Matscho Karatscho 2023 at SIP Scootershop
What a spectacle! Our Vespa Cross Race, MATSCHO KARATSCHO, on SIP Scootershop's very own track was an unmitigated success, as is evident from the participants' comments. In the days leading up to the race, SIP employees – Jesco, Max, Andrea, Steffi, and many other helpers – were engrossed in preparations. The track needed preparation, soil was brought in, and excavators operated around the clock. Straw bales were delivered, fences were misplaced and then located, flags were ordered, and the paddock set up. Kudos to the entire team: everything was ready punctually.
Then, as Friday arrived, the riders began to trickle in one by one. They hailed from all corners of the country, as well as from Austria, Italy, and Switzerland. After completing their registration, pizza and beer were served in the Siperia, providing an opportunity for participants to mingle. Spirits were high, and the anticipation was palpable..
Nomen est omen: mud and dirt
During the night, the weather took a turn, resulting in heavy rain. By Saturday morning, the state of the track truly embodied the event's name: endless mud. The first intrepid riders managed a few laps before needing to wash dirt from every crevice of their scooters. Despite the conditions, the qualifying rounds went ahead, and eventually, race director Jesco waved the black and white chequered flag to signal the first start.
And then the race was on! In the moped class, the Swiss Marc Breu effortlessly led the way, completing his laps without any close rivals. With his Puch, no one could match his pace. He also claimed the day's fastest lap with a time of 51.215 seconds. Yet, there was special applause for Finn Brendle, who, undeterred and with stoic determination, navigated the track on his unmodified Ciao from the back of the pack – a true display of sportsmanship. As expected, Marc Breu clinched victory in both races. He was closely followed by his Swiss Mofakult teammate, Christian Fäh, and then by Sebastian Krüger. Reflecting on his performance, Marc Breu commented: "I competed with my moped, boasting a frame from Puch and an engine from Sachs – a testament to enduring technology. The track was perfectly suited to my moped, with its short straights tailored for single-gear racing. We participate in the championship in Switzerland as well as in various individual races. Within our team, we have an arsenal of four cross mopeds, which we choose from based on specific race regulations."
Successes and Mishaps of the Vespa Riders
The Class 3 races brought some real excitement, welcoming any scooter, whether currently in use or previously operated. Stefan Göllner created quite a buzz, delivering a remarkable performance on the muddy track with his off-the-shelf Vespa GTS. He faced close competition from Wolfgang Altmann and the local champion, Max Heigl from Landsberg. Göllner clinched a clear victory in the initial round, but in the second race, his GTS didn't fare as well, shutting down during jumps. Yet, Stefan took it all in good humour, commenting, "Despite that, it's an excellent event. I'd rate it a solid AAA. The course is just right – couldn't be any better. I'm somewhat annoyed with the darned scooter, but overall, everything's brilliant. I traded for the GTS on Thursday, my mates quickly found me some 12-inch cross tyres, and then I registered for the race, booked a hotel, and set off on Friday. I made no modifications to the bike. I'll definitely be here again next year."
Taking advantage of Göllner's misfortune, Heigl and Altmann sped to the top two spots. Both Göllner (with a lap time of 57.289 seconds) and Heigl (58.698 seconds) impressively clocked in under a minute. However, Max Heigl too faced his share of issues, noting, "The track was fantastic, but by the second lap, I was jammed on full throttle. So, I relied entirely on the brake. Naturally, my clutch is now busted, marking the last race for this Vespa. It's headed straight for the scrap container. On this track, it's essential to maintain your lane and dodge the large stones. A fantastic event – count me in for next year."
Respect to the event's youngest contender, 14-year-old Korbinian Ortlieb. With a special nod of permission from his father, he embarked on his maiden racing adventure. "It was absolutely thrilling," he beamed, "even though I might've finished last – I'm not quite sure. By the end, the track had mostly dried up, making it more navigable. Only the waterlogged spot proved a tad tricky; the ruts were hard to spot. If someone ahead veers off track and you follow suit, you're likely to skid off as well. Usually, I only ride in my grandpa's meadow, so today was my first brush with such a terrain."
SIP racer, André Jüterbock, unfortunately, was rather downcast. The custom scooter from Butcher's Garage in St. Petersburg broke down. Racing without brakes isn't the wisest decision. He had to bow out after just two laps in the first race, and sadly, participating in the second round wasn't an option. Quite the pity, but such is the nature of the sport! Emerging triumphant at the end of the day was Max Heigl on a Vespa Cosa, followed closely by Wolfgang Altmann and Paul Prötz.
As the horizon darkened, resembling an artist's spill of black ink across the canvas of the sky, the riders of the Class 2 "Smallframe" took their positions. Although the thunderstorm had passed, the semi-professional riders of the Italian Vezzola Racing team took to the track with fervour: Davide Monizza, Federico Esposto, and Roberto Laude, clearly demonstrating the motorsport in their veins. Caught in between were Dennis Franceschini, Valentino Randazzo and a certain Elvis Jüterbock, a young scion of the renowned Jüterbock racing dynasty. For his inaugural cross race, he fared commendably with his Egig engine. After a somewhat shaky start, he secured 6th place in the first heat and an impressive 5th in the subsequent one. His father André remarked, visibly touched, "I'm incredibly proud of the lad." Elvis himself chimed in, "The Vespa, which we assembled live online, performed beyond expectations. Its speed was particularly surprising. During the qualifying round, the track was rather muddy, so I took a measured approach. However, this allowed me to familiarise myself with the conditions. Regrettably, I lagged by ten seconds at the start and arrived late on the track. But after the four formidable Italians, I was right up there. The Italian in 4th position matched my pace, and our fierce rivalry left me so fatigued by the fifth lap that I found myself nearly veering off the track. Sadly, I only clinched sixth place. In the second race, however, I fared better and managed to hold on to the fifth position. I maintained a steady pace, whilst some of my competitors faltered due to overzealousness. I'm quite pleased with how I performed, especially given the gruelling nature of the track. It's a fantastic event, and I hadn't anticipated just how exhilarating it would be."
