The first international Rotax race winners have been determined. Last weekend, the RMC Euro Trophy Winter Cup kicked off the new season in Campillos, Spain. Nearly 180 riders went full throttle on the demanding course in Andalusia and delivered exciting racing action at the start of the season.
The 2023 racing season of the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy is about to start. The Winter Cup of the European Rotax championship has become a tradition to open the racing action and offers numerous competitors from a variety of nations the chance for the first test of strength of the year. In the best weather conditions, the participants delivered exciting races on the 1,588-meter Circuito Karting Campillos before the start of the duels for the championship standings last weekend. In the evening, Jacob Ashcroft (Mini MAX), Kasper Schormans (Junior MAX), Kai Rillaerts (Senior MAX), Patriks Noels Locmelis (DD2) and Martynas Tankevicius (DD2 Masters) were beaming from the top podium positions of the individual categories.
Mini MAX: Jacob Ashcroft puts exclamation mark on exciting finale
34 junior racers made the trip to Campillos in the Rotax Mini MAX category. Jacob Ashcroft (Dan Holland Racing) presented himself in top form at the first meeting of the new season. With first place in qualifying and three wins in the heats, the youngster did everything right.
In the prefinal, the Briton also impressed across the board. The young racer kept his rivals at bay over the entire race distance and won ahead of Albert Friend (Strawberry Racing) and Felipe Reijs (RR Racing). Zdenek Babicek (TEPZ Racing Team) and Nikita Ljubimov (Bouvin Power) completed the top five.
The final was hard to beat in terms of excitement. The top drivers of the classification followed each other like a string of pearls and fought gripping duels. Reijs, Friend, and Ashcroft took turns at the front and each collected a few leading moments. The latter even found himself in fourth position for a while, but then really turned up the heat. On the penultimate lap, Ashcroft found his rhythm again and passed Friend to take the win. Behind him at the finish, Ljubimov was happy to take third position. A blink of an eye behind, Babicek finished fourth ahead of Cole Denholm (Dan Holland Racing) in fifth for the final scoring run.
Junior MAX: Kasper Schormans wins
Kasper Schormans (JJ Racing) took the top spot in qualifying in the Rotax Junior MAX class. Things also looked good overall for the fast Dutchman in the heats. However, a time penalty cost him grid position one for the prefinal. Nikita Nikishov (KR Sport) also won the prefinal twice.
Nikishov led the field of juniors after the start but had to give up his place to Sebastian Minns (KR Sport) early on. The duo then pulled away from the pack and battled among themselves for the win. However, a slow phase brought the field back together in the second half of the race. After the restart, however, Minns once again underlined his potential and did not allow himself to be deprived of victory until the chequered flag fell. Schormans fought his way up to second place at the last moment. Third place went to Thomas Bearman (KR Sport) ahead of Nikishov and Boaz Maximov (Bouvin Power).
In the final, Minns also made good progress at the start. However, scuffles led to shifts at the front. Schormans placed perfectly and took the reins at the halfway point. The JJ Racing driver followed by Bearman and Minns took the lead. However, constant attacks by his rivals did not make it easy for Schormans. In the end, however, the polesitter held his breath and won ahead of Bearman and Minns. Maximov took fourth place to lead Ties van Wijk (JJ Racing).
Senior MAX: Kai Rillaerts with strong final performance to victory
For Kai Hunter (Dan Holland Racing), the Winter Cup opener initially took a good run. The Briton set the fastest time in qualifying but then had some bad luck in the heats and consequently had to relinquish his place to Zsombor Kovacs (Kraft Motorsport). The Hungarian took the top spot in the intermediate rankings with two heat wins and was therefore considered the clear favorite for the qualifying rounds.
However, the hour of Matthew Higgins (Strawberry Racing) struck in the prefinal. The Briton passed Kovacs directly after the start and defended his position until the chequered flag fell. Kai Rillaerts (Kraft Motorsport) put in a strong performance behind him and fought his way up into the top three. German Austin Lee (Strawberry Racing) took fourth place, followed by Archie Walker (KR Sport) in fifth.
In the final, too, Higgins kept his nose in front after the start. However, the Strawberry Racing protégé was targeted by his pursuers early on. Higgins drove a fighting line, lost important speed, and consequently had to let Rillaerts pass. The Belgian then seized his chance, set a remarkable pace and ultimately celebrated an uncontested victory. "Although we only arrived on Friday morning, we quickly found the necessary speed and had a perfect weekend. A super debut in my new team. Many thanks to everyone involved for the great support," explained the 16-year-old in the winner's interview. The places in the top three were quickly distributed behind him. Lee held on for second ahead of Junior MAX up-and-comer Ethan Jeff-Hall (Strawberry Racing) in third. Close behind, Kovacs lined up ahead of Lewis Gilbert (Kraft Motorsport).
DD2 MAX: Patriks Noels Locmelis takes Winter Cup final win
In the Rotax DD2 MAX field, Tereza Babickova (TEPZ Racing Team) caused a stir at the start of the event. In her first appearance in the Rotax king class the Czech convinced right from the start and left nothing to be desired. The pole position in qualifying was followed by three heat wins for the Birel ART driver, clearly underlining her ambitions.
Babickova also had a firm grip on events in the prefinal. Right from the start, she completed her laps without any mistakes and gradually pulled away from the chasing pack to take a commanding victory. Patriks Noels Locmelis (MRG Racing) was second and got into tough duels with his opponents. Axel Saarniala (SP Motorsport) put on a lot of pressure and finished the race in the slipstream in third place. Martijn van Leeuwen (Schepers Racing) followed in fourth ahead of Michael Rosina (54 Squarda Corse).
In the final, the polesitter didn't have it quite so easy after that. Locmelis made his destination clear early on and passed Babickova. However, the young lady managed to take the reins again and collected more lead kilometers. At the halfway point of the race, however, there was no stopping Locmelis. The Latvian made the decisive maneuver and left no doubt until the finish. Saarniala remained within striking distance until the end but was unable to overtake the final winner. Babickova finished third ahead of van Leeuwen and Maxim Shchurko (Lenktyniu Linija).
DD2 Masters: Martynas Tankevicius with double victory
At the beginning it looked like Nicolas Picot would make a clear advance in Rotax DD2 Masters. The Frenchman set the fastest time in qualifying and kept his nose in front in his class after the heats.
But a setback followed in the prefinal: after a technical defect on his kart, Picot dropped back and thereby cleared the way for Martynas Tankevicius (Lenktyniu Linija). The Lithuanian took victory after a thrilling duel with Christophe Capitaine. However, Capitaine dropped to fourth after a time penalty in the results, making room for Jonathan Wemaux and David Perel (Kraft Motorsport) in second and third. Fifth in the prefinal was Andreas Neumann (RS Competition).
After the start of the final, Picot was the man of the moment. The Frenchman promptly moved up from the end of the field to position one and led the category. After some scuffling, the experienced driver lost some speed. Tankevicius then took the lead again and was delighted with an impressive double victory at the finish. Picot crossed the finish line in second place, relegating Wemaux to third. Capitaine followed in fourth ahead of Perel.