Epic Superkart races at Magny-Cours!
The third round of the CIK-FIA European Superkart Championship saw spectacular and remarkable performances on the French circuit of Magny-Cours and intense fighting throughout the two races of the weekend, as much for the podium postions as for the win. Climatic conditions didn’t spare the competitors, with problematic qualifying between showers, and the first race was on a wet track on Saturday. However, the second encounter was under better conditions on Sunday morning for duels between the same protagonists, demonstrating that the results were not by chance.
The two favourites, the French driver Emmanuel Vinuales and the British Gavin Bennett (both Anderson-DEA-Dunlop), continued their duel that has been going on since the beginning of the season, but they ultimately remain on an equal footing after this event. In fact, they each won at Magny-Cours and left with a very close score, despite a slight advantage for Bennett, 115 points to 113.
On a slippery surface, the times were far from those seen in free practice, but five minutes from the end of the second session Vesa Lehtinen (Anderson-DEA-Dunlop) was slower by two seconds from practice. Vinuales stood out again and improved his time and Bennett replied immediately. They took the front row at the expense of Liam Morley (Anderson-DEA-Dunlop) who thought he had acquired his first pole, which finally came back to Bennett.
The competitors were already on the dummy grid when light rain started for the first race on Saturday. They mounted wet tyres at the last moment while keeping their initial set-up as planned for the dry. Despite the lack of grip, the Superkart drivers performed wonders during a race packed with attacks, fortunately without incident. Bennett, the Dane Henrik Lilja (PVP-PVP-Dunlop) and Vinuales were at loggerheads. Behind them, defending champion Lee Harpham (Anderson-FPE-Dunlop), always very fast, initially joined Morley and the Czech Adam Kout (MS Kart-DEA-Dunlop). The show focused not only on those drivers, but also a stone's throw behind were a bunch of animated competitors, including Danny Bleek (MS Kart-DEA-Dunlop) and Andreas Jost (Anderson-PVP-Dunlop), who passed and repassed after a mistake from one or the other. In the pack, the French driver Alexandre Sebastia (Anderson-FPE-Dunlop) the French Championship leader, made the best of the game and grabbed 5th place. Vinuales took command, Lilja found it more difficult to follow the leading duo and dropped back. He was replaced by Kout who even succeeded in attacking Bennett. There was a bombshell on the penultimate lap, Bennett didn’t finish, as he was stopped due to a loose hose. Vinuales pulled away a little from Kout and Lilja was isolated in third position.
The pattern was repeated somewhat on Sunday in Race 2, on a track that had dried. Kout was pressing in the early laps without trying to fight. He was even threatening to Bennett in the lead while Vinuales kept the pace but did not seem able to overtake. Lilja gave ground first. As the laps went on Vinuales simply followed Kout who seized the first position, Bennett replied but the Czech was leading most often. It made for a fantastic lap, setting a new lap record with 1'39''057! This was the best time this weekend in the GT Tour, faster than all the car categories, including GT3. But Bennett is an experienced and motivated chaser, especially when the MS Kart driver began to drift, his braking seeming less stable: he was suffering a slow puncture. He tried to resist but had to give up at the start of the last lap and settle for second place. Bennett raised his arms, happy to ward off his bad luck from the previous day. Vinuales ended up on the third step of the podium. Further back, the German Daniel Hentschel (Anderson-DEA-Dunlop), with few results so far, took advantage of the last lap to pass Harpham and Lilja. With another win each and a bad score to drop, the suspense continues between Vinuales and Bennett. The last race will take place at Le Mans in France from 25th to 27th October.
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