Interview: Mike Wilson

from FIA karting

Six-time World Champion in the 1980s, Mike Wilson is a true karting legend. Long an ambassador for the IAME factory, then a chassis manufacturer, the Italian-British has become a renowned coach. Currently, he is actively involved in the progress of Australian James Wharton (Junior) and Jamaican Alex Powell (Mini) in 2019. Words of the wise….

YOU ARE STILL THE DRIVER WITH THE MOST KARTING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS. ARE YOU PROUD OF THAT AND DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER BE BEATEN?

I think it’s a great record, which brings back wonderful memories. In my opinion, it will be a difficult performance to beat, especially because Drivers are now starting in car racing very early. They don’t have enough time to collect a large number of titles. Even in KZ, I don’t see who could take six World Champion crowns. Currently, only the double World Champion Lorenzo Travisanutto can think of catching up with me if he keeps up his momentum.

“Today, young drivers are going to cars too early.”

IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPARE YOUR TIME WITH THE CURRENT GENERATION OF DRIVERS?

No, it’s very different. International karting has become very professional, from the Junior level. Even in Mini, some people spend an incredible amount of time on the tracks. In the 1980s, a karting Driver’s career lasted longer. Now, all parents want to put their children in a car early on, often too early in my opinion!

As far as equipment is concerned, we already had very high-performance karts in the 1980s, with really competitive 135cc engines and special very soft rubber tyres. If we remove the bodywork, the design of a current chassis is very similar to what I experienced.

YOU WERE ONE OF THE FIRST DRIVERS TO RACE KARTS PROFESSIONALLY. HAVE YOU BEEN AN EXAMPLE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS?

It is possible. Very quickly, I understood that it was important to get involved at all levels to succeed, especially in learning tyre technology and operation. When I was offered the chance to come and live in Italy to devote myself 100% to karting, the choice was difficult. I had to leave my family and England. On the other hand, it was a chance, and I was able to experience my passion to the full. Many people told me that it was easier to win titles at that time, but they didn’t realise how much work and personal investment it represented.

DO YOU PREFER YOUR CURRENT ROLE AS A COACH OR WHEN YOU WERE A MANUFACTURER OF WILSON CHASSIS, INCLUDING THE FAMOUS “MIKE1”?

I have indeed experienced some wonderful moments as a manufacturer. Every time a Driver from my team was on the podium, a small part of me accompanied him. On the other hand, it was a lot of responsibility and worry. I now enjoy advising young Drivers. I have so much to pass on to them and they have so much to learn!

“It is essential to drive with your head.”

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE THEM MOST OFTEN?

First of all, they must learn from their mistakes, stop making them and make it into a habit. It is essential to drive with your head. Then, they must be able to continuously adapt to the different conditions they encounter. A driver like Fernando Alonso was very strong at this level. As soon as he arrived at a circuit, he was immediately very fast.

I would add that the transition to a single-seater is not to be taken lightly. It’s not just a matter of age or talent. None of the young Drivers develop in the same way, they don’t look alike. Their maturity, mind and evolution must be taken into account. For some, one year in OK will be enough when others will need two or three. You have to be really ready before you cross the line.

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