Ardigo makes a comeback at Essay
No one wanted to push too hard in the early phases of the KZ racing as the tyres were wearing out very quickly on the abrasive Essay track surface despite the relatively low temperatures. It looked bad for Marco Ardigo early on but he saved his rubber well enough to win both Finals.
The track was still greasy for the Qualifying of the European KZ Championship at Essay, but the grip improved slightly during the single session. Jorge Pescador (Praga / Parilla) was always in the lead to finish as the leader – 53.303s – ahead of Kristijan Habulin (TB Kart / TM) by 0.177s and Paolo De Conto (CRG / Maxter) by 0.884s which was on his final lap. The choice of slicks paid off for these three drivers who led their classmates who went on rain tyres. Patrik Hajek (Kosmic / Vortex) and Jérémy Iglesias (Sodi / TM) completed the top five more than a second from pole. Anthony Abbasse (Sodi / TM) finished 7th, and Marco Ardigo (Tony Kart / Vortex) a rather surprising 10th in the session.
Pescador led the first of the two KZ heats from start to finish, but Ardigo, starting 10th and 4th on the first lap, was attacking by the end of the race. Habulin did not last long in the leading group, going from 2nd to 18th place. De Conto managed to secure 3rd place while Hajek lost his 4th place in a daring attack from Rick Dreezen (Ricciardo / Parilla). This allowed Iglesias and Abbasse to complete the top five. Of the climbers, Jordon Lennox-Lamb (Birel ART / Parilla) gained nine places to finish 7th and Flavio Camponeschi (CRG / Parilla) regained seven to finish 14th. Simo Puhakka (CRG / Maxter), Jonathan Thonon (Praga / Parilla), Lorenzo Camplese (Parolin / TM), Ben Hanley (Croc Promotions / TM) and Joel Johansson (Righetti / TM) were on the list of retirements.
Pescador (Praga / Parilla) retained the lead after the qualifying heats after victory in the second and final race. De Conto followed in 2nd place thanks to his second 3rd position of the day. As one of the few movers of the race, Iglesias moved up to 2nd place on the finish line, which gave him 3rd place in the intermediate classification ahead of Ardigo who this time recovered to 4th position ahead of Hajek.
The race was hardly exciting. We had the impression that the drivers were not pushing their machinery to the maximum, far from it. There is obviously no magic between the Tarmac at Essay and the Vega tyres. The rubber degrades very quickly to the point that the ranking has changed very little. Some drivers have even opted not to compete in the races, but merely the formation lap before returning to the pits. This is the case for Hanley, Camplese and Johansson who would start at the back of the grid, but would enjoy two new sets for the Finals on Sunday.
Pescador did not last long against De Conto and Iglesias on the first lap of the KZ Prefinal at Essay. Ardigo moved up like a rocket and seized control from the third lap. Following this Dreezen returned to the front, with the Belgian even threatening the leader. But the fight weakened as the laps went on. Abbasse did not keep his 5th position, and dropped to 16th following an incident a few laps from the goal. Ardigo finally won against Dreezen, De Conto maintained his 3rd place ahead of Iglesias. Camponeschi finished 5th just ahead of Hanley who recovered 19 places thanks to his set of new tyres. Camplese came home in the top 10 with the fastest lap of the race.
Iglesias made a superb start at the lights of the KZ Final in the wheeltracks of Ardigo. De Conto also passed Dreezen, followed by Camponeschi. Hanley lost three places at the start. Iglesias wasn’t content behind Ardigo and came back after a failed passing attempt on lap 2. He succeeded on lap 5 while Pescador took 5th position ahead of Hajek and Hanley.
Ardigo seemed to bide his time to regain the leadership from Iglesias. Camponeschi passed De Conto to gain the 3rd position. Further back, Abbasse had moved up to 12th position (+ 6p). Ardigo increased his attack on lap 14 and took 1st place quite easily before taking a lead of 0.4s. Camponeschi then closed on Iglesias who seemed to have run out of steam. The overtaking was on the penultimate round. Ardigo won by 2s, Camponeschi was 2nd and Iglesias 3rd. De Conto had to concede a lot of places to finish 9th and Hajek took 4th position ahead Hanley, who set the fastest lap.