Ronni Sala: the long 2023 racing season of Birel Art

Columns: Interview
The end of the season is the right time to take stock and engage in open dialogue while the mind is already set on 2024. In the words of a manufacturer, there is always some reflection that helps understand the overall state of our sport and emphasizes how crucial it is for Federations to listen and engage with them. Our meeting with Birel Art's Patron, Ronni Sala (fm)

Birel's season closes in Bahrain as a chassis supplier in the RMCGF: the company's efforts and technical operation.
«We are now well-organized to manage these events; Bahrain is a bit more challenging logistically, but we are experienced enough. This year, there was a greater effort in assembling the karts, as opposed to last year when we provided three categories, increasing from 108 to 180 units. It's significant work back home because you need to arrive here with everything ready for everything to run smoothly. In Bahrain, we had 12 men on the track for the event, overseeing everything for two weeks before and after it.»
Highs and lows of the season: apart from the KZ2 title with Slater, what was missing for Birel Art this season? In which category do you feel you didn't achieve your full potential?
«We certainly missed a bit in OK and OKJ. We struggled a bit with the drivers in OK; there were ups and downs: the end of the season was positive even though, for various reasons, the results were not there. Let's say we are pleased with how we will start next year, even though some things are still to be defined, such as tires, etc. In KZ, we won a lot; we missed only the World title in KZ. We won as a Team, almost everything in WSK, I can't complain. A double win in the European Championship and a complete podium for us in Sarno with three Birel Art drivers in the top three positions, a great year in line with the last 4 or 5 years in which we have won a lot in KZ. Next year, in addition, we will have Forè in KZ Master, and after the great show seen this year in the battle with Manetti, it bodes well.»
Speaking of KZ: what do you think about widening the gap between KZ1 and KZ2 to create a true Top Class?
«It has been talked about often, but I think it's not simple because, fundamentally, in terms of the engine, it can't be done. The only thing that could make a difference is the tires, trying with the 6", but for those who produce tires, it would be a significant investment, and in fact, KZ would still remain a separate category. About the Dunlop tires used in Superkart, I don't know them: tests should be conducted to understand how they work. Certainly, the 6" tire could be a factor that makes a difference, and it would be nice because, as of today, apart from the 5 kg, there are no differences, and you notice it even when you see them all racing together in WSK. Perhaps it's true; in KZ, there are some more experienced drivers, but there are some kids who went really fast. Then you find yourself at the European Championship, and in fact, if you're not in the industry, it's hard to understand the difference between the two.»
An almost endless racing season and a huge number of races put everyone under pressure: how do you manage it at Birel? If you could change something in the current schedule, where would you intervene?
«In fact, it's a problem: almost everyone agrees that there are too many races, but in the end, among us, we can't find a solution that satisfies all operators. For my part, I can tell you that there are absolutely too many races, and the calendar is absolutely too long. Even just 10/12 years ago, we started at the end of February and finished at the end of October. I understand that for some teams, more races mean more work, but starting in January and going continuously until the end of November is objectively too much: you move constantly from one kart track to another, from one championship to another without logic, and without a break, you don't even have time to go testing to develop material during the winter and do a better-organized and planned job. This doesn't benefit our sport: I would reduce the number of races during the year by at least 30%, without necessarily choosing which ones to eliminate because the organizers, whether FIA, WSK, or others, do their job well: it's just that the total number of races is too many.»
Do you see a possible solution soon, for example, with a variation in the number of rounds of the FIA World or European Championship?
«If you look at the FIA calendar, there aren't many titled races. There has been talk of holding 'trial races' as a substitute for tests, so there is a 'trial race', but if we continue like this, we will end up having a 'trial race' for the 'trial race' of the European Championship, and it becomes a vicious circle. So practically, we have a World Championship every Sunday: the drivers are the same, the karts are the same, the race format is the same; they are all the same in the end. On the World Championship with multiple rounds, I think attempts have been made, but fundamentally, for me, it's right that it remains as it is, to allow drivers from all continents to be present at the start. Actually, someone could say: why not turn the European Championship into the World Championship? Taking place over several rounds, and since anything can happen in the one-round World Championship trial, you would see the constancy of results rewarded, and therefore, the value of the driver and the team would be recognized – the reasoning is logical and makes sense. In 2024, the European Championship, with the aim of allowing real values to emerge, will have three rounds; on the World Championship, despite talking about it, I find it difficult: I don't think there will be any changes.»
Birel is a protagonist in the North-American continent: there you brought former world champions Kremers and Morgatto and are present - also - with a brand aimed at that specific market: Compkart. What do you think the USA teaches us, and what do you prefer about European races?
«Regarding the Americans, it must be said that they are definitely easy-going in managing large events; in Europe, everything is very, very professional. Add to that, almost everything is single-brand there, and this is also one of the reasons for the diversity and keeping things simpler: there is no good or bad, I don't feel like making comparisons. They race in their way, do many races in parking lots. Think about the Supernationals: it's a show, very nice, very well organized even though the potential of the karts often doesn't emerge. The temperatures, the type of asphalt, the fact that the tracks are essentially made with jerseys. Our drivers are still happy to race there, and the gap with Europe is no longer what it could have been twenty or thirty years ago. For Birel Art, the USA accounts for 20% of turnover and is our primary market: with the decline of the Asian and Japanese markets, which have been greatly reduced due to various factors such as the aging of the circuits, the general crisis, and the devaluation of Japanese currency. Meanwhile, the American market has grown a lot and is still growing.»

Created by: fmarangon2 - 13/12/23

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