De Vries Edges Closer to 2nd World Title
Defending Champion, Nyck de Vries survived a poor qualifying practice session and some combative racing to end the day on the brink of another CIK-FIA World Karting Crown. His rivals all gained some ground in race one but the champion turned the tables on them in race 2.
Poland’s Karol Basz (right) raced to two outstanding wins on his 20th birthday.
Italian Ignacio d’Agosto (Tony Kart-Vortex) was fastest in a very competitive Qualifying Practice, just O.OO8 of a second quicker than Karol Basz (RK-BMB) and 0.05 faster than Englishman Alex Albon (Intrepid-TM). The big surprise was champion Nyck de Vries (Zanardi-Parilla) in a lowly 14th position more than 0.3 of a second off the pace.
D’Agosto made a good start and found himself in a big lead half way round the opening lap with Italian compatriot and Tony Kart team-mate Flavio Camponeschi (Tony Kart-Vortex) leading the chasing pack. Albon was slowly away and there was no lightning start by De Vries from row 7. The champion moved into the top 10 on lap 3 and Albon went up to 5th at one quarter race distance. By half way, Basz was running in 4th and De Vries 6th. With Camponeschi getting closer to D’Agosto, he was unexpectedly passed by Basz. At three quarter race distance main rivals Albon and De Vries were together on track in 5th and 6th places. Then with 4 laps remaining, Basz took the lead and Albon and De Vries also gained a place. With one and a half laps to go De Vries passed Albon, but the Englishman regained the place moments later. There were no further place changes but Camponeschi was promoted into 2nd place when D’Agosto was assessed a 2 secs penalty that dropped him to 3rd. Albon had perhaps missed a chance to make major inroads into the champion’s 18 points lead. In fact, De Vries considered 5th place to be ‘OK in the circumstances’. Karol Basz described the result as ‘a surprise birthday present’.
Contact on the first turn led to a significant change of order but pole-man Basz was soon clear. Libor Toman (Birel-BMB) Japanese ‘wildcard’ Kiyoto Fujinami (LH-TM) found themselves up front behind the leader. By lap 3 Basz was almost out of sight but Albon came through to third. Determined driving by Albon had him in 2nd place at the expense of Toman. De Vries moved up to 5th but Albon was pulling away to try to chase down Basz. The Polish driver still had a huge lead at half way, but the defending champion got past Camponeschi and on lap 12 was closing on Albon.
De Vries went by briefly but Albon regained the place. We anticipated a great battle, but they touched and both drivers suffered. Camponeschi and Yu Kanamuru (Tony Kart-Vortex) both benefitted although 2 laps later De Vries got by Camponeschi and Albon was left in his wake. At 15 laps De Vries briefly lost 3rd but immediately regained it. Albon was now 6th behind d’Agosto. Kanamuru came under late pressure from the champion, but the chequered flag came with ‘birthday boy’ Basz having a huge winning margin but Kanamuru having less than half a length in front of De Vries. Camponeschi, d’Agosto and Albon were 4-5-6 so De Vries had gained ground from his 3 closest championship rivals.
Nyck de Vries was forthright in the Press Conference. ‘I’m quite satisfied when you consider where we started today. But at Briefing the Race Director had said that he wanted to see fair racing with the championship still wide open. I believe I drove fairly, but some others in my opinion did not and that was disappointing’.
For Karol Basz it was an amazing day. ‘Today was perfect for me – and on my birthday. I want to thank my team and I want to win again tomorrow. Suzuka is definitely my favourite track now’ he said with a big smile.
Local Hero Yu Kanamuru made an interesting point. ‘I usually have a very bad Saturday in this championship. This was my best Saturday of the season with 2nd and 6th. Of course I know the track very well. I have driven here since I was very young’ he said.