Racing has played a major part in Corinna Kamper’s life since she was just 6 years old. Today, the 27-year-old Austrian ‘racer at heart’ leads a busy life travelling, manages her own boat license school and can regularly be seen on the ORF TV F1 Motorhome program during the Formula One coverage. When the opportunity came along for Corinna to race the Rotax Project E20 electric kart last season, she didn’t think twice of doing (J.Wade)
We recently caught up with Corinna in Belgium when she lined-up on the grid once more in the Project E20 at the opening round of the Rotax MAX Challenge Euro Trophy in her first appearance since she competed at the RMC Grand Finals in Bahrain at the end of the 2021 season.
What is it like to be back racing again in the Rotax E20 at the RMC Euro Trophy at Karting Genk?
I’m a racer, you know. Being on the kart track again brings me back to the time I really enjoyed and seeing all these young drivers like myself at their age reminds me how much I loved it. Life just gets me everywhere right now and I absolutely love it. I’m here karting and I’m racing, so it’s perfect for me. I’m a girl who just loves what I am doing and this is really the thing I am most passionate about. When I was racing at the European Rotax series years ago, Genk was the one track I missed out on in the championship because I had to study for my exams. I still have the poster on my wall from that season. When I heard I could race the E20 at ‘The Home of Champions’, I immediately jumped at it!
Not knowing the track, I thought it was amazing and I loved driving there. Being back in the Project E20 was an incredible feeling, getting up to speed with the other drivers really quickly and getting used to the track. I loved the racing, the karts are all so close with nothing between them and it was really nice to have some good, clean battles, swapping places constantly. It was great to be fastest in most of the practice sessions and I only missed pole by a few hundredths. Of course, it was a shame about the technical issue [with the wheel] in Final 1 when I was leading, which was really frustrating for me, as I was hoping for a podium this weekend. I’ll be back in the kart, so maybe another time.
Tell us a little more about your own racing career?
It’s actually fun when I think about how racing started for me when a female friend who was seven years old and had raced already asked me to go rental karting. I absolutely loved it straight away and just wanted to go back. I came home and told my dad I had to go again and I believe those very first laps were the only ones he has every missed. When I speak about the highlights, I would honestly say that the best part has been growing up in karting and racing with my parents, being so close and always together, through good and bad times. We are still best friends now and my dad is even here supporting me in the Rotax Project E20 E-Kart again too. He’s doing a good job – I qualified P2!
Of course, in cars there are some special memories as well. I remember winning at Monza, Italy in Formula BMW, especially because I was the underdog, and racing at Spa Francorchamps. I raced in Formula Renault 2.0, Formula ADAC and was testing Formula 3. In 2022, I did the W Series official test and some Formula 4. I had been racing for 14 years until I stopped at the age of 20, when it’s some of the best years of your life, but things don’t always go the way you want. Racing was always interesting for me. I’ve always lived a really full life, so not racing at that time made me realise more about who I really am. However, it’s turned out for me to be a good thing to be back now. I am not necessarily thinking that I will be a Formula One driver anymore; instead I’m just enjoying racing and what I am doing.
What was your first impression of the Rotax Project E20 when you tested it last season?
The first thing was “I don’t know if it’s turned on!” because it was so quiet. And the noise reminded me of being there watching Formula E, this really different sound of E-Karting that I love, and that sound of the wind that I know from my time racing cars. Plus there are other noises I had never heard when I was racing before, like the tyres and when you are running over the curbs. It’s funny.
How amazing was it to be competing at the RMC Grand Finals 2021 in Bahrain?
The Rotax Grand Finals is just such a massive event, with the organisation behind it and so many competitors from around the world racing. It was like a big party and just so exciting to be part of it. It was also amazing going to a country new for me like Bahrain and nice to be somewhere warm in the winter too. There’s a saying “you don’t know how special this time is until it’s a memory” and I have actually found myself talking about it so much in the last months. It was an honour to be there racing against all these drivers and I got to know so many people from many countries, more so seeing that the E20 class was pitted together that week as one group at the front of the big awning. The circuit was incredible alongside the F1 track. Going out in the morning, watching the sand blowing off the track and pushing to the limit on such an undulating track made it really enjoyable.
What do you enjoy most about racing the Rotax E20 Senior E-Kart?
As a racer, you’re always competitive and I’ve always loved the real wheel-to-wheel racing with my rivals, when you’re fighting for positions so closely. Right now for me also, it’s important that we move in any direction for racing and we don’t really know what the future will be, but I believe this is a positive direction that Rotax is taking to help us be best prepared at least. I’ve been driving the E20 for the past two years and not racing combustion karts, and in the background I have been thinking more about the fact that the E-powertrains are all so equal, so where you end up in the racing is basically up to you as a driver. It’s not a case of being able to blame the engine for the results now.
How much does strategy come into play with the Rotax E20 E-Kart?
I’ve been practicing in the training to be more familiar with how I can make the most of using the boost button effectively, but I need to continue working on this. With limited time in the kart for everyone as an ‘Arrive & Drive’ concept, it means you have to adapt to the circuit and see where you can get an advantage. You don’t know where the other drivers will use the boost feature in each lap either. The standing start is also a new thing for me using the boost, but I am rather excited about this, starting from the front row at Karting Genk, which is a very challenging and technical layout.
With limited adjustments able to be made to the kart, what are you focusing on yourself?
I tend to be more aggressive as a driver and realise it’s important to control how I am driving the kart, as compared to a car. Darrell Smith [from the Rotax E-Karting Team] keeps saying to me that “slow movements are smooth, smooth is fast” so I am working on this, to be smoother and be faster. Steven and the team support all the drivers in the E20 classes and this really helps us too. I’m aiming to bring home a trophy again sometime soon!
What are your thoughts about the future of sustainable racing?
I think a lot of people might think if you are travelling a lot and racing, you might not care about nature or the environment. That’s not the case for me. I love racing, I love fast cars and I love nature. Growing up in Austria and spending a lot of time travelling, I enjoy skiing, mountain biking, hiking, diving, sailing and now surfing. I have taken 20 flights already this year and I’m conscious of this too. It has to start with each of us and we all need to consider what we can do as individuals to change for the better by making different choices in how we do things. We are all very comfortable with what we do every day, but we can look at our options. By doing this and by supporting ideas like the Rotax Project E20, just as a starting point, we can at least be assured of having alternatives in the future for racing. It is more than necessary to keep doing what we are doing, as companies like BRP-Rotax as a manufacturer can continue to develop the ideas and concepts. It’s not the reality that everyone will change from one category to another for example, but they have proven that they also want to move in different directions and not always stay the same. Life changes and so should we.
Any tips for the young aspiring drivers?
Enjoy the moment, it goes too quickly. I was always thinking of the future, if I win this or do that, and then that will happen... Most of the young drivers may be thinking about getting to F1, so basically where they want to move up to next in cars and it’s the only thing they are focusing on. It is not about if you’re the quickest or anything else. It’s easy to take it all for granted. For me, karting and racing was the best childhood and at the time, you don’t appreciate it – until you start to look back at all the photos. The most important thing is do what you love and because you enjoy it. I wish everyone the best, but seize that moment and make the most of what you are doing.