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Once in a Lifetime | Competing in karts on the snow

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COMPETING IN KARTS ON THE SNOW

25 April 2016
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Three professional drivers. Three top karts. A challenge... completely covered in snow. An exciting event that took place some time ago, but is worthwhile remembering

Snow, ice, cold: no grip. Driving high-performance vehicles in these conditions would be insane. Then you watch a Red Bull promo that shows a Formula 1 plowing a track and you think... why not give it try on karts? Done! So, we went to Riva Valdobbia in the Italian Alps, on the Ice Rosa Ring circuit, home turf of the Ice Series, featuring any kind of car willing to crush through ice. If we have any hopes of tackling this track we know we have to call on winning drivers on winning karts: 2012 KF World Champion Flavio Camponeschi on Tony Kart/Vortex, multiple World title holder Davide Forè on his CRG/Maxter and two-time KZ1 World Cup winner Bas Lammers on Praga/TM. (At the time, these were the pairings. Now, a short while later, they have all changed teams. However, they’re still competing for international karting’s main trophies).
We barely have time to meet up on track with drivers and technicians that we run into the first problem: the three team vans can’t get over the snow-covered pass that takes to the circuit.

So we decide to turn the service area into our race paddock, or better, our base camp. After spending the afternoon setting up and equipping the karts for our snow fight, we make our way to the track and, even if it’s dark, Lammers does to do a shakedown to get a sense of actual drive conditions: “There’s no grip,” this is his verdict.

The next day is “D-Day,” but we have a tiny issue (besides the bitter cold that is chilling drivers, technicians, vehicles and everyone and everything else): getting to the track is impossible. So we start filming and doing our photo shoot from the access road.
The schedule turns out to be more intense than a day on track for a major competition. Between the freezing cold, filming, and photos, drivers get no rest. Same for the mechanics: there’s always a kart to push along, dig out of snow, or make small repairs on. It’s a straight shot through, from 8 am to 4 pm, without breaks, not even for lunch.
But, with “folks like this,” the situation is bound to degenerate: yes, because when real drivers cross paths with rivals, even if they’re just going from kitchen to bathroom, they can’t resist the impulse to step in front and get there first. Imagine in snow! Unthinkable overtakes, sinking wheels, one-eighties, pendulum swings: this is the crazy show that shakes up an otherwise calm mountain valley, covering the gurgling of alpine creeks with the rumbling of KZ engines, the melody of full throttle take-offs, and the cheers of on-lookers.
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Sure, it takes away from the poetry and the serenity of the snowy scenery, but we’re left breathless by the tricks these gladiators are able to pull on their karts, having the time of their lives despite the freezing cold and the thin soles separating their feet from ice.
Camponeschi, is the youngest and the least experienced on shifter karts of drivers on track for the Kart Snow Fight, but when he’s done breaking in and understands how to drive right... he flies! In the first timed lap he manages to go faster than Lammers, who, until then, seemed impossible to catch. At the end of the day Flavio declares he had fun, although he he hands us a joking threat, “you better pray I don’t have a fever tomorrow!”. Flavio doesn’t handle the cold well and he often goes to warm up in the van, but when it’s time to compete he keeps his eye trained on the others and tries to learn some new tricks: “I still haven’t tapped into the secrets of driving in snow - he says - but the key is getting good grip, so it’s better to keep the tires in fresh snow rather than on ice.”
Lammers, instead, is the real daredevil of the three, so comfortable in the Alpine setting to say: “I also tried changing tire pressure, but I couldn’t feel much of a difference, other than greater under-steering at lower ranges.” This isn’t the first time driving on ice for the two-time KZ1 world cup winner: “I tried it several times before in high altitude rental venues, but this is the first time on real karts...
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