It's time for shifter classes in Salbris.
The European KZ and KZ2 promises to be full of novelties. Motorsports-wise, there’s the change to LeCont tires, and the return and inclusion of the Salbris and Lonato tracks to the Cik Fia calendar; as for organizational and promotional changes, RGMMC is now in-charge.
Other changes are the reduced number of races, from last year’s four to this year’s two, with three for the KZ2, a change made to satisfy (in part) the movement’s request to reduce costs. The inevitable consequence: if making mistakes was previously forbidden, more so now, since a single negative weekend is sure to undermine any hope of glory. The tire supplier, as mentioned, changes to LeCont. The Italian company from Trentino, after fitting KZ2 in 2015, will supply both categories in the European. For the record, in 2015, the Swede Joel Johansson on Energy won followed by Pedro Hiltbrand on CRG and by Andreas Fasberg and Luca Corberi, both on Tony Kart. As for organization and promotion, the expiry of the WSK Promotion mandate favored the establishment of James Geidel’s RGMMC. At a conference Vroom organized at the Offenbach fair, Geidel hinted 2018 would be a year of changes for karting.
Said and done: in January, the new logo and the new name, FIA Karting European Championship, were officially presented. The greatest efforts, however, have been made in media and multimedia, with video coverage also extended to Saturday, often decisive for the fate of the race, with races broadcast and distributed more consistently among national television stations. All this, on paper, should increase the visibility of a niche discipline, karting, which must learn to make kart races jump from the screen, attract and appeal to audiences, new and old, if it wants to compete with other motorsport categories of which kart racing is, by its very nature, the starting point for many racers and teams. The hoped-for effect of increased TV coverage is that companies outside the sector increase their investments and sponsorship deals, vital now more than ever, to increase exposure and render race broadcasts appealing, attractive, exciting.
Salbris, in the dark The Circuit International de Salbris returns to the CIK FIA Calendar, and starts the season on the May 6 weekend. The last time the circuit hosted a CIK-titled competition goes back to the 2007 KF2 European Championship. For the gearbox class, one must go back to 1996, when Beggio (Biesse / Tm) won his second world FC. For 2018, the teams will be coming to the kart track, located in the Loire Valley-Center region, almost in the dark, that is, with little track data available. This could tip the scale in favor of the transalpine duo Abbasse and Iglesias. And then there is the weather factor, which in France is often full of surprises. Looking at the Salbris circuit layout, it is hard to place it among fast tracks, or among the more “technical” circuits, that is, slow. What we find, instead, is a track halfway between two natures with a first fast tract and then a second and third which do feature lengthy straights, but also by extremely demanding curves. Therefore, on the topic of set-up, it is important to find a compromise between the two “virtues”, speed or adherence through the turns, to make the vehicle as balanced as possible through the 1500-meter track under one minute. The best time in the 1996 world championship was by Giorgio Pantano: 58”84. His FC rotary valve engine and free compression ratio developed more than enough power, less than the current 45 hp engines, but with a weight-to-power ratio that would make the comparison interesting, without taking tires into consideration, of course.
Last year De Conto in KZ and Köhler in KZ2 won the title
Last season, without Marco Ardigò competing, injured as he was on a Thursday of the first round in Sarno, KZ reiterated the supremacy of Paolo De Conto, who won 3 of the 4 events in the program (Sarno, Genk and Oviedo), and arrived in Kristianstad, the last round of the European kermesse, with the laurel already in hand. A “starter” for the World Cup in Sweden that saw him victorious for the second time in a row and sure to be the man to beat. If KZ2 races are always a lottery, and making predictions risky, the KZ allows for more reliable predictions, and so we look forward to the duel between Marco Ardigò for Tony Kart versus Paolo De Conto on CRG. Two drivers, eight crowns: Ardigò’s five to De Conto’s three, both being, since 2014, the most successful drivers on the scene. Having missed out on most of 2017, thanks to his rib injury, Ardigò seeks his sixth title, while De Conto would like to bring home his fourth consecutive FIA title, after the 2016 and 2017 World Championships, year of his “double wins” with the European Championship. In the seasonal “prologue”, after his absence in the coldest period, Ardigò returned to claim his role and to the track in the WSK Super Master Series between Muro Leccese and Sarno where he scored 3 podiums, of which 2 were wins.
De Conto, not one to stand by and watch, won in Puglia. There are others, of course, to fight for the title, but the presence of Ardigò is a blessing for the championship. He is the added value, for everyone, including De Conto. Who can forget the duel between Beggio and Piccini, or between Thonon and Forè, and then also with Ardigò? Now, finally, that charged-up electric atmosphere is all set to explode on track, at the races, in a rush to the finish line. Although the spotlights are on the two Italian drivers, this should not mislead or bring to underestimating the quality of the other drivers on the starting grid, their level equally stellar. Anthony Abbasse is certainly not an outsider, and indeed could exploit in his favor the duel between De Conto and Ardigò. There is Patrik Hajék (Kosmic), Simo Puhakka (Tony Kart), Jeremy Iglesias (Formula K), as well as Marijn Kremers (BirelART), a surprising third a year ago, and looking for a definitive spot among front-runners.
Above, Marco Ardigò and Paolo De Conto in close contact at Sarno. With the return of the Tony Kart driver after his injury, the 2018 season is certainly more interesting, thanks to the duel with the reigning world champion expected at Salbris, the first round of the European KZ. On the left, the duel between Leon Köhler and Matteo Viganò, who fought for the KZ2 continental crown last season. The German, now in Formula 4, got the better, while Viganò was “promoted” to KZ one of the protagonists and, above all, a talented driver able to have his say on track in all sorts of conditions.