Vega S.r.L., a leading manufacturer of tyres for competition karting, has been strongly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its headquarters and main factory are located in northern Italy in Saronno in the province of Varese. Vega also has another production site in the south of France. At the beginning of May 2020, Paolo and Stefano Mantese both gave their views and analyses on the situation of Vega and kart racing in general.
Paolo, how are you experiencing the current situation?
Thank God our family members are doing well, as well as the staff of Vega Italy and Vega France. Luckily, our Chinese distributor had provided us with information about the Covid-19 threat long before the general public here in Europe knew about it. This early awareness certainly helped us to adopt effective behavioural protocols, ahead of the authorities' directives, and ensure the protection of our personnel.
Of course, our sales have been very weak since the beginning of April, but we can't complain if we focus on what matters most: good health. Vega is a strong group with a solid base. Now we have to support our employees and business partners, preparing ourselves for the moment when drivers finally return to the racetracks. As I speak to you now, we are organising the opening of the factory. We will restart production after a month of forced shutdown. Today I can hear the normal noise coming from the factory and that already makes me happy.
Stefano, how do you envisage racing restarting?
We all want to resume racing. Not only do the drivers miss the circuits, but also all the passionate people who work in the paddock. It is therefore undeniable that, from a commercial point of view, starting again as soon as possible is a necessity for the circuits, the manufacturers, the teams and all those who work in karting. It remains obvious that the health and safety of everyone will always be the priority.
We have reason to be optimistic in that our sport is practised without physical contact between the athletes, without the presence of many spectators in the stands and that the number of people in the paddock and in the awnings can be regulated to avoid excessive gatherings. Organisation and flexibility from everyone will be needed, but I believe that this can be done. It also concerns different aspects of our daily life, considering that, as far as we know, these limitations could last for a long time and that we all have to learn to live with them.
We all know that the situation is evolving and different from one country to another. We recently learned that the Italian ASN (ACI Sport) has finalised a protocol to relaunch Italian motor sport. This is very good news. Something is moving. Undoubtedly, the restart will come from the national races. International races will follow, depending on the possibility of moving from one country to another. I hope they can still resume over the summer.
Paolo, what are the current priorities for international karting?
In my opinion, the FIA, the promoters, the medical experts in cooperation with the teams, the tracks and the representatives of the manufacturers, must find the solutions most acceptable to the community to guarantee the respect of social distancing during events (administration, technical control, tyre distribution, fuel distribution, etc.). The digitisation of administrative documents is also essential. Maximum effort must be made for the safety of the entire paddock. Well-disciplined organisation will allow participants to enjoy the races without discomfort or tension. These solutions could also be useful in encouraging the national level to adopt these protocols.
Stefano, what consequences do you see for karting in the coming years?
I am an optimistic person and I believe that our sport is a perfect outlet to get out of today's mentally stressful situation. I'm sure people are eager to restart their engines. As far as the sport and long term is concerned, given that racing drivers have a very specific passion, I am sure that our world will recover faster than many others. It is clear that in the short term we will be faced with the negative repercussions of widespread economic losses and the resulting shortage of available money.
Thus, we must all immediately strive to promote karting, while considering that social distancing is possible in this sport (and in motor sports in general), our industry must know how to encourage participation, invest in communication, especially among the younger generations. Today more than ever, a racing circuit must be considered a perfect playing field.