It's hard to see the smiles under the masks, but the Drivers returned to International Competition with great pleasure and excitement for the opening of the FIA Karting European Championship - OK & Junior, organised from 30th July to 2nd August in Spain, on the Zuera circuit. Undoubtedly due to the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic and the difficulty of moving from one country to another for some of them, the number of entrants announced could not be maintained at the level hoped for by the organisers, with a total of 130 drivers present out of the 183 registered. The young Driver Valerio Rinicella (ITA - Parolin/TM Racing/LeCont) was the fastest in OK-Junior and Taylor Barnard (GBR - KR/IAME/LeCont) achieved a magnificent pole position in OK.
In Aragon, close to the historic city of Zaragoza, the expected summer heat is very much in evidence. Throughout this first official day, the competitors had to contend with temperatures close to 40°, with overheated asphalt and ground temperatures of around 55° recorded by the manufacturer LeCont, official supplier of tyres to the two categories of OK and OK-Junior.
The official free practice session began on Friday, 31st July, and allowed the Drivers to refine their preparation for the qualifying heats, which are so important given the extremely narrow gaps within the two categories. All this, of course, in strict compliance with the health protocol approved by the FIA and implemented by RGMMC, promoter of the FIA Karting Championships since 2018.
Taylor Barnard confirms in OK
For his second year in the category, Taylor Barnard got off to a perfect start in his FIA Karting European Championship with a splendid pole position. "The work done during free practice paid off and the objective was clearly to be able to start from the front row in the qualifying heats," admitted the Briton, who has been wearing the colours of the Rosberg Racing Academy since 2018. "Of course, the hardest part is still to come, as the competition is very strong here in Spain. Nothing will be easy, just like the heat we'll have to deal with."
Qualifying was extremely close, with Sweden's Norton Andreasson (Tony Kart/Vortex/LeCont) setting a time identical to Barnard's, at 59”939 and an average of over 102km/h on one of the fastest tracks of the season. The second fastest lap of each Driver had to be used to differentiate between them! Two other drivers managed to go under a minute, namely Kimi Antonelli (ITA - KR/IAME/LeCont) and Hannes Janker (DEU - KR/IAME/LeCont). Enzo Trulli (ITA - KR/IAME/LeCont) completed the top five.
Rinicella leads in Junior by just a tenth!
Valerio Rinicella created a surprise by beating all the favourites in the age 12-14 category. The Italian, who was still racing in Mini in 2019, pulled off his first big coup in the upper echelon. "I think we have opted for the right strategy. The Drivers in the first two sessions chose to start very late and took the risk of doing just one fast lap. I was able to do one more lap and that was the key to qualifying. As well as feeling very comfortable with my equipment, the option tyres we use in OK-Junior were very consistent throughout the session," commented Valerio.
In the top 10, there were many Drivers from Session 3, such as Igor Cepil (CZE - KR/IAME/LeCont), Nikola Tsolov (BGR - KR/IAME/LeCont) and William Macyntire (GBR - Birel Art/TM Racing/LeCont), who were respectively ranked between 3rd and 5th. In this context, the 2nd fastest time for Brando Badoer (ITA - KR/IAME/LeCont) should be highlighted.
Provisional timetables for Saturday 1st August
08:00 - 09:40: warm-up
09:45 - 18:40: qualifying heats
The Zuera Competition can be followed on the official FIA Karting Championship app for iOS and Android mobile devices and on the website www.fiakarting.com.