Round three of the Rotax Max Euro Trophy at Mariembourg in Belgium concluded for the Rotax Senior class with a dramatic and wet final won by points leader Mark Kimber.
MKC Motorport’s Elia Pappacena topped practice with a 54.618s laptime, then Strawberry Racing’s Kai Rillaerts was comfortably fastest in qualifying with a 54.417s. He went on to win all three of his heats, while Sean Butcher – who topped the other qualifying group – finished second to Rillaerts in heat one then won his next two. Jules Roussel won the other heat that neither driver contested.
Matteo Pianezzola won the second chance heat that followed, then the pre-final put the main contenders against each other. Rillaerts won again, by 1.691 seconds over Devyan Roest, with Butcher a further 1.1s back and Kimber – who had come fourth, fourth and third in his heats – finishing fourth.
That is therefore how they lined up at the front of the grid for Sunday afternoon’s final, which took place on a track so wet that a second formation lap had to be added for drivers to get used to the conditions.
After avoiding a man walking across the pit straight, Rillaerts led the field away in an instant cloud of spray at the rolling start. Several drivers collided following the sudden loss of visibility, and there were yellow flags at some points of the lap.
Roest dropped to 10th as Ethan Jeff-Hall jumped from 12th to sixth on lap one, and he passed Vic Stevens for fifth on lap two while Kimber passed Butcher for second at turn seven then also got alongside Rillaerts as the leader struggled with being first onto the wettest parts of the track.
Rillaerts finished the lap 0.076s ahead, and was passed by Kimber and Butcher entering turn one. Kimber slid wide though so the door was open for Rillaerts to get back ahead, but he then slid too deep and Austin Lee pounced for the lead.
Rillaerts then went off track and dropped to fifth as Butcher slid past Kimber into second. Lee bogged down through lack of grip late in the lap, but still finished it 1.3s cleaar of Kimber, with 2.8s in hand to Butcher and 4.4 to Jeff-Hall.
Kimber cut the gap to 0.381s through lap four, as Jeff-Hall made up another place, then on the next lap he moved into the lead. Rillaerts fell behind Kai Hunter into sixth, then came under pressure from Lewis Gilbert. He had a clash with him, Gilbert got ahead, then both flew off the track at speed but were able to rejoin in seventh and ninth respectively.
Jeff-Hall’s efforts to pass Lee for second helped Kimber take a 1.359s lead into lap seven, but he then ran very wide at turn one. By the end of that lap he was 1.59s clear of Jeff-Hall though, and Rillaerts had another incredibly high-speed off at turn five which prompted him to retire.
Gilbert was able to climb from 10th to eighth once Rillaerts was out of the picture, and just behind him Jayden Thien and Stevens had a messy collision at turn one.
Lap 10 featured more drama. Lachlan Robinson collided with William Kristensen as he worked his way up the order from 29th, then two drivers spun seperately on the wet track. Pianezzola spun so far onto the grass that he was able to shortcut half the lap by driving back onto the track at a totally different part.
Kristenen spun following a clash on the next lap, while Kimber managed to maintain a gap up front and Jeff-Hall did the same to Hunter.
Kimber won the 13-lap encounter by 2.320s, a margin which grew by three seconds when Jeff-Hall was penalised for having two wheels out of the ‘corridor’ line on the pit straight that drivers must follow during the start procedure.
It more post-race drama that prevented Jeff-Halls from losing second, as Hunter was disqualified from third as his kart did not comply with the technical regulations.
Butcher and Lee therefore finished third and fourth, despite five-second bumper penalties, and Butcher actually reduced Kimber’s series lead to four points.
Matthew Higgins came from 23rd to finish fifth as he profited from Tommie van der Struijs and Gilbert being penalised. The former got a bumper penalty, and the latter got five seconds for leaving the corridor with all four wheels, five for pushing another driver and finally another five for his front bumper being out of place.
The 15s of penalties only dropped him from seventh to ninth though, behind Thien and Robinson, while Miska Kaskinen made it into the top 10 at the expense of the penalised Pappacena, Nolan Lemeray, Stevens and Paul Fourquemin.
Roest faded to 17th, then a bumper penalty dropped him to 21st, but the driver who fared worst was Hungarian star Zsombor Kovacs who chose to miss the final entirely due to nursing a rib injury.
Rotax Senior final results (13 laps)
|1||Mark Kimber||Strawberry Racing||Tony Kart||16m03.087s|
|2||Ethan Jeff-Hall||Strawberry Racing||Tony Kart||+5.320s|
|3||Sean Butcher||KR Sport||Kosmic||+10.333s|
|4||Austin Lee||Strawberry Racing||Tony Kart||+13.700s|
|5||Matthew Higgins||Dan Holland Racing||Tony Kart||+13.870s|
|6||Tommie van der Struijs||Bouvin Power||Tony Kart||+14.820s|
|7||Jayden Thien||JJ Racing||Tony Kart||+24.396s|
|8||Lachlan Robinson||KR Sport||Kosmic||+27.935s|
|9||Lewis Gilbert||Kraft Motorsport||Tony Kart||+28.945s|
|10||Miska Kaskinen||Dan Holland Racing||Lando Norris||+29.415s|
|11||Elia Pappacena||MKC Motorsport||Tony Kart||+30.081s|
|12||Nolan Lemeray||RM Concept||Sodikart||+30.825s|
|13||Dion van Werven||Wilfred van Werven||CRG||+31.065s|
|14||Vic Stevens||Daems Racing Team||Tony Kart||+31.921s|
|15||Archie Walker||KR Sport||Kosmic||+32.066s|
|16||Paul Fourquemin||Daems Racing Team||Tony Kart||+33.360s|
|17||Farin Megger||JJ Racing||Exprit||+34.053s|
|18||Matthijs Terlouw||SR Solutions||Tony Kart||+34.192s|
|19||Laurent Legault||KR Sport||Kosmic||+36.064s|
|20||Montego Maassen||Kraft Motorsport||Exprit||+36.303s|
|21||Devyan Roest||Bovin Power||Tony Kart||+37.678s|
|22||William Kristensen||RS Competition||Tony Kart||+38.192s|
|23||Matteo Pianezzola||Strawberry Racing||Tony Kart||+39.420s|
|24||James Swindells||Xcel Motorsport||Kosmic||+45.365s|
|Ret||Robbie Stordeur||Bouvin Power||Tony Kart|
|Ret||Kamal Mrad||GKS Lemmens Power||Exprit|
|Ret||Kai Rillaerts||Strawberry Racing||Tony Kart|
|Ret||Sebastian Bach||RS Competition||Tony Kart|
|Ret||Patryk Donica||Lando Norris|
|DSQ||Kai Hunter||Dan Holland Racing||Lando Norris|
|Fastest lap: Pianezzola, 1m11.888s