Börgens and Nilsson impress as Lotus Cup Europe 2023 season kicks off at Zolder

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Lotus Cup Europe’s 2023 season got underway this weekend, 1st & 2nd April, as the FIA International Series returned to Zolder, for the first time since the summer of ’21 with DTM. With cars all shod with the new Nankang CR-S tyre, the vast majority only receiving them upon their arrival at the Belgian circuit, and with atrocious weather to contend with, the opening round of the year was set to be an interesting one as drivers tried to get to grips with the extremely cold and wet conditions as well as the new tyres.

Reigning Exige Cup champion, Tamas Vizin, was a firm favourite coming into the weekend having taken pole position and a brace of overall second place finishes behind rival Bence Balogh when the championship last visited Zolder. The Hungarian looked set to repeat history as qualifying got underway, setting a lap time of 2:11.706 on only his third lap. However, with conditions slightly improving as the session went on Paul Maréchal was able to knock Vizin off the top spot but was unable to hold it for long as Rainer Börgens set an impressive 2:09.945. Maréchal picked up the pace, looking to jump back to the top, but a small mistake left him unable to make up the half a second gap and Börgens claimed an amazing and well-deserved pole in extremely difficult conditions.

Sven Pettersson and Nathalie Genoud-Prachex qualified on pole in their respective classes whilst Bailey Edwards was in a different league in the Production class, out qualifying the 211/Open class drivers as well as those in his own class.

Conditions having failed to improve in time for the opening race, meant the pack would start behind the safety car. Germany’s Börgens had hoped to make the most of his pole position but fellow Komo-Tec driver Vizin quickly took the lead once the safety car came in, the Hungarian putting on quite the show, sliding his way around the circuit whilst holding on to the lead all the way to the chequered flag. With Vizin having distanced himself from the rest of the pack, Börgens was left to defend his position from a determined Maréchal.

Britain’s Bailey Edwards kept the Production lead throughout the race until a spin on the final lap allowed dad Mick and Swede Robin Nilsson to shoot past. Former Exige V6 stalwart Nilsson having easily found his place amongst the front runners of the Production class. Vizin took the overall and Exige Cup win followed by Börgens and Maréchal. Last year’s Production champion, Jason McInulty was back in his gold Evora and took the win in the GT Cup class finishing ahead of Pettersson. Mick Edwards claimed the top step of the Production podium with Nilsson coming second, grabbing a remarkable fastest lap with Bailey third after a disappointing end to the race. Over in the 211/Open class, it was a win for Genoud-Prachex and her pink 2-Eleven, with David McInulty finishing second.

It would be another safety car start for Sunday’s race due to low temperatures and less than ideal track conditions. Börgens secured himself a comfortable lead early in the race, aided by the misfortune of his closest competition, as both Vizin and Maréchal were forced to return to the pits during the first few laps. Mechanical problems ultimately leaving Vizin with no choice but to retire from the race while Maréchal was tasked with just getting to the end with damage limitation on his points total. With the road ahead clear, Daniel Palma set his sights on Börgens but was unable to apply enough consistent pressure, whilst Pettersson and Thierry Verhiest battled for third. Pettersson being able to concentrate solely on claiming a spot on the overall podium following issues with McInulty’s Evora GT4 which left him watching the race from the side-lines.

Nilsson’s blue Elise Cup R flew around the circuit, the lead Production car sitting in fifth position overall amongst the Exige V6s for most of the race. Börgens took the chequered flag and a well deserved first ever race win ahead of Palma and GT Cup winner Pettersson, with Belgian and Lotus main dealer Thierry Verhiest coming in fourth, completing the Exige Cup podium, followed by fellow team member Nikolaj Ipsen. Nilsson took a well-deserved Production win after an incredible race, the Swede being chased down by Production favourite Mark Yates, lap after lap as conditions improved. Yates eventually going past only for a mistake to give Nilsson his first ever win in a perfect weekend for the Swede. Britain’s Mark Yates recovered for second followed by Mick Edwards who backed up his win in race one, another driver having an impressive opening weekend. The 211/Open class saw a repeat result of race one, with Genoud-Prachex finishing ahead of McInulty.

Lotus Cup Europe will next move to Germany as it visits Hockenheim 21st – 22nd April.

Podium standings:

Race 1OverallExige CupGT Cup211 OpenProduction
1st T Vizin T Vizin J McInulty N Genoud-Prachex M Edwards
2nd R Börgens R Börgens S Pettersson D McInulty R Nilsson
3rd P Maréchal P Maréchal B Edwards
Race 2OverallExige CupGT Cup211 OpenProduction
1st R Börgens R Börgens S Pettersson N Genoud-Prachex R Nilsson
2nd D Palma D Palma D McInulty M Yates
3rd S Pettersson T Verhiest M Edwards

Driver of the weekend: Zolder

Robin Nilsson – Elise Cup R

1 x win / 1 x 2nd place / 1 x fastest lap / 6th place overall in a Production car


Championship standings: www.lotuscupeurope.com/standings

Highlights video: fb.watch/kpILvIMUW1/

More pics can be found on: Facebook / Instagram