The French Kart Grand Prix started in hot sunshine on Friday, 19th July on the circuit of Le Mans. Once the final Free Practice was over, the 146 participants of the fourth and final FIA Karting European Championship - OK & Junior Competition went out for their Qualifying Practice. Martinius Kleve Stenshorne (NOR) and Kobe Pauwels (BEL) were the Polemen of the day for the first time.
The temperature was still approaching 30° when Qualifying Practice at Le Mans started. The two categories were divided into four groups each, with Junior and the OK alternating on the track. The fastest times were in the first session each time, while a few Drivers saw their fastest time cancelled for crossing the limits of the track. The performances of the fastest were extremely tight. Moreover, the final classification of the Practice saw several surprises compared to the usual hierarchy, an unusual situation at this stage that could have consequences for the final result.
First Pole Position for Stenshorne
Only the third of the four timed sessions of the European Junior Championship showed anomalous results with the leader ranked 39th overall. Martinius Kleve Stenshorme (NOR) was fastest of all the OK-Juniors with a lap of 52''883 set in the first session. His team-mate Ugo Ugochukwu (USA) posted the 2nd fastest time by 24 thousandths of a second in the second session, while the leader in the Championship standings, Marcus Amand (FRA), took 3rd place by only 4 hundredths. Andrea Kimi Antonelli (ITA), the fastest in the fourth session, was in 4th position ahead of Connor Zilisch (USA), which put two Americans in the top five. Amand's challenger for the Championship, Thomas Ten Brinke (NLD) started the last Competition badly with his distant 63rd time. 3rd in the points, Tuukka Taponen (FIN) was 23rd. Jamie Day (ARE) finished 11th, Alexander Dunne (IRL) 8th and Nikita Bedrin (RUS) 9th moved up in the provisional ranking after Qualifying.
Pauwels in the spotlight
2nd in the FIA Karting Academy Trophy last year, Kobe Pauwels (BEL) took a formidable pole position at the European level in OK this year on the Le Mans circuit. Although Kirill Smal (RUS) had been faster, his best time was cancelled for overshooting the track. Pauwels' time of 50''822 became the benchmark of the category. Still in the first session, Dino Beganovic (SWE) posted the 2nd best performance by only 9 thousandths of a second while Smal was 3rd by 10 thousandths. Well placed in 3rd place in the provisional standings, Gabriele Mini' (ITA) was 4th at 15 thousandths from pole ahead of Joseph Turney (GBR). Championship leader Dexter Patterson (GBR) was 7th and his closest opponent Lorenzo Travisanutto (ITA) was 9th. The fastest in the second session, Taylor Barnard (GBR) was 18th.
On Saturday, 20th July, the Qualifying Heats will run from 09:45 to 19:00.