While young in age, Marcello Paniccia has already wracked up five years of karting experience. While young in age, Marcello Paniccia has already wracked up five years of karting experience. Photos Courtesy of Steve Paniccia

Guest Column: Kart Racer Marcello Paniccia

Written by  Marcello Paniccia on Wednesday, 14 August 2019 14:45

If you want to be a race car driver, then you must start at the roots of racing: go-karting.

At the start of go-karting in cadet four-stroke, it was talent and a little lap time that won the races, but as soon as you move up to two-stroke engines it becomes more difficult because money starts to make a big difference. With a bigger budget you can get more lap times in at different tracks, can test and race on new tires, you can get your engines rebuilt after every race and you can have driver coaches and mechanics to work on your kart, among other things. These are all major factors in the development of a driver in today's karting.

It’s hard for a talented driver with a low budget to compete with a driver that has a large budget who can go anywhere to practice before a major race. Money will out-race talent with time. Karting today is all about having the latest chassis, big teams, big tents and big entry fees. I have heard stories from older coaches on how go-karting was once a family sport, but that’s not the case today.
My coaches told me how go-karting brought families together for a day of racing. Fathers and sons worked together out of a small trailer to build the kart for the days race, but now competitive karting has changed to huge teams, lots of testing and mechanics. A low budget family can’t afford to compete, or many sacrifices must be made to race at a competitive level.

During my five years of karting, my mother and father have made many sacrifices for my racing, including missing out on vacations. They were, and still are, always budgeting for the next race to keep my dream alive. My dad and I have spent lots of time together at the track at home in Ontario and away in the US. We’ve bonded a lot, but the rest of the family watches from home to help support my dream of racing. This is not an issue that only we face, but many others do as well. I have personally seen what the difference is when large sums of money are spent on coaching, seat time and engine programs to keep up front.

On big race days, especially in the US, the fields are huge, and competition is very strong. The day usually starts with a couple of practice runs in the morning and then a qualifying session. I mention qualifier because that’s when things like new tires make a huge difference. Qualifying is when the kids that can afford to run a lot of new tires in practice normally know how to use the new tires best. I personally was always fastest on final races when tires started to drop off. These are all small examples of budget versus talent, but the list can go on.

Even with low budget, there still is a lot of competition in four-stroke racing. It is affordable and there are a ton of people that are fast. Everyone at the track is like one big family and everyone has a lot of respect for each other. On track, if you ever need help with your setup, there is a line of people willing to help. If you ever stall on grid, every mechanic will come to help you start your kart back up.

The track is my favorite place to be because there are so many kids that have the same interests as me, but when it’s race time, you put your head down and you drive as competitively as you can to reach the top step of the podium.

Keeping my dream alive would not be possible without help, and for that I am very grateful. Thank you to Formula Kartways, Urace, Team Benik, Emzone and my parents for letting me reach my goal of racing among the best.

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