BNL re-enters the fray with a successful “Kick-Off”
The BNL Karting Series has now started its racing adventure in 2019, having recently hosted its customary ‘Kick-Off,’ which took place at Belgium’s Karting Genk, based in the Limburg region.
It sees this internationally-recognized championship enter its eleventh season of competition, which attracts karting talent from across the globe, and provides its fair share of action and drama. But there are a few changes that will help this series to grow even further this year.
This year sees the introduction of both the OK and OK Junior classes, which puts the total up to ten, which has also meant a change in the race weekend format. This was as a result of there having been a request by the local ASN to establish a national championship for the category, as Karting Genk has been confirmed to host the second round of the FIA-CIK European Championships for the classes, between May 16th and 19th.
It will now run to timed races that will also conclude under an additional lap. The main reason is because of the extension on the number of classes, but it will also allow the organisers to ensure that the timetable is kept in order. Plus for the second round of the championship will no longer be visiting France’s Ostricourt circuit, with Mariembourg’s Karting des Fagnes taking its place.
BNL has also been busy in extending its social media presence further, having outlets on Facebook, YouTube and now Twitter, along with a combination of both live video and audio streams for the race weekend coverage, which is broadcasted globally. This is to help attract further great karting talents from across the globe, thereby bolstering the ranks for every event.
For the traditional “Kick-Off,” over 125 drivers that represented 15 different countries headed to the “Home of Champions,” as the 1360-metre circuit would see some fantastic, fast-paced action, along with some varied twists and turns, with the drivers competing for some prestigious prizes.
The event itself, which is separate from the regular calendar, would experience uncharacteristic good weather, with welcome sunshine, reaching as high as 15 degrees Celsius at times. The paddock also was very quiet in recent times, following on from the recent introduction by the CIK-FIA of Rule Q Article 2.14, regarding the restriction of engine warm-ups.
Six of the eight categories in competition that weekend, which were powered by the well-revered ROTAX Max 125cc engines, were going for the chance to be the first drivers in Europe to receive entry tickets for the forthcoming ROTAX Max Challenge International Trophy, which will take place at the Circuit Alain Prost in Le Mans, between the 21st and 24th of August this year.
The runner-up in the six categories, along with the winners of the OK and OK Junior classes, would not leave empty-handed, as they would take back home a free entry for the full 2019 BNL Karting Series season.
Micro Max - Masterclass from van der Struijs secures his place at Le Mans.
Despite being the youngest of the drivers attending the race meeting, the Micro Max competitors put on a fantastic display of their race craft throughout the entire weekend, but it was the #54 of Tommie van der Struijs (NED - Struijs Martin), who showed that he was clearly the class act of the field.
Van der Struijs would only qualify in the second half of the top ten, but more than made up for it by scything past the rest of the opposition, which would include eventual runner-up Lenn Nijs (#17 - BEL - GKS Lemmens Power).
Nijs would do his utmost against the young Dutch driver, along with Kasper Schormans (#40 - NED - Inge Schormans), with the trio swapping places for the lead multiple times, including the final five minutes of racing action.
Schormans’ consistency by remaining in the top five saw him take fourth in the weekend standings, just fractionally behind Nando Weixelbaumer (#12 - AUT - GKS Lemmens Power), who showed his intentions clearly, but could not not manage to take a win this weekend.
Aaron Ferrazanno (#46 - BEL - Flandria UK) also showed his competitiveness throughout the weekend, based on his race pace, and would end up fifth after both finals, despite finishing on equal points with Max Sadurski (#19 - NED - Sadursk P.), with an impressive display from Senne Sutens (#34 - BEL - Flandria UK), who suffered with issues including transponder problems, but managed to take seventh in the standings.
Mini Max - One Gerhards profits from the other’s bad luck
This category also had its fair share of action and drama along the duration of the “Kick-Off,” with it mainly being a Dutch affair, as a result of the entries for the weekend.
Tim Gerhards (#50 - NED - Gerhards Peter) and brother Nick (#60 - NED - Gerhards Peter) were the two to watch out for, but a major incident would see the latter take the spoils, after Tim was collected by Nathan Schapp (#103 - NED - Thierry Schaap), who was attempting to pass on the inside of Turn 6, when the former had lost out on the lead, just minutes before the conclusion of the second final.
