The championship duels of the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy have begun. Last weekend in Genk, Belgium, the starting signal was given for the 2023 season of the international racing series of the Austrian engine manufacturer. 201 pilots from all over the world made their way to the challenging race track in Belgium and, after three action-packed days, crowned the first winners of the year.
The opening race of the RMC Euro Trophy last weekend marked the first of four stops on the racing calendar of the international championship. The 1,360-meter course in Genk provided the usual excellent conditions for exciting racing action. And there was more than enough of it from April 14th to 16th. In predominantly good weather conditions, no less than eight Rotax categories took to the starting line and in the evening produced the first winners of the new season. Jacob Ashcroft (Mini MAX), Mateja Radenkovic (Junior MAX), Sean Butcher (Senior MAX), Christopher Holst (E20 Junior), Tomasz Ibsen (E20 Senior), Andreas Matis (E20 Senior Masters), Martijn van Leeuwen (DD2) and Michael Becker (DD2 Masters) celebrated from the top of the podium.
Mini MAX: Jacob Ashcroft not to be beaten
Jacob Ashcroft (Dan Holland Racing) had a perfect performance at the opening event in Genk. The Briton set the fastest time in qualifying and won two of three heats. With pole position in the intermediate classification, the youngster also had the best chances for the races. In the end, Ashcroft skillfully converted these into action and crossed the finish line as the undisputed winner in both the prefinal and the final. Cole Denholm (Dan Holland Racing) briefly sniffed the lead at the start of the prefinal, but then had to rejoin the duel for minor placings. Albert Friend (Strawberry Racing) put early pressure on the Dan Holland Racing protégé and took over the chasing position. Together with Rory Armstrong (Strawberry Racing) in P3, Friend completed the British trio at the front. Denholm was fourth ahead of Felipe Reijs (RR Racing).
In the finale, the chasing ranks were clearly divided. Halfway through the race, Armstrong moved up to second place and crossed the finish line ahead of Denholm. However, the Englishman’s exclusion from the race caused a further shift in the standings. Denholm was the new second on the podium ahead of Friend in third. Kubera was in the mix in fourth position ahead of Adrians Tions (MRG Racing) in fifth.
Junior MAX: Mateja Radenkovic leaves no room for doubt
Mini MAX newcomer Christopher El Feghali (Dan Holland Racing) promptly caused a sensation on his debut in the Juniors. The Lebanese convinced with the pole position in the qualifying straight away and was considered the favorite from then on. However, after a strong performance in the heats, team-mate Timo Jungling took over and set a clear direction.
In the prefinal, another new name underlined his ability at the top. Mateja Radenkovic (Bouvin Power) took the lead directly from the second row of the grid and did not relinquish it until the chequered flag fell. Armand Hamilton (Strawberry Racing) was not quite able to match the pace of the leader, but still delivered a good figure in second ahead of Kenzo Craigie (Argenti Motorsport). Polesitters Jungling and El Feghali finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Radenkovic seamlessly continued his previous performance in the final. The Belgian once again maneuvered his Tony Kart around the 1,360-meter circuit in Genk without making any mistakes and thus drove to a deserving victory. Hamilton consistently kept in the slipstream of the leader, but did not manage to get past the Bouvin Power driver before the end of the race. Archie Clark (KR Sport) eventually beamed off the podium in third, holding his own ahead of Craigie and Thijs Stevens.
Senior MAX: Sean Butcher starts the new season with a flawless performance
Jayden Thien (RR Racing) took first place on the starting grid in the 76-strong Rotax Senior field and thus had the best prerequisites for a successful weekend. In the heats, however, it was the turn of Tommie van der Struijs (Bouvin Power). The Dutchman won two of the four qualifying races and underlined his ambitions for the qualifying rounds.
However, Van der Struijs had to relinquish his place early on in the prefinal. Last year’s RMCET Senior MAX winner Sean Butcher (KR Sport) took the reins in the opening laps, leaving no room for doubt over the course of the 17 laps of the race and ultimately claimed victory. Behind, the players fought bumper-to-bumper, with Van der Strujis ultimately proving to have the most staying power. The youngster crossed the finish line in second ahead of Mark Kimber (Strawberry Racing) and Kai Rillaerts (Kraft Motorsport). In the photo finish, polesitter Thien finished fifth.
The final was more exciting than ever. With Butcher, Kimber and Lachlan Robinson (KR Sport), no less than three drivers collected leading kilometers and at times held their own at the front. As if on a string of pearls, ten karts followed each other closely at times. Towards the end of the race, however, it became increasingly apparent that a KR Sport duo was in the lead. Butcher kept a cool head at the decisive moment and took the win ahead of Robinson. “After qualifying, we had the confidence to be right up there at the front. With a win in both finals, we managed a super team performance. Congratulations also to Lachlan – that was a great race,” the experienced driver was pleased to say at the finish. Kimber completed the British podium in the evening in third place. Zsombor Kovacs (Kraft Motorsport) narrowly missed out on the trophy places in fourth, finishing ahead of Caden McQueen (RS Competition).
