Genk in Belgium was the destination for the opening round of the 2016 RGMMC Rotax Euro Challenge Championship.
Adam Smalley continued his great form in European, taking his second pole position in a row after the Winter Cup to give himself the perfect position to target the big points in the following heats.
Smalley went off the first heat from pole, leading for the majority of the race. However on lap 6 he was passed by one of his rival, who made the most of the tow on the long straights to make his move. Smalley held on for 2nd at the finish.
Heat 2 saw Smalley deposed for the lead early on, but he stayed with the leading group as they battled for victory all race long. Smalley finished the heat in 3rd position, just 0.8s off the lead.
Heat 3 saw Smalley knocked back to 7th position at the start of the 2nd lap after plenty of loading in the opening lap of the race. Undeterred, Smalley got into a rhythm and tore back up the field into 2nd position on the final lap, which he held to the line, just 1.5s off the win.
The results of the heats gave Smalley 2nd on the grid for the Pre-Final. Smalley made a fantastic start to take the lead early on, before a battle between the top 4 raged on throughout the race. After numerous position changes, Smalley finished in 3rd.
The final saw Smalley start from 3rd. After initially losing one position in the opening jostling, he retook his starting position and joined the battle for the win. The top three ran within 0.5s of each other for the majority of the race until the 12th lap. An incident delayed Smalley and one of his rivals as the leader took the opportunity to take advantage and pull a gap for a safe win. Smalley fell just short of taking 2nd position by a mere 0.2s.
Sadly Smalley was deemed responsible for the 12th lap incident, where he was given a 10 second penalty added too his race time, meaning he was classified 19th after all the judicial procedures.
In Seniors, Josh White was again in great form, taking the 2nd fastest time overall in qualifying. The opening heat saw White maintain his 2nd position after a close battle all race long with the eventual heat winner. Teammate Josh Skelton embarked on the start of his recovery after struggling in qualifying to finish 15th. Heat 2 saw Tom Croydon and Stephanie Le Vesconte endure a difficult race in the tightly packed grid, finishing 17th and 22nd respectively.
The third heat saw White pushed down the order at the start, falling as low as 13th, which he quickly recovered from as the fastest kart on circuit taking 6th at the flag. Tom Croydon and Stephanie Le Vesconte held their own well to move up the order, Skelton made the most progress with a 7 place gain.
The heats gave White 4th on the grid for the Pre-Final and teammate Skelton in 22nd. A combative race saw White baulked in his progress through the pack on the opening lap, having to repeat his 3rd heat heroics to come home in 9th position, one place ahead of Skelton who had gained 12 positions in the Pre-Final.
The final as expected was a fiercely fought race, with Josh White bearing the brunt of some exuberant driving on the penultimate lap. After charging up to 4th position, an ambitious move by a rival driver resulted in White being completed taken off the circuit, and out of contention for a podium finish for which he pace certainly deserved. Skelton survived the carnage around him to deliver a very solid 10th position at the flag.
Overall the opening round of the championship was a bittersweet one for the Rotax team, clear pace was masked by unfortunate incidents marring the weekends of Smalley and White, denying them podium finishes. Despite this, the continued strong pace of the team can only lead to success as the season goes on.