As the old adage says, “the English drew first” by winning the Francorchamps Karting 24 Hours, a First in Belgium for an event reserved for private 4-stroke karts. Present in large numbers, the British teams dominated the event. But alongside the three “British” drivers in the team, Dan Crossley, Dave Robinson and Paul Wilkins, at the wheel of a #43 MS Soco Select kart, were the Dutch Romano Franssen and Fabio Paoleschi, winner for the ninth time of a round-the-clock double at Francorchamps!
“We are delighted!” On Sunday evening, the organiser Patrick Van Billoen could not conceal his enthusiasm for the very first 24 hour race for private karts organised in Belgium. “We had a string of thank-you messages,” rejoiced the boss of One Day Karting. “The competitors were pleased and the decision has already been taken: we will be organising a second edition in 2018. In view of the way this weekend went, we are convinced that the format, involving 19 karts for this first event, will grow rapidly. Thanks to the strong English delegation for their dynamism, their enthusiasm, their passion and their kindness. This was a marvellous surprise! Finally, I would like to thank my partner Marc Pilloy and all of our teams for the work they did despite the horrible weather.”
The sky did not in fact spoil this inaugural edition of the Francorchamps Karting 24 Hours. The rain was practically incessant on Saturday. Covered with great pools of water, the track was treacherous and you had to have the skills of a tight-rope walker to brave such elements. Against that background, the British drivers Dan Crossley, Dave Robinson and Paul Wilkins, the Dutch Romano Franssen and the Belgian Fabio Paoleschi were not overcome by the suspense. Starting from pole position, the kart #43 of the MS Soco Select, an English team run by the figurehead Howard Lucas, was never out of contention, in the end enabling Fabio Paoleschi to take his success record to nine 24 hour races on the Francorchamps karting track!
Under “very English” track conditions, the rest of the strong contingent from across the Channel (eight teams entered!) confirmed the domination of the British, who are more experienced in races of this type. Indeed, the #13 Red Racing team (Greg Booth – Adam Nichol – Steve Nichol – Lewis Cannon – Darren Sandbach) took second place on the podium, despite an unexpected engine replacement less than three hours from the finish.
It was a fright from which the MS JSR team (Connor Lucas – Sam Tugwell – Mick McDonald – Tom McDonald) did not take advantage, finishing in the top three ahead of Offline 2 (Anthony Pogson – Dillon Roach – Vernon McCallum – Gareth Plackett), Team Keane (Rob Sanway – Danny Keane – Jake Randell – Wez Dan Parker) and Offline 1 (Chris Pedlingham – Mark Smith – Rob Aston – Jonathan Robertson).
Fun Kart Academy: youngsters make their mark
Rescued from the deluge, in the end the Fun Kart Academy team was the best represented of the Belgian teams, with a seventh place overall. That was some exploit when you know that the five drivers (Antoine Morlet – Tom Delfosse – Dylan De Wolf – Guillaume Germis – Kevin Huet) had an average age of less than 15 years!
Eighth place went to the British drivers from Canterbury College (Kieran Mount – Jim Oliver – Will Scull – Jamie Summerhazes – Georges Simmons – Thomas McDonald – Thomas Linkin – Craig Omerod) ahead of the MS Lucas team (Will Jones – Oska Bentley – Joe Higgins – Tom Dudgon) and Jetset 555-Club Automobile Francorchamps (Olivier Muraille – Alexandre Simons – Philippe Denooz – Jérémy Peclers), in the top three on their first change-over before encountering mechanical problems (carburetion, etc.) which forced the team well down in the final classification. Their top ten place was meagre consolation … Nonetheless it was better than the place taken by the quartet of car drivers Ugo de Wilde, Hugo Chevalier, Romain de Leval and Sam Lay, delayed by too many technical problems on their kart #27 of F4 Subaru K Racing.
Among the fastest on track this weekend, the three teams in the Evo2 class (4-stroke engines designed for competition, compared to Evo1 with its so-called industrial engines) also suffered mechanical problems (broken chain, starter, engine breakdown, etc.) and had to be content with the crumbs from the feast with the #8 of Fast 8 Maranello (Rino Gulisano – Michael Veulemans – Wesley Van Den Bergh – Dave Coenen – Opnithy Puyato) in twelfth position and first in class ahead of the kart #96 of Noun Racing (Yvan Muller – Jacques Loly – Steeve Hansoulle – Alessandro Lebourgeois – Kevin Caprasse). Victim of a collision in the rain on the second lap, kart #11 of JCL Driving (Massimo Petralia – Filipe Vieira – Jonathan Monseur – Guillaume Detrait – Ferdinando Maucq) finish in free-wheel in seventeenth place, not without taking the fastest lap overall (49.303) with Filipe Vieira at the wheel.
At the end of this first edition which was aquatic but none the less amusing and full of passion, the date has already been set for the Francorchamps Karting 24 Hours 2018!
1. Ms Soco Select #43 (Paoleschi – Franssen – Crossley – Robinson – Wilkins) 1468 laps
2. Red Racing #13 (Booth – Nichol – Nichol – Cannon – Sandbach) + 31 laps
3. MS JSR (Lucas – Tugwell – McDonald – McDonald) + 33 laps
4. Offline 2 #777 (Pogson – Roach – McCallum – Plackett) + 41 laps
5. Team Keane #115 (Sanway – Keane – Randell – Grundy-Parker) + 44 laps
6. Offline 1 (Pedlingham – Smith – Aston – Robertson) + 47 laps
7. Fun Kart Academy #12 (Morlet – Delfosse – De Wolf – Germis – Huet) + 58 laps
8. Canterbury College #22
9. MS Lucas #42 (Jones – Bentley – Higgins – Dudgon) + 78 laps
10. Jetset 555-Club Automobile Francorchamps (Muraille – Simons – Denooz – Peclers)
11. F4 Subaru K Racing #27 (De Wilde – Chevalier – De Leval – Lay) + 96 laps
12. Fast 8 Maranello #8 (Gulisano – Veulemans – Van Den Bergh – Coenen – Puyato)+ 123 laps
13. Noun Racing #96 (Muller – Loly – Hansoulle – Lebourgeois) + 144 laps
14. Mach 1 Belgium #45 (Delré – Gustin – Dehasque – Suarez) + 215 laps
15. Steam Team #17 (Leleu – Timmermans – Rottey – Coetsiers – Sanders – Machtelinckx) + 238 laps
16. LVDM #38 (Vandermeulen – Thisens – Hanoulle – Lestene – Knaepen-Bex) + 252 laps
17. JCL Driving #11 (Petralia -Vieira – Monseur – Detrait – Maucq) + 402 laps
18. MRK Team #4 (Dauw – Le Millin – Thriskos – Compère) + 488 laps
19. BGG Mats Events Racing #23 (Albert – Sterckx – Bourguignon – Anzalone) + 659 laps