from FIA Karting
Three-time French Champion and winner of the International Trophy in Handikart, Maxime Léger took on the crazy challenge of competing in an FIA Karting European Championship – OK with only one hand on the wheel!
Due to health restrictions on French soil, Maxime had not taken part in any competition since October 2020, but he came through the Aunay-les-Bois meeting with flying colours thanks to the support of his team, made up exclusively of volunteers from the Val de Loire club.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I am 28 years old and I live in Mulsanne, very close to the Le Mans circuit. I work in the creation of Christmas decorations, but I am passionate about motor sport. Most of my days off are devoted to karting and I often help drivers at weekends when I am not racing.
In the past, I have driven rental karts a lot, participating in many leisure events. In 2016, I took part in a talent scouting operation for Handikart drivers in Tours. I lost by a small margin in 2nd place, but the Val de Loire club that had launched the initiative called me back a few weeks later to tell me that there was a second kart available.
So I started competing in 2017 in the regional championship among non-disabled drivers, in order to prepare for the French Handikart Championship. I finished 3rd the first year, doing my first laps on Saturday morning, as I had just driven for four hours in the evening and during the previous night in a leisure endurance event. I won the next three editions of the French Championship. I also won the International Handikart Trophy in 2018. This took place as a curtain raiser to the FIA European Karting Championship at Aunay-les-Bois. Three years later, it’s great to have been able to participate in this one.
PHYSICALLY, HOW DID YOU APPROACH THIS EVENT?
I have been actively preparing myself so that I don’t have to suffer at this level. I am a regular at the gym to strengthen my muscles. A few years ago I weighed only 46 kg, today I weigh 57 kg. In recent years, I have tried to increase my participation in competitions with non-disabled drivers. In particular, I took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans karting race, first with a team composed exclusively of drivers with reduced mobility, then with the Val de Loire club alongside non-disabled drivers.
HOW DID THE OK PROJECT IN FIA KARTING COME ABOUT?
With my club, we were looking for a new challenge to take up with the non-disabled drivers. To make a mark, we wanted to take part in a major competition. The organisation of an OK European Championship event at Aunay-les-Bois was a great opportunity, as it was possible to enter as a “wild card”. For the club, it was of course something really new, requiring a lot of organisation, which is quite heavy in this type of event when you are not used to it. We started by finding the funding and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the partners who believed in this project, especially the Val de Loire club for its support.
I was lucky enough to be able to do four test sessions beforehand. Compared to the other drivers in the OK category, this may not seem like much, but it allowed me to make further progress. Our club had competed in the FIA 24 Hours of Karting in OK, so we still had engines which were very useful for this preparation.
THE DRIVERS ARE NOW VERY YOUNG IN OK, HOW DID YOU EXPERIENCE THIS COHABITATION?
At 28, I am twice the age of many drivers. But I didn’t question myself and everything went well, in the paddock and on the track, I experienced exciting but sporting duels, without any collisions! I managed to gain positions in each of my four heats. I knew that my chances of reaching the Final were very slim, but I have a really positive assessment of my performance, where I climbed from 60th to 52nd position, ahead of talented drivers who race all year in OK. I was driving a Kosmic-Vortex and several times during the meeting members of the OTK factory came to give me advice, which I appreciated. I also received encouragement from many people, which was heart-warming. A lot of people didn’t think I could compete with a lot of these young drivers, so it was quite rewarding.
WHAT DIFFICULTIES DID YOU HAVE WITH YOUR OK KART?
With the extreme power of the engine and the grip of the tyres, it was not easy to keep the kart on the right line in the big, fast races with just one arm. It was a really big effort for me. In OK, it’s important to keep a good speed in the corner, otherwise the kart will stall suddenly. In that case, it’s not easy to catch up. I would love to continue my career at the wheel of a kart like this. It will be less pleasant to go back to less powerful engines afterwards! My next objective is to achieve a good performance with my club at the upcoming 24 Hours of Karting in Le Mans.