On the sun-drenched circuit of Genk, in Belgium, it was necessary to keep a cool head this week-end to clame the European crowns in KF2 (the Hopefuls category) and in KF3 (the Juniors between 13 and 15 years old). After having largely dominated their final, the Dane Nicolaj Moller-Madsen in KF2 and the Brit Alexander Albon in KF3 have added this prestigious title to their CV.
A European Championship is a competition which it's necessary to manage carefully throughout. Between qualifiying practices and Sunday's Final many things can happen during the Qualifying heats and the prefinal, which determines the starting positions for the only race that counts in the whole of the week-end.
Nicolaj-Moller Madsen (Enargy-TM) has perfectly orchestrated his way to the title. Only 15th after the qualifying practice, the Dane climbed to 2nd position at the end of the qualifying heats. Also second in the prefinal, he gave notice of his ambitions for the final in taking the best driver from Finland Teemu Suninen (Maranello-Maranello) at the end of a superb dice. "I didn't really push hard in the prefinal", explained Nikolaj at the foot of the podium. "I wanted to preserve my tyres, which suffered a lot in the heat. I knew that only the Final was of real importance and, after having passed Teemu, I could increase my advantage. This is for certain the best victory of my career."
Running second for a long time, Suninen had to concede second place to Sébastien Bailly (Kosmic-Vortex) three laps from the chequered flag. After having the fastest time in qualifying practice, the Belgian was not disappointed to finish 2nd. "I really gave all I could to grab this second place", explained Sébastien. "But I must say that Nikolaj was simply the fastest during this Final. That said, second place is a superb result !"
Behind the Finn Teemu Suninen, the Brit Tom Joyner (Gillard-TM) and the Belgian Guillaume De Ridder (Kosmic-Vortex) finished closely qfter a wheel to wheel scrap. In a turbulent and tight group, the first lap had proved fatal to the hopes of several favourites, including Danish lady Michelle Gatting (CRG-Maxter) and the Austrian Thomas Jäger (Birel-BMB), who were placed 3rd and 4th after the qualifying heats. But one driver's bad luck is another drivers good fortune. So, the Japanese Yu Kanamaru (Tony Kart-Vortex), the Brits Luke Varley (Tony Kart-Vortex), Alexander Walker (Tony Kart-TM) and Jake Lloyd (Tony Kart-TM) and the Finn Juha Mäki-Jouppi (Alpha-Parilla) completed the top 10.
As in KF2, one driver had completely dominated the KF3 Final. A young guy already supported by a famous energy drink, Alexander Albon (Intrepid-TM) has confirmed that the confidence shown in him has not been misplaced. Staring on pole position during the prefinal, the British driver made easy work as he increased his lead throughout and won to secure pole position for the Final. Then, during this decisive race, he was able to profit from the misfortune of several of his opponents on the first turn. "When I looked back after two laps, I could see the gap was already quite wide", said Alexander. "Then I was able to concentrate on conserving the tyres and to maintain a good rhythm and it worked perfectly. This is a fantastic win. When they took me on in their young driver programme, Red Bull wanted to lead me towards a Formula 1 career. That suits perfectly because that's my goal as well and such victories are a good step."
Behind the dominant leader, the scraps were understandably more closely fought. Climbing well after having had several issues at the start, the Frenchman Pierre Gasly (Sodi-Parilla) was satisfied with second place on the podium. "After my 3rd place in the World Cup last year, finishing 2nd here is another superb result", explained Pierre. "The first laps had been difficult but after that I climbed higher and higher and passed Harrison Scott shortly before the finish. Once again I have just missed a victory... Perhaps it will come in two months time in the World Cup in Portugal."
Passed by Gasly, Harrison Scott (Tony Kart-TM) realised a small miracle in making the podium with a very limited budget and driving for a small private team, Richard Lock Racing. To make the podium, the Brit had to resist a very strong final challenge from his compatriot Jake Dennis (Top Kart-Parilla), who climbed from 14th to 4th in the Final. Starting as a strong favourite, Dutchman Max Verstappen (CRG-Maxter) could only finally make a place in the top 5, just in front of his compatriot Peter Hoevenaars (Intrepid-TM), the Ukrainian Daniil Pronenko (Birel-TM), who achieved an incredible result in climbing from 33rd to 7th place, the Italian Damiano Fioravanti (Tony Kart-Vortex), 2nd in the prefinal, the Finn Niklas Tiihonen (Birel-Parilla), starting in 22nd place, and the Spaniard Pedro Hiltbrand (Kosmic-Vortex), who climbed from 19th to 10th place in the Final. All of these young drivers will have profited immensely from this European Championship to raise their profile before, perhaps, going on to a career in motorsport. For them, the sky is the limit.
