2021 World Championship in Brazil: all the behind-the-scenes stories about the arm wrestling between FIA and manufacturers-teams

2021 World Championship in Brazil: all the behind-the-scenes stories about the arm wrestling between FIA and manufacturers-teams

The recent press release issued by Speed Motor Clube – Speedpark (the Brazilian track that, according to the FIA calendar, should host the 2021 OK/OKJ karting world championship), which we (TKART) published, actually doesn’t say a lot about the real situation that the 2021 karting world championship for the single-speed categories is facing.

A summary for those who are distracted.

15-16 May weekend: we’re in Genk for Round 1 of FIA Karting European Championship OK/OKJ and the manufacturers/teams sign a joint letter, in which they communicate to FIA that they will not participate in the world championship in Brazil. Why? The main reasons are, briefly, safety, logistical difficulties and disproportionate costs in this pandemic period, which is already challenging.

29-30 May weekend: we’re in France, in Essay for Round 2 of the European OK/OKJ championship, and we (TKART) interview FIA Karting President Felipe Massa to ask him about updates on the real feasibility of the world championship in Brazil (here you can find the entire interview with Massa), also in light of the letter sent to him by the manufacturers and teams. With his answers, Felipe essentially explains to us that this letter doesn’t change any program. Therefore, the world championship planned in Brazil is something that has been totally decided and there is no plan B.

July 8: with a press release, the news that the World Motor Sport Council has approved the change of the world championship’s date, always in Brazil, from 28-31 October to 2-5 December, is issued.

10-11 July weekend: during Round 3 of the European OK/OKJ championship, the promoter of the world championship in Brazil meets the teams, the manufacturers and also the media staff. The goal is to communicate reassurances of any kind to who will participate, with regard to the diffusion of COVID-19 in Brazil, but also with regard to all the planned logistical and economic facilitations.

24-25 July weekend: it’s actually Friday, July 23rd, we’re in Zuera for the last round of the FIA Karting European Championship OK/OKJ, the qualifying sessions have just finished and right in a room that is very close to the press room of the Spanish circuit we see seven people entering. They are the representatives of: Birel ART, CRG, Kart Republic, Parolin Racing Kart, Tony Kart, RGMMC (the FIA promoter) and FIA Karting.
The story of what happened in that room is obviously a reconstruction we made, but it has been confirmed by various sources. Basically, the manufacturers reiterate their will: they will not participate in the world championship if this race remains planned in Brazil, even if it’s postponed to December 2nd. On the other side, the FIA-RGMMC one, some nearly unexpected reassurances arrive. FIA isn’t apparently interested in having a world championship without the main manufacturers and the relative official teams as well as drivers.
Furthermore, it seems that various versions of a plan B have already been prepared to organise the world championship in Europe. Talks revolve around the Franciacorta Karting Track circuit, the Circuito Internazionale Napoli, the Adria Karting Raceway and the MotorLand Aragon (Alcaniz). Nothing is official, defined or definite, but the meeting ends with the manufacturers becoming essentially aware that FIA intends to evaluate some alternatives to Brazil, in order to meet the constructors’ requests.

July 28th: the story sees a twist. The manufacturers receive an email, with a message written on letterhead by “Federation International de l’Automobile”, signed by Jean Todt (FIA President) and Felipe Massa (CIK or FIA Karting President, as you prefer). The message is essentially the following one: with this letter we reaffirm our full support to the organiser and the local Brazilian ASN as well as the intention of realising the 2021 world championship in Brazil, on December 5th, as was defined in the last world council. This was followed by reassurances on the fact that the health situation in Brazil will be consistently monitored and by the wish that many manufacturers will exploit the chance of participating in this race, which represents a unique opportunity to promote the business and knowledge of the karting sport.
In other words: if you thought there was a plan B, after the last meeting in Zuera, you had misunderstood. The world championship will be raced in Brazil.

July 30th: final act, for the moment, of the arm wrestling between FIA and manufacturers-teams. This time, the latter are those who take pen and paper to write, to Jean Todt and Felipe Massa, a letter signed by approximately twenty karting manufacturers and teams among the main ones of the international scene. The message is essentially the following one: considering the situation of uncertainty worldwide caused by COVID-19 and the consequent difficulty in planning, after a talk between teams, parents, drivers and various stakeholders, we communicate to you our decision of not participating in the OK/OKJ World Championship if it will be raced in Brazil.

Here all the facts end and the considerations start.

The first one is that the fracture between FIA and Manufacturers as well as Teams is apparently evident and complete with regard to the 2021 World Championship.

The second one is that FIA doesn’t move an inch from its initial idea of realising the World Championship in Brazil, already postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic, because it is convinced that the manufacturers and the teams will give up sooner or later and choose to participate. It seems that they aren’t even hypothesising a world championship in Brazil without the main actors, in terms of teams and drivers, and only raced by “local” participants. The idea is, in fact, that the manufacturers and the teams will give up sooner or later.

The third consideration is that the manufacturers and the teams are for once really firmly convinced and united. In the sense that all of them have too much to lose in going to Brazil, from their point of view. The majority of the drivers (and relative parents) don’t want to travel to a distant country, without having a clear picture of the health situation in the middle of a pandemic. In addition to the concerns with regard to health and safety, there’s the question regarding costs, which would certainly be significant, even with all the facilitations that the organiser is hypothesising. In a period of time that is so uncertain on an economic level, teams and manufacturers certainly want to face situations that are less risky from an economic and financial point of view. Same reasoning for the parents of the drivers who will have to sustain the costs of the trip. In addition to this, there are some logistical and organisational problems: the mechanics who have already denied their availability to go to Brazil in December after a season such as the 2021 one, which has already been so stressful and has seen them working at consecutive races, without any break for many weeks, among WSK, RGMMC and FIA competitions, are not a few.

Now we just have to wait the closing date for the registrations to the world championship, planned for September 15th. On that day we will understand if the manufacturers and the teams will have remained united and compact in the decision of not participating or if someone will have put in place some ploys to participate, also indirectly, with official drivers racing for unofficial structures, physically present on track, but with the direct support of the parent company.
In that case, those who will have eventually changed their mind at the last minute will have good chances of managing to win the world championship, but they will also have the certainty of having lost their credibility in front of the other teams, the manufacturers and the karting fans.

We can only wait and see.