TOP KART DRIVERS OF THE 80s AND 90s
For many, they were the “golden years” of karting: the genuine flavour of races, engines that were perhaps a little too rough, but immediate and engaging, and the involvement of so many unforgettable top drivers. Put together, Beggio, Forè, Manetti, Piccini, Rossi and Wilson (in alphabetical order) won an astonishing 26 world titles: we tried to understand which one of them was the best and most representative of the era.
TIMELESS TOP DRIVERS
Every era has its top drivers, but, perhaps, it is true to say that the ‘80s and ‘90s were an unrepeatable period in karting. The movement was expanding; technological evolution had already begun, but had not yet taken over; money was needed to race, but it was not such a decisive variable. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the best drivers in those years are still, to this day, points of reference that managed to leave an indelible mark on the history of karting. Each of them made their contribution and wrote their own indelible pages, but who, among them, was the most representative of the era? Taking a quick look at their stories, counting the World Championships they each won and gleaning some tips… we tried to rank them.
World Championships were our starting point when it came to drivers from the ‘80s and ‘90s: from Mike Wilson’s in 1981 to Forè’s in 2006, a little “outside the range”, but the last in a sequence of victories that started in 1998. 26 championships in total, won by 6 different top drivers (in the photos, in alphabetical order).
Every driver has a story and every ranking, like the ones on the next slides, has its reasons. However, before starting, we asked the top drivers from the ‘80s and ‘90s to give us some little tips for anyone who, today, wishing to try to follow in their tracks and embark upon the adventure of becoming a karting World Champion: which, if one exists, is the must-have characteristic?
I started karting with my father in 1988, at 16 years of age. After three years, thanks also to the teachings of Walter Masini, in my first year as a professional, I won the World Championship at Le Mans in Formula A in a Tony Kart/Rotax. Then, I came close to winning the Formula K World Championship in 1992, finishing 2nd at Ugento behind Danilo Rossi. I won in Cordoba in 1994 in Formula Super A, starting from last place, and I went close in 1995, when I made contact with Forè three laps from the end, and in 1996, when, leading from the first to the last lap, I got knocked out. That is the point: never give up. Because, in karting, winning against the best in the world means putting in times a tenth of a second faster than the others on every lap.
Cordoba (Argentina), 1994
It was a strange World Championship: there were no facilities or trucks, just shipped material. There were 38 degrees and the tarmac was very slippery. Blown engines everywhere: I blew 3 and was left with one. On the Friday morning, they lent me an engine for the practice session and the heats, which I nevertheless managed to win. In the Pre-final, the 3rd placed driver made contact with me while trying to overtake the 2nd placed driver and I gave up. I started the Final in 35th place, my lucky number: I overtook everyone, also taking advantage of a set of new tyres. However, with my mechanic, Dino Chiesa, I knew we had all the material needed.
Manetti, by all accounts, was an exceptional talent. His extraordinary World Championship performance in Cordoba was proof enough. Unfortunately, his character was not always his best ally. Some bad luck prevented him from winning other World Championships that were undoubtedly within his reach.
My experience was different from those who, from a very young age, have to leave home and learn to make do on their own. I always stayed at home and, what’s more, my aunt Luigina (Guerrini, a very experienced mechanic, Ed.) was with me from 1982 to 2008 and helped me a lot. I started racing at 8 years of age. When I was very young, I had a serious accident: I broke my femur and had several operations. My parents tried to introduce me to other sports, but I wanted to race: I started karting again and Luigina gave me a lot of help once more. Then, I did well to win my first few races and lucky that Tony Kart needed people to develop together with them. It’s more difficult nowadays, but I think that in order to excel you need to team up with an organization that can provide you with all-round support.
Ugento (Italia), 1998
On an emotional level, the first World Championship, in 1998, was special. For me, it was a dream come true, the realization that I had won something I had always dreamed of. That year, I had already won the European Championship and I knew I was mentally and technically prepared to aim for the top. There were lots of drivers, more successful and established than I was, but I knew I could do it. And so it was.
Limiting Forè to an era is difficult, because Davide started winning in 1998 (which is why he is included in these rankings) and is still battling it out on the track with the best in 2019. He has won 4 World Championships and countless other races. Becoming a “legend” while still racing is quite an achievement.
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