Motorsport Games: Carmen Kraav clinches P7 in Karting Senior final
Estonian karting talent Carmen Kraav clinched a seventh place finish in the FIA Motorsport Games Karting Senior final, among 31 of the top karting drivers in the world.
For the first time in its history, the FIA Motorsport Games welcomed the biggest karting categories to the programme; at the highly technical kart track inside the Le Castellet complex, Karting Sprint Junior and Senior featured some of the most exciting and promising karting talents in the world - this time battling for a medal for their respective countries. Among the Senior entries, three women tried to take on the challenge for Estonia, Australia and Portugal respectively: Carmen Kraav, Aiva Anagnostiadis and Francisca Queiroz. Kraav was arguably one of the names that most stood out on the entry list, thanks to her karting resumé that includes the world's top IAME competitions, as well as the most recent FIA World Karting Championship. At the same time, the 16 year-old Estonian has also started a racing program in race cars, as she competed in the Baltic Touring Car Championship in 2022 at the wheel of a BMW 325 - placing ninth out of 62 entries. Additionally, Carmen has tested both Porsche GT3 Cup and Formula 4 machinery over the last year. On Friday, the 31 drivers took to the 964 meters-long track in identical karts, equipped with Kart Republic chassis and OK Senior IAME engine, in order to discover the secrets of the course and find the best setups. "The track is very technical and physical" - Kraav told us. "We had only a few practices to get to know the track and figure out all the setups, which made it difficult." Nevertheless, the weekend was off to a promising start, as the Estonian was consistently within the top-ten. In the first qualifying heat, Elie Goldstein - a third generation racer from Belgium - took the early lead after a clean start from the whole pack. Soon, Goldstein had to defend from Sweden's Joel Bergström and Spain's Nacho Tuñon, as the top three pulled away. Bergström initially held off the attacks of Tuñon, before starting to increase the pressure on the Belgian race leader. After enduring 11 laps, Goldstein eventually gave up the top spot at the hairpin with five laps to go, when Joel Bergström claimed the lead to take victory in the first heat. From 12th on the grid, Carmen Kraav soon moved into eleventh spot and was able to gain one more position in the closing stages to claim a P10 in the first qualifying heat.
Later in the day, the second heat proved to be quite a carbon copy of the first one: Goldstein took the lead at the start, preceding Bergström and Tuñon - this time busy in fending off Sri Lanka's talent Yevan David, as the top four battled bumper to bumper throughout the race. Elie Goldstein defended hard for 14 laps - but his Swedish rival was once again able to find a way through with a great pass on the penultimate lap. Goldstein, though, would inherit the win post-race after a penalty hit Bergström for causing a contact, dropping him to P6. Carmeen Kraav battled in the midfield after dropping two places at the start; she could claim P13 back after some elbows-out fights, but eventually finished P15. Australian racer Aiva Anagnostiadis had a good run and also battled for the top-15, ultimately finishing P17. The final qualifying heat on Sunday morning saw a similar scenario: Elie Goldstein got away well from pole, followed by Joel Bergström and Nacho Tuñon. The three front-runners chased each throughout the race, until Bergström was bumped down the order with three laps to go. With Goldstein taking victory, the Belgian claimed pole position for the final, followed by Israeli racer Ariel Elkin, Nacho Tuñon - and Austria's Oscar Wurz, younger son of former F1 driver Alex. With another consistent run in the qualifying heat 3, Carmen Kraav was P11 - which gave the Estonian a combined result of tenth for the starting grid in the final. "This weekend was challenging for me, with a completely new track, new chassis and engine." - the Estonian commented. "For me, qualifying and heats didn’t go very well and we had many great drivers competing", she added. But, in the final, she could deliver once again.
When lights went out, a big shunt at the first corner took out eight karts over the course of the first lap: unfortunately, Francisca Queiroz and Aiva Anagnostiadis were also involved in the accident and had to retire. A few corners later, there was more drama, as two of the favourites for the win also dropped out of contention: Sweden's Joel Bergström, was taken out by Nacho Tuñon - who initially continued, but was later disqualified. The race was neutralized by a Full Course Yellow, with Elie Goldstein leading Sri Lanka's Yevan David and Israel's Ariel Elkin. Carmen Kraav kept her cool and could avoid the messy action unfolding in front of her; she moved into eighth place - and was soon able to gain one more position, taking advantage from a mistake by Oscar Wurz. Chile's chances for a medal were soon over when fifth-placed Gustavo Suarez was shown the black and orange flag for a broken rear bumper and had to pit. Kraav held seventh and endured pressure from the Hungarian entry of Balázs Juráncsik for most of the first half of the race, before she could settle in her rhythm and opened a small safe gap. Israel and Sri Lanka's battle for second played in favour of Elie Goldstein, who was able to pull away as David and Elkin traded places. The Sri Lankan eventually cleared the opponent - but had to settle for second behind the Belgian, still conquering his country's first ever medal at the Motorsport Games. With a brilliant run in the final, Carmen Kraav was seventh across the finish line, securing a top 10 in a very competitive field. "In the final I managed to gain multiple positions during the first laps and since we had many laps to drive, I just had to keep my pace up and protect my position", Kraav told us, as she summed up her 32-lap race. "I’m proud and thankful that I got this kind of opportunity to represent Estonia in such a big and important event" - she concluded, echoing the sentiment of most of the young karting drivers that flew the flags of their nations at the second ever edition of the FIA Motorsport Games.