Charpentier takes double win ahead of the pack at Genk
Axel Charpentier took a double win against 53 other Juniors in the first meeting of the year of the Rotax Max Euro Challenge at Genk.
In Qualifying there was a very high level of competition and there were no less than 45 drivers separated by less than a second in the end. But the drivers in the second group proved to be dramatically faster than the first one, taking the top nine positions in Qualifying.
On top was Adam Smalley (Coles Racing) setting the first benchmark of the year. The young Brit continued with his success from the Rotax Winter Cup and set the quickest time with 56.247s. Missing the top by only 0.047s, Joe Phillips (KR Sport) from the UK ended the session in 2nd ahead of his team-mate and fellow countryman Oli Caldwell (KR Sport).
The local heroes Xavier Handsaeme (Bouvin Power) and Xander Przybylak (Francois Slangen) completed the top five positions.
Tom Canning (KR Sport) from the UK, who had been the fastest in the first group, ended up in 10th place of the 54 youngsters in the field.
The heats could not have been more balanced, with different winners in each single race! Dutchman Glenn Van Berlo (Hugo Motorsport), the Brits Mark Kimber (Strawberry Racing), Caldwell, Phillips and Axel Charpentier (Strawberry Racing) as well as Frenchman Thibaut Clement (SG Drivers) were the victorious youngsters. But just winning was not the key to success, as one had to score good results in all of the heats. Finally it was Van Berlo who took the lead in the intermediate classification giving him the pole position for Sunday’s Prefinal. 2nd place went to Friday’s quickest Smalley, who drove some very consistent races. Phillips took 3rd place in the heat ranking ahead of Caldwell and Belgium’s hope Handsaeme in 5th place.
Smalley had the best start in the Prefinal and even pulled away a few metres. But he could not keep his leading gap and seven more juniors gained on the leader quickly. From then on the lead kept changing and Caldwell, Van Berlo and Charpentier all led at least once. As the race approached the end, Charpentier was fastest and took the win ahead of Van Berlo, Smalley, Caldwell and Lauri Leppa (VRT) from Finland.
After the start of the Final, Charpentier had to give way to Van Berlo, equally having a lot pressure from behind. The lead changed a few times between Van Berlo and Charpentier until the race approached its decisive stage. Up to 20 youngsters closed the gap to the leading group and a big fight began. This was when Charpentier seized his chance to pull away, leaving his opponents behind. He took his second win of the day, crossing the line over 7s in front of Van Berlo and Smalley. But Smalley was given a time penalty due to unfair driving which threw him back to 19th place. So Leppa inherited the last podium place ahead of Caldwell and Kimber.