After a successful debut at the Norfolk venue of Snetterton in 2012, the MSA British Superkart Grand Prix had returned in 2013 for its 33rd year of competition. The meeting on the 13th and 14th July also saw the addition of the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship, making its second ever visit to Snetterton as part their 2013 calendar of six races. With Britain’s Lee Harpham being the front runner in 2012 at Snetterton, by taking both the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship victories and the MSA British Superkart Grand Prix win, he was returning to Snetterton as the reigning CIK/FIA European Superkart Champion and holding the Division 1 Superkart GP plate. Over the eight European races in 2012, Lee had successfully overhauled Dutchman and team mate Marcel Massmann, by a winning margin of fourteen points with the Dutchman no scoring at the final round on the famous Le Mans-Bugatti circuit in France.
For 2013, the new season saw Snetterton hosting the opening rounds of the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship, with two races before a whole host of international talent included their entry into the MSA British Superkart Grand Prix. For the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship with only four rounds to compete in, the opportunities to score maximum points or fall back on a no score are limited. For Snetterton, the long straights and twisty corners really suit the little “Pocket Rockets” as the Superkarts can reach speeds of 150mph, performing at their maximum and slipstreaming is favourable down the straights and into the corners. This means for defending champion Lee Harpham, a run of form like last year will certainly be the best possible way of regaining the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship crown, with everyone having a great chance at Snetterton due to circuit formations. Already in 2013 things haven’t gone to plan in the UK for Lee, in terms of the Superkarts however in the smaller F125 Open Series he is Championship leader after three rounds. With limited test or race time in his Superkart, Lee was concerned his pace might not be up to the standards of his rivals, especially fellow Brit Gavin Bennett. Gavin has been a regular Superkart competitor in Europe, winning multiple championships and scoring an impressive fourth in the 2012 CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship. Being a front runner in the Division 1 Superkarts, Gavin approached the British Grand Prix as the championship leader in the BSA National Championships for Division 1 Superkarts, after taking a double victory at Silverstone on the 9th June. The 2011 Champion warmed-up for the British Grand Prix with a dominating performance at the opening round at Silverstone and especially looked good beating guest driver Lee Harpham, who settled for second in both races.
Victory for France in Opening European Encounter
With twenty-five competitors lining up for the first round of the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship, Britain’s Gavin Bennett lined up on pole position, with a combined time of 1:46.395, to beat Frenchmen and 2011 Champion Emmanuel Vinuales by 0.206 in Saturday’s qualifying under the Norfolk sun. With temperatures reaching way into the twenties, the opening race was certainly going to be hot and fiery, with a packed grid of international talent looking to start their European campaign in the best possible way, especially as reigning champion Lee Harpham only qualified tenth.
From the lights it was Frenchmen Emmanuel Vinuales who got the better get away and judged the rolling start perfectly to lead into turn one, followed by Liam Morley. For Liam, the move into second saw him jump from row three on the grid, clearing Harvey, Lilja and Bennett. On the second lap Bennett was able to get the jump on Morley and retake second, however he was already losing ground to Vinuales. The Frenchman was lapping faster in the early stages and on lap five, one of the front runners was out of contention, as Liam Morley retired from the race with ignition problems and lost power.
The unfortunate moment for Morley broke up a perfect all English tussle but Bennett wasn’t clear. With Norway’s Henrik Lilja inheriting third in the all yellow machine, he began chasing down the multiple champion and pushing hard to claim second spot. Very early on in the race, Bennett and Lilja were split by 0.5 seconds, with the Norwegian trying everything to pass the Brit. As these two fought for second, it was the perfect advantage for Vinuales to break clear and control the pace of the race. By the halfway mark on lap six, the Frenchmen was nearly one second clear and free to extend his advantage.
Behind the front three, the battle for the rest of the top ten had been very exciting from the off. After qualifying tenth and looking to move forward, reigning champion Lee Harpham had a lot to do. After making ground early on, Lee found himself within the top five by halfway and battling over fourth position with team mate Marcel Massmann. With a gap to make up on the podium places, Lee and Marcel tried working as a unit and decreased the gap lap by lap. Lapping in the 1:48 mark, Lee unfortunately wasn’t faster than the front three and by lap nine, found himself six seconds off Henrik Lilja.
In the closing stages of the opening European race, Harpham had pulled clear of rival Massmann and then by the end of lap nine found himself on the podium. On the tenth lap of the race, Lilja suffered from a detached floor tray, meaning it was impossible to continue, after a long tussle with Gavin Bennett. With Lilja free from Bennett, he began attempting to reel in Vinuales, which with two laps remaining was impossible.
