Vinuales wins a cliffhanger
The 38 participants in the last round of the European Superkart Championship held at Le Mans showed it was a good year. The two favourites, Gavin Bennett and Emmanuel Vinuales, were almos equal, both on Anderson / DEA, and the weather forecast was very mixed, which all combined to push the suspense to its height. The tension was palpable on both sides.
For the first qualifying session, sun dried the track just after a shower. Daniel Hentschel (Anderson / DEA) tried several times to move ahead, but he couldn't retain his fastest laps. Vinuales took pole with 1'35'' 321, while Kout was ahead of Bennett, after the combination of the two sessions. Danny Bleek (MS Kart / VM) was fifth, showing that his new engine was becoming competitive.
The first race was due to set off under "Safety car" conditions with the drivers using wet tyres, but the sun reappeared, allowing a normal starting grid at the last moment. The first lap on a tricky track was decisive. Kout made a perfect start, and Hentschel tried to sneak past. After the Dunlop curve, Kout was pushed slightly and spun. Behind Bennett touched Hentschel and went off. He rejoined last, but suffered mechanical damage and had to retire. The first lap ended with Vinuales leader the leader with Henrik Lilja (PVP / PVP) on his heels and Lee Harpham (Anderson / FPE) after a start party was chasing after them. The way was clear for Vinuales to drive to victory, keeping Lilja behind him by 2 seconds. The surprise would come from Liam Morley (Anderson / DEA), who got his first European podium in his first campaign. Harpham had problems with his gearbox and had to yield to Morley, then retired after two laps. Kout was the fastest on the track from the back, and regained fourth position. Alexander Sebastia (Anderson / FPE) took time to find the right rhythm, but once in action, he was at the front, and then took Marcel Maasmann (Anderson / FPE) and Vesa Lehtinen (Anderson / DEA) to finish sixth behind Bleek, confirming his new reliability in fifth position.
Vinuales won his fourth victory, but nothing was gained because of the two dropped scores. If Bennett won the last race, he would win the title.
There was Hitchcockian suspense when rain began near the start of race 2, justifying the emergency mounting of wet tyres. The rain soon stopped, so the starting grid was as normal. The race had hardly started when the rain intensified. The scenario was similar to that of race 1, with Kout and Bennett careful and Hentschel seeking to force his way through the middle, then he suddenly changed course and touched Lilja who hit the wall violently. Vinuales took control from Kout and Bennett. Although Kout was comfortable, Bennett was a little more difficult to follow. He retired for the same reason as in the morning (fuel). The title was decided and Vinuales didn't get in Kout's was unnecessarily. Morley passed him for second at the very end of the race. Sebastia had a remarkable run and finished just off the podium. Bleek was penalized with a drive through and Antoine Lacoste (Anderson / FPE) finished fifth. For his farewell as a driver, Poul Petersen was in the points each time.
Kout was smiling on the podium: "I'm not disappointed with my first race, I felt a push, this was the reason for my spin, it is a risk of racing. The second run was perfect, I am delighted. We will return next year with the same equipment, inspired."
Vinuales, who collects another cup as the best performer of the weekend: "Since Assen, we were not able to exploit the ''bon regime", we worked so hard to understand what the issue was. After starting on the front row and winning the first race a sign of potential tension remained, however. When I realized that Gavin was unfortunately out of the race, I had one obsession, to finish the race!"
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