Interview: Kay Oberheide, CIK-FIA Executive Secretary

from FIA Karting

The Executive Secretary of the CIK-FIA, Kay Oberheide, was keen to wait for the forthcoming resumption of the FIA-Karting season before expressing himself on the unique year of 2020.

Now that the perspectives are becoming clearer regarding international kart racing, he can more easily discuss the last months which were complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the end of a season that promises to be busy.

HOW DID THE WORK OF THE CIK-FIA GO DURING THE CONFINEMENT?

The CIK office in Geneva had to close on 17th March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We returned on 8th June. During all this time, the CIK team stayed at home. I am very satisfied with the way we were able to efficiently handle all files remotely and follow our plans. I would like to thank and congratulate my colleagues, Sébastien Demierre, Leonard Hartmeier and Jean-Luc Degeilh, for their unfailing commitment and constant support throughout this teleworking period. This gave us the opportunity to find out that working hours at home could very much exceed our usual presence at the office. It is very important for me to have an excellent team like this one.

WHAT IS THE CIK-FIA’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE PANDEMIC?

It became clear to us very early on that we had to keep a cool head and remain calm in the face of a rapidly changing situation that did not allow us to make decisions in the medium term. It was the first time we have had to face such an uncertain situation.

We therefore looked at each Competition one after the other with a deadline of five weeks before the scheduled date for announcing either no change, postponement or cancellation on a case-by-case basis. It was, and still is, impossible to predict the evolution of this coronavirus at the national and local levels. A new outbreak of infection near a racetrack would be enough to prevent the Competition from taking place. This precarious reality is likely to continue as long as there is no effective vaccine or treatment available. It could even affect next season.

Given the magnitude of the situation, we immediately thought about what we could do to alleviate the foreseeable difficulties in the karting environment. The first measure was to implement the postponement of the homologation of the chassis, bodywork and brakes to 2021, initially planned for the end of 2020, by extending the validity of the current equipment for one year free of charge.

HOW HAS THE CURRENT SCHEDULE GRADUALLY DEVELOPED?

As far as the FIA Karting Competition calendar is concerned, we were first confronted with the impossibility of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest organising the FIA Karting World Championship – KZ in Le Mans in the best circumstances. The date was very close to the famous 24 Hours and the ACO was going to need all its resources, including the site of the karting circuit, to organise its major Compétition that had been postponed to September.

At this stage, we felt it was essential to think about the teams and the choice of an Italian track was obvious. We had thought of Adria, but in the end Lonato proved to be the best option, even though this major Competition had already taken place there in 2019.

We also tried to reduce the length of the journeys in a common geographical area by, for example, holding the Competitions in Adria (ITA) and Sarno (ITA) in August and in Genk (BEL) and Wackersdorf (DEU) in September so as not to complicate the teams’ logistics unnecessarily. The Brazilian and Swedish organisers then informed us that they were unable to host their races on the calendar. We therefore prepared for the change of place and date of these two Competitions and managed to maintain the initial number of meetings in 2020.

WHAT WILL BE THE SPECIAL RULES FOR THIS RETURN TO THE COMPETITION?

We cannot say the pandemic is defeated for the moment. We still have to wait for a vaccine or effective treatments to make us feel really safe and return to our previous lifestyle. Above all, it should not be possible to accuse a kart race of being responsible for a new outbreak of the virus. That would be dramatic.

A COVID plan has been put in place following the recommendations of the FIA and the WHO. It has been validated by the ASNs, the organisers and the local authorities. The aim is to ensure the application of health rules to protect everyone at a circuit during an FIA Karting Competition. The effectiveness of this plan will depend above all on collective awareness of its importance, knowing that the survival of kart racing is at stake. Each member of our community must behave seriously and responsibly in the practice of our sport and related areas. 

Specifically, respect of the protective gestures now usual in everyday life is required throughout the site. Only people holding an official FIA Karting pass will be able to enter the circuit. Body temperature will be checked at the entrance, with a maximum threshold of 38°. Physical distance of at least 1.5 m will be required between everyone. Hands must be washed frequently with a hydro-alcoholic solution. A suitable protective mask must be worn throughout the paddock, although it is not mandatory within the team structures. The technical areas and the pre-grid will only accommodate one mechanic and two chassis per Driver, the number of which will be limited to 36. There will be no exceptions and the teams will have to manage the entry into the pre-grid in these new conditions, one Driver at a time, respecting the distances, so as not to risk the door closing in front of them. For the same reasons, the Drivers will have to leave the Parc Fermé quickly after the finish line.

We are well aware that the possible heat expected in Zuera or Sarno will not make constant wearing of masks easy, but we will have to deal with it. I would like to insist once again on the personal responsibility of everyone in this essential step for the continuation of kart racing in general. We must absolutely set a good example to avoid facing great difficulties with the authorities who allow us to organise our Competition.

TELL US MORE ABOUT THE FIRST COMPETITION IN ZUERA?

I’m always amazed at the strength and speed with which certain unfounded rumours are spreading in the paddock. For example, our Promoter RGMMC has recently been bombarded with questions and false statements regarding the holding of the first Competition of the FIA European Karting Championship – OK & Junior in Zuera (ESP). Our regular contacts with the Spanish ASN, the local authorities and the organiser confirm that the Competition will be able to go ahead as planned. The Competition will indeed take place from 31st July to 2nd August as indicated on the calendar. The list of entrants is very solid with more than 90 drivers in each category, so it will be a great Competition.

Please share!