No, this is not a gala lunch, just the regular catering for all of the drivers, teams and officials, thanks to the hospitality of the Bahrain circuit, including lunch and dinner served at regular hours since the beginning of U18 World Championship 2012. We can even say that the behavior was excellent from all participants.
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The fastest of the competitors for the Academy Trophy in the Qualifying session held in daylight, Alexander Maslennikov imagined he could confirm his position in the Qualifying Heats, but although the Russian took the chequered flag on three occasions he was penalised in one Heat for an offence at the start. That put him back to 4th in the intermediate classification, which also determines the positions on the starting grid for Race 1.
The two principal candidates for the title, the Briton George Russell and the Finn Joonas Lappalainen, posted 3rd and 4th fastest times in Practice. But at the end of their three Qualifying Heats the two rivals had taken back the first two places. Russell won two Heats and Lappalainen one, again confirming great consistency. In the duel for the title, the Finn has an advantage and he can, in theory, model his Race on the Briton’s. But in karting there is often a considerable difference between theory and practice… Whatever happens the duel will be worth watching, considering a possible come-back by Javier Cobian. Currently second in the Championship, the Spaniard in fact abandoned in one Heat and will start the first Race from 15th on the grid.
Among the other potentials in the battle for the title are the Frenchman Erwan Julé, placed third behind Russell and Lappalainen, the Russian Maslennikov, and also the Dutchman Martijn Van Leeuwen. Second in Practice, the Norwegian Martin Ellegard is in 6th place after the Qualifying Heats, but he showed that he too can be considered for overall victory. The Top 10 is completed by the Greek Théodoros Zaharelis, the Frenchman Paolo Besancenez and the Indian Arjun Maini.
The last round of the CIK-FIA U18 World Championship and the Academy Trophy will not only be the first ever in the Middle East but also the first to be run at night. Several Drivers can still dream of shining beneath the floodlights and there will be the greatest suspense during the various Races to be watched live on www.cikfia.tv.
Immersed in light, there was a festive atmosphere at the Viva Karting Track in Bahrain on Friday. A few hours after Qualifying, in bright sunshine, which saw the Russian Seva Gagen (Parolin) clock the fastest time, Drivers took part under the night sky in their four Qualifying Heats to determine the starting grid for the first Prefinal. The uncompromising Matthew Graham (Zanardi) reminded everyone that it was not by chance that he was the U18 World Champion last year. Winner of all his Qualifying Heats, in the intermediate classification the Briton led the Australian Joseph Mawson (Top Kart), who won two of his Heats.
The best performance however was by the Frenchman Anthoine Hubert (FK), 3rd in the intermediate classification. Having arrived in Bahrain as the heir apparent in the Championship to Henry Easthope (Sodi), Anthoine benefited from the first points allocation to take the lead from his British rival, 6th at the end of the Qualifying Heats. But just one point separates the two men and everything will depend therefore on what happens in the Final!
In 4th and 5th places, the Briton Sam Webster (ART GP) and the Italian Federico Savona (Top Kart) split the two competition leaders. Behind Easthope were the Briton Ben Barnicoat (ART GP), the two other contenders for the world title, the Monegasque Charles Leclerc (ART GP) and the Briton Ricky Collard (ART GP). The Russian Dmitry Dlougy (MS Kart) completed the Top 10 whilst his compatriot Seva Gagen was unable to repeat his fastest time in Practice and fell back to 22nd place after failing to finish one Heat. But he is still among the 34 finalists.
On a track favouring overtaking manoeuvres, the order will be decided in the two Prefinals, the second from a completed reversed starting grid. And it is the combined result of the two Prefinals which will determine the starting grid for a Final which promised to be as exciting as anyone could imagine. Indeed it will be nothing less than a world title which will be won at the end of 22 laps!
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Matthew Graham (Zanardi) won the first qualifying heat, A against C, in Bahrain after passing Sam Webster (ART GP) and defended vigorously against him in the last 2 laps. Recovering to third position from ninth, Henry Easthope (Sodi) took advantage of the duel between the first two to join them and steal second place from Webster in the final lap. He was the fastest on the track with 55'' 428. Antoine Rocard (Sodi) took a good 6th place just behind Villanueva and Gagen, the polesitter. Starting last in 23rd place, Joel Affolter (Intrepid) finished 9th.
Anthoine Hubert (Formula K) while leading the race of B against D, was overtaken by Joseph Mawson (Top Kart) on the first lap and in fourth was Ricky Collard (ART GP) and Dmitry Dlougy (MS Kart) had the opportunity to pass. Charles Leclerc (ART GP) went too wide at the first corner, probably not his own fault and dropped to 14th. Collard took the lead on lap 7, but the race was intensifying with a showdown with Mawson and Hubert. There was overtaking at a frantic pace, Hubert saw the opportunity to come back and take control with 2 laps to go. But it was not finished. Dlougy joined the fray and won the race ahead of Mawson and Hubert, Collard finished 4th from Hannah Pym (Intrepid). The fastest time went to Leclerc who took eighth on the line.
