HIGHLIGHTS 2021 - Longhi Team Manager and European KZ Champion

Columns: Close Up
With the title of Champion in his pocket, Longhi's double role is none other than the bet (won) by Birel Art, still Europe’s king of the mountain.

In motorsport, if there is one thing that often happens but is never taken for granted, it is repeating oneself. There are endless examples of drivers or teams who have created true and proper epochs of winning, making repetition seem easy year after year, an exercise that is, instead, quite different considering the efforts, pressures, and inconveniences laid out like traps along the road yet to travel towards victory.
Since that World Championship won, indeed dominated, by the historic 1-2 Kremers - Longhi, the Lissone house has grabbed the spotlight, commencing its own winning era in KZ as the best team in the field. A fact confirmed from that moment on with the profuse victories of Marjin Kremers, Giuseppe Palomba, obviously Riccardo Longhi, and all the titles, trophies, and seasonal awards obtained in one way or another, but always in its red and white colors or, at most, tending to blue as in 2020 when Kremers himself, arrived at the last second, won the KZ European Championship albeit with Ricciardo Kart colors.

In all these triumphs, however, there is a name that has basically always remained there waiting for its moment to shine, taking the good but, above all, the bad when the wheel of fate or fortune never turned his way completely: Riccardo Longhi. The 2021 of the Emilian driver will certainly be remembered for the victory of the 2021 European Championship but, above all, for the way and the road traveled to obtain that success that shall crown a career or, maybe, even two.
Taking a step back from the actual start of the FIA ​​Karting-branded KZ season, Ronni Sala amazed everyone by promoting the then collaborator and mechanic of Cristian Bertuca to Team Manager, all after the announced departure of Luca Filini. A new role for Longhi that made many think of an outright gamble and/or a retirement from racing for Riccardo. After all, the example even before Filini was Davide Forè, not quite ready to say enough. Many paddock-set rumors and hypotheses were spoken and heard, but none transformed into: "I told you so", because not only has Longhi been able to take Birel Art in hand, changing his attitude in the paddock and in the closed park, inevitably becoming even more responsible and authoritarian, but to also make his role as top driver coexist.

An important, fresh, and innovative resource is represented by Longhi and logically seen and perceived by Ronni Sala, the same charisma transformed into that sporting “malice” or determination demonstrated in Wackersdorf and Adria. If in the first German stage Longhi had been able lie low in ambush-mode between qualifying and heats to then come out and dominate the race and win, in the final Italian stage he had to deal with the unexpected events we were talking about previously: the much-discussed MG tires.
Already from qualifying, the tires proved to be the Italian’s worst enemy and for all of Birel Art with inexplicable lap times compared to free practice, the degradation and, above all, the 21st starting position decisive for the title. Between Friday evening and Saturday during the heats, only Longhi knows what went through his head with the ghosts of the past ready to come back to life again. More than once, in fact, Longhi found himself having to say goodbye to the KZ2 title for failures not his, or for too much bad luck coming all together at once. The final in Adria had, instead, to deal with Riccardo’s turnaround, determined to silence all the criticisms and rumors with a memorable and extraordinary comeback worthy of a motorsport fan’s archive or film library. Lap after lap, risk after risk as if there was nothing to lose, for a total of seven positions obtained, including the masterpiece over Emilien Denner (direct rival in the standings) and the sixth place finish that was enough for him to win and take home the first European KZ Championship, both as a driver and as a team manager at the same time.

"Richard the Lionheart" we had titled the cover of Vroom, a title that will remain valid for forthcoming seasons and certainly in the annals as one of the most beautiful, suffered, uncertain and almost "boycotted" victories of 2021. If Birel Art has won its bet, the next few years will tell with greater clarity what Riccardo Longhi’s influence on the team shall be, a hand already marked by sportsmanship and unbridled determination in the results.

Photo: LRN Photo

Created by: scorradengo - 28/12/21

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