Through a bizarre run of events I found myself driving in Johnny Herbert’s Charity Karting event at the Docklands Raceway last Sunday. This may not seem too strange, but the fact that I’d be driving for team ‘Made in Italy 3.0’ certainly was – it was headed by Riccardo Patrese and two of Emanuele Pirro’s cousins, Geronimo Pirro and Iacopo Canino.
Andrea Colombo, who had very kindly asked me to join them, assured me it was all a bit of fun. However, after qualifying we were sitting on the front row of the grid alongside ‘Pasha Rebels’, a team made up entirely of kids who weighed less than seven stone – combined – and all raced in Tony Kart. It turns out that ‘Made in Italy 3.0’ was very quick. Especially Iacopo, who ended up posting the second fastest lap of the race.
Usually this would be cause for huge celebration, but having only done about seven laps of the track in practice I was, to say the least, fairly apprehensive. The team had never made it to the podium after five years of bad luck, and if I turned out to be the weak cog in what seemed like a team of Schumacher’s offspring, I’d be lynched.
After about 20 minutes of running we were in third place and all was looking rosy until the go-kart broke. Third became fifth, which soon became 10th, then 15th and finally last, as the team at The Raceway replaced our machine. They kindly allowed us to rejoin where we were when it had broken, which bizarrely turned out to be 12th place. We were in for a long two-and-a-quarter hours of making up time.
Thanks to some quite amazing stints from Guido Nola, Simone Patrese, Iacopo, Andrea and Geronimo, we made it back into podium contention. My stint consisted of being stuck behind someone for six or seven laps, but thankfully once past I managed to get the lap time down to something respectable. I hope.
In the end Riccardo didn’t take part in the race after deciding to hand over driving duties to Iacopo for the final stint. Even though he had made the trip over from Italy especially for the event, he was happy with how things stood. The competitive spirit never quite dies…
“The race gets more and more competitive every year,” said Johnny after grabbing me to have a photo taken beside him – apparently my 6ft 7ins frame looks quite amusing next to his… “But everyone enjoys it and it does raise money for some great causes.”
Raise money it does and this year’s charity, The Harry Birrell Scholarship Trust, will no doubt be better off thanks to the ex-Formula 1 driver’s efforts.
It may cost £750 per team to enter, but by the time you’ve split that between all the drivers it is one of the best value races out there. What’s more, you also get the opportunity to punt the likes of Anthony Davidson into the barriers. I’m really sorry Ant; I didn’t know it was you.