Both the Gerhards would be under duress for the majority of the racing, as Jayden Thien (#107 - NED - N.Lambeets) was the closest competitor to the pair, showing what he is capable of, but would end up retaining second, taking home a free season pass for the 2019 BNL Karting Series. Schaap himself end up sixth at the end of the weekend, missing out on the final step of the podium itself by only three points, behind Simon Birch Kristensen (#153 - DEN) and Jens van der Heijden (#151 - NED - Van Der Heijden Herbert).
Jasper Lenaerts (#177 - NED - Bart Lenaerts), Jarvy Bachmatiuk (#192 - NED - Roy Bachmatiuk) and Max Knapen (#148 - NED) are also ones to watch this season, as the trio all scored one double=-points score during the weekend, showing their intent for the forthcoming season, as defending champion Thom Reinaerdts made the move to Junior Max for 2019
Junior Max - Pylka holds off Guinchard, Edqvist et al for double success in Genk
Dan Holland Racing’s Polish wonder, Oli Pylka (#243), who raced with UNIQ Racing last year, was able to hold off some fierce rivals at the Kick-Off to secure his place at Le Mans, as the fully-subscribed category brought fireworks to the party at Karting Genk.
This included a very fast duo in the form of Daniel Guinchard (#254 - GBR - SFR Motorsport) and Wilgot Edqvist (#222 - SWE - Strawberry Racing), who would eventually force his way to finish second overall through some great driving, coupled with some brilliant and clearly ruthless overtaking. Edqvist was also on a roll, having switch from DHR after a difficult season, and would clearly factor into the eventual result, only finishing three points off Guinchard at the end of the racing action.
Dani van Ruiten (#208 - NED - Chris Van Ruiten) would keep out of dramas that befell others over the weekend, to be the best-placed of the Dutch drivers there that weekend in fourth, ahead of a very impressive Junior début from GKS Lemmens Power’s Thom Reinaerdts (#237 - NED), who was running consistently in the top five, including qualifying.
The biggest high-profile casualty of the entire weekend was JJ Racing’s Mike van Vugt (#201 - NED). who came to blows with GKS’ Jef Machiels (#257 - BEL) at turn nine on the second lap of the first final, before further drama hit the three-title winning champion from last season. In the second final, Oskar Kristensen (#272 - DEN - RS Competition) would end up being forced wide at turn four halfway through the race, putting him on the grass. Van Vugt was unsighted, trying to overtake the Dane on the inside for seventh place and clattered into him, having started in 34th.
Another hefty accident in the initial stages of the second Junior Max final saw the #214 of Morris Schuring (NED - Schuring Gerwin) mount Max Stemerdink (#209 - NED - Stemerdink E.), with the former out braking himself going into turn ten and bringing out a full course yellow around the track, with the green flag waving with eight and a half minutes left to go.
Senior Max - Brown-Nutley dominant over proceedings, as Gilbert impresses in Senior début
Strawberry Racing had good reason to celebrate in fine style, as Britain’s Jordan Brown-Nutley (#310) made it three different nationalities out of six that would secure a ticket to the International Trophy, even though he was not the fastest in the group qualifying sessions. That honour went to Ilian Bruynseels (#308 - BEL - Bouvin Power), by a mere 0.001 seconds ahead of Brown-Nutley’s countryman Kai Hunter (#305 - GBR - Dan Holland Racing), who was fastest in the second group for qualifying.
Lewis Gilbert (#329 - GBR - Persistence Motorsport) made an impressive Senior début under Rotax power, having also factored into the top ten in qualifying, and would give Brown-Nutley a run for his money in the latter stages of the second final for the lead, having finished third in the first race of the day’s action. Nevertheless, the ‘Dalry Diamond’ would end up settling for second best, ending up with a free season entry for the BNL.
Bruynseels would round off the podium after a sterling effort, having celebrated his 16th birthday earlier in the week, ahead of ROTAX Max Euro Trophy vice-champion Mick Nolten (#304 - NED - GKS Lemmens Power), showing his customary fightbacks through the field in both finals to take third in the second one.
