Vizin and Balogh share the spoils at nail biting Hockenheim opener

Thursday 9 May 2024

Multiple Lotus Cup Europe champions, Bence Balogh and Tamas Vizin got their seasons underway with a win a piece.

The FIA International Series’ 2024 championship kicked off with a welcome return at the ADAC Hockenheim Historic – Jim Clark Revival meeting. One of the key events on the Lotus enthusiast’s calendar, it attracted over 33,000 visitors to the German Grand Prix venue.

On the track, Hungary’s Vizin qualified on pole ahead of German Rainer Börgens, Luxembourg’s Paul Maréchal and Sweden’s Daniel Palma, making the front two rows exclusively Exige V6 Cup R’s. Four time LCE Champion Bence Balogh sat in 5th in his immaculate Evora GT4. Beside the newly nationalise Brit was German Wolfgang Henseler in his fantastic looking Emira GT4. Frenchman Jean-Pierre Genoud-Prachex lead a bumper 211O field in his 2 Eleven GT4 just 2 places behind the Emira. In a truly stunning 10th place on the grid was the Production class pole setter Robbe Janssens in the famous chrome blue Elise Cup R.

Highest of the five new drivers to join the grid at Hockenheim was ex-Lotus Cup Italia champion Giacomo Giubergia in his Elise Cup PBR. Credit to the other new drivers who like Giubergia were all new to not only Hockenheim but to the Nankang CR-S tyres as well. Italians Enrico & Matteo Riccardi in their Elise Cup PBR, Scotland’s Campbell Cassidy in his Exige S2 and Luxembourg’s Patrick Reiles in his Exige 260 Cup.

The first race of the year was a fairly un-eventful affair at the front of the grid with Vizin and Börgens taking 1-2 with Maréchal eventually making his move stick on Palma for 3rd overall. Balogh took GT Cup honours in 5th with Henseler bringing the Emira home in 6th, 2nd in class on it’s debut. JP Genoud-Prachex took 211O followed by wife Nathalie and an impressive drive on his debut by Giubergia gave him the final podium slot on his debut. Production saw the biggest battles with Mick Edwards and David McInulty both in feisty form and finishing 2nd & 3rd respectively behind a professional drive from 20 year old Janssens.

Unfortunately, the ever reliable Thierry Verhiest required a gear box change after qually and missed the opening race despite the efforts of the Belgians team working with Komotec & ES Motorsport mechanics during the night while last years Champion Mark Yate’s Elise Cup R had a small fire in practice and pulled off on the opening lap with ABS issue’s. Reiles blamed the fuel fairies for his DNF.

Poor weather conditions for Sunday’s race meant an extra green flag lap before the first standing start of the year. Pole man Vizin was swamped at the start with Börgens & Maréchal coming through turn 1 ahead of him. The two Italian drivers got ahead of the pink 2 Eleven in the opening corners, a first experience of wet conditions on the Nankang tyres for Giubergia & Enrico Riccardi. A spin for Maréchal towards the end of lap 1 took the Luxembourg driver from second to 19th, with only Carr behind who had pulled into the pits early on. This put an improving Balogh up to third while the 2 Eleven of JP Genoud-Prachex sat in a heady fourth. Börgens lost the lead and then 2nd to Vizin & Balogh respectively on the 2nd lap. The production and open cars were having a right old battle, 3 abreast through most of the opening laps. Maréchal unfortunately retired on the 5th lap having made it back into the top 10.

The last couple of laps played out with an enthralling battle between Vizin & Balogh, the lead changing hands numerous times with the highest quality racing as you’d expect from the multiple champions. The excitement was too much at times for the commentators who all but lost control with the ‘most exciting race of the day’. Balogh eventually taking the chequered flag by a fraction from Vizin with Börgens in 3rd, Verhiest & Henseler not far behind in 4th and 5th overall. JP Genoud-Prachex took 211O honours followed by Giubergia & Riccardi, the 2 Italians swapping places during the race. Janssens showed great maturity to take his 2nd Production win of the weekend with an improving Edwards behind him. Yates recovered well to pick up his first points of ’24 in 3rd.

A great weekend with new drivers settling in well, teams helping each other as ever and the championship providing the most excitement of the weekend in that 2nd race.

Next up: Magny Cours – 17-19 May

Race winners:

Race 1: Tamas Vizin (Hungary) – Exige V6 Cup R
Race 2: Bence Balogh (Great Britain) – Evora GT4

Class winners:

V6 Cup: Tamas Vizin (Hungary)
GT Cup: Bence Balogh (Great Britain)
211Open: Jean-Pierre Genoud-Prachex (France)
Production: Robbe Janssens (Belgium)

Championship standings: