from FIA Karting
27-year-old Riccardo Longhi from Reggio Emilia in Italy has become one of the top drivers in the difficult KZ category. While he dreams of one day becoming World Champion, as well as European Champion, he has also taken on new responsibilities within the Birel ART Racing team.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW ROLE IN KARTING, IN PARALLEL TO YOUR ROLE AS A DRIVER?
Ronni Sala, President of Birel ART, was looking for a new team manager for his official team and recently offered me the job. I have been driving Birel ART chassis for several years, we know each other very well and it is an honour for me to take this very important position. I have important responsibilities, as I am now the link to all the drivers in the team. They all rely on me to help them progress and perform.
ARE YOU USED TO WORKING WITH YOUNG DRIVERS?
Not really, I have more of a KZ culture. It’s a new role for me to work with very young drivers. But in the end there are not many differences, the main thing is to look for performance and the best possible results. But this job is not new to me. I have already worked for the Emilia Kart team for four years and I have also raced with them. Kart technology holds no secrets for me. And then, being with Juniors, it reminds me of when I was driving myself in this category more than 10 years ago!
IS IT AN ADVANTAGE FOR A TEAM MANAGER TO BE AN EXCELLENT KART RACER?
I think it is important. The exchange with the driver is even better. He feels that we understand what he wants to explain to us. And it’s easier for me to put myself in his shoes, because I know all the difficulties that a kart driver can encounter. In the end, listening to each other makes it easier to move forward. Before the European Championship started in Belgium, the Birel ART team was involved in several major international events, which enabled me to get to know all our drivers and learn to work with each of them. I quickly got to know them well and I push them to give their best.
IN JUNIOR, SOME OF THE DRIVERS ARE VERY YOUNG AND HAVE LITTLE EXPERIENCE. ISN’T IT TOO FRUSTRATING FOR THEM TO HAVE DIFFICULTIES IN REACHING THE FINAL?
At their age, they have a great progression curve. Just because a driver starts the season in 60th place doesn’t mean he won’t end up with a top 10 finish later on or the following season! Some of them are just coming from 60 Mini, it’s a big step to climb! They have to be patient, take the steps one after the other. Some think they will succeed because they are able to achieve a fast time. But that is not enough. Success is achieved by adding up a multitude of details. The drivers have to understand how the equipment works, how to use the tyres. I’m lucky enough to know the Birel ART-TM Racing equipment perfectly, as well as all the team mechanics, so it’s easier to get them on the right track.
AT ALL THE EVENTS, THE OFFICIAL BIREL ART AND LECLERC BY LENNOX RACING TEAMS ARE SIDE BY SIDE. HOW IS THE COLLABORATION GOING?
Very well, the understanding is excellent! We exchange a lot of information with Jordon Lennox-Lamb. I really like his approach to racing, the contact he has with the drivers. He is very professional and his will to win is immense. Birel ART and CL Kart are a big family. Every evening we meet for a briefing, everyone gives their opinion, and we move forward together to find the best solutions. What’s more, we are of the same generation, which helps.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE?
I am fully committed to my new mission and I hope to help Birel ART win the most prestigious titles. But Ronni Sala has understood that I also want to continue as a competitive driver and I am happy that he is giving me the chance to race at the highest level. I am at a point in my career where I am still young, but my experience and competitiveness allow me to aim for the best results in KZ. I finished 3rd in the KZ2 International Super Cup in 2017, came close twice to the European Championship title, won the Italian Championship title, became runner-up in the KZ World Championship in 2019 and won the WSK Euro Series in 2020. Today, I dream of becoming European and World KZ Champion with Birel ART and TM Racing.