Interview: Rickard Kaell

from CIK-FIA

Like many technicians working for a large international team, Rickard Kaell (45 years old) started in karting as a driver.

The Swede reached the top level and had the honour of winning a European Formula Super A Championship event in 1996, during the Italian Grand Prix at Lonato. Subsequently, his professional career has led him to work with many teams.

In 2019, he took on new responsibilities as team manager of the Sauber Karting Academy.

RICKARD KAELL, WE HAVE THE IMPRESSION THAT WE HAVE BEEN MEETING YOU IN THE KARTING PADDOCKS FOR ABOUT THIRTY YEARS. IS THAT CORRECT?

Yes, that’s about right! I started my karting career in my country, Sweden, at the age of 11. I competed in my first international race in Pomposa at the Junior World Cup in 1988. So that was 31 years ago! I climbed the ladder to Formula Super A by becoming an official driver for the PCR team, which was a prestigious brand in the 80s and 90s. I finished 5th in the European Championship in 1996. I worked with Pantano, Quintarelli, Manetti and Rossi. It was a beautiful time. I retired in 2000, when water-cooled engines appeared.

FOR YOU, WAS IT NATURAL TO STAY IN THE KARTING BUSINESS?

Yes, completely. I am one of those great enthusiasts who are happy when they are in the paddock and when they can see exciting kart races from the inside. First I created my own team, Italsport. I gained my reputation by assisting the Briton Jamie Green, who then had a great career in single-seater racing. Together, we won a European Formula A Championship event at Valencia, the year the title was decided between drivers like Hamilton, Kubica, Rosberg, Piccione, Duval and Ardigo! Then Paul Di Resta, then a future Formula 1 driver, joined me and we achieved another excellent result.

HOW DID THE COLLABORATION WITH DINO CHIESA COME ABOUT?

After PCR, I also worked with the Birel factory, before Dino presented me with a project with the LH brand that Anthony Hamilton, Lewis’ father, wanted to launch and develop. My best memory of this period is the 2012 Macau Grand Prix in Macau that British driver Tom Joyner won, which allowed him to become World Vice-Champion. When the LH team had to finish, I wanted to continue with Dino Chiesa. He’s someone I respect very much. For me, he’s the best technician in the paddock. He knows how to listen to drivers, mechanics and team managers, and then make the best decisions. We shared the Zanardi-Strakka Racing adventure, this time with the title of KF World Champion for Joyner in 2013.

YOU DEFINITELY LIKE TO BE AROUND F1 NAMES, AS WE HAVE SEEN YOU WITH THE RICCIARDO KART BRAND…

When Dino Chiesa returned to CRG to take over the responsibility of the competition department, I participated in the launch of the Ricciardo Kart chassis with the official team. It allowed me to discover something else, to take on a new challenge. But when Dino created Kart Republic, he called me and I naturally agreed. We get along very well, he trusts me and it works perfectly between us. The KR brand was another success!

ROSBERG THEN SAUBER, AGAIN CLOSE TO FORMULA 1…

I think it’s a good thing that F1 teams are investing in karting and helping young drivers climb to the top of the pyramid. In 2018, the creation of the Rosberg Racing Academy with KR chassis and IAME engines left its mark on people’s minds. We finished the year with the World Championship in OK for Lorenzo Travisanutto and 4th place in OK-Junior for Taylor Barnard. Then, at the beginning of 2019, when the Sauber Junior Team wanted to get involved in karting, Dino Chiesa immediately told me about it. I met with Frédéric Vasseur and Alessandro Alunni Bravi, two people I had already known for a few years. By the time we got everything in place, we missed the first preparatory events, but we were ready for the first European Championship competition in Angerville. On this occasion, Dexter Patterson won the Final.

WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THIS EXPERIENCE?

Overall, it was a good first year of collaboration. We also ran the Swiss driver Joshua Dufek, who made great progress in 2019. He wasn’t missing much to be a title winner compared to Patterson, and he finished 3rd in the European Championship and 6th in the World Championship in OK. He will be racing in a single-seater next year. Singaporean Christian Ho joined the team at the end of the season in OK-Junior. We also closely followed the promising Briton William Macintyre, who competed in the Mini class in 2019 and is about to enter the OK-Junior category. The year 2020 is looking very promising, and we will have a solid team to face the new season.

IN ADDITION TO THE RESULTS, WHAT IS SAUBER’S PHILOSOPHY?

The objective of this partnership is to participate in the training of drivers, to prepare them as well as possible for cars and to help them when possible in terms of financing. For karting, it is positive to see such channels being set up. We have a lot of talented kart drivers so identifying them and supporting them in their careers remains an excellent initiative. It is a good solution for those who do not necessarily have large amounts of money to spend on cars. It’s motivating for the most deserving drivers. In my opinion, this programme set up by Sauber really makes sense.

ON A MORE PERSONAL LEVEL, DID YOU ENJOY YOUR INVOLVEMENT?

Yes, I like that part. Although I am mainly assigned to the Sauber Karting Team, I have many discussions with Dino Chiesa on all the other subjects: equipment, technique, strategy, driver management, etc. There is a great dynamic at the moment with all the teams working under the colours of Kart Republic and using KR chassis and IAME engines. In the end, everyone progresses and the drivers all have something to gain. It gives everyone the same opportunity. Then, of course, it is up to the driver to make a difference on the track. 
Rickard Kaell

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