Info CIK / © Photos KSP
Alexander Albon (Intrepid / TM) left no chance for his opponents in the final of the European Championship KF3 at Genk. Starting perfectly, the battle began behind him immediately, which allowed him to escape for the rest of the race. For the top positions, the situation was fortunately more complicated.
Part of the result was decided at the first corner. Even when there was no question of crashing, the special layout with wide kerbs allowed some drivers to cut the track to get into a better position. Pierre Gasly (Sodi / Parilla) lost his cool in a few places. Max Verstappen (CRG / Maxter) did not suffer from this problem and was into second place ahead of Damiano Fioravanti (Tony Kart / Vortex), the surprising Harrison Scott (Tony Kart / TM) and Lukas Machunskas (Tony Kart / Vortex). Gasly dropped back to 8th place, and Verstappen fell back suddenly ton lap 3.
Albon had pulled away at the front and the chasing pack was led by Scott, Peter Hoevenaars (Intrepid / TM) and Machunskas. Niklas Tiihonen (Birel / Parilla) joined the fight, as well as Gasly, closely tailed by Jake Dennis (TopKart / Parilla). Starting 30th, the French driver Julé Erwan (Intrepid / TM) was forceful in his recovery. The race seemed decided at the front and eyes turned to the rise of Gasly and Jake: how far would they go?
Fioravanti lost his fifth on lap 5, Tiihonen took 4th and Hoevenaars's 3rd was threatened. Verstappen had not given up and began to return too. Dennis and Gasly grabbed 3rd and 4th on lap 13 at the expense of Hoevenaars. Gasly launched an assault on the second place held by Scott. In four laps, he had closed the gap and took it on the penultimate lap. Verstappen exceled on the final lap to finish 5th behind Dennis.
Info Kartcom with Kartlink / © Photo KSP
The KF2 final at Genk was a clean but exciting race, apart from some incidents at the start. Teemu Suninen (Maranello / Maranello) started flawlessly and Nicolaj Moller-Madsen (Energy / TM) maintained his second position, which was already an achievement. In third, Sébastien Bailly (Kosmic / Vortex) attacked immediately and Moller-Madsen replied at the end of the first lap.
Michelle Gatting was no longer in the race, and Ignazio D'Agosto found himself behind the curve. Suninen escaped alone in the lead on lap 2, and Luke Varley (Tony / Vortex) passed Bailly, now fourth. The gaps began to widen and it could have been a boring end to the race. But with 23 laps on the program we could expect some changes.
The highlight of the final approached when Moller-Madsen gradually narrowed the gap on the leader Suninen. They were together on lap 5 and he attacked on the first hairpin. Suninen took advantage of his speed to retake Moller Madsen at the last right hander, but the Dane won the place eventually on the next lap. At the same time, Bailly took 3rd from Varley.
Moller-Madsen escaped irretrievably, while Bailly began to close on Suninen, but he reacted. Tom Joyner (Gillard / TM) joined the group of four drivers fairly isolated in command of the race. Guillaume De Ridder (Kosmic / Vortex) had a great recovery and moved up to 8th. At mid-race the positions were stable, and Moller-Madsen dug a widening gap with faster lap times.
De Ridder was now threatening Yu Kanamaru (Tony Kart / Vortex) for 5th. Bailly found the resources to take Suninen. He approached the Finn and on lap 20 he strongly attacked under braking after the startline. Suninen tried to attack on the straight bu Bailly ably resisted and managed to stay there. De Ridder in 5th closed on Joyner but the race ended before he could join him.
Victory and European title, went to Nicolaj Moller-Madsen, Sébastien Bailly mounted the second step of the podium and Teemu Suninen on the 3rd.
Info Kartcom with Kartlink / © Photo KSP
A crash decimated the pack at the start of the KF3 Prefinal, but Alexander Albon (Intrepid / TM) maintained the lead ahead of Peter Hoevenaars (Intrepid / TM). With a very good start, Max Verstappen (CRG / Maxter) immediately seized second place. Christian Sorensen, Anthoine Hubert, Erwan Julé and Roy Johnson retired prematurely.
Albon got away and left Vertsappen to do battle against Damiano Fioravanti (Tony Kart / Vortex), Lukas Machunskas (Tony Kart / Vortex) and Egor Orudshev (Intrepid / TM). Pierre Gasly (Sodi / Parilla) was back in business in 7th position. The CIK live timing had some weaknesses and it became difficult to follow the race ...
Albon won the prefial by a large margin, and Verstappen let Fioravanti by, who was surprised to be in second position on the line. Hoevenaars finished 4th, ahead of Gasly, Hansen and Orudshev.
Info Kartcom with Kartlink / © Photo KSP