paolo DeConto’s fifth place behind Barrie Pullinger (Dan Holland Racing) and Aaron Sherlock (Paul Carr Racing) was not enough to turn the tide.
In terms of the championship, Ferenc Kancsar took the victory while Paolo DeConto still kept the second place. Thanks to his final win Roope Markkanen improved to third position in the standings.
As for the DD2 Masters, Russia’s Igor Mukhin (CRG SPA) had the best chances for the championship victory. Yet his weekend did not go off without a hitch: in the qualifying Japan’s Kawase Tomokazu (Uniq Racing Team) stood out from the pack. He took the Masters’ pole position for the heats by taking eleventh place of the overall grid. Behind him British female driver Tamsin Germain (DG Racing) followed in second place ahead of Christophe Adams (BirelART/KMS). Meanwhile Igor Mukhin struggled and only ended up in 28th place. On the following day, the Russian surprisingly did not take part in the heat races. The championship leader had to go back home due to personal affairs, but came back for the final day in order to go for the title.
His opponents fought for the pole position among themselves: Kawase Tomokazu could not match the pace of his rivals. He had to make way for Christophe Adams, who showed an outstanding performance by sensationally winning the last heat. Consequently he took seventh place in the overall ranking, which of course was the best Masters result. Second place went to Tamsin Tomokazu in 14th position, while Kawase Tomokazu dropped back to 19th spot. The final races had quite a diversified outcome in store. While in the prefinal Christophe Adams (BirelART/KMS) won the classification, it was Kawase Tomokazu who struck back in the final, taking the decisive win ahead of Germain and Adams.
As for the championship, Igor Mukhin did not stumble. Although he did not belong to the top Masters drivers in the final, he ultimately collected enough points to secure the overall victory. On the championship podium he was flanked by vice champion Kawase Tomokazu, with Tamsin Germain in third place.
Although one of the most exciting seasons of the ROTAX MAX Euro Challenge is over now, there is one more major event promoted by RGMMC: The ROTAX MAX International Open will be held from 19th to 25th of October 2015 on the brand new karting circuit of the Adria Raceway. This special event in Italy offers the last tickets to the ROTAX MAX Grand Finals at Portimao (POR) in November – even providing a last chance place for the DD2 Masters category. So stay tuned on the official website www.rotaxmaxeurochallenge.com or www.rgmmcmedia.com, where you can get all information regarding reports, photos, results and live TV stream.