We did it again. Yes. Once again, we snuck into an F1 driver’s testing session. More precisely, that of an F1 driver and two of his friends, who are also drivers. All, of course, on karts. However, this time was different. That’s because what seemed like a normal day out on the track for three racing professionals turned into a no-holds-barred challenge involving a series of fastest laps. You know when you go racing on rental karts with friends and pay for driving sessions over and over again because no one wants to surrender to the others in the hunt for the best lap? Well, this was more or less the scenario that developed before our very eyes. With one small difference: the three drivers weren’t just any old friends. The three were Carlos Sainz Jr., Roberto Merhi and Felix Porteiro.
Let’s take things one step at a time: Thursday, 12 January, 8.50am. It’s a mid-winter morning like any other at the Franciacorta Karting Track (Castrezzato, Brescia, northern Italy): the sun timidly tries to make its way through the clouds, the tarmac is still damp due to the rain that fell during the night and a few brave the sort of temperatures that make you want to stay at home under the blankets, complete preparations and take to the track for a few sessions of practice laps. However, there’s something unusual, unexpected in that semi-deserted paddock: one of the Tony Kart Racing Team trucks is located right next to the parc fermé. Inside, there are three Tony Kart Racer 401 RRs in the Shifter version, customised with the numbers 1, 2 and 3. It immediately becomes clear that they’re not just any three vehicles and the stickers with the names of the drivers on the fairings confirm as much: “Porteiro F.”, “Meri R.” and… “Sainz C.”.
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