A day on the track in Lonato with Charles Leclerc, an official Ferrari Formula 1 driver, driving a kart made available by Birel ART with the enthusiasm of a youngster being given a gift.
The day is one of those grey and cold ones that make you feel like staying in bed. The South Garda circuit in Lonato is the place to go: as welcoming and familiar as possible but, in all honesty, not the place to dream of being at in the middle of winter at 8.30 am.
On the circuit, the Birel ART mechanics have already been at work for a while: the truck is positioned immediately behind the closed park and a generator tries to push out a little hot air inside a shed that everyone knows will never get warm. Practically automatic routine movements and no-frills efficiency from those who care about getting things done. They smile, perfectly at ease but, they too, if they could have chosen freely, would probably not have selected the word Lonato in the destination list of their navigators.
Then come others who, instead, absolutely chose to come here; like one who is resident in Montecarlo and works in Maranello. He, of course, chose to come to the South Garda circuit in Lonato. At 9 am in the morning. With a cold that throws out clouds of thick smoke with every breath.
This is how Charles Leclerc introduces himself, smiling at the wheel of a bordeaux Alfa Stelvio, with two friends who we suspect he has dragged to the circuit by saying “come on, it’s fun!” To his karting adventure and, above all, with the contagious joy of those who are exactly where they want to be
No particular training has been planned, there are no schedules to follow or times to be respected: The idea is to enjoy a day racing in karts, which is certainly also a benefit from a professional point of view, but that now appears more like the vehicle that, since we were kids, is the only one able to immediately and totally satisfy a desire for engines and speed that burns inside like a never ending passion.
His first lap on the track is in the new RY32 S10 chassis in the KZ version. The asphalt is very cold and there are few karts on the track, but a couple of laps are enough to raise smiles from the Forè mechanics in the stand: “Go fast … go fast …” he repeats as if to confirm, to himself, something which, in the end, he never had any doubts about.
Meanwhile, Leclerc returns to the pits and quickly gets into another vehicle, also bringing a chassis set up with the single-gear engine onto the track. The reason, beyond the desire to drive, is easy to explain: since his friends have never driven a racing kart, Charles wants to warm the tyres up well so as to take a slightly tamer steering wheel in his hands.
However, the double stint is also a good occasion to ask a first opinion: “Which is better?”. “The new model, with the KZ engine, is marvellous”. This does not mean that the single-gear model is worse, but it clearly shows where Leclerc’s karting heart currently lies.
In fact, after the round dedicated to the Mini, Charles returns to the track with the shifter, meaning business. The times are slower and the laps continue one after another until the chequered flag signals that it is time to come back in
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