As Vinuales took the flag on lap eleven by over two seconds, Gavin Bennett comfortably took second with Harpham nearly six seconds back. For Lee and his team, the podium was a huge boost, especially after all the dramas in qualifying. As Massmann came home fourth, he had held off Germany’s Daniel Henschel, who in turn had to keep Britain’s Dave Harvey at bay, as the two were split by 0.087 across the line.
CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship – Race One – Top Six Classification:
1. Emmanuel Vinuales (FRA) – 11 laps – 20:03.871
2. Gavin Bennett (GBR) = +2.081
3. Lee Harpham (GBR) = +8.628
4. Marcel Massmann (NED) = +13.707
5. Daniel Henschel (GER) = +16.150
6. Dave Harvey (GBR) = +16.237
No Stopping Vinuales after scoring a European Double.
For the second race of the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship, Vinuales and Bennett lined up on the front row to do battle again around the Snetterton 300 circuit for the second eleven lap race of the season. With Henrik Lilja and Dave Harvey lined up behind, it was Lilja who joined the front two into turn one and pushed ahead of Vinuales to follow Bennett, who led the race by 0.461 seconds by the close of lap one.
From the rolling start, it was Bennett this time who broke ahead of Vinuales to lead into turn one but Henrik Lilja muscled his way into second, rejecting the Frenchmen to third and under pressure from Dutchman Marcel Massmann. Breaking into the top six early on was Czech Adam Kout. After a first lap exit in race one, the 2012 fifth placed runner was making good work of his fourth row start.
With Lilja and Bennett battling for the lead and having a gap of under a second, Vinuales comfortably held third after pulling clear of Kout. Behind the Czech, a huge battle was occuring between team mates Massmann and Harpham, with Henschel joining the fray. Harpham was able to overcome his team mate on lap eight, as the Dutchman started struggling due to his throttle sticking. As the team mates diced for fifth, Adam Kout pulled clear by over three seconds by the time Harpham moved ahead of Massmann.
Back at the front the podium positioned had changed by lap seven as Vinuales moved ahead of Lilja and started to chase Bennett hard. With the front three running under a second, the change of position was no surprise and the Frenchman was lapping faster than the Brit. As the two were split by 0.5 on the last lap, Vinuales took his moment and dived for the lead. Passing the Brit with no problems, Bennett lost time on his rival after running wide, crossing the line 3.360 seconds adrift.
With the Frenchman taking his second win of the weekend and completing the European double, similar to Harpham in 2012, drama hit both Vinuales and Bennett once the flag came down. Across the line, Bennett’s Anderson/DEA Superkart run out of fuel, whilst Vinuales broke down half way around the Snetterton circuit in his Anderson/DEA. If this drama had hit both a lap earlier, a DNF could have been on their score cards rather than a first and a second. It could be stated that both had saved their points by breaking down post-race instead of before the flag.
CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship – Race Two – Top Six Classification:
1. Emmanuel Vinuales (FRA) – 11 Laps – 19:38.562
2. Gavin Bennett (GBR) = +3.360
3. Henrik Lilja (NOR) = +4.693
4. Adam Kout (CZE) = +17.012
5. Lee Harpham (GBR) = +18.057
6. Daniel Henschel (GER) = +22.659
For the second round of the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship, the “Pocket Rockets” will visit Assen in Holland on the 2nd – 4th of August. After visiting the famous Dutch circuit in 2012, after the Snetterton round, the championship returns with yet another mass of Dutch representatives taking part. 2012 saw complete home circuit domination from Marcel Massmann and in 2013 it will be no surprise if a Dutchman is in contention for victory on home soil. The series will head for France for its penultimate and final meetings of 2013 on the famous Magny Cours circuit before drawing to a close in October later as the championship makes a trip to the Le Mans-Bugatti in October. With the final two rounds in France, 2011 champion Emmanuel Vinuales will hope to be in the best position to use his circuit knowledge and home advantage to boost him towards another European crown. After the opening round, advantage and knowledge of the final circuits certainly lies with Vinuales as the Snetterton double sits him perfectly at the top of the standings. Heading for Holland, Vinuales’ maximum of 50 points gives him confidence for the rest of the season but Gavin Bennett is surely not letting the Frenchmen leave his sights. Scoring two second placed finishes keeps the Multiple Champion close and the points split is currently at ten. For the reigning Champion Lee Harpham, a third and a sixth puts him third in the standings and under pressure already to regain the European title. Lee can certainly blame the weekend on the technical issues in qualifying as the cause of his struggles. Another front runner looking for home comforts in Holland will be the 2012 runner up Marcel Massman. The team mate to Lee Harpham collected a fourth and a seventh in the two races and takes points of twenty-two to Assen.
CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship Standings – Top Six:
1. Emmanuel Vinuales (FRA) = 25+25 = 50 Points
2. Gavin Bennett (GBR) = 20+20 = 40 Points
3. Lee Harpham (GBR) = 16+11 = 27 Points
4. Marcel Massman (NED) = 13+9 = 22 Points
5. Daniel Henschel (GER) = 11+10 = 21 Points
6. David Harvey (GBR) = 10+7 = 17 Points
To find out more about the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship, please click HERE
Bennett claims the 2013 GP Plate in style.
After taking a double in the European races, it was a surprise to see Emmanuel Vinuales missing from the grid and being a non-starter for the 33rd MSA British Superkart Grand Prix and losing his spot on pole position. Lining up on the front row all alone was Gavin Bennett, looking to go one better than the European races in the final Superkart race and take the GP crown away from fellow British rival Lee Harpham. With the entities of the CIK/FIA European Superkart Championship getting an automatic run in the Grand Prix, there was a grid of twenty-three, with the focus on sixth place starter Lee Harpham. After a weekend of ups and downs in the Division 1 Superkart, Lee was hoping to round off the weekend with a win.
Being all alone on the front row of the rolling start, Gavin benefitted from this to lead into Riches as Henrik Lilja moved into second, chased hard by Germany’s Daniel Henschel. With the three running very close on the opening lap, Liam Morley battled hard to move into fourth before more dramas completely ruined his weekend with a third DNF. Moving up the order in the early stages was regular BSA National Championships for Division 1 Superkarts runner Chris Needham. In the No.16 Superkart, he had struggled in the European races but was no running in the top five. Things were looking good for Needham until lap four, when he made a mistake and dropped way down the order.
As the leading three reached the mid-way point of the race, still in order of Bennett, Lilja and Henschel, the focus was on the battle for fourth. In pure karting fashion, Lee Harpham and Finland’s Vesa Lethtinen continued to swapped positions, mostly overtaking one another down the Bentley straight. As the two swapped and ran side by side, this was allowing Marcel Massmann to close them in, before he lost out to Britain’s David Harvey.
In the closing stages, Gavin Bennett was beginning to pull away from Lilja and had a comfortable margin of nearly two seconds. Things were similar for Lilja as he had left Henschel for dust. The closing stages were pretty calm for the front five runners and none were under pressure of losing a position. The only battle on the final lap was between Harpham and Lethtinen, but when the Fin put a wheel wrong, Harpham was straight pass and held on at the flag by a close 0.052 seconds.
For the race winner Gavin Bennett, this GP victory was his second in his fantastic Superkart career. After much success in the European series, Gavin was so relieved to claim his second GP win after it had been a long time since his first. For the reigning champion though, a fourth place finish rounded out a hard fought weekend for Lee, mainly started by the troubles in qualifying. After seeing a Frenchmen win the two European encounters on British soil, it was good that the weekend finished with a British Grand Prix winner and hearing the British national anthem played over the Norfolk venue of Snetterton.
33rd MSA British Superkart Grand Prix – Top Five Classification:
1. Gavin Bennett (GBR) – 11 Laps – 19:47.261
2. Henrik Lilja (NOR) = +2.412
3. Daniel Henschel (GER) = +6.849
4. Lee Harpham (GBR) = +16.202
5. Vesa Lethtinen (FIN) = +16.254
For the BSA National Championships for Division 1 Superkarts, the British Grand Prix race on Sunday allowed for Gavin Bennett to extend on championship glory, as the win added to his tally of two from the opener at Silverstone. His closet rival before Snetterton was Liam Morley, after scoring 67 points at Silverstone. At the Snetterton meeting, Morley had disasters in the European races and scored two DNFs but come the British Grand Prix, things never improved as he retired after seven laps. With a DNF in the GP and this counting towards the BSA National Championship, Morley lost ground on Bennett in the standings. With three rounds completed in the 2012 Championship, the series now moves south for its August meeting at Thruxton. The fast Hampshire circuit will host two races on the 17th and 18th August, before the finale at Donington Park on the 19th and 20th October, rounding out the year with rounds six and seven.
To find out more about the MSA British Superkart Grand Prix and other race meetings throughout the year please click HERE
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Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.