This year Formula A racer Jason Parrott has been keeping us up to date with his exploits abroad. We thought the World Championship at Braga was to be to his last International outing of 2005, however, as you will read, some exciting developments have taken place and, at the last minute, he secured a drive at the CIK Asia-Pacific Championship at Suzuka and for 2006. So here really is his last column of the year. Following the World Champs we were approached by Maranello Kart UK to race with them in 2006. Dad and I had a meeting with Fraz, Steve Green of Maranello Kart UK and Peter Morling of the Gerald White Group, the upshot of which was a 100% commitment to the British, European and World Championships for 2006. Maranello Kart UK is a new company set up to handle the sole distribution of all Maranello kart products in the UK. We formulated our agreement and started our programme almost straight away with a three day factory visit and test at Garda with Ben Hanley and Jules Bianchi (the other Maranello works driver) followed by the Asia Pacific Championship at Suzuka in Japan, all this and still only five weeks after the World Champs! Fraz, dad and I left Stansted on the Monday to travel to the Maranello factory where we spent a whole day packing tools and spares to take with us in our luggage to Suzuka. The following morning we had an early 5am start to fly from Verona to Frankfurt with a three hour wait for our connecting flight to Osaka. After an eleven hour flight we arrived to find ourselves nine hours ahead of British time, very disorientating but we soon got over it. On arrival at Osaka we were met by Manabu, the Maranello distributor for Japan with his minibus. We then had a two hour journey to the track that is adjacent to the F1 circuit. We had lunch and met all of the Japanese team and then visited a local shopping centre. It was a huge building and my new teammate Jules Bianchi insisted on greeting every female, young or not so young, in Japanese. A few of the team purchased electrical appliances that were a lot cheaper than in either England or Italy. Dad bought a new shaver so has no excuse for not shaving anymore. We almost got thrown out as Jules thought it would be a good idea to sit in the trolley and so I pushed him into the shelves and left him there.
When we finished there we went back to the hotel, unpacked and then met up in the local Italian restaurant. We had a lot of laughs and the atmosphere is like one big family. Armando is the boss, Yan the engine man from the Czech republic, Euan a Scottish mechanic who has lived in Italy for three years, Jules from France and my dad, Fraz and myself from England. We met up with some of the other Italian teams in the restaurant so it was quite a lively evening although we retired fairly early to sleep off our jet lag. As always it was an early start at 7am. We spent the day at the track building up and preparing the karts that had arrived by air freight in kit-form. The timetable was the same as the World Champs, Friday test and Saturday and Sunday racing so Thursday afternoon Jules and I biked around the outskirts of the F1 track and the amusement parks. Everything was on a massive scale and immaculate. We left the track around 5pm for the hotel and later the Italian restaurant again. Another great night ! Friday morning saw us at the track by 7.15am and out by 8.30am running in our engines. We had five 20 minute sessions as did the ICAs so it was half an hour on and half an hour off. It was pretty hectic. We tested quite a lot, two karts, three engines, two carbs, four exhausts and two sets of tyres but I was about 2 to 3 tenths off the pace. The day flew by and the track was hard to master with a really abrasive surface. We left the track around 6pm and went straight to a traditional Japanese restaurant. It was an experience, everyone took their shoes off and the diners knelt on the floor around the table. I got the short straw and had to sit next to Fraz’s feet! The waiters brought uncooked food to the table and prepared it on a cooker, like a mini barbecue in the middle of the table. The food was excellent and they kept bringing loads so Fraz and Euan kept eating it as they did not wish to be rude (read up on your Japanese customs lads) together with several jugs of beer. We finished quite early so our host Manabu took us to an arcade where we played baseball and racing games until about 9pm when we retired to our hotel. Yet another early start with warm-up before qualifying. Both Jules and I were on the pace with our best engines still to come for qualifying. Qualifying however was a disaster. On my first flying lap (my third total lap) the engine seized so I had no fast laps recorded.
We later discovered the piston ring had broken so Jules and I decided to sit out the three heats to save our tyres and preserve my only engine for the Final. Yan, our engine man, rebuilt my remaining engine so I could run it in during the morning warm-up. The whole team ate at the circuit restaurant and after the meal we tried to get Armando on the hire karts but he declined and made us go back to the hotel and pack so we would be ready to leave after the racing. Sunday morning we crammed our bags into the minibus and headed to the track. We had a 30 minute warm-up where I ran my engine in and tried a few mods but we couldn’t test much as our tyres were shot. I had nearly new tyres for the first Final where Jules and I started from the back row. I didn’t make a good start but finished strong and made 9th. Jules on the other hand made a superb start and managed to win. For the second Final everyone had new tyres so our advantage there was over, although Jules still had his best engine. I made a good start and got up to 5th only for it to be red flagged due to a problem with the lights. My second start was not so good and I only made one or two places but I couldn’t hold it as I didn’t have the engine speed and I finished 11th. Jules however drove a fantastic race and managed another win, so well done Jules! After a bit of celebrating and packing up we were away to the airport hotel ready for another early flight (after a few celebratory drinks of course). The next day at the airport they tried to charge us 700 euros for excess baggage even though we paid nothing on the way out. After a bit of arguing and bartering we were once again on the plane for another 12 hour plane journey. With the time difference we arrived at Frankfurt at 3.30pm. We were supposed to then go on to Verona with the rest of the team but managed to change our flights from another Frankfurt airport to fly direct to Stansted meaning we got home a day earlier. However, when the shuttle bus arrived at the other airport we were told that all flights were cancelled because of bad weather and some of their computers being down. We had the choice of waiting 24 hours or going to another airport, so we jumped the taxi queue and asked the driver to put his foot down. Two hours later we were at Baden-Baden airport and ready to be on our way, however the plane was delayed. We finally got home exhausted at 1.30am having been up for 28 hours! Although very pleased for Jules and the team I felt a little disappointed with my result. I learned a lot and know I need to do a lot more laps on the kart as it is different to what I am used to driving but I can see the potential. With Maranello I believe I am a member of a superb team and look forward to racing with them in 2006.