The Vice European Champion of Intercontinental C – formerly KZ2 – in 1992 as driver, Olivier Maréchal (46) is currently the charismatic team manager of the Kosmic Racing team.
His family name has a long history in karting. His father Roland Maréchal was one of the most renowned engine manufacturers for several decades, before creating the Maréchal Motorsport team, which built up a considerable track record.
Firstly a member of the technical staff from 1993 onwards, Olivier eventually succeeded his father as head of the Belgian team, until the OTK Group asked him to become head of the Kosmic brand’s racing department in 2004.
The two entities then merged. Since then, there has been a series of successes, including the KF World Championship in 2015 with Karol Basz and the victory at the KF-Junior World Cup in 2012 with Luca Corberi.
IS IT DIFFICULT TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR A TEAM LIKE KOSMIC RACING KART?
Difficult is not the word, because I like what I do, and today I think I have an excellent experience of the discipline, I know the people around me and their skills. We have significant information on almost all the circuits we frequent, we have strong working bases and we are lucky to have of very high quality equipment at our disposal. After all, no race is like another and you have to know how to gather the right ingredients at the right time to reach your goal. Ensuring the effective management of the team, that is what is more difficult. Finally, you must be prepared to be away from home for long periods of time.
A TEAM LIKE KOSMIC RACING HAS TO PERFORM WELL AND WIN RACES. ISN’T THAT A LOT OF PRESSURE?
In racing, the pressure is constant, but gaining podiums, winning races is our permanent objective. 2018 represents a new chassis homologation period at the CIK-FIA.
ARE YOU EVER WORRIED THAT A MANUFACTURER WILL ARRIVE WITH A MAJOR TECHNICAL EVOLUTION, LIKELY TO DESTABILISE YOU?
This can always happen, but we have seen for years that karting now evolves by very small changes. At the very beginning of the season, due to specific weather conditions, it is difficult to really evaluate new equipment. But the first CIK-FIA European event in Sarno, which was full of lessons, proved that our equipment is still very competitive against the opposition.
EVERY YEAR YOU HAVE TO ATTRACT NEW DRIVERS, ISN’T THAT A CONSTANT STRESS?
This is one of the missions we must take on to balance our economic model. For this reason, we have to be competitive every season and make our reputation constantly grow. This year, the CIK-FIA has separated the meetings dedicated to the KZ and KZ2 categories from those reserved for OK and OK-Junior. It is therefore important to ensure a harmonious distribution of our workforce.
THIS SEASON, IT SEEMS THAT THE OFFICIAL KOSMIC DRIVERS CHOSEN BY THE TEAM TO ADVERTISE THE BRAND ARE LESS NUMEROUS THAN LAST YEAR…
This is a choice that is made within the OTK group. In KZ, you can count on the Czech Patrik Hajek. In OK, Karol Basz ran under our colours last year, but he chose to devote himself to cars this year. We preferred not to replace it, to devote ourselves even more to our customers. At OTK, other drivers will develop the chassis, that’s the main thing.
YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH YOUNGER DRIVERS THAN BEFORE, ISN’T THAT MORE COMPLICATED?
Not necessarily, because many young people spend a lot of time in the kart and manage to reach an excellent standard much faster than a few years ago. Of course, this requires you to have a certain budget, to devote a large part of your time to karting and therefore to organise yourself to follow your school curriculum in a different way, often by correspondence. Therefore, it is important to have this kind of element in your team, because it is likely that it will end up making the difference compared to a young driver who does not drive enough.
WHAT IS THE KEY TO A TEAM’S SUCCESS?
The professionalism of the team and the performance of the equipment are obviously two extremely important points. But in the end, it is the driver who takes all this to victory. Therefore, he remains the strongest link of a team, knowing that not all drivers are equal. There are differences between two young hopefuls. Being fast over a lap is another thing, being able to win a race is another. Once the driver understands his kart, how it works, and how the tyres are managed, it’s much easier.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE GENERATION OF OK ENGINES, COMPARED TO THE KF?
In my opinion, everyone appreciates this type of engine. On the one hand the drivers, who benefit from a powerful engine and a lighter kart at the same time, therefore pleasant to drive. On the other hand the teams, thanks to this welcome simplification: no more clutch, no more battery, no more wiring! You are less likely to get stuck on a starting grid and save a lot of time, both in carrying out a complete overhaul and then in installing the engine on the chassis. In addition, the power valve and the identical muffler have limited development and costs, but a lot of positive things have happened lately and need to continue…