It was another good day in the “office” for eventual Mini MAX winner Jacob Ashcroft (#122), as the Briton from Dan Holland Racing was able to firstly pull away in the Pre-Final to win by 4.731 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Thomas Verheyen (#180), whilst the #117 of Luca Stordeur completed the top three positions. There were plenty of great battles up and down the order in the class, where Rory Armstrong (#166 – GBR) came out on top in the battle for fourth against fellow Briton Kai Clarke (#167), who completed the top five, whilst Ryan Rijvers (#123 – NED) was the best placed in the Rookie class.
Even with a stern challenge at the start for Ashcroft in the Final from Denholm, the youngster was able to patiently wait for his chance to take the lead back and would then go on to eventually win the event by 3.904 seconds after 14 laps from Denholm, who was given a post-race tramline penalty, but he would still secure the runner-up spot. Felipe Reijs (#107 – NED) would show fantastic pace to move his way up to third at the flag, having closed the gap as best he could to second. The British contingent showed that they will eb a true force this season, as Albert Friend (#191) and Clarke would complete the top five overall.
But in the Rookie class, it was last year’s Micro MAX champion, Senn Lindeman (#109 – NED) who would be in the right place at the right time, not only securing eighth, but with it top honours in the class. He would be just under 1.9 seconds ahead of Portugal’s Joao Maria Perreria (#129), with the top five completed by Rijvers, Belgium’s Jef Verbeke (#126) and Germany’s Carlos Nees (#103).
Junior Rotax saw the Netherlands’ Kasper Schormans (#240) taking commanding victories in both the Pre-Final and Final to secure his place on the grid for 2023, winning the opening race by 7.335 seconds from Mika Van De Pavert (#286 – NED), with Belgium’s Mateja Radenkovic (#296) in third. Pre-Final pole sitter Beau Lowette (#224 – BEL) would fight hard, but could only muster fourth in the race, ahead of Krit Knooren (#272 – NED) and Great Britain’s Max Cuthbert (#234 – JJ Racing), who made great progress to finish sixth having started 15th.
The Final saw Schormans win after 16 laps by 3.934 seconds from Radenkovic in the Final, after a multi-kart incident eliminated rival Lowette at turn two, which also saw Mads Larsen (#202 – DEN) and Timo Jungling (#265 – GBR) also retiring on the very same lap.
Knooren would also get a scare by being launched into the air, but he would fight back to finish on the final step of the podium, beating Van De Pavert to the line by just under a second, with Hungary’s Armand Hamilton taking fifth. The top ten was rounded out by Tino Sidler (#210 -SUI), Luka Scelles (#204 – FRA), Olivier Jonckers (#212 – BEL), Thomas Ingram-Hill (#227 – GBR) and Cuthbert.
The defending Senior Rotax Champion, Kaï Rillaerts (#374 – BEL), showcased that despite changing teams to Kraft Motorsport, he was simply unbeatable on home soil, winning both Pre-Final and Final races of the event. It would also be a Kraft 1-2 in both races, courtesy of Scotland’s Lewis Glibert (#316), who would make sure that his rivals were aware that he will be in the fight for the title this year. France’s Nolan Lemaray (#314) would take third in the Pre-Final, but would be just outside the podium for the Final, with Heats leader Tommie Van Der Struijs coming back with a strong performance, after struggling in the Pre-Final to finish outside the top 15. Germany’s Austin Lee (#372) would also be in clear contention for the win, having showcased good speed all weekend, taking fourth in the Pre-Final, but retired on the spot off turn two in an incident during the first set of exchanges in the Final. Hungary’s Zsombor Kovacs (#324) was fifth in the Pre-Final, but he would also be caught up on the opening lap incident in the Final, but would make progress back to take 21st after 18 laps. In the Pre-Final, Marius Rose (#308 – DEN), Jayden Thein (#380 – NED), Devyan Roest (#345 – NED), Dion Van Werven (#377 – NED) and France’s Paul Fourquemin (#313) completed the top ten.
