Paolo De Conto is the new CIK-FIA European KZ2 Champion following a dramatic final weekend at the French circuit of Varennes-sur-Alliers.
The Italian, driving for the Energy Corse team, claimed the KZ2 crown by a mere seven points over Frenchman Yan Pesce after finishes of ninth and second in the two point scoring finals.
But De Conto, who came into the weekend atop the points standings after a win and a second place finish on the opening rounds of the championship at Sarno in Italy, was just one of several stars at the French venue and for a while it looked as though the KZ2 class could have a female champion.
Dutch teenage Beitske Visser stole everyone's thunder in timed qualifying, lapping the 1500-metre circuit more than a tenth of a second faster than anyone else in the 53 strong field. The young lady then went on to win two of her four heats to qualify third on the grid for the first final just a fraction behind triple winner Yuri Lucati and local driver Pesce, who also won two of his heats.
De Conto, whose Energy teammate Marcel Jeleniowski, a winner at Sarno, wasn't present, could only qualify twelfth fastest but improved in his heats to finish third, fourth, fifth and seventh and place himself on the fourth row of the grid for the first of two 17-lap finals.
But the rolling lap was as close as De Conto would get to the flying Visser, who quickly moved past Polish driver Daniel Fuchs and Pesce to take the lead on lap three of 17. In a race of remarkable attrition that saw only 22 of the 34 starters running at the finish the Intrepid mounted starlet withstood constant late race pressure from Pesce, Lucati and Lucati's fellow Italian Marco Pizzuti to take an emotional win and lift her into championship contention with just one race remaining.
De Conto struggled home in ninth, but still led the standings going into the final race and needed only to stay within striking distance of Pesce, Visser and Dutchman Kevin Leijtens in the second final to be crowned champion.
But with Visser on pole and De Conto on row five the destination of the 2010 title was by no means assured, especially considering the levels of attrition seen so far. However De Conto kept his cool despite slipping to eleventh on the opening lap and soon started to pick his way back into the top six.
Up at the front Pesce and Visser disputed the lead, both knowing that a win coupled with a poor finish for De Conto would see them snatch the title. Pesce led but Visser was right on his tail when, on lap four an overly optimistic lunge by Simone Brenna sent Visser spearing off the track and dropped her to 30th, ending her title dreams on a weekend where the kind of form she had been threatening all year finally came good.