The Val D'Argenton riot in 1998: when Formula Super A drivers boycotted the Final Race

Columns: Editorials
The French circuit where this weekend the OK European Championship is taking place was the stage - freshly homologated in that spring of 1998 - of an episode that remains in the annals of karting history and gives an idea of how balances were different from today. (fm)

Legend Cars are unique racing vehicles: built in the USA, they weigh just under 500 kg and are powered by a Yamaha motorcycle engine. With their 'old fashioned' looking, they instinctively appeal to the audience. They are still used in super fun Championships for drivers of all ages in many countries around the world. In the mid-90s, just when karting was experiencing its Golden Age that many still lament today, and drivers of the caliber of Orsini, Manetti, Beggio, Forè, and Co. were on the track, this type of car was chosen by the then President Buser to serve as the Pace Car in the starting procedure. A touch of color, a good spot for sponsors - to some, it might have seemed like a good idea, but not to everyone, to be honest. Back in the days, the blue single-seater earned the sarcastic nickname of "Buser's toy."

But let's come to Val D'Argenton and to that splendid and modern track just homologated, where the second round (just like this year) of the single-speed categories Formula A and Super A is about to take place. The problem is that the use of the pace car poses a significant issue on the French circuit: the exit route for the pace car, which is required by regulation (art 14.2) to be at least 50 meters before the starting line for obvious safety reasons with karts accelerating greatly in a rolling start, has not been provided. At Val D'Argenton, a solution is found, endorsed by Buser himself, which involves using one of the modifications to the track intended for rent al karts as the exit route, although this is located after the finish line and not before it. This solution leftmany perplexed, especially because in the cockpit of the Pace Car is not the experienced Alessandro Piccini, a driver of undoubted fame who a few weeks earlier in Lonato had not only safely driven the pace car but also performed some spectacular maneuvers between races.
Behind the wheel is a certain Marcel Gysin, an good old friend of Buser's, his compatriot, and during the second final of the Formula A, what many feared happens, also due to the very cold temperatures that prevented the tires of the Legend from warming up properly: the pace car, which has to perform a cumbersome maneuver to the right to get out of the way, spins out at the most delicate phase of the race and wildly heads towards the marshals and photographers stationed at that point of the circuit. A marshal is mowed down amidst the terror of those present, and only by a miracle is there no fatality.
The marshal suffers various fractures to his legs and one hand, but the incredible thing is that about an hour later, after the nasty crash and after the injured marshal has been taken to the hospital, Gysin gets back behind the wheel of the pace car and, visibly in shock, is ready to start the other finals in the same manner.

There is turmoil in the paddock: the audience boos - and rightly so - while the most important names on the FSA grid, who are mostly professional drivers over twenty years old with great experience, are about to make a historic decision: they will not line up for the start of Final 2 because Buser refuses to remove the pace car from the starting procedure even though the drivers consider it absurdly dangerous, especially in that context. Time passes, the management of the Tony Team decides that its drivers will race (including the winner of Final 1, Forè), and the atmosphere heats up even further, so much so that the intervention of law enforcement with police dogs becomes necessary just as only six drivers take the start and complete the Final.

A few years earlier, a similar decision - that time in the USA - had consequences for several drivers who had their licenses suspended following their refusal to take to the track, and some justified the controversial decision of the teams of Forè, Pantano, Cesetti, Courtney, Game, and Cardelli, who despite the circumstances started amid controversy. That year, a few months later, Forè would win a splendid World Championship (he would also prevail in the European Championship) in an memorable year, which saw shortly after the French round the cancellation of the Imola Round, also due to safety issues and also with a decision made by the drivers on the track. Different times, a different karting.

Created by: fmarangon2 - 24/04/24

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