The annual Benelux+ race took place this past weekend at the very fast track of the MAC de Baanbrekers club in Rucphen, The Netherlands. Due to the national holidays, the attendance was a bit lower than in recent years, but a total of 60 drivers were greeted by an excellent weather. The classes for this event were the usual suspects of Touring Stock, Touring Modified, and Formula, all ran according to the ETS rules, as well as Pro10. Everyone was really anxious to see the premier Modified class hit the track. Unfortunately some accidents marred this otherwise great event.
Hot favourite for the title was Awesomatix driver Olivier Bultyinck. Oli started his ambitions in fashion by claiming P1 in Q1. He had a gap of some 3 seconds on Sidney Blokker and Rick Van den Akker.
In Q2 however, Oli had to retire his car as he heard a strange noise coming from his tires. Rick Van den Akker fully benefited from this situation and took the TQ with his Xray. Rick was the only driver to record a 21 lapper. In Q3 disaster struck for young Athan de Witte. Athan had some great runs so far, and was holding a strong P3 position when his tire exploded in the middle of the straight. His car was catapulted at full speed and crashed into a metal barrier, unfortunately with the LiPo battery first. The car exploded and set the dry grass on fire. Fortunately the fire was quickly extinguished, but Athan’s car was a total loss. In view of this situation, Oli’s decision to retire his car in Q2 was a wise one. The qualifier was won by Olivier in front of Sidney and Rick. The remaining qualifiers were won by Sidney Blokker and Mitchell Van Es. The starting grid was Olivier Bultynck (Awesomatix), Sidney Blokker (ARC), Mitchell Van Es (Awesomatix), Rick Van den Akker (Xray) and Jonathan Gergen (Xray).
The start of A1 was quite dramatic for Rick Van den Akker. On his warmup lap, Rick hit a photographer at full speed on the main straight and wrote his car off. The photographer was fortunately ok, but Rick couldn’t compete in A1 as his car was totally destroyed.
Olivier took the hole shot and claimed an uncontested victory in front of Mitchell Van Es. Sidney Blokker had to retire on lap 1, so this opened up the fight for the P3 position. Some five seconds behind Mitchell, Florian Joos (Xray) overtook Jonathan Gergen for P3 and he was closely followed by Athan De Witte, who ran a new untested car and Govert Verbeke (Infinity). Florian did not have the fastest car, but kept the door shut. On lap 12, Athan undeliberately hit Florian and this allowed Jonathan and Govert through while Athan claimed P5 with his Yokomo.
In A2, Rick and Mitchell had a tangle on lap 2, which set Mitchell to the back of the field. In the meantime, Olivier put down some very fast lap times to create a gap to Sidney, who was closely followed by Rick. Rick tried everything in the book to pass Sidney, but couldn’t get past. In the meantime, Mitchell clawed his way back from P10 to P5, but couldn’t pass Florian, who once again kept the door shut. Mitchell tried everything, but couldn’t find a gap. Due to this battle, Mitchell was closely followed by Jonathan, Govert and Athan and they finished in this position.
Oli decided to sit out A3 and let the other drivers fight for the remaining podium spot. Mitchell quickly passed Sidney for P1 and set off. Sidney finished once again in front of Rick Van den Akker, who drove a completely rebuilt and untested car in great fashion. Florian ran in P4 but was hit at the end of the straight by Jonathan. Jonathan waited for Florian to recover, but his car was too badly damaged to continue. Athan put Jonathan under great pressure, but had to contempt himself with P5 in Q3. The overall position were Olivier Bultynck (Awesomatix), Mitchell Van Es (Awesomatix), Sidney Blokker (ARC), Rick Van Den Akker (Xray) and French driver Jonathan Gergen (Xray), who finished P5 on his first visit to this track.
Touring Stock was yet again the most popular class. As some Dutch front runners decided not to participate, the victory would be contested between last year champion Florian Joos, current Belgian championship leader Giovanni Moguez and Frank Baggen, the fast Dutch driver. Qualifying was all about Giovanni Moguez. He took Q1, Q2 and Q3 in great fashion in front of Florian Joos. Frank Baggen used his second set of tires in Q3 and almost managed a TQ run to contest Giovanni’s superiority, but as Florian won Q3 and Q4, Frank had to content himself with P3 overall. P4 on the grid went to the 12-years old Dutch driver Ivan Klaasen. The youngster demonstrated great maturity to outsmart seasoned drivers and earn himself a great starting position. Steve Deblaere rounded off the top 5 on the grid. Everyone expected Giovanni to run away in A1, but Florian had other plans. He kept in touch with Giovanni and kept pressurising him for the first six laps. On lap seven, Gio’s car spun out and Florian could not avoid him. Florian could soldier on with a tweaked car in P1, but Gio had to let even Frank pass for P2. Gio kept pushing Frank and passed him in great fashion. He reeled Florian in and tried to pass him on the penultimate turn. Unfortunately, the cars touched and Frank benefited from the melee. Florian claimed the victory from Giovanni, who found a way to pass Frank again. Ivan finished in a solid P4 in front of Steve.
Giovanni took the holeshot again in A2. Florian’s car was much better this round and he could challenge Giovanni’s lead even better. Coming onto the main straight, Gio tried to gain maximum speed, but cut the corner a bit too deep. This made his car spin in front of Florian, who just managed to avoid him. Unfortunately, Gio lost three seconds and his position to Frank. They fought hard for P2, but it in the end it was Frank who got P2 in front of Gio and Ivan, who kept his cool despite massive pressure from Steve.
Florian decided to run A3 to test a different bodyshell. He claimed A3 as well in front of Frank, Ivan, Steve and French racer Vincent Engler. Vincent uses his transmitter single handed, but manages to do so with much precision and speed. The overall ranking was Florian Joos (Xray), Frank Baggen (ARC), Giovanni Moguez (Xray), Ivan Klaasen (ARC) and Steve Deblaere (Serpent).
Formula was another hotly contested class. Everyone expected Olivier Bultynck to take the TQ honors, but in the end it was French champion Willy Voisangrin who put his Serpent on the TQ position. The new and much improved Volante tires that were run at the last ETS round in Trencin were outlawed at the last moment for this race. This decision meant the cars were more tricky to drive. Willy managed to get in three TQ runs, while Oli got the other two. Steve Deblaere (Serpent) qualified in P3 in front of youngster Liam Van de Wouwer (Xray) and French driver Ghislain Mantrand (Xray).
Before the start of the finals, Oli had an in-depth conversation with Krist Bultynck, his race engineer, and they went for a completely different setup. The gamble paid off as Oli was fast from the start. Willy did his best to defend his position, but when he ran a bit wide exiting the omega corner in lap one, Oli saw his opportunity and passed Willy. Steve also benefited from this situation to pass Willy, with young Liam Van de Wouwer hot on his heels. Willy managed to pass Steve again, who was closely followed by Liam and Bjorn Frederickx, who had a solid run for P5. A2 was almost a carbon copy of A1 with Oli passing Willy on lap 1 again. He set a string of fast lap times to create a cushion and managed his race afterwards. Willy was followed by Steve, Ghislain Mantrand and Bjorn Frederickx. Liam only finished in P7 after a too eager move from another racer, but he showed some great race craft by recovering from dead last. As Olli decided to sit out A3, the race for the remaining podium positions was wide open. Willy took the hole shot and convincingly won A3 in front of Steve, who had to fight off a very strong Liam for 5 minutes. Bjorn and Ghislain rounded off the top 5. The overall positions were: Olivier Bultynck (Shepherd), Willy Voisangrin (Serpent), Liam Van de Wouwer (Xray), Steve Deblaere (Serpent) and Ghislain Mantrand (Xray).
Pro 10 was the fastest class of the weekend. These cars managed to lap the track with sub-14 seconds lap times. Dutch driver Reinder Wilms was the strongest favourite for the TQ. Despite running into problems in Q1, he ran the next four qualifiers flawlessly and claimed an uncontested TQ. Belgian driver Patrick Vannieuwenhuyse was equally strong. He picked up the victory in Q1 and with some solid P2 finishes he claimed the overall 2nd spot on the grid. He was followed by German driver Tobias Weist, Dutch driver Mathijs Hermens and Swedish racer Magnus Sköld. Reinder continued his domination in the finals and made the grand slam of three victories. He was the only driver to hit the 22 laps. Patrick finished in P2 overall, followed by Tobias Weist, Mathijs Hermens and John De Kok, who jumped Magnus for P5.
Thanks to David Joos for the report.
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