Michele Panigada, Energy Corse owner, is a young businessman, aware of the many limits concerning the Italian reality, and always more oriented to an international business strategy.
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25 importers in 29 different countries: Germany, Australia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, America, Hungary, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Greece, England, Ireland, Austria, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Cyprus, China, Singapore, Japan, Canada and the Czech Republic. Predicting globalisation, in 1997, Michele Panigada, a young karting star, decided to give up driving and venture into business. When he was 19, he started Energy Corse, and since the beginning there’s no limit: the horizons in his eyes go beyond Italy. First Europe, then the world. A commercial growth whose target is more and more international. Panigada says: “Coming back from my military service, I was 19, I began my adventure with Energy. I was a good driver, took several wins and second at the 1995 European Championship. With my father’s help and two Australian partners, John Bussel and John Targett, we set up the business in 1997. The first years were terrible, then in 2003 came the turning point: 2nd in ICC European Championship and in the Rotax Championship. We won European Championship in 2004 and lost it by 1 point in 2005 only to win again last year”.
You gained great success in four years, what’s behind such a turning point?
After our first success, the telephone started ringing and we it was no longer us who submitted our product, others were asking for it. Obviously the first years were the most critical, and we must say we lacked business know-how. Besides we had some advantage because we collaborated with true engine experts, the Rizzi brothers. We still work together for engine tuning.
Business difficulties: you were only 19 and already running a business…
That’s right. I started with a good sport experience but no business experience. I soon realised that to run a business, the most important thing is to balance the accounts. Today to, our policy in driver sponsorship or in equipment investments depends on the market. In difficult moments we shut off these taps, but we never cut out our employees, because I have learnt that only the internal human resources make a company stand up on its feet in moments of difficulty.
Any managerial or manufacturing crisis?
Our first two seasons were a disaster, lots of misunderstanding with the other two partners and problems with investment for the two years – I’m talking about at least 500 million liras – they simply volatilised. There were transfer costs, over production and many aspects were underestimated. Anyway, we soon understood that the problem was organization. Today, we plan the season six months in advance, and within that date hotels and flights are already paid. If we consider the advantages of low cost flights, it’s already good. Good organization enables us to be at every meeting, without having to give up anything.
Ten years as a driver and ten as a businessman: do you consider yourself more of a driver or businessman?
Good question! On racing weekends, when I’m there as a team manager, I tend to look at the drivers with a bit of envy! Then over these years and the success, I appreciate my job behind a desk. Winning a race and going back to the factory is very hard work, but I must say that it is a great stimulus, something that I can’t do without.
Read the entire interview on Vroom International July 2007 issue (n.75)