The Coronavirus emergency stopped production, sporting events and everything that could help the virus spread, motorsport from F1 to Karting has made no exception. All FIA Karting and National Championship have been postponed to a later date and a lot of factories in this sector have shut down. Everything has been stopped and it is difficult to know for how long. In such scenery, that is new for the whole world, we met CRG’s President Giancarlo Tinini to hear his opinion on what are the consequences and how this epidemic will affect karting in the future. In the occasion, we also touched on some general themes of karting, the balance and goals of CRG at the beginning of this new decade and the sporting and commercial challenges ahead. The first question obviously concerns the present and the consequences of the Coronavirus situation on karting:
“The karting sector, as many others, will be hit quite badly. We cannot foresee at the moment the time needed to place this emergency behind us and a lot of time will certainly be needed to get some confidence back on all the activities requiring team work. It is very difficult to estimate the economic damages, but when a sector completely stops the financial impact is usuallydramatic. At the same time, we cannot underestimate the psychological repercussions. We will certainly have to re-tune our future plans proportionally to the length of this halt and Federations will have to take the right actions to support a restart of this sector.”
What advice would you give to the International Federation to favour the restart after this emergency?
“I think great care has to be put to heal the psychological, physic and economic blow we took and FIA will certainly consider this. I hope in a lighter calendar that will allow us to re-organize for the future. We need to think about the effects of the Coronavirus on all the operators and allow everybody to get back on their feet, including the small teams. It might be helpful if FIA organized a meeting with all the operators of our sector (constructors, teams, organizers and promoters) and mediate the needs of all of them through shared actions.”
Some sociologists expect that after the long quarantine and the restrictions all over the world, a recreation and amusement period will be needed, as is happening in China. Do you believe that karting at its basis, like rental karts or promotional championships, will get a boost and a regeneration push stronger than in the recent past?
“Karting, especially the Rental offer that has great geographic coverage, with indoor and outdoor tracks spread all over the world and reaches out to a huge user-base including kids and adults, certainly provides an immersive amusement chance. Even competitive karting fans cannot wait to practice the sport they love, but costs will be crucial as at the restart we will have to favour solutions that can meet offer and demand.”
Leaving the Coronavirus issue aside for a moment, focusing more in general on the problems of karting, Lewis Hamilton has mentioned several times the excessive cost of racing and the difficulties experienced by talented drivers in their formation as opposed to richer drivers. What is your opinion about this?
“Lewis, like a lot of other professional drivers, had to go through a tough path due also to the costs. Currently, if you do not take part in some specific championships you are not considered much as a driver and this does not help the growth and training of drivers. I believe this training should be the focus of national and regional championships. Another weak point is the absence of an entry-level category where potential talents could have the chance to shine. We have often raised up the problem of costs to FIA and national Federations, but nowadays also Mini Kart cannot be considered as a basic category. We proposed a lot of possible solutions, but we need the authority of a Federation that can look past individual interests and focus on the general needs of Karting as a sporting discipline.”
What is the balance of the past decade for CRG?
“From a sporting viewpoint this has been a positive decade, we won 9 titles including FIA World Championships and World Cups, 9 FIA European Championships and 7 titles with the Zanardi brand: namely, 5 World Championships and 2 European Championships. We also have been successful in national races all over the world. The balance is positive, despite we missed out on some highs in the past two International seasons. From a commercial viewpoint, our company has always been a market leader in the Racing but also Rental, Electric Kart and promotional karting sectors. We always put innovation, research and quality at the centre of our projects and this is appreciated by our clients.”
Regarding races, how much will CRG miss Paolo De Conto?
“De Conto will be missed by the whole world of karting, not only by CRG, but he made his choice and we respect that. His retirement, as that of other drivers of his generation, are further signals that International karting is more focused on young generations and our choices on the medium term are also along these lines.”
What are your expectations for the future?
“Regarding International karting, we have been trying to make FIA and championship promoters understand that the issue of costs must be addressed concretely. Nothing has been done so far and this is a huge problem. Another point where an intervention is needed is the reduction of International races. A first step would be to introduce at least a 2 months-long winter break and a maximum of 2 International events per month, but at the moment we basically race without stops from December and January. The high number of International races steals space for National Championships and Series, whose survival is very important. The number of races has to be reduced but also the length of exits, entry fees and the cost of tyres and fuel. Moreover, to bring its charm and spectacle back to karting, I have always been in favour of using more performing tyres and less strict rules that can make the strongest drivers shine. Regarding CRG’s future as a company, our challenge will be to structureeven more every division. We are reorganizing all the production sectors, commercial offices, customer services and racing team to achieve this.”
What can you tell us about the novelties of 2020 Racing products?
“The most important news regarding chassis is the International homologation of the Mini chassis. We introduced two different models: the Hero version that adopted the same design concepts of the previous model and the new Black Mirror, that has a more traditional chassis layout. Both chassis have a completely redesigned braking system. We worked a lot to improve our direct-drive offer and made some changes to the KT2 model and to the KZ chassis. Regarding accessories, we have a lot of novelties like the new magnesium alloys.”
CRG is also one of the most active companies in the Rental Karting sector.
“We have been investing in this sector for a long time now and we have a complete and high-quality offer. We always looked at this market trying to meet the needs of track owners that look for reliable and strong karts not affected by contacts in the most sensible parts and the customers of Rental tracks that wish to drive fun and fast karts. Our Rental kart had very positive feedback on both fronts. Our offer includes also one of the best electric karts on the market: the E-drenaline model and this year we also introduced the Mini version. In the past few months, we improved our commercial staff and customer care service for the Rental range, to provide a complete service to our clients, both in terms of sales and post-sale. Let’s not forget our sporting programmes connected to the Rental Karts that have marketing purposes and showcase our products to involve in specific events the customers selected in our partner tracks.”
What message do you feel like sending to all the karting fans in such difficult times?
“We need to put safety first at the moment and follow all the indications of the authorities. I believe we will get back to our usual lives, maybe we will even have better values and we will be able to give a better value to important things in life.”