All three victors recorded times under a minute. Both the finishing placements and daily winners were consistent: Federico Esposto, clocking in at 55.039, led the pack, followed by Roberto Laude with a time of 57.455 and then Dennis Franceschini, finishing at 58.832. Renowned participants such as Arnold Kastenhuber, Thomas Haas, Paul Sinnhuber, Christian Ortlieb, and Max Renner found themselves amidst the rest of the pack. The champion, Federico Esposto, was elated: "The track is delightful, quite muddy in sections. I'm genuinely thrilled we had the opportunity to race here. It's been a joyous experience. The crowd here is simply congenial and warm-hearted. I also participate in Vespa Cross races back in Italy, where I secured two national championships in 2019 and 2021. In addition, I regularly engage in motocross. Given how splendid this year's event was, I'm determined to return next year."
As events unfolded, the looming dark clouds proved merely bluster. By the time the "Largeframe" Class 4 riders took to their starting positions, the track was somewhat dry, with the exception of the detested water ditch. Joe Dierkes, riding his Vespa Cosa, effortlessly clinched victories in both races, finishing over ten seconds ahead of his closest competitors on each occasion. The subsequent rankings too displayed a consistent pattern: Michael Beger, Alex Konrad, Dirk Becker, and Hubert Leitgeb. As a result, Dierkes, Beger, and Konrad ascended to the podium to celebrate the day's triumphs.
While the majority of riders appeared to have expended their energy reserves, several found the zeal to partake in the endurance race. This race involves teams of two to four riders, looping around for an uninterrupted hour. The key is flexibility; riders switch out at their discretion, but the entire team must utilise the same vehicle. However, as if on cue, the heavens opened up just before the event, turning the track into a quagmire of challenges. The Francescini/Haas/Martintoni/Jüterbock (senior) team made a roaring start, clocking a lap time of 1:01.701 in the sludge. Yet, such pace came at a cost. A fuel hose dislodged from the carburettor, necessitating time-consuming repairs. Seizing this opportunity, the Candioli/Köhl team surged into the lead.
However, as the race wore on, the prowess of the Vezzola Racing team became evident. They had started cautiously, perhaps waiting for the right moment. And it came. As the rain waned and the track's condition became less treacherous, they accelerated their pace. They advanced relentlessly, ultimately outpacing Candioli/Köhl in the dying moments of the race. When the chequered flag marked the end of the 60-minute, 49-lap race, Vezzola Racing had carved out a nine-second advantage. In this thrilling contest, not only did Franziska Böhnlein stand out as the only female racer to finish with her team, but Timo from 'Blechgefährten' also teamed up with Valentino Randazzo to clinch a commendable fourth position, especially given that his own Vespa had faltered during the individual races due to ignition issues.
For Jesco, the race director, Saturday was a resounding triumph. "For me, the day was an absolute win. We were graced with a high turnout of both participants and spectators, and the weather was serendipitous, holding the rain at bay until the late afternoon. The races were not only captivating but filled with nail-biting moments. The climax was undoubtedly the Endurance Race, with victory hanging in the balance until the final moments. However, the crowning moment came when I enquired about the day's incidents with the paramedics and received the reply, 'Nothing at all.' Yes, we had a few tumbles and perhaps a bruised rib or two, but even the commotion in Class 2 didn't result in any serious injuries. The participants were brimming with enthusiasm, and feedback regarding the track was universally positive. The ovation that the SIP team received during the awards ceremony truly underscored their exemplary efforts. All in all, I couldn't be more content with how the day unfolded."
A Day Where Everyone Emerged Victorious
With fatigue etched on their faces and covered in muck, the riders made their way to the awards ceremony, encompassing all classes and races. Applause wasn’t reserved just for the champions, but for every participant who braved the mud, overcame crashes, navigated waterlogged ditches, tackled technical snags, and other hurdles that the day presented. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to all the helpers: the marshals, commentators, timekeepers, camera crews, and photographers. Not forgetting those manning the barbecue and pizza ovens, the drinks cart, and the DJ booth. Each one of you transformed MATSCHO KARATSCHO 2023 into a spectacular event, captivating and thrilling the 1,500 onlookers.
Reflecting on the day, SIP Scootershop's CEO and the brain behind the race, Ralf Jodl, remarked, "We were truly blessed with the weather – after the practice rounds, the sun graced us with its presence for the majority of the day, while just a few kilometres away, storms raged on. What struck me was the camaraderie amongst participants: there was a shared spirit of cooperation, with tools and spare parts freely exchanged. During the endurance race, team boundaries blurred, creating a melting pot of collaboration. It was an unforgettable day for both riders and spectators. We eagerly anticipate Matscho Karatscho #3 in 2024!"