I have been having a busy time of it recently, two Rotax Super 1 meetings in a fortnight followed by a visit to the BRP Rotax factory in Austria.
Having landed at midday on Thursday at Gatwick, I collected my car and drove straight to the tunnel on route to Le Mans for the 2 stroke international 24 hour. I am currently sitting in the paddock at Le Mans where the start of this crazy race is today at 3pm. The entry is the strongest for the past few years with the vast majority choosing Rotax Max power. The regulations allow the use of two engines during this race, but many will complete the whole event on just one.
There is no doubt that engines wear less when they remain in one heat cycle and the internals of MAX engines that I have built following this race are always in exceptionally good condition. It is quite extraordinary that engines that are built exactly the same as a top level sprinting unit go on to set their fastest laps in the early hours of the morning when they have already run flat out for at least twelve hours. The 24 hour race may be considered by some to be a slow endurance test. Please do not pass judgement without the knowledge that some of the most respected drivers in the world have contested this event since its inception in 1986.
The Rotax max is the ideal product for long distance racing, over the years competitors have come and gone from most of the rival engine manufacturers, today there are none, with the exception of a handful of KF teams that run in a separate class. The Rotax runs in the most popular classification, all rivals having fallen by the wayside through lack of speed, reliability or both. I am here again this year with an involvement in just a couple of teams, there was a time when I supplied engines to as many as ten different entrants, however times have changed and I am at ease with the situation, it is true to say that tonight will be one of a lot of noise and very little sleep.
The Rotax factory visit was a very good couple of days. I was fortunate to be invited to attend as the purpose of the visit was their annual World Distributor meeting. We began with a factory tour which was amazing. The Austrian base is the engine plant for all BRP Rotax products including Aircraft, Seadoo, Skidoo, Johnson, Evinrude, Can-am and other brands built under licence for top names in the industry. BRP Rotax are a stand-alone company that is no longer part of the Canadian based manufacturer Bombardier which is famous for products including executive aircraft and rolling stock that includes the Eurotunnel trains. There is not competition between Bombardier and BRP as the “RP” stands for Recreational Products.
The factory are constantly looking to improve the delivered product. It is extraordinary that the Max engines has been on the market for sixteen years now and there are still the very earliest engines in use today. Over the years of course there have been evolutions, but none have written off the earlier versions. Such a long product life has never been seen before in the world of Karting. The product line has never been in a stronger position in the World market. It is only a disappointment that we, in the UK have no support for the DD2 category. The class is growing rapidly abroad and is offering a very exhilarating alternative to the wildly successful Senior Max.
I have just witnessed one of the best races I have seen for years, Les Vingt-Quatre Minutes De Mini-Kart. A 24 minute race for Micromax, a full grid were all within a couple of tenths in qualifying and the race settled into a battle royal between five with no quarter given. All five were abreast on the straight on the last lap. I knew it was not the UK because there was no contact, just good clean racing. I know we benefit from slip streaming, but there does not need to be contact. A contact lap will never be the fastest potential lap. Race craft is a skill some of these children seem to have naturally, it is great to see and impossible to teach!
The main event at Le Mans starts soon, as I said before there are many top name drivers competing, a name known to many that was good to see is Allesandro Piccini, multiple World Champion in the KZ category and here to add the 24 hour to his extraordinary CV.