The weather continued to be fine in Limburg on Saturday during the Qualifying Heats. The thermometer reached 24° in the afternoon, while the intensity followed the same upward curve throughout the 18 races of the Belgian event's programme.
Frenchman Émilien Denner consolidated his domination of the FIA Karting European Championship - KZ by winning three times. The FIA Karting European Championship - KZ2 was led by Frenchman Tom Leuillet who won five times, while Luxembourg's Guillaume Bouzar narrowly retained the top spot in the FIA Karting Academy Trophy.
The Horensbergdam circuit in Genk lived up to its reputation for selectivity and the 1360 m length encouraged overtaking and made it possible to watch attacks at all levels. Two heats remain for the Academy on Sunday morning, one for each driver, while two Super Heats await the KZ2 drivers and one for the KZ, before the finalists in each category are decided.
Academy: Bouzar keeps the lead
The first four Qualifying Heats of the FIA Karting Academy Trophy saw four different winners. The races were increasingly spectacular with some great battles, comebacks and several twists and turns. At this stage, poleman Guillaume Bouzar retained the lead for Luxembourg, while Frenchman Arthur Dorison moved up to second place (+3 pl.) thanks to his superb surprise win on the last lap of Heat 4. On his home turf, Belgian Thibaut Ramaekers occupied third place on equal points with the very combative Filipino William John Riley Go. Jindřich Pešl (CZE) was in the top five ahead of Nikolas Roos (ZAF) and Aleksandar Bogunović (SVN). Matias Orjuela (COL) was back in ninth place behind Luca Houghton (BHR) and had moved up four places.
Denner dominates the KZ heats
Frenchman Emilien Denner, who set the fastest time in Qualifying, won all three Qualifying Heats of the FIA Karting European Championship - KZ in Genk. A victory over Finland's Simo Puhakka on Friday and two more over the Italian Matteo Vigano on Saturday ensured his first place. Vigano moved up to second place in the intermediate classification ahead of his compatriot Paolo Ippolito who moved up three places. Jorrit Pex (NLD) also had a good run, coming back to fourth place with a gain of five places ahead of Tuukka Taponen (FIN). Francesco Celenta (ITA) dropped to sixth place ahead of his compatriot Lorenzo Travisanutto who gained three places, while Pedro Hiltbrand (ESP) moved up seven positions to ninth. Simo Puhakka (FIN) finished in the top 10 despite his retirement on the last lap of Heat 2.
Emilien Denner said in the press conference:
"I was able to rely on a very competitive chassis-engine combination to win in the heats. On Sunday, the conditions should be different with a clear rise in temperature. The Sodikart team will have to adapt quickly, we will see how the Super Heat goes, but we are confident in the performances we have achieved since the beginning of the event."
Tom Leuillet's victories in KZ2
After setting the second-fastest time in Qualifying, Frenchman Tom Leuillet had a flawless record of five wins out of five races in the Qualifying Heats of the FIA Karting European Championship - KZ2. Behind him, German poleman David Trefilov and Estonian Markus Kajak took three wins each. With only a one-point lead, Kajak finally finished second ahead of Trefilov. British driver Arvid Lindblad caused a sensation in his first KZ2 race. Despite a missed start in the second heat, he managed to climb back up to fourth in the intermediate ranking thanks to two victories, impressive for a rookie. Thomas Imbourg (FRA) moved up from 11th to fifth place and Jorge Pescador (ESP) from 16th to sixth. Daniel Vasile (ROU) remained in a good position by finishing seventh, equal in points with Genis Civico Espona (ESP) and Jean Luyet (CHE) who moved up 11 positions. His brother Samuel Luyet (CHE) had gained eight places to 10th position.
David Liwinski (POL) lost the benefit of four good races in the top three when he retired at the start of his third heat and fell to 17th. Apart from the return of Norton Andreasson from 35th to 15th position, attention was drawn by the 28-place rise of Dylan Davies (NLD) to 34th and also by the 49-place rise of Luigi Di Lorenzo (ITA), to 35th.
In the words of the leader Tom Leuillet:
"I am of course delighted with the way the heats have gone. Chassis set-up is a key factor on this track and the Leclerc by Lennox Racing team did a really good job. This is all the more important as the races will be longer on Sunday and the temperature should be higher. I am confident because this Qualifying phase has shown that we are not degrading the tyres very much."
The provisional programme for the Genk event
Sunday 15th May
08:30 - 09:40: Warm-up (10')
09:45 - 10:20: Academy Qualifying Heats
10:25 - 11:35: Super Heats for KZ/KZ2
13:25 - 16:00: Finals