The suspense was tangible until the very last second.
But by gaining two positions in the last lap of all and by crossing the finishing line in 8th place, Henry Easthope (Sodi) snatched the title of U18 World Champion at the Viva Karting Track in Bahrain. This scenario fit for a thriller was most fitting for this first appearance of World Championship karting in the Middle East, and also the first round in history to be run at night, under huge floodlights.
“I still don’t believe it,” smiled Henry Easthope during the press conference. “I gave absolutely everything I had all weekend. I was not too successful in the two Prefinals. I was pushed off the track at the start of the first, and then I suffered in the second. So I only started from 16th position. At the start of the Final, I was not very fast, but I gradually felt that my machine was running better and better and I began to gain places. On the last lap, two Drivers touched in front of me and I gained two more positions, and that made me champion. But it was a very stressful weekend!”
Henry, who will be celebrating his 18th birthday in just five days, is the third Briton in a row to win the U18 World Championship, after Jake Dennis and Matthew Graham. As for the French make Sodi, it took the World Championship for Makes for the first time in this category, joining previous winners Top Kart and Zanardi.
Having believed for a long time that he could don the world crown, Charles Leclerc (ART GP) was unable to maintain the leading position he had occupied at the start of the Race and had to be content with 2nd place both in the Race and the in the final classification for the Championship. The Monegasque, last year’s Academy Trophy winner, was certainly very close to winning the title in the senior category.
Leclerc did not win because in front of him Joseph Mawson (Top Kart) ran a perfect Race. Third at the start, the Australian overtook the Briton Ben Barnicoat (ART GP) and Charles Leclerc before holding them off for more than 10 laps. Fifteen years after James Courtney, he became the first Australian to win a World Championship race since 1997. Mawson finally won by less than 2 tenths of a second from Leclerc, with Barnicoat finishing a little more than 6 tenths behind, and only 39 thousandths ahead of the Italian Federico Savona (Top Kart), making a come-back towards the end of the Race. Whatever may be, this group of four Drivers within 7 tenths of a second put on a spectacular show for the spectators enjoying the top-class karting in the flesh, and also those watching the live broadcast on www.cikfia.tv
At a respectable distance, the Briton Sam Webster won the battle for 5th place ahead of the Dane Martin Mortensen (FK) and the Russian Seva Gagen (Parolin). The Top 10 was completed by Henry Easthope, the Finn Ville Mäntylä (Energy) and the 2011 U18 World Champion Matthew Graham (Zanardi).
In the final classification for the Championship, Anthoine Hubert (FK) joined Henry Easthope and Charles Leclerc on the podium. But the Frenchman was somewhat disappointed to see his hopes fade following a collision during the second Prefinal. With a damaged chassis, he could do no better than 19th place in the Final. Thanks to his win in Bahrain, Joseph Mawson climbed to 4th place in the Championship ahead of Martin Mortensen, Matthew Graham, Federico Savona, the Briton Ricky Collard (ART GP), who lost any chance in the Championship following a collision in the Final, Ben Barnicoat and Sam Webster.