The FIA Karting European Championships – OK and Junior have just started in Spain at the Kartódromo Internacional Lucas Guerrero in Valencia with 169 participants. Italian-licensed Brazilian Gabriel Gomez took pole position in Qualifying from the 86 OK drivers and the young German Taym Saleh was the fastest of the 83 OK-Junior drivers.

The first event of the FIA Karting season, the first of the four events of the OK and Junior European Championships takes place from 24th to 26th March in Valencia on the Mediterranean coast. The number of drivers present confirms a high and well-balanced entry which bodes well for the future. Qualifying Practice was held on Friday in the middle of the day under a light cloudy sky. The wind remained moderate and the temperature rose to above 20°. The conditions were therefore ideal.

The sessions were alternated between OK-Junior with Vega tyres and OK with MG tyres. The time difference between the categories was just over a second per lap, with the OKs in the lead. The drivers usually waited until the second half of their Qualifying session to go for a time, with their best performances coming between the second and third laps. The gaps between the contenders proved to be small.

Taym Saleh the Junior Poleman

It was the first time that Taym Saleh (DEU) achieved a pole position in the FIA Karting European Championship – Junior in his third year in the category. Running in the top 10 of Free Practice on Friday morning, Taym Saleh put in a superb performance in Session 3 to improve on his second lap with 55”343. His main rival in this series was Zac Drummond (GBR) at 0.026”, followed by Iacopo Martinese in 3rd by 0.064”. The first session was led by Niklas Schaufler (AUT) on 55’413, followed at 0.028” by Oleksandr Bondarev (UKR) and Christian Costoya (ESP) by 0.980”. Elliot Kaczynski (SWE) was the fastest in Session 2 in 55”385 with Thibaut Ramaekers (BEL) following by 4 hundredths, while Salin Hanna (COL) finished 3rd by 1.5 tenths.

In the overall ranking, Saleh was ahead of Kaczynski and Schaufler, followed by Drummond and Ramaekers in the top five, with Bondarev, Martinese, Hanna, Costoya and Bottaro completing a top 10 occupied by nine different countries. The top seven were separated by less than a tenth of a second.

OK: Gomez back on pole

Racing here under Italian licence, Gabriel Gomez had already made a name for himself by taking pole position at the 2021 FIA Karting World Championship – OK in Spain at Campillos. This year, the Brazilian shone at the beginning of the season at the opening of the European OK Championship by taking another Spanish pole position during the second Qualifying session with a time of 54”023. Alex Powell (JAM) and Arthur Poulain (FRA) followed him by more than a tenth. Luviwe Sambdula (ZAF) had previously set an initial reference time of 54”191 in Session 1, just a thousandth ahead of Kean Nakamura-Berta (GBR), then David Walther in 3rd a few hundredths further back. In Session 3, the 2022 Junior World Champion Enzo Tarnvanichkul (THA) came within 4 hundredths of pole position with Jan Przyrowski (POL) and Rene Lammers (NLD) grouped together by 0.080”.

Gomez, Tarnvanichkul and Sambudla formed the leading group against Powell and Przyrowski, while Nakamura-Berta, Poulain, Lammers, Walther and Turney completed the top 10.

Provisional schedule for the Valencia event

Saturday 25th March
09:00 – 10:13: Warm-up
10:15 – 17:55: Qualifying Heats – Live Streaming

Sunday 26th March
09:00 – 10:05: Warm-up
10:10 – 11:45: Super Heats – Live Streaming
13:15 – 14:40: Finals – Live Streaming

The Valencia event can be followed on the official FIA Karting Championship app for mobile devices and on the website.