Michael Schumacher takes on Kerpen
World Karting Championship 2001
The final F1 race for the 2001 season was held in mid October. Michael Schumacher was yet again the world champion. But what was he to do in the long off season? He was back in Kerpen, Germany and the final round of the World Karting Championship was about to take place at his local track. The track he learned his craft at, the place that propelled him on to the motor racing scene. He could have went there to see the race and watch the up and coming kart drivers.
M. Schumacher participating in a karting race organised by F. Massa. Photo from Wikipedia / by Morio
Once a kart racer, always a kart racer.
But instead he decided that if he was going there, he could only do one thing - race. Yes, in 2001 the F1 World Champion raced in the karting world championship. Of course he was in the premiere class, which at the time was Formula Super A, which meant he was up against the best kart drivers in the world at the time. So Schumi got to compete against Rosberg, Hamilton, Luizzi and others long before they got to F1.
A driver in a kart made by the Italian kart manufacturer - Tony Kart. Schumacher's preferred kart make. Photo from Wikipedia / by Gewma
His weapon of choice for this event was a Tony Kart made Mitox chassis with a 100cc water cooled, direct drive Vortex engine. The engine would have been able to go beyond 20 000 rpm and produce around 30 bhp. What is interesting with this kart is that he got custom made parts for it in order to save as much weight as possible. One such example being a carbon seat made by famous kart and car seat manufacturers Tillett.
In the wet qualification session Schumacher decided to wait. The idea being that track conditions would improve and he would post a competitive time. Unfortunately for him that was not the case. With track conditions deteriorating he was only able to manage to qualify in 22nd place. That actually made him so angry that he was not going to compete at the front of the field that he locked himself in the Tony Kart motorhome.
In his first heat he managed to finish in eight position. Unfortunately in his second heat contact with other drivers and water pump failure meant he wasn't where he wanted to be yet again. But at least he would start the finals on Sunday from the middle of the pack.
You may know Michael Schumacher as one of the west wet weather drivers in F1, but the reason for that is karting in the wet. In the first final he was carving his way though the field and showing other drivers the proper way around the wet Kerpen track, but bad luck struck again. This time in the form of a broken front hub. In the second final however, he raced his way to the finish and was third at the chequered flag. Even getting promoted to second after rising karting star Marco Ardigo got disqualified.
The result of Michael Schumacher participating in this race was that karting got way more mainstream coverage than it would normally get. You had the usual karting journalists at the track and many more journalists from the world of F1. This was not the first time the German star raced karts while in F1. He was a regular at the kart track and was a great ambassador for the sport. He even raced a gearbox kart in the SKUSA SuperNats, but that is a story for another day.
Let me know what you think. Is it a good idea for such high profile drivers to participate in kart races? Would it promote karting to the mainstream public? Or what would you do if you were an F1 world champion, would you just stick to F1 cars or race anything you can?