Interview: Patrik Hajek

from FIA Karting

Patrik Hajek (31) is one of the kart racers who experienced 100cc engines, notably when he was competing in the CIK-FIA European Junior Championship in 2004.

Very quickly, the Czech driver moved to KZ2. His runner-up position in the 2009 European Championship pushed him to move up to KZ. In 2018, he reached his goal by winning the supreme title: FIA Karting World Champion – KZ.

Preferring to hang up his helmet after this historic achievement for a Czech driver, Hajek turned to coaching drivers, before being given the position of team manager of the official Exprit team as replacement for Jordon Lennox-Lamb.

Patrik Hajek (pic – FIA/KSP)

WAS THE DECISION TO STOP RACING AT THE END OF 2018 A DIFFICULT ONE?

I have been racing for many seasons and my ultimate dream has always been to become World Champion. When I reached this goal, I think it was the right time to stop. There were people around me who advised me to continue, saying that I would be even better than before, more liberated.

But at the end of the day, I felt that it was a chance to stop my career having reached the highest level. Winning a World Championship requires an intense personal investment and I don’t know if I could have kept the same motivation to stay on top.

HOW DID YOU INITIATE YOUR CONVERSION?

During my last season in karting with the official Kosmic team, I started to coach my compatriot Roman Stanek, who was racing in OK. In 2019, he decided to switch to F4 single-seaters and he asked me to follow him. For me it was a new and exciting challenge. After spending so many years on the kart circuits, I was able to discover a very interesting environment.

At the end of the season, I had the opportunity to meet again with Roberto Robazzi, the OTK factory manager. He was looking for a team manager for the Exprit Racing team and offered me the role. It was definitely a great opportunity for me and a great challenge. It came at the best time.



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IS BEING A TEAM MANAGER A DIFFICULT JOB?

Supporting a driver and being a driver yourself are completely different. When you are in the kart, you have everything under control. You know how to react, especially once you have gained experience. When you are on the trackside, you can’t feel the chassis, the engine and the tyres for the driver. The mechanic and the team manager have to listen to the driver and then make the right decisions. The information gathered can be wrong as well as right and mislead you.

At the end of the day, you try to do as much as you can to get the driver to be fast and achieve the best results, but it’s up to the driver to finish the job and it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. In a team like Exprit Racing, you don’t just have to look after one driver, but four, five or six depending on the race. You have to take on a lot of responsibility.

ARE RELATIONS GOOD BETWEEN THE OFFICIAL TEAMS OF THE OTK GROUP REPRESENTING THE TONY KART, KOSMIC AND EXPRIT BRANDS?

Yes, excellent! The teams share information with each other. In total, that’s a lot of drivers, so there’s a lot of data exchange, especially as we all have the same chassis and engine. The drivers can see where they stand and compare their performance.

As a team manager, it is important and reassuring to know that you can count on the unwavering support of the OTK factory. I am happy to be part of this big family and I hope that this work that started in 2020 will last for many years to come.

WHAT ARE THE MOST DIFFICULT PARTS OF THIS JOB?

When I have to talk to the parents of the drivers and explain to them why the results are not always up to their expectations, it is not always easy. You have to be educational and calm. Today we have to deal with very young children and they have a lot to learn.

Fortunately, I think I have enough experience and distance to be able to carry out my task. On the other hand, when young people face problems, it makes us work even harder to find solutions and put them on the right path.

Another difficulty is that I am often away from my home and my partner. I live in Prague in the Czech Republic and I am mostly at the racetrack or in Italy near the OTK factory. But this is part of the job and I have to take responsibility for my choices!



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