The Rotax Winter Cup will remain in Strawberry Racing’s well-stocked trophy cabinet for another year, after Pierce Lehane proved to be unbeatable on his international debut with the team. After early favourite Dean McDonald was unable to complete an otherwise perfect weekend in Junior, Jack McCarthy stepped up to claim the Tony Kart team’s second trophy of the event with 2nd in the final. In DD2, Constantin Schoell battled back from a DNF in the pre-final to 15th, underlining his promise.
Prior to racing getting underway at Campillos (14/15 February), it was Irishman Gary Donnelly who led the Strawberry charge, taking pole position in Timed Practice- ahead of Lehane. New signing Zac Claman DeMelo was 6th with Josh Price also in close attendance with P9.
After the heats, it was Pierce who held the upper hand, taking pole for the pre-final ahead of Josh on P7, Gary 11th and Zac going from the inside of row 7 (P13). A superb start commenced a cakewalk for the Australian star on his way to a lights-to-flag victory. The scrap behind him was a much more open affair between ten drivers. At the chequered flag, it was Donnelly who crossed the line in 4th, ahead of Claman DeMelo 7th and Price 9th.
Lehane faced a sterner test in the final. Unable to create a gap at the front, he was shadowed and harried throughout the 15 laps. However, he was able to keep the nose of his Tony Kart Racer 401 sufficiently out front to seal his first win with Strawberry Racing. Donnelly completed his strong Winter Cup with 6th, while Canada’s Claman DeMelo was ultimately shuffled down to 17th in the hard-fought contest. Price’s Spanish experience ended in huge disappointment, after the Englishman was sidelined during the opening lap.
Top-flight karting can be a fickle business. Especially when you’ve done everything you can to bring home your first international triumph. The enormously talented Dean McDonald was left to rue what have been after finishing 19th in the Junior final. The Scottish youngster had set the pole-winning time in qualifying, topped the rankings after the heats and won the pre-final. He had even led the final before a sudden loss of power denied him the ability to fight at the front of the field, when it mattered most.
The unflappable Jack McCarthy waited until the final to lift himself onto the podium. 4th in TQ, the post-heats ranking and the pre-final, Jack wound the wick up as he sensed the win was possible. Having picked off his rivals for 2nd place he was narrowly pipped by Tom Gamble.
Kiern Jewiss completed a creditable weekend with 8th, having stepped-up from Cadets. Dean completed the top ten with French ace Axel Charpentier frustrated to be 13th after looking poised for another top-eight finish, following his 7th in the pre-final. Josh Skelton’s first competition with Strawberry had started solidly with a series of top twenty performances; from qualifying to the pre-final, and he was looking assured of a top 15 finish when an on-track skirmish saw him penalised by five seconds, dropping him to 29th..
Strawberry’s sole representative in DD2, Constantin Schoell made an effective start to his career with the team. In a quality-packed entry, the young Austrian set the 14th-fastest time in qualifying. Solid results in the heats put him 15th overall but his hopes for a good run in the pre-final were dashed when a first corner tangle put him out of the pre-final. With virtually any hope of podium place now firmly out of the question, it fell to Constantin to demonstrate his raw speed and racecraft as he carved his was from the back of the field to 16th in the final.
“It’s always hard to bring a group of youngsters, with different levels of experience, and chuck them into a race like the Winter Cup,” observed Strawberry Team Manager, Warwick Ringham. “The ever-changing track and weather conditions made our job of finding the optimum set-up quite challenging. Thankfully, the new Racer 401 makes that task easier, but this weekend was tough. Pierce did a cracking job and 100% deserves his success. Dean couldn’t have done anything more to win his race - but that’s karting. Also, that shouldn’t overshadow what a great race Jack drove. He put himself right in the mix when it came down to the wire. Overall, we saw some great performances from the lads and they have given Paul [Spencer, Strawberry’s owner] and I plenty of confidence for Salbris (4/5 April) and the rest of the Euro Max Challenge.”