31 teams will take part in the 31st 24 Heures Karting at Le Mans on 17-18 September. The main news is that the CRG team, one of the leading manufacturers in the market for competition karts, will be having its first outing in endurance.
It already has a very impressive set of results in sprint events. But the Italians will be up against tough opposition like the Sarthe RTKF outfit, seven-time Le Mans winner, which defends the colours of French kart, Sodikart. Another Italian manufacturer, Energy Corse, has a close partnership with the OTK Group whose makes Tony-Kart and Kosmic will supply chassis to top-ranking teams. Thus, the first CIK/FIA Endurance Champion title is a much sought-after one!
Eleven teams have entered for Group 1, the blue-riband category, which also awards the ultimate prize with the CIK/FIA Endurance Champion title. It will be given to the winner of this group, whose karts are powered by the new generation OK engines (2-stroke 125 cc motors pushing out between 38 and 40 bhp).
Italian team, CRG, a newcomer to endurance has a very impressive list of results at world championship level by drivers like Emmanuel Collard, Jan Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, etc. The quality of the driver line-up in the no. 8 kart proves that CRG isn’t coming to the 24 Heures Karting just to make up the numbers. Italians Flavio Camponeschi and Felice Tiene won the KF1 World Championship and the KF2 World Cup in 2012 respectively. This year Spanish driver Pedro Hiltbrand clinched the European OK Championship title and the KZ2 International Super Cup. Dutchman Henki Waldschmidt scored a third place on the European kart scene, and his progress in single-seaters culminated in an F1 test with Toyota in 2008. While there’s no doubting the speed of this trio, the team will have to cope with the specific challenges of endurance racing, in particular refuelling stops and the management of the five sets of LeCont tyres allowed.
The Sarthe RTKF team, 7-time winner of the 24 Heures Karting, have a head’s start in this field. Claude Jamin’s team has announced that it will retire at the end of 2016 so it obviously wants to bow out on a high note on the international scene. Sarthe RTKF has had very close links with the Sodikart factory for many years. This fruitful collaboration has contributed to the development of chassis built near Nantes which, besides their speed, have shown bullet-proof reliability. Charles Fiault, Gautier Becq and Kevin Petit, three former winners, will team up with Anthoine Hubert at the wheel of the no. 1 Sodi-Parilla, which has racked up four victories on the bounce. Two months ago Hubert scored his first win in the European Formula 3 Championship. The no. 72 kart, leader of the French Endurance Championship, will be driven by Victor Compère, an ASK ACO licence holder who has been racking up victories this year, Maxime Bidard winner of the event in 2011, William Godefroid and Thomas Ricci.
Also watch out for Sarthe GTL Energy Corse which has become an increasingly competitive team with every passing year. They have close links with the Italian Energy factory, whose boss Michele Panigada has never hidden his passion for the 24 Heures Karting. The crew for the 31st 24 Heures Karting comprises Vincent Gendry, Tony Lavanant, European KZ2 Champion in 2008 with Energy, Nicolas Markiewicz and François Surut.
Among the best privateers who have chosen the French Sodi technology two names stand out: Centre Wintec, which won the first two rounds of the French Championship, including the Le Mans 6 Hours. Among its four drivers is Wilfrid Lecarpentier from Normandy, the record holder for victories in the 24 Heures Karting with eight. Le Mans PSM Karting, whose premises are only a stone ’s throw from the International Karting circuit, has put together an impressive driver line-up that includes the best woman racer in 2015, Cécile Martini,. The four drivers in the ambitious Rouen GSK REK squad have all scored wins at international level in karts and cars and are all determined to shine in the Sarthe.
As is the case every year La Manche Kart Mag spearheading the Tony chassis attack is another one to watch. This year the manufacturer and the team are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their victory at Le Mans. Jacky Foulatier who is also the promoter of the event with KMO will be the team manager. He is the record holder for the number of starts, but this year he has decided to not to line up for the 28th time! The very experienced British team, London Kookeli with the number 9, has also entered Group 1 with a Tony.
The blue-riband category obviously deserves its status, but the 20 entries in Group 2 with the “Coupes de Marques” engines won’t be there just to play walk-on roles. Eighteen will use the Rotax Max. Sarthe RTKF has placed great hopes in its no. 11 Sodi whose team leader is none other than 4-time winner of the event, Jacques Gautier. Val d’Oise JFJ Performance Sodi and Vincent Fraïsse, victorious in the 24 Heures Karting in 2009, who has also won just about everything in sprint races in the last few years, will also be aiming for the topmost step of the podium.
And for the first since 2005 a 100% women’s team has entered for the 24 Heures Karting, which is really worth celebrating. Oise RM Concept Ladies comprises Eva Bénès, Caroline Martel, Lydie Valichon and Pauline Dabert. They have always been among the front-runners in mixed races and they have all finished in the top 5 in the French Women’ Championship. The first-named was crowned champion in 2014.
Hats off to St Tropez Sonik who have entered three Kosmic-Rotaxs including two in the Master class reserved for drivers of over 35. 1992 champion, Olivier Fiorucci, has taken advantage of this to make his comeback!
Thus, appearing on the 24 Heures Karting podium this year will not be easy. To discover who has found the best compromise between speed and reliability rendezvous at 15:00 on Saturday 17th September to enjoy a 24-Hour race, which looks like it’s going to be a thriller! Free entry for all and spectacle guaranteed!