For the Final itself, Van Werven would finish in fifth, ahead of Roest, whilst last year’s RMCET Junior champion Ethan Jeff-Hall would take third on the road, but drop to seventh after a front bumper penalty, with Fourquemin, Belgium’s Tijs Daems (#321) and Cas Boshuis (#363 – NED) completing the top ten, with multiple post-penalties being issued, most notably for front bumpers.
Italy’s Elia Pappacena would take a small consolation in winning the Senior B-Final, which saw him win convincingly after 16 laps by 6.411 seconds, whilst there was a brilliant exchange between multiple drivers for second, eventually secured by Australia’s Kamal Mrad (#348). He would inherit second after an unusual spin from Denmark’s Patrick Rasmussen (#341) just after the halfway point at turn eight, but Rasmussen would recover from ninth to finish fifth. Germany’s Mats Johan Overhoff would also hit the podium in third place, finishing in front of William Helgstrand (#309 – DEN).
It would be a tale of two halves in DD2, as more action was guaranteed in both the races on Finals Day, with Canada’s Lucas Pernod (#450) taking the win in the Pre-Final, despite Belgium’s Tom Braeken crossing the line first. The #418 from SP Motorsport was deemed to have jumped the start, thereby being handed a five-second time penalty post-race. Denmark’s Rasmus Vendelbo, who had ups and downs on the heats, was up for the task for competing for the win, and would make it to third in the race, ahead of pole sitter Carl Gustav Borggaard. France’s Jules Cousin would complete the top five in the #451 entry, ahead of Fabian Bock (#471 – GER), Enzo Boulogne (#405 – FRA), Tim Mika Metz (#464 – GER), Enzo Bol (#404 – NED) and Martins Janovskis (#422 – LAT) completing the top ten.
But Borggaard would fight back in the Final to secure the victory, with Braeken unable to close the gap over the latter part of the 18-lap race, finishing 2.049 seconds adrift, but a welcome result for the youngster. Vendelbo would cap off a successful weekend by rounding out the podium, ahead of Cousin and Latvia’s Patriks Noels Locmelis (#481), who completed the top five. Boulogne would secure sixth ahead of Pernod, whose challenge for the win was scuppered by engine issues whilst leading. Metz would finish eighth ahead of Janovskis, who had a bumper penalty post-race, ahead of Germany’s Robert Schopian (#407).
Sebastian Rumpelhardt (#507 – GER) would secure the DD2 Masters win in the Pre-Final, having bested Nicolai Kristensen (#508), as the Dane would have a front bumper penalty issued his way after the race. However, it would be a reverse of fortunes for the pair, with Kristensen winning the Final by 2.744 seconds after 18 laps of close competition.
Thomas Piert (#505 – GER) would place third in the Pre-Final, but would be unable to take part in the Final, robbing him of a potential podium finish. Thierry De Jong (#588 – NED) would secure fourth in the Pre-Final, with that good run of form allowing him to do the same in the Final, ahead of Christophe Adams (#555 – NED) in both races. Michael Becker (#526 – GER) would secure the final step of the podium in the Final, despite having had to fight his way there over the course of the weekend, racing to sixth in the Pre-Final.
“Even with the weather trying to spice things up this weekend, we were given so much exciting racing over the course of the Kick-Off,” said series organiser Esmée Rosman.
“I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone that made this event so enjoyable, especially with the team behind the scenes, as it shows that the BNL Karting Series is definitely a great place to race, along with the wonderful atmosphere that is in the paddock. I’m really looking forward to seeing our season start at full throttle when we come back to Genk in just over a month’s time.”
With all the Kick-Off champions now crowned, preparations are very much underway for the first of four rounds this year, as the series makes it return to the “Home of Champions,” between April 7th and 9th. With a big contingent of drivers set to make their return to Genk, it looks like there is a very exciting season in prospect.