LeCont Tyres is the tyre supplier for the 2020 FIA Karting European Championships – OK and Junior and the FIA Karting World Championship – OK. Based in northern Italy, the company closed its doors at the beginning of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic that was raging in the region. The situation has since improved and the country is gradually returning to almost normal activity. This an opportunity to discuss the consequences of this exceptional situation with the brand’s contact person at all international competitions, Paolo Bombara.
Paolo, how did LeCont Tