Two Motorsports Greats Talk About Their Lives in Karting
Motorsport icons continue enjoying their time in the sport where it all began
The following is a column provided by Texas Lone Star Grand Prix promoter Robert Miller, who attended the recent 500 Miles of Beto Carrero (more commonly known in other parts of the world as The Granja 500). There, Miller was able to connect with motorsports icons Rubens Barrichello and Tony Kannan.
Rubens Barrichello has driven F1 cars, Indy Cars, Brazilian Stock Car V8 Cars and in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He holds 11 F1 wins, 68 podiums and 14 poles. He has the tenth highest points total in Formula One history.
Tony Kanaan won the 2013 Indy 500. He has raced Indy Lights, Indy Cars, Brazilian V8 Stock Cars, Formula Ford, Formula 3 and American Le Mans. Tony has 6 top 5 finishes at The Indy 500. In 2004 Kanaan won the Indy Series Championship and was 2nd in 2005. He was third in the championship twice and 4th once.
Barrichello and Kanaan are also extremely close friends and lifelong kart racers. We caught up to them in Navagantes, Brazil at the 500 Miles of Beto Carrero. Both men have raced this event numerous times.
The question is, “Why do these motorsports greats year after year race a kart where the karts weigh over 500 pounds and are powered by 13 hp 4cycle Honda engines?” A few minutes spent with each of these very genuine men makes the answer abundantly clear. Kart racing is a huge part of their lives. Both have raced karts for over 30 years. Both are at kart tracks in Florida near their homes every week when they are not in a another form of race car.
Kanaan and Barrichello both have sons now racing karts. Both make it completely clear that the decision to get into a kart was the decision of their sons. Kanaan adopts the example set by his father and stays hands off with his son who is now starting in Kid Karts. He hires a coach and then sits in the stands and cheers his son on. To quote Kanaan, “At the kart track I am just like any other soccer dad. I am not Tony Kanaan race car driver. I am Tony Kanaan – a dad.”
Interestingly, when asked when he started racing professionally Kanaan answers, “When I got into a go kart. It has always been a profession to me. My dad was an avid race fan but not a racer. He got me a good coach and tuner and said if you are going to do this do it well.”
Barrichello tells a similar story of his roots in kart racing. “Karting is my passion. I cannot survive without it,” he says. He started kart racing at 6 years of age and his son, Dudu, who is 12 years of age has just started racing a MiniMax.
We were fortunate to interview Rubens and Dudu at Beto Carrero the day prior to the 500 mile race. They invited us in to chat while they were eating lunch and the informality of the interview made it extra special – just a son and a dad at the kart track eating lunch before the afternoon practice.
When we arrived at the VIP area at Rubens Barrichello, Dudu Barrichello and Tony Kanaan were sitting on a white sofa watching karts on the track practicing. The visual was what you would expect of dads and sons sitting in a family room watching football or some other sporting event.
Once the interview of Rubens and Dudu was complete Tony began to answer questions about his life in karting. As the questions flowed and the answers came there was an almost intense focus – no distractions from portable electronic devices or personal assistants needing something. No urgency to complete the interview – just raw passion for the sport that is now obviously a very large part of each of these men and their families lives.
Kanaan’s demeanor shows deep emotion when he talks about going to the kart track and “racing” with his 6 year old son.
“Go karts are the root. It’s where you learn the most. The reflexes are faster than an Indy Car. Go karts keep you sharp,” says Kaanan.
“Go karts kept me away from everything that was bad in life,” he continues.
As the interviews ended and Wagner Rossi and I walked back to the pit area to check on the preparations of the WR Motorsports/MG Tires entry I was a bit overwhelmed by what had just transpired. Men who have had tremendous success as professional race drivers are just as excited and passionate about kart racing as the racers I see on weekends at the local club owned kart track. As Billy Musgrave said later in the weekend, “On the track we are all just drivers.” At the track we are all just racing families. Whether we leave the kart track to drive an Indy Car, be an electrician, plumber, doctor, lawyer, etc., at the track we are all just kart racers.
For more interviews with the USA/Canadian drivers that made up the WR Motorsports/MG Tires entry, visit the Texas Lone Star Grand Prix Facebook page.