For its first edition, the Rotax Max Challenge International Trophy was the scene of powerful sporting clashes from Thursday 22nd to Friday 23rd August at the Le Mans Karting International Circuit. After 42 Qualifying Heats, the six categories in contention finally revealed the order of their finalists, who will all be back on track on Saturday, 24th August for the big closing day of this new major event of the season.
The good weather continued in the Le Mans region to the delight of the participants and their supporters. Thanks to the joint organisation by the ACO, 3MK Events and BRP Rotax, the atmosphere was really friendly in the paddock of Le Mans where a large shaded Fan Zone gathered all the spectators around many trade stands.
On the magnificent circuit of Le Mans, the races were exciting to experience from start to finish of these Qualifying phases. The competitiveness and fairness of the Rotax Max engines enabled fights between top drivers from around the world. Some competitors left their hopes at the side of the track, while others felt their wings grow for the Final stages scheduled for Saturday, 24th August from 10:00 to 17:00.
Micro: Lenn Nijs takes the lead
The duel that started in Timed Practice between Thomas Strauven (BEL - Exprit) and Lenn Nijs (BEL - Exprit) continued in the first two heats where the two GKS drivers traded the top places. Strauven however had difficulties at the start of the last heat and finished only 29th, which relegated him to 9th place. Nijs added a second victory to his score and seized the lead against Colin Wazny (POL-Parolin) and Nando Weixenbaumer (AUT-Exprit), while Christopher El Feghali (LBN-KR) and Anton Laksonen (FIN-Parolin) stayed in the top five.
Bernier finishes at the top of the Mini heats
The poleman in the Mini category, Valentin Hervas (FRA - Birel ART), was forced to concede ground against determined opponents. Three other drivers shared the victories. Augustin Bernier (FRA - KR) was gaining momentum and won the last race while taking the lead in front of Jolan Raccamier (FRA - Birel ART) and Simon Birch Kristensen (DNK - Birel ART) who completed a beautiful race to return from 8th to 3rd position. Behind Hervas, in 4th, Karel Schulz (FRA - Parolin) gained 11 places and was back in the top five.
DD2: Poleman Munaretto confirms in the heats
Luca Munaretto (ITA - Birel ART) was the best in Qualifying and had two decisive victories to keep the advantage at the end of the heats against his main rival, Paolo Besancenez (FRA - Sodi), who was very consistent in 2nd position. Claudio Pagliarani (ITA - Tony Kart) was back in the top three ahead of Dionisios Liveris (GRC - Tony Kart) and Matthias Njeim (LBN - Birel ART) while Daniel Machacek (AUT - Tony Kart) dropped back in the final heat and was 7th behind Max Fleischmann (DEU - Exprit) who managed a great comeback.
Mange regains the ascendancy in DD2 Masters
Starting from 5th position in Qualifying, Romain Mange (FRA - Tony Kart) performed well in the heats to win the lead with two 2nd places and a win. The poleman Carl Cleirbaut (BEL - Tony Kart) did well to rank 2nd against Primoz Matelic (SVN - Praga), slightly less convincing. Slawomir Muranski (POL - Tony Kart) and Roberto Pesevski (AUT - Sodi) were in the top five ahead of Scott Howard (AUS - Sodi) who had won the first heat.
The highlights of the meeting, the Senior and Junior categories had 15 Qualifying Heats each on their schedule, i.e. five races per driver. The top 36 qualified for Final A, the following being split between Finals B and C.
Van Vugt unbeatable in Junior
The poleman Mike Van Vugt (NLD - Exprit) completed a remarkable run of five wins to confirm his status as favourite against Oli Pylka (POL - FA Kart) who followed him closely with four wins and a 2nd position to his credit. Dani Van Dijk (NLD - Exprit) and Kai Hunter (GBR - FA Kart) made good progress in 3rd and 4th places a few lengths from the first two. Esteban Masson (FRA - Kosmic) had taken three superb victories since his 16th place in Qualifying before encountering some difficulties and taking 5th place in the standings.
Gazeau dominates the Senior heats
Already the holder of pole position, César Gazeau (FRA - FA Kart) did not give anything away to his opponents by winning his five Qualifying Heats in the highly contested Senior category. Illian Bruynseels (BEL - Tony Kart) took 2nd place with great consistency ahead of Oakley Pryer (GBR - Tony Kart). Valentin Gil (FRA - Tony Kart) and Lewis Gilbert (GBR - Tony Kart) completed the top five ahead of Rhys Hunter (GBR - FA Kart), who climbed from 34th to 6th place. Dylan Léger (FRA - OTK) did not reap the benefits of his efforts by finishing 8th after dropping back in the fourth heat, while Lachlan Robinson (ARE - OTK) was 13th after an incident in the same race.
The day ended with the Drivers Presentation which reflected the joy of participating in a first-rate event. A draw was then held to win a magnificent Can-Am Ryker, Rotax BRP's spectacular three-wheeled recreational vehicle, with an acrobatic demonstration, as well as vouchers from Itakashop and others to use in the trade village.
Info and results can be found on the official website.