At the opening round of the FIA European Kart Championship, which took place last weekend in Valencia, Spain, Mathilda Paatz convinced as the only German participant in the OK class with a fighting performance. Although the driver from DPK-Racing, Fernando Alonso's Spanish junior team, was slowed down by technical problems on Thursday and thus had a lack of experience to show, the 14-year-old from Cologne remained optimistic until the end of the weekend. This ambition was rewarded.

"Overall, it was not a good weekend in terms of results. But I learned a lot about the new tyres, had good duels and achieved a very good individual result for me in the fourth heat," Mathilda Paatz sums up honestly after the opening round of the FIA European Karting Championship in Valencia, Spain. The Cologne-based driver, who takes the wheel for DPK-Racing, had to deal with technical difficulties at the beginning of the weekend. Already on Thursday, the 14-year-old lost important practice time, which continued throughout all race days. Especially at the Kartodromo Internacional Lucas Guerrero, where Paatz is competing for the first time this year, it was difficult to make up for the lack of experience.

Nevertheless, the promotional driver from the German Sport Driver's Association once again showed fighting spirit, which earned her 22nd place on the grid in her group in qualifying. Nevertheless, the starting position for the important heats was not perfect, as the results on Friday showed. Although Paatz was able to improve significantly compared to the previous day, the 14-year-old was repeatedly involved in duels in the midfield, which even ended with an accident in the second heat. More than places 26 and 27 were not possible on Friday.

Saturday ended with a feeling of joy and relief. In the third heat, Paatz performed well and fought her way up to 16th place, however, she was called to the stewards after the race and collected a controversial time penalty for causing an accident. Quite dejected and with a "work-free" Sunday in mind, Paatz sat in the team tent afterwards, as participation in the Superheat had become a distant prospect.

Strong performance in the fourth heat

In the fourth heat, the Cologne-based racer had the good inside position with 21st on the grid. In addition, the team put all its eggs in one basket and used the last two fresh tyres, although the competition was just as clever. A good start and winning duels nevertheless moved Paatz up nine positions in the course of the race. With twelfth place, she was finally able to prove her potential. An important reward for the ambition of the young up-and-coming driver. Although the fifth and final preliminary heat was unfortunate because the Cologne native was shot down in the first corner three laps before the end, Paatz was able to secure a place in the Super Heat.

In an eventful race, the ADAC Sports Foundation protégé ended up in 29th place. Although Paatz made up a few positions in the early stages, she was then pushed off the track in a duel and thrown to the back of the field. "Of course I can't be satisfied with that, but I gained valuable experience," said Mathilda Paatz. "If Thursday had gone a bit more smoothly and I had had more practice time, the results would certainly have been a bit more presentable. At least I was able to prove once in the fourth heat that the top ten are within reach! Such race weekends with their own mistakes are part of it, they bring me further and don't slow me down, but only increase my ambition."

In the coming weeks, the race will continue without a break. Over Easter, Paatz will train in Trinec, Czech Republic, to prepare for the next European Championship round (18 to 21 May). Afterwards, he will travel to Cremona and Rodby for further tests and to 321 perform to develop mentally and physically. The next race? From 26 to 30 April, Mathilda Paatz will take part in the fourth round of the WSK Super Master Series in Cremona, Italy.

27. March 2023 FIA Karting EM