With one third of the 34-strong field being comprised of British racers, a further three of them ended up in the top ten at the weekend, led by Kierean Gifford (#359 - GBR - KR Sport), with Kai and Rhys Hunter (#303 - GBR - Dan Holland Racing) completing the top eight.
But it was a struggle for Sweden’s Mathilda Olsson (Strawberry Racing), who bravely fought all weekend long in the #302, but would end up ninth in the standings, ahead of Dylan Lahaye (#328 - BEL), who now is hoping that the number seven, the time he has spent with GKS Lemmens Power, will be a lucky one in 2019.
DD2 & DD2 Masters - Przybylak & Schindler take top honours at the Kick-Off
Defending BNL Karting Series DD2 champion Xander Przybylak (#413 - BEL - Bouvin Power) would continue his good run of form after the winter break, by convincingly beating Jan Schwitter (#427 - CH - FM Racing) by a clear margin during proceedings, as well as during qualifying.
Przybylak may be young, but his racing prowess says otherwise, whilst Sebastien Degrande (#447 - BEL - DAEMS Racing Team) rounded out the podium, whilst Juuso Pantilla (#451 - FIN - DAEMS Racing Team) would have to battle with the likes of Jarne Geussens (#490 - BEL - Guessens Davy) and Imke Arts (#421 - NED - Arts Imke) for the scraps of what was left of the top six overall.
In DD2 Masters, Germany’s Andreas Schindler (#515 - Schindler Andreas) was clearly on a mission at the weekend, as he was able to keep a clear gap between himself and Belgium’s Christophe Adams (#555 - FRA - Adams Christophe) at the end, who admitted earlier in the weekend that he is aiming for a 14th appearance at the ROTAX Max Challenge Grand Finals this October in Sarno. But the French driver would have to settle for a free entry into the BNL once again for another season, so his goal will not be that far away.
OK & OK Juniors: New inaugural Kick-Off Champions crowned
With a minimal entry list at just around the double figures mark, only a total of six drivers would take part in the newest categories introduced, but there was still some entertainment between the OK and OK Junior classes, most notably between Jules Castro (#106 - BEL - GKS Lemmens Power) and Get-Jan Arijs (#228 - BEL - Flandria Kart UK).
However, the first race weekend winner in OK Junior was the small-in-stature Maxime Furon-Castelain (#136 - LUX - Furon Pierre), who could not be ursurped either by Castro, who completed the podium, with Jarno Sutens (#143 - BEL - Flandria Kart UK), finishing as the runner-up.
Gilles Stadsbader (#228 - BEL - DAMES Racing Team) would win the OK category, who will be using the APEX Vega tyres as per the CIK-FIA regulations, ahead of former Junior Max driver, Mads Riis (#299 - DEN - Morten Riis), who as clearly excited at getting into a faster kart, after a successful 2018 season that saw him place third in the ROTAX Max Euro Trophy Junior Max standings, along with winning the Rotax Austria Grand Festival last August.
Along with this, the BNL Karting Series introduced a new initiative for the race weekends, helping to promote sportsmanship and fair play. With this, the “Peter de Wit” FairPlay Trophy was born, thanks to the decision of both Dave Ritzen and series commentator Alex Goldschmidt, with a live Facebook announcement unveiling the trophy, thanks to the welcome assistance of circuit owner Koen Lemmens.
The trophy pays tribute to the late Peter de Wit, a much loved marshal and volunteer at Karting Genk, who suddenly passed away on January 25th, after a short illness. The first winner was Karel Staut from the new GHK Racing Team, who made their début at the event, and showed initiative and kept asking the right questions, and Karel will hand that to the next winner, which will rotate at each race weekend.
BNL Karting Series Organiser Dave Ritzen gave some positive feedback after a very successful race meeting at Karting Genk.
“In general, the event has been very well received by the teams and the drivers, which means that there is a mutual respect towards the current status of the BNL Karting Series itself.
“With regards to the Kick-Off itself, it was very much a trial, when it came to OK and OK Junior. But due to a clash with racing in Italy, all the major Belgian teams that are in that class were otherwise occupied.
“We look forward to seeing the likes of VDK and DEAMS Racing bring more drivers for the rest of the season. It’s looking like a good year ahead!”
The BNL Karting Series returns to the “Home of Champions” to start the first round of the championship on March 23rd, with an exciting season on the cards…..