Project E20: Holst, Ibsen and Matis take victory
A total of twelve drivers took to the starting line in Genk in the Rotax Project E20, divided into the Junior, Senior and Senior Masters categories, and underlined the performance capabilities of the electric karts at the ‘Home of Champions’. In the Junior category Frederique Lemieux started with the pole position at the beginning. In the heats, the Canadian was not quite able to confirm her performance. Meanwhile, her brother Antoine Lemieux took the reins. The young kart driver won the prefinal ahead of Christopher Holst (Kart-Shop Carigiet) and Arthur Lorimier. In the final, Holst then turned things around once again. After a thrilling fight, the Swiss finally took the crown and claimed victory ahead of Antoine Lemieux and Lorimier.
In the Rotax Project E20 Seniors it seemed like a flawless run for Tijs Daems (Daems Racing Team). The Belgian drove from pole position to victory in all three heats and was thus also considered the favorite to win the classification races. In the prefinal, the young driver defied the consistent pressure of his pursuer Mats Johan Overhoff (Kraft Motorsport) and added another victory to his tally. The final, however, was full of surprises; after the start, Overhoff led the field. Daems then took over again before Tomasz Ibsen (RS Competition) went on the attack. The Pole made a strong showing on the drying track and in the end won the winner’s trophy ahead of Daems, Overhoff and Emma Svensson (Daems Racing Team).
In the Masters’ classification, which was announced for the first time, Hector Ramirez landed on pole position on his debut. Andreas Matis (Kartodrom) knew how to hold his own in the heats and thus ensured a battle at the top. The German then did everything right in the races as well, taking a double victory and putting on a real show in the final. Matis was the only driver to start the race on slick tires, which didn’t exactly make it easy at the beginning. As the race progressed, however, the polesitter set one fastest time after the other and crossed the finish line as the quickest of all Rotax E20 competitors. The Masters podium was completed by Cas Poldermans and Ramirez in second and third place.
DD2 MAX: Strong debut for Martijn van Leeuwen
Coming from the Rotax Senior category, David Aulejtner (Wyrzykowski Motorsport) was in the mix in the Rotax DD2 field at the start of the event and directly set the best time in his first international appearance in the top-class classification. The Pole also underlined his good form in the heats and continued to hold the upper hand after two victories.
In the prefinal, the faces at the top changed several times. Aulejtner was initially in front, but then had to relinquish his position temporarily to Enzo Bol (SP Motorsport). The onset of rain then created completely new conditions. Martijn van Leeuwen (Schepers Racing) was in his element and set the pace from then on. Two minutes before the end, a race stoppage led to an early end and left Van Leeuwen at the top of the results list. Behind him, Aulejtner lined up in second ahead of Philipp Moitzi (KSCA Sodi Europe). Axel Saarniala (SP Motorsport) finished fourth ahead of Patriks Noels Locmelis (MRG Racing).
After the start of the final, it initially looked like a clear run for Van Leeuwen. But halfway through the race, Aulejtner kept closing in on the Schepers Racing driver and even made it past the 2022 RMC Grand Finals champion. However, the prefinal winner kept his nerve and fought his way back past the Pole in a dramatic final race lap. “We were fast throughout the weekend. Not always the fastest – but in the end with clever brains. So in the decisive moments it was enough to win,” explained the 24-year-old in the winner’s interview. In the photo finish, Bol even managed to get past Aulejtner and finished second behind double winner Van Leeuwen. Saarniala and Moitzi completed the top five.
DD2 MAX Masters: Surprise victory for Michael Becker
In the Rotax DD2 Masters class Denis Thum (Kraft Motorsport) made a perfect start to the season. The veteran set the fastest time in qualifying and did not let himself be slowed down in the heats either, so he started the races from first place alongside Carl Cleirbaut (SP Motorsport).
In the prefinal, Thum finally made perfect use of his good starting position. From the start, the Kraft Motorsport driver led the race action and drove to a start-finish victory. Nicolas Picot initially took over the chasing role, but dropped back after a collision, clearing the way for Cleirbaut and Michael Becker in second and third place. Igor Mukhin (Birel ART Baltics) lined up in fourth ahead of Tony Hogg (Brand Racing).
The final was a turbulent affair. Until the penultimate lap, it again looked like Thum was going to take the lead. But a collision shortly before the end of the race cost the German a clear victory and reshuffled the cards. On the track Martynas Tankevicius (Lenktyniu Linija) then took the lead – but had to relinquish it at the finish. A time penalty threw the Latvian back to second place and made Becker the surprising winner of the final. In the evening, Mukhin climbed up on the podium in third place. Hogg and Kamil Kubera finished the weekend in fourth and fifth place respectively.
After an exciting start to the season, the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy moves on to the next round at the end of next month. The championship goes to the French Val d’Argenton for the third and fourth rounds from May 26-28.