The first official day of competition at the IWF23 was eagerly awaited by all the competitors, and it kicked off the hostilities with great intensity. Nothing was easy for the drivers and teams in the south of Portugal, due to the changing weather conditions. The rankings from the Free Practice sessions did not always hold, resulting in some particularly hotly contested first Qualifying Heats. A lot can happen between now and the end of the Finals in all categories for the 367 entrants...
With the organisation well in place, a circuit used to hosting incredible races and drivers whose motivation is heightened by what's at stake, the major annual event from the IAME factory got off to the best possible start with the collaboration of the RGMMC group. From Monday 8:00 to Wednesday 9:45, competitors took advantage of numerous practice sessions to prepare for the Qualifying sessions in the X30 Senior, X30 Junior and X30 Mini categories. With fewer competitors, the X30 Masters are benefiting from a specific programme compressed over three days, and we'll have to wait until Friday to see the serious stuff begin for them.
On Wednesday evening, the organisers invited all the participants to a big 'Welcome Party' in the magnificent setting of the Algarve Race Resort Hotel, just a few kilometres from the circuit. In the restaurant or around the swimming pool, everyone was able to relax and chat in a convivial atmosphere over an impressive buffet. The music mixed by a DJ on fire added to the joyful and celebratory atmosphere of the event.
X30 Senior: The match is on
Rain began to fall on Wednesday morning and the track remained soggy for the four Qualifying sessions. Conditions improved slightly as the karts went out, allowing the Group 4 drivers to show themselves to be fastest. Among them, the most skillful was Britain's Gus Lawrence, who took pole position with a time of 1:11.242. At the front of the other three groups, Italy's Edoardo Ludovico Villa and the two Frenchmen François Dell'Atti and Clément Outran took the next three places in a field of 133 drivers!
The afternoon saw eight Qualifying Heats. They were marked by the return of slick tyres and a festival of overtaking. Malo Bolliet (FRA) won two heats, with the others going to Marcus Luzio (GBR), Ean Eyckmans (BEL), Sam Shaw (GBR), Khali Atkins (GBR), Pacôme Weisenburger (FRA) and Edoardo Ludovico Villa (ITA).
X30 Junior: A changing hierarchy
The switch from rain tyres to slicks took place during the Junior Timed Qualifying session. Britain's Fred Green was fastest in Group 1 with a time of 1:09.584, but Portugal's Santiago Dos Santos Alves managed to improve on that time by almost 8 seconds with a time of 1:01.646 in Group 2, benefiting from dry lines. But it wasn't until the third group that Romanian David Cosma Cristofor took pole position for good with a time of 1:01.080. None of these three drivers was able to confirm this with a victory in the Qualifying Heats. Of the 86 participants, Freddie Lloyd (GBR) was the most inspired with two wins. Raul Zunzarren Perez (ESP), Roméo Roussel (FRA), Cathal Clark (GBR) and Rocco Coronel (NLD) won the other four heats, often by very small margins at the finish line.
X30 Mini: 66 grouped within a second!
At 1531 metres, the Portimao circuit is one of the longest in Europe, with times in excess of 1 minute and 7 seconds for the X30 Mini category. But that didn't stop the young drivers, aged 9 to 12, from running very closely together. Divided into three groups for the time trials, the 100 IWF23 competitors all showed their immense desire to do well. As in the other two categories, it was in the third group that the name of the poleman had to be found. Just 2 thousandths faster than Ireland's Christian Coby, Britain's Jarlath Sayer had the honour of taking pole position. The fastest time in Group 2 went to Switzerland's Dan Allemann in 1:07.284 and Group 1 to Spain's Nilas Malik in 1:07.319.
Only three Qualifying Heats were on the programme on Thursday in X30 Mini. They were won by Archie Lovatt (GBR), Max Endacott (GBR) and Stig De Raedemaeker (BEL).
With a total of 22 Qualifying Heats still to be run on Thursday and 19 on Friday, there are plenty of uncertainties ahead and the IWF23 promises to be particularly exciting to follow.
Provisional programme for IWF23
Thursday 26th October
08:00 - 10:00 Warm-up (5 mins)
10:10 - 18:15 Qualifying heats
19:00 Drivers' parade
Friday 27th October
08:00 - 09:55 Warm-up (5 mins)
10:05 - 10:27 Qualifying Practice X30 Master (6 mins)
10:41 - 18:50 Qualifying Heats
Saturday 28 October
09:00 - 10:15 Warm-up (5 mins)
10:30 - 13:05 Super Heats and Qualifying Heats X30 Master
14:20 X30 Master Final
14:50 X30 Mini Final
15:20 X30 Junior final
15:50 X30 Senior Final