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TKART magazine Once in a lifetime | Double Excitement
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Yanek Sterzel
29 March 2016
A two-seater kart powered by a TM KZ engine, the Genk circuit and an unscrupulous driver such as Jos Verstappen. The result? A very memorable experience.
In every sense...
It all begins in winter. I’m visiting the TM Racing headquarters and as I wander around, I notice a kart that’s 2-in-1: four tires, a steering wheel, an engine... but two seats. “What’s this?”- I ask. “If you behave and don’t say a word - the guys at the Italian factory say - we’ll let you take it for a spin. As a passenger, of course.” I usually do behave. So all I have to do is keep the secret if I want to live up to expectations, those set forth by Claudio, Filippo Flenghi and Franco Drudi. On their hand, the three are ready to reward me by keeping their promise. And so it goes that some time later I get a phone call: “Genk. Next weekend. Bring your helmet. You’re going on the two-seater.” I almost can’t believe it. They’re for real! And that’s not all: “Verstappen drives. Jos.” It dosen’t take much else to make me as happy as a 5 year old kid on Christmas Day, standing in front of presents under the tree!
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The combination, to think of it, is astounding: one of those circuits where the fates of European and World championships for shifter karts get decided; a kart that’s never been on track and is ready to be tested in an exclusive world premiere; an F1 driver at the wheel. And said F1 driver, mind you, is not some random Taki Inoue. Jos Verstappen, Dutch, 44 years old, in the queen motorsport category from 1994 to 2003 (minus a couple of off-track seasons) is all but a gentle driver. He’s one of those guys who has never been afraid of slamming into a retaining wall at over 200 km/h if this meant cutting time through a hairpin. This is a guy who found himself enveloped in flames during a fueling session gone wrong and walked away as calm as someone heading to the bar for a cold one, despite severe burns on his face. A guy who - among other things - spent a few weeks in prison for an alleged incident of domestic violence against his girlfriend - whom, word is, he later tried to run over. But this is a whole other story and, besides, I am not his girlfriend and he surely can’t run me over: on the two-seater ride, I’ll be sitting behind him.
Yet, despite the things I tell myself to keep calm, when it’s time to suit up I feel the tension rising. I’m not sure why, but I start to poop myself.
Technically, I shouldn’t. Afterall, it’s not like I never stepped on a car for a ride with a reckless driver before. Still, this time something’s different: the driver isn’t reckless, he is Jos Verstappen;
the four-wheel vehicle I’m about to get on is not a GP or a formula car... but a kart, with two seats. In the end, it’s precisely Jos who “reassures” me: “Don’t worry, don’t be scared. You know I’m a sensitive guy...” - and laughs. I don’t. We take off, as TM Racing owner Claudio Flenghi waves bye to me for “the last time” and reminds Jos to take it easy on the first lap. I’m not sure if he didn’t understand or didn’t hear, all I know is that, cold tires and all, he lays his foot on the gas and we’re immediately sideways. I yell something at him, he acts like he doesn’t hear (he later confesses: “you were screaming your head off!”) and he lays another one down. We get to the main straight and from then on it’s an upward spiral for the next 4 rounds. Lap after lap, Jos steps on the brakes a little later and takes the bend a little harder... I try to get used to it, but it’s not that easy when you’re being shaken up like a long drink in the hands of a barman looking to impress his clients.
I scream and Jos puts the pedal to the metal like a madman: the roles of the bi-kart riders are clear. At the end we are going about 8 seconds slower than a normal KZ, but the sense that my life could end at each corner is all there. Perhaps because I don’t know this circuit, while Jos works his way through Genk’s bends as if he were going from bedroom to kitchen in his own house.
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