There was a second victory for Matthew Graham (Zanardi) in the heat A against E, after starting third on the grid, the Briton immediately took the lead and was no longer challenged. Easthope was taken out at the first corner and was 15th. He managed to pass 5 people before the end. Hubert Petit also lost time in this clash. German Villanueva (Formula K) then gave up second place to Federico Savona (Top Kart), while Seva Gagen (Parolin), the poleman, moved back to sixth on the first lap and ended up back in third position. The good seventh position for the Bahraini driver Abdulla Al-Thawadi (Swiss Hutless) should be welcomed, gaining 8 places after a good start.
Anthoine Hubert (Formula K) started from the front of the B against C heat, but Joseph Mawson (Top Kart) was quickly behind him and managed to get into first place on the seventh of 11 laps. Hubert would like to attack, but also had to watch out for the return of Sam Webster (ART GP) in third position. Things accelerated in the last lap with the arrival of Henrique Chaves (Zanardi) and Martin Mortensen (Formula K) in the group. The finish was tight behind Mawson, the lone winner. Hubert remained in second place ahead of Chaves, Mortensen, Webster and Anthony Rocard (Sodi), definitely in a good rhythm.
Seva Gagen (Parolin) led ahead of Matthew Graham (Zanardi), German Villanueva (Formula K), Charles Leclerc (ART GP), Ben Barnicoat (ART GP) and Henry Easthope (Sodi). The start and the first laps were not free of contact. Graham returned gradually to Gagen and surprised him at the end of the third lap. The Russian lost several places, Leclerc took the opportunity to take second place ahead of Barnicoat. Easthope continued to get faster in preparation for a big attack. Soon taking 3rd, he passed Leclerc with difficulty in the last two laps. Graham won the heat ahead of Easthope, Barnicoat took third position, Gagen 4th and Leclerc 5th before the fastest driver in the race, Joel Affolter (Intrepid).
In the C against E heat there was a flawless victory for Sam Webster (ART GP) who led the entire race. Antoine Rocard (Sodi) is passed by Hubert Petit (Sodi) to gain second place at the start. Always fast, Rocard however could not withstand a very powerful attack from the Danish driver Magnus Ruud Kjaer (Formula K). He nevertheless managed to take 4th place from the Finn Jussi Kuusiniemi (Haase-Corsa), fifth ahead of Federico Savona (Top Kart), who set the fastest time.
Starting at the front of the A against B heat, Seva Gagen (Parolin) could not resist Matthew Graham (Zanardi) who took control after a few laps. In fourth position, Anthoine Hubert (Formula K) lost 2 places on the first lap of the race. Henry Easthope (Sodi) was closer in 5th place, but then fell to sixth. Gagen lost more places. Up to third, Hubert then got the better of Ricky Collard (ART GP), while Martin Mortensen (Formula K) and Joseph Mawson (Top Kart) joined the lead group. The final lap was lively. Collard was not rewarded for staying with Hubert, since the French driver retained second place behind Graham, the winner, while Collard fell to sixth position letting Easthope into third, ahead of Jacob Parsons (Top Kart) and Mawson.
Another hotly contested race was the E against D heat. Federico Savona (Top Kart) dominated, for a time challenged by Charles Leclerc (ART GP), but the Italian soon got away crossing the line as the winner with a good lead on Nicholas Surguladze (Zanardi) in very well put together race. Leclerc took back third position ahead of the French driver Hubert Petit (Sodi) who was decidedly combative. Ben Barnicoat, delayed at the start of the race, finished 11th.
The top three in the C against D heat, between Sam Webster (ART GP), Jussi Kuusiniemi (Haase Corsa) and Ben Barnicoat (ART GP). Starting 3rd, Barnicoat took the lead on the fourth lap and didn't renounce it. Kuusiniemi also passed Webster, but the British driver returned to attack on the limit, taking second place and even threatening Barnicoat on the finish line. Charles Leclerc (ART GP) lost ground on the first lap and then fought back to eighth place. But Dave Blom (Formula K) will also be ready to attack the leaders before finishing 4th ahead of the fast Nicholas Surguladze.
The top three of the last heat, B against E, included Anthoine Hubert (Formula K), Federico Savona (Top Kart) and the fast Australian Joseph Mawson (Top Kart). The initial leader, Hubert yielded during an attack from Mawson in the third lap, while Savona was distanced ahead of Magnus Ruud Kjaer (Formula K), Dmitry Dlougy (MS Kart), Oleksandr Tchatchenko (Zanardi) and Ricky Collard (ART GP). The two leaders were very close, Hubert seemed to bide his time. Feeling the pressure from Savona and others, he took the lead briefly for two laps. Mawson replied but was soon repassed boldly inside the right uphill and Savona also took the opportunity to pass. This was the finishing order of the race with Ruud Kjaer 4th and Martin Mortensen (Formula K) once again the fastest on the track and making a great comeback.
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