Motorsport News - Karting
Russell makes history as European junior karting champion two years running
6th August 2012
CIK-FIA European Champions 2012
The 2011 KF3 European Champion, George Russell, made history on Sunday, becoming the first driver ever to become European junior karting champion two years running and he did so for the newly-formulated Forza Racing in their debut year. Meanwhile, the remaining Forza KF trio showed great promise at the final round of the European KF2 and KF3 Championships at PF International (22 July).
The 14-year-old Forza Racing star, George Russell, dominated both points-scoring races in the final round of the European KF3 Championship to complete a successful defence of the title he won in 2011. With three wins from the four rounds of the series, and with each driver's worst score discarded, Russell registered a maximum 75 points in the final standings - a whopping 27 clear of Spaniard Alex Palou and Frenchman Dorian Boccolacci.
Although he had already confirmed his standing as favourite with a win at the first round of the Championship in Varennes (France), Russell became victim of an errant driver in the second final scoring zero points. Not only was Russell under pressure to retain his title at his home circuit, there was no room for error and the weekend in Lincolnshire was far from plain sailing for the Forza Racing team. Russell had to fight back after suffering severe tyre issues in the rain-hit qualifying session on Friday morning: "For some reason our tyres weren't working and we were three seconds off the pace," explained George. This placed George in a lowly 30th position after qualifying meaning he would have to start all of his five heats back in tenth place and on the more difficult outer side of the grid. Fortunately weather conditions changed from rain to sunshine and the Forza Racing team were then able to make the switch to slick tyres for the remainder of the weekend.
Top-five finishes in all five of Russell's heats - including one win - put him seventh on the grid for the first of the two point-scoring finals. With home advantage on his side, Russell stormed into the lead in just five laps and promptly pulled away to beat Boccolacci by almost two seconds: "I had to put in a lot of good laps to pull away and build up a lead," said George. "I did so well with that that I was able to ease off towards the end and save my tyres for the second final."
That win gave Russell pole position for the title decider, and after a heated fight with Croatia's Martin Kodric in the early stages, George was again able to stamp his authority on the rest of the field. "Kodric fought hard because he knew that if I got a bit of a lead, I'd be gone," said George. "I managed to get ahead of him, and then he got caught up with the drivers behind, and that gave me the opportunity to pull away."
That second win secured a second European title for Russell, and sets him up nicely to challenge later in the season for the other big prizes in junior karting, such as the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy and the KF3 World Cup. "It feels amazing to win the title again, and I'm really happy to have done it at home in England too," said a delighted George. "Now we have to go on to try and win the KF3 World Cup at Zuera in Spain in September - we have an event there (in the WSK Euro Series) next month where we can try to get some testing and get ourselves ready."
Meanwhile KF2 newcomer Josh Read had some strong pace on a track he knows well from his MSA British Kart Championship outings, but was let down by a series of mechanical problems, mostly related to his engine. A retirement and a series of incidents left him down in 69th place after the heat phase, meaning he would have to settle for a place in the B Final. There a further engine failure put him out of the race two laps from the end.
Forza Racing team manager Jamie Croxford said that Josh will learn plenty from his first major experience of international kart racing: "It's been the biggest race of his career so far and he's done better than his results suggest. Last year he was racing in the KF3 junior class, being run by his dad, and he's come a long way since then. He's improved a lot through this experience and this'll put him in good stead for next year, when he'll hopefully race at international level a lot more."
Forza's two youngsters in the KF3 class, Billy Monger and Russian newcomer Robert Shwarztman both struggled in qualifying due to their diminutive size. Although very fast in dry conditions, both struggled in rain-hit sessions to get any heat in their tyres as they had little body weight to put pressure into the Vega rubber. With only ballast to help them get up to the class minimum weight, it put them at a disadvantage compared to their rivals and both failed to qualify for the points-scoring finals.
"Billy and Robert would have done much better if the entire weekend was dry," explained Jamie. "Because the timed qualifying session [that sets the grids for all the heat races] was wet, it left them with too much to do in the heats because they were coming from too far back."
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