The second round of the European Superkart Championship saw Europe’s best Superkart racers descend on Norfolk’s Snetterton Circuit, joining forces with the fifth and sixth rounds of the British Superkart Championship and the 32ndBritish Superkart Grand Prix. This Superkart bonanza saw thirty-six drivers in the premier class of Superkarting worldwide in action, and we were treated to some epic racing.
After two Qualifying sessions on Saturday morning, it was reigning European Champion Emmanuel Vinuales who lined up on pole; his session two time of 1:46.503 nearly two seconds under the existing lap record enough to edge out Lee Harpham by a quarter of a second, who in turn was three quarters of a second up on recently crowned UK Cup holder Chris Needham, joined on row two by Adam Kout. Returning former champion Damian Payart beat off Gavin Bennett by four hundredths of a second, with European Championship leader Marcel Maasmann just behind. Eighth on the grid and the surprise of qualifying was Romano de Ruit, driving for UK based Redspeed Racing setting a great lap to beat Daniel Hentschel back onto the fifth row, alongside defending Superkart GP winner Carl Hulme.
For Needham his race one was over as quickly as it had begun, failing to complete the first lap that was headed by Harpham, with Kout in close attendance, Vinuales dropping to third with Bennett fourth and Maasmann fifth. Harpham, who had won race one at Hockenheim and led race two before his chain snapped, was quick to assert his authority, dropping straight into the 1:47’s and pulling out a near two second lead by the time Vinuales passed Kout by the end of lap four, Bennett following him past the Czech driver, while Maasmann dropped into the clutches of Payart, with Liam Morley and de Ruit battling over seventh. Vinuales was hunting down Harpham, reeling in half a second on lap five, but a lap later he was gone, and from there Harpham had an unchallenged run to the flag, taking his second win of the season, with Bennett joining him on the podium. Behind them, Kout had been mugged by Payart for third on lap seven and breezed to the podium, Kout finishing a lonely fourth, with Liam Morley pulling a gap finishing an excellent fifth ahead of de Ruit. Some nine seconds further back, Carl Hulme had a great run to finish seventh, while KZ convert Danny Bleek held off a spirited challenge for eighth from Stefan Malm, while a recovery drive from Maasmann after an off on lap eight saw him round out the top ten.
Sunday’s race saw another sluggish start from Vinuales, dropping again to third behind Bennett while Harpham sprinted into an early lead. Needham again found himself sidelined early, capping another frustrating weekend from a driver clearly capable of challenging for wins at the level, and he was joined by Morley on lap four. Vinuales again fought his way back to second by the end of lap four, and closed in to within six tenths of a second of the leader, but Harpham galvanised, opening the gap back out to nearly two seconds and held off the reigning champion to the chequered, a fantastic result for the Redspeed Racing driver after the disappointment of missing out on the double in Germany. Behind the lead duo, Bennett was under pressure from team-mates Maasmann and de Ruit for third, with Kout and Payart close enough to capitalise on any mistakes from the group infront. In the end though, as de Ruit and Bennett battled onto the final lap, Maasmann snuck past and took revenge on his Race one issues to finish on the podium while Bennett resisted the attentions of de Ruit to finish fourth. Payart opened up a gap over Kout in the latter stages to take a solid sixth place, Danny Bleek had another fantastic race to finish eighth again, with Henrik Vejen three seconds back in ninth, and Charles Craven held off Henrik Lilja for tenth place.
Ten drivers opted not to start the British Superkart GP race later on Sunday afternoon, Vinuales being one of them, so it looked as though it would be an easy run to another GP victory for Lee Harpham. Early on, Bennett and Maasmann looked to be keeping him honest, but as they started to battle Harpham opened up a lead that he wouldn’t relinquish. Bennett’s race lasted three and a half laps, and it was left to Liam Morley to take up the challenge to the Redspeed Racing duo. Try as he might, he couldn’t seem to find a way past Maasmann for second, and a last lap lunge left him scrambling to rejoin the track, rejoining five seconds behind a somewhat surprised Danny Bleek, inheriting a fantastic third place finish behind a delighted Harpham, winning his third GP, and Maasmann. Charles Craven finished two seconds behind Morley in fifth, with Henrik Vejen a distance sixth. Some fourty-five seconds off the lead, Ingvar Bierge held off Robert Gregory for seventh, Kevin Busby keeping a watching brief in ninth, and Laurens Westerdijk finishing nearly a minute back on the winner in tenth place.
Leaving Snetterton, Lee Harpham takes the lead of the CIK-FIA European Championship ahead of Round 3 at Assen on the first weekend of August, eight points clear of Marcel Maasmann, with Gavin Bennett and Adam Kout level on points twenty-one behind the leader. Henrik Lilja and Henrik Vejen are benefitting from consistent finishing finding themselves fifth and sixth in the standings, ahead of Damian Payart and Emmanuel Vinuales, with Romano de Ruit and Daniel Hentschel in the top ten. In the British Championship, Gavin Bennett leaves Snetterton with a commanding lead ahead of Thruxton, Charles Craven lies 56 points behind in second, with Malcolm Crowe, Liam Morley and Chris Needham split by eight points around 90 points behind Bennett. Can Harpham finally win the European Championship? Can anyone catch Bennett in the British Series? Two events left for each series will decide it.