This afternoon’s qualifying session on the Le Mans International Karting circuit for the 24 Heures Karting was an action-packed one. After racking up very impressive results in sprint races the CRG works team clinched pole and its aim is to upset the established order on its debut in endurance. Apart from a few surprises, the favourites monopolised the top of the time sheets. The 31st event should be the theatre of some thrilling battles, all the more so as the weather forecast says it should remain fine for the weekend!
Yesterday, the 31 teams entered began their race preparation on a dry track starting with a free practice session in the afternoon followed by night practice, which ended at 23:30. The Sarthe RTKF drew first blood setting the fastest time in the daytime session thanks to Victor Compère in no. 72. Then the CRG team’s works Italian drivers in the no. 8 kart gave a glimpse of their potential by clinching the best time in night-time practice.
The times set in Friday morning’s session didn’t really mean much due to changing weather conditions PSM Le Mans, another local team whose workshops are based very close to the famous Les Hunaudières straight, made the best of the conditions and set the quickest time. CRG was back on top in the final rehearsal before qualifying in the afternoon.
It began at 15:25 in the rain. In GP1, the blue-riband category in which the karts powered by the new OK engines are fighting for the first CIK/FIA Endurance title, there was an almost immediate upset. In Q4 (first part of the session) the no. 50 Tony-Vortex entered by La Manche Kartmag was eliminated. The team managed by Jacky Foulatier, record holder for the number of participations in the event, were at a loss to explain this counter performance apart from saying that they didn’t get the strategy right. CRG driver Felice Tiene was already at the top of the time sheets.
The next surprise was that the no. 24 kart run by Centre-Wintec, winner of the first two races in the French Endurance Championship, was eliminated in Q3. This team, one of whose drivers is the 8-time winner of the race, Wilfrid Lecarpentier, will start on the second-last row of the grid tomorrow at 15:00. Up front, CRG was still fastest thanks to 2012 KF1 world champion, Flavio Camponeschi. His team-mate, former Toyota F1 test driver, Henki Waldschmidt, dominated Q2.
Pedro Hiltbrand didn’t make any mistakes when the time came to clinch pole for the Italian team on a track that was still greasy and tricky, a
performance that was expected from the OK European champion and winner of the 2016 KZ2 International Super Cup! “For me and for the team, it’s a new experience,” said the Spanish driver. “Enjoying ourselves is also one of our aims. We’ve proved that we’ve got the speed over a lap, but we’re not really 1%% sure about what could happen to us over 24 hours.” It’s worth recalling that CGR has good memories of its last visit to Le Mans. It was in 2015 and Lonato del Garda’s team’s karts scored a double in the KZ World Speed Championship.
The no. 55 Rouen GSK REK kart was second quickest with its Sodi chassis and its talented foursome consisting of Nicolas Duchateau, Jean-Philippe Guignet and Belgian brothers, Benjamin and Sébastien Bailly. The reigning winners, Sarthe RTKF 1, were next and will start in third place.
French team Parma Malevaut Sport grabbed pole in the GP2 category. Romain Mangé set the fastest time in Q1 putting his no. 17 Tony-Vortex DVS in eighth place overall. This driver has also raced in the 24 Heures Motos on several occasions. Following him in ninth and tenth places on the grid are the nos 95 and 96 karts entered by Val d’Oise – JFJ Performance and IDF – Willkart Team.
The four women drivers in the no. 66 RM Concept Ladies team’s kart finished 27th, and the quickest Masters (drivers aged over 30), St Tropez Sonic Masters appeared in 16th place.
The weather’s looking good so a large crowd is expected on Saturday 17th September for the presentation of the teams starting at 13:25, followed by the start at 15:00 given by Julien Canal from Le Mans who’s taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours and is racing in the European Le Mans Series. Before that, the next generation will have a chance to show its talent in the 24 Minutes Minikart reserved for young drivers between 7 and 10. The always very impressive Kart Legend demonstration will give everybody an opportunity to travel back though the history of kart racing.
In addition to this free spectacle visitors can rent karts and have fun, while race simulators are available in the relaxed convivial ambiance of the Open Air Party, which will set the rhythm of the weekend’s festivities from 14:00 to 02:00 on Sunday morning!