Originally from Belgium, Cash van Belle has lived in Italy for fifteen years for professional karting reasons. Throughout his career he has had the opportunity to look after great drivers such as Bas Lammers, Jérémy Iglesias, Max Verstappen and George Russell. He is currently the team manager of the official racing department of the IPK factory, which runs the Praga Kart and Formula K brands. Here is his view of the situation in Italy in mid-May 2020.
Cash, how did you experience the start of the season ?
We had started the year very well in the first races, the performances were very promising in Lonato, proven by Jérémy Iglesias mounting the KZ2 podium at the Winter Cup. We also had very good results in 60 Mini with Gerasim Skulanov. We were waiting for the rest of the season to confirm our strong potential, but things turned out differently. We were testing in La Conca when the WSK Super Master Series event was cancelled as a precautionary measure, while the south of Italy was still spared. I drove two young Brazilian drivers back to the airport and the factory closed a little later. The virus then spread quickly in Italy, but fortunately the team had time to get to safety, with everyone at home.
We’re seeing the beginning of a recovery in Italy. How is it going?
After about two months of severe lockdown, the infection figures have dropped considerably. The virus is still claiming victims, but far fewer than at the height of the crisis. It is nevertheless comforting. Economic activity is slowly resuming. The IPK factory has been able to reopen and we are carrying out a few tasks before restarting production at full capacity. Recently, Italian cities have become a little more lively since access to the terraces of bars and restaurants is allowed. I’ve noticed that people respect the necessary distances between them and they wear masks when they have to gather together. The epidemic has been terrible in our country and it’s not over yet, but I think that everyone has understood the need to remain cautious and to follow health instructions. There is no other solution.
Were you able to get back on track?
Yes, we couldn’t wait to test again. We took part in a session last week at Jesolo’s Pista Azzura. We were pleasantly impressed by the seriousness of the organisation right from the health check at the entrance to the circuit: taking body temperature and wearing a mask and gloves. The pitches were marked out and widely spaced out in the paddock, the mechanics had clear markers in the grandstand and the drivers drove in sessions of 15. Frankly, it was reassuring, we never felt like we were taking any risks.
Are you optimistic about the resumption of competition?
That’s another story… I don’t see how we’re going to be able to get 100 or 200 drivers together for a race in the immediate future. With their mechanics and their possible supporters, that’s a lot of people gathered at the same place. In any case, for the moment it’s not allowed. It will take strict organisation and the good will of everyone to respect the rules. At the moment we hope that the Italian Championship can start again in August, in which case we will be there with our Italian drivers. But nothing has been made official yet and I know it won’t be easy…
How do you see the return of international racing?
We are competitors at heart and we are ready to return to international competition. As far as team motivation is concerned, I would say that we’re more like 200%! Having said that, we realise that we’re going to have to be patient. Races are postponed or cancelled one after the other as the scheduled date approaches. At the moment, there are no real signs of recovery or any upcoming deadlines at this level. Beyond the high number of participants gathered together at a circuit, there is still the problem of the movement of drivers from all over the world. We are well aware that some countries impose a two-week isolation period for foreigners returning home. Many parameters that we can’t control come into play. The priority remains the fight against the disease and it is a global problem that should not be underestimated. So like everyone else, we are waiting, wisely, to avoid the risk of a second, more devastating wave.
FIA Karting Interview / Photo © KSP