DAGNALL karter Ed Brand has raced into immediate contention for the Rotax Max Euro Challenge Crown with a brace of podiums in Belgium.
Brand enjoyed tremendous success last season, and he has picked up where he left off at the start of the new campaign.
Against a large and quality-packed field of nearly ninety competitors in Genk, Brand showed his intentions with a respectable eighth-fastest lap in timed qualifying.
He followed this with two third-placed finishes in the preliminary heats, plus a second and a first – putting him fourth overall in the interim ranking.
As a result, the teenager was placed on the second row of the starting grid for the first of Sunday’s two crucial points-scoring finals.
However, his preparations for the race were severely hampered by agonizing pains in his ribs.
With no time for a thorough medical check-up, Brand simply had to take some strong painkillers and get on with the job of racing.
Remarkably, he went on to take third place and set the fastest lap of the hard-fought 14-lapper.
Encouraged by his ability to drive through the pain and still deliver an impressive performance, the 17-year-old A-Level student then produced what his father, Mark, later regarded as “probably the best race he’s ever had.”
After another fourteen laps, the top six finishers were separated by just half a second.
“It was so close,” said Brand. “It was one of those races where any one of us could have won.
“If you made a mistake, five karts could go past in the blink of an eye. Every mistake was punished, but the racing remained hard but fair.
“People were telling me afterwards it was a classic and that they were saying mid-way through that whoever won fully deserved to.
“On this occasion it wasn’t me, but I’m now second overall in the points table and with three rounds to go. I’m in a great position.”
Although his ribs were later x-rayed in a local Belgian hospital and nothing more serious than bruising was found, Brand has just three weeks to return to full fitness before the start of his national, Super One title defence at the notoriously bumpy Whilton Mill circuit.
“Whilton’s not ideal when you’ve got bruised ribs, but it’s pretty much my home circuit so naturally I want to put on a good show,” said Brand.
“Also, I switched teams, chassis manufacturer and engine tuners in the closed season and I’d dearly like to give them an important first major win on home soil.
“What’s more, I’d like to make history by winning back-to-back titles with two entirely different set-ups. That would be very special.”