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The Expert Advices | Paolo De Conto: when a champion says ‘enough’

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24 February 2020

Even millennials go into retirement. As strange as the statement may sound, there are areas in which men born between 1981 and 1996 (or, specifically, the so-called millennials) are already “ex”. Even if in their field they have been amongst the most representative and, if they wanted, they could have continued to be so. Class of 1992, kart driver Paolo De Conto, hence definitely part of the millennials, has been one of the best drivers behind the steering wheel of a kart. He won World Championships, European Championships and WSK Series events. He won in Las Vegas (United States) as well as in Europe, he won wearing Birel, Energy Corse and CRG suits. Yet, at the end of the 2019 season, he decided to retire. He did it quietly, almost without even being noticed, managing the enormous amount of thoughts, memories and hopes for the future in the same way he was on the track with the horsepower of the KZ engine. With the same style with which he does this interview, reliving the unforgettable moments of a spectacular career and thinking about the future as a millennial… an adult.

1 Do you remember how you started?

Of course! Pista Verde, at Caselle D’Altivole. A Sunday afternoon when we had nothing to do, we decided to go. My dad was a rally navigator, but he never went karting. When we arrived at the track, we rented one. I was very little, maybe 5 years old. My memories of the event are not exactly precise aside from myself behind the kart’s steering wheel and my sister and dad running beside me while telling me to speed up because I was driving very slowly.


2 After that, though, did you improve quickly?

My dad had a friend whose son raced. He lent me his kart and I started. Afterwards, we bought a Top Kart Comer 50 cc and I ran my first races and then continuing into the 60 Mini class. Everything was done at home with my dad as the mechanic. A regular evening, Wednesday, everything was dismantled, cleaned and the materials prepared for the weekend. That’s how I started to take an interest in the technical aspect of karting. In 2006, when I moved to the 100 Junior, I had a mechanic who followed me, but I didn’t think about international classes yet. I raced against my older sister; she was really good! In a race at the Triveneto Regional Championship that we competed in together, she won. I came in second place.

3 Was 2008, on the other hand, a more difficult year?

It was a tougher year, with a few more chassis issues. It was at the end of 2008 that I said, ‘I want to try the KZ’. I did a couple of outings, a race in Jesolo (Italy) and the Bridgestone Cup. I immediately thought, ‘This is great!’, even though at the beginning getting comfortable with the gears was a mess. Nobody had explained anything to me. In fact, during the first race final, I had an accident because I got my timing wrong. I touched the driver in front of me and we both ended up withdrawing from the race.

De Conto remembers the battles with Marco Ardigò

4 Was the move to Energy Corse in 2009 a decisive step?

It was a gamble. I didn’t know Michele [Panigada, owner of Energy Corse – Editor’s note] and he didn’t know me. They had won a lot of races in the KZ2 and I had worked hard and felt comfortable with the TM technician who was working with Energy Course at the time. The first year was an apprenticeship. I did pretty good, but at the time in KZ there was Thonon who was the “king” of that category. I certainly did not think that one day I would have become one of the prominent drivers. I looked at them and I studied them to try to understand how they managed the races. I reviewed the videos. That was something I did on my own, without the help of a coach. But when you have the ‘hunger’ that I had, you can get there on your own.

5 And then the victories started to happen.

In 2010 I won the KZ2 European Championship. I told myself: At least I managed to achieve one title’. Yet, inside me nothing had changed, at most just a little more self-esteem and awareness.
The beginning of 2011 was difficult as the chassis did not work well with the Dunlop tires and that gave us some problems. But we prepared ourselves very well and I had a great battle with Ardigò at the KZ1 European Championship!

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