Since the beginning of the 90s, the Italian Alessandro Manetti has made an impact on the highest level of kart racing. Three times FIA Karting European Champion between 1991 and 2007, double FIA Karting World Champion in Formula A and Formula Super A, his talent and the care with which he has maintained his physical condition have allowed him to stay at the top for many years both in the direct drive categories and at the wheel of a gearbox kart for different brands. He created his own team, Manetti Motorsport, in 2018, achieving very convincing results since last year with a growing number of drivers. In an interview conducted just after mid-June 2020, he shares his concerns as head of a private team.
How did you cope with the shutdown period?
Personally, I am lucky to be in good health and none of my relatives have been affected by the disease. But professionally, as a team manager, I, like many of my colleagues, had a very difficult time during this period. Most of my drivers are from overseas, from America in particular, and it is becoming very complicated. The closing of the borders doesn't allow them to come and race in Italy for the moment. It has been very difficult financially since February. We don't earn any money when we don't race. Some neighbouring countries such as France have been able to help businesses, but this has not been the case in Italy in the same way.
Does the gradual recovery allow you to get back of track?
For some time now, the health situation has improved and the circuits have reopened for testing. However, we have not resumed our activity because we don't have any drivers. I returned to the track for the first time in mid-June with just one driver, Frenchman Luca Bosco, who took advantage of the recent opening of the French-Italian border. It's almost impossible to find drivers in Italy at the moment. It is clear that many people are facing new financial difficulties and that karting is not their priority.
What does the future of you team look like
I always try to be positive, to retain optimism for the future. However, we have to face the fact that the prospects are not very good in the current situation. This is the first time that the kart racing world has been confronted with such a difficult situation. Like many other private teams, I am looking for a solution without being able to find one. At the moment, the projects we had with the North and South American drivers who had been with us since last year have fallen through. Luckily we will probably succeed in getting Luca Bosco, the spearhead of our team, to race with a factory team. I have some hopes for September if it's possible to cross the Atlantic again.
But September is still a long way off and the consequences of a business interruption of more than six months will be heavy. I am holding on without any help from anyone, doing everything I can to carry on until then, knowing that the outcome is uncertain. Chassis and engine manufacturers are in a better position to deal with the crisis. It had already become more and more complicated to run a private team for a few years because of the increasing competition from official teams or teams supported directly by the factories. Now it is likely to become impossible.
What alternatives are you considering?
I'm thinking of reorienting my activity. I can of course coach, but I would prefer to be in charge of an official team in the Mini category for example. I like working with young people. They have everything to learn and I can give them the benefit of my double experience as a top-level driver and team manager, to give them a good foundation. You also have to know how to motivate them and their family to make them want to continue as long as possible in the higher categories, Junior, OK or KZ2.
About the Mini category, my opinion is that it should stay at the national level with cheaper equipment. As it is practiced in an "international" way, 60 Mini requires high budgets, not so far from those in Junior. Parts and tyres are expensive, you have to rent the engines from a tuner and test a lot. I regret that success is based more on financial aspects than on the real talent of the drivers. In my humble opinion, this is not good for young people with regard to their future and it does not help the sustainability of karting. We hardly ever see a father running his son any more without the support of a team, and it's a shame, because it was a great experience to have as a family.