dynamic young man in his thirties, James Geidel, as President of the RGMMC Group, has been the Promoter of the FIA Karting Championships since 2018. RGMMC also promotes and organises other Competitions such as the IAME Euro Series, the Spanish Karting Championship and the new international Champions of the Future series launched in 2020. It was interesting to talk to him in April 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting the whole world.
Let's hear from you first. How are the initial weeks of inactivity in the sport going for you?
I'm doing very well, thank you. My loved ones are well and I appreciate the opportunity to be with them. The situation is difficult in some ways, but it also allows people to live differently by spending more time at home with their family. I live in Switzerland, away in the mountains, there is no real confinement and nature is on our doorstep. Frankly, I have no complaints. I am reassured to know that the entire RGMMC team, who come from several countries, is safe and secure in their own homes.
Even though I work a lot, the conditions are different and it's not unpleasant. Normally, we are busy with the management of day-to-day business, we never have the time to devote ourselves fully to the projects we have in mind. Now we can finally take advantage of these long days to develop new ideas, to move forward on subjects that were previously left aside. I'm increasing the conversations with the teams, the manufacturers, the federations and of course the drivers, which is very enriching.
What is the current impact of this particular situation on your activities?
The conditions are obviously not favourable for racing. All sports are hard hit because it is no longer possible to move around or to gather together. We are all on a break without knowing when racing will be able to resume. The FIA and the CIK-FIA have approached the situation with pragmatism and while waiting to see the situation more clearly, the first races have been postponed. I don't see what could have been done better. This is also what we have done for the other series for which we are responsible. The situation is being managed according to the information we receive from the government authorities. The current problem is that everyone has their own opinion, but no one is able to predict the future. Many experts, and non-experts unfortunately, express themselves frequently, sometimes in a contradictory manner, but in the end we do not know what will happen.
How do you see the next steps for kart racing?
The world of karting is very special. The participants are different from many other sports. I am convinced that when competition starts again, the competitors will be there, even if we might see a drop in numbers. For me, what will prevent the drivers from competing will be primarily travel constraints. We can imagine reducing the teams' travel for various reasons, around Italy for example, but that won't solve the drivers' transport problems. That's where the most important factor lies. Once the barriers to the organisation of the races are removed, I am convinced that the recovery will depend essentially on the drivers' ability to travel.
It should also be remembered that travel also depends on accommodation capacity, which is yet another problem. At the end of the day, there are a lot of parameters to take into account and it is impossible today to answer all these questions. In my opinion, it will be easier for the teams to be able to reach the circuits when the time comes. This is not the most critical point. There will undoubtedly be precautions to be taken, guarantees to be given to the authorities, but this does not seem insurmountable to me. In any case, I imagine that the social distancing will last for several months, if not longer. We will therefore have to adapt to it and adopt new habits.
What is your analysis on the future of competitive karting?
In the long term, karting, like many other sectors, is likely to suffer from the consequences of this epidemic. We can always try to reduce costs to limit the negative effects, but we must stay realistic. The savings that can be made at the highest level of competition remain marginal. As long as current functioning is maintained, with large teams and beautiful structures, budgets will remain high, so we should not be deluded. There have been very significant developments in this area over the last fifteen or twenty years. At that time there were many valuable national championships with many participants, while international series remained rare. Now the trend has been reversed and it is difficult to turn back the clock.
But again, no one can predict with certainty what the future will bring. We will have to try to return to some normality after the pandemic and see how things go, knowing that a lot will have changed. The global economy sometimes works in amazing ways. However, it is the karting market that will guide us towards forms of competition adapted to these new times. It is risky to try to anticipate, so we will see.
I have always been a positive person and I remain so. There's no point being pessimistic in a difficult period, it doesn't change the outcome. The situation changes daily, it is not possible to make medium-term plans. The current visibility is about five weeks in advance. Let us take things as they come and assume our responsibilities, what more can we do? For the moment the priority is to stay safe at home to protect ourselves and others, and also to maintain confidence. Let's wait and see, while keeping our fingers crossed. I'm sure it will be a joyful moment when we get back to racing!