Essay in France would be the stage for the final round of the 2018 FIA Karting European Championship and being a track that holds happy memories for Callum the CRG Factory Racing Team driver came into the event with high hopes for his first podium in the championship. The 16-year-old would come oh so close to doing just that, but an electrical issue saw him having to face the task of holding on to 4th rather than challenging for 3rd.
Those happy memories we mentioned came back in 2016 when Callum took a clean sweep of victories at the opening round of the CIK-FIA Karting Academy Trophy which would see him on his way to eventually becoming the first ever British Champion. That pace was reflected in qualifying practice on Friday afternoon with Callum finishing the session 8th in the standings.
The result would give Callum a 3rd place start in four of his heats and a 4th place start in the final heat on Sunday morning. Callum took full advantage of his grid slots often working with Harry Thompson to break away from the field and take three 2nd place finishes on Saturday plus one 3rd place finish. It was a brilliant start to the weekend’s racing and that form would continue into Sunday with Callum finishing 4th in his final heat lapping within one tenth of the fastest lap!
The combined results would leave Callum on the outside of row three for the Final. Qualifying 6th meant more points on the board and the Brit now had a chance to finish in the top ten of the championship.
Callum made a good start as the lights went green holding station through the first two corners, but he had to work hard to stay there and that had now seen the top five break away with Callum under pressure from Zane Maloney. The Barbadian driver was quickly past but with 24 laps still to go Callum was not phased and tucked in behind in an attempt to close the leaders down.
Or so we all thought! Callum went straight back past the RFM driver the very next lap leaving him to deal with the group of drivers behind as he went after the leaders on his own. As we approached ten laps completed Callum had successfully chased down both Kas Haverkort and Luigi Coluccio all on his own. With Callum constantly building the pressure and Haverkort continuously looking over his shoulder it was only a matter of time before the Dutch driver would make a mistake and when he did Callum pounced on the exit of turn two moving into 5th place.
Not long after his successful move on Haverkort, Callum had Maloney to deal with once again. It was strange as his pace had seemed to be slowly falling off, but despite this he was keeping the 3rd place battle up ahead at arm’s length. All Callum needed was Coluccio to make his move on Nielsen and he’s have his ticket to join the party for the last space on the podium.
On lap 20 the Italian did just that and two failed attempts to pass at both turns two and three was enough for Callum to not only catch but pass the Birel ART Racing driver and move into 4th. Now staring at a podium and right in Nielsen’s tow, Callum unfortunately was pushed slightly wide by Maloney at the next corner which lost all three drivers time with Maloney losing out the most!
There were now less than five laps to go and despite his best efforts it seemed Callum just didn’t have the pace to challenge Nielsen. This had Callum’s attention now on Coluccio behind who would find a way past on the penultimate lap at turn three losing Callum two places in the race and dropping him from 10th to 11th in the championship.
Although this was not a disappointing result, it was in fact Callum’s best round of the season, but it was frustrating considering how close he was to a podium. It was later revealed that Callum had an electrical issue which explained the slight drop off in pace towards the end of the race. However, despite all this to be still able to get as close as he did can only be a positive for the World Championship in September.
Callum Bradshaw: “It was a shame to pick up that electronic issue in the final otherwise I do think we would have finished on the podium. However, I am still happy with the result and I’d like to thank the CRG Factory Team for all their hard work throughout the European Championships this year. It was a shame I couldn’t bring them back a podium in Essay, but I’m confident at Kristianstad we can do just that if we keep up our current form.”
Without the disappointing luck at Ampfing there’s no doubt Callum would have finished in the top ten of the championship this season, but overall 11th is a huge improvement on last year and it also makes Callum the second highest CRG driver behind Pedro Hiltbrand. Now all focus will turn to preparations for the World Championship which will take place at Kristianstad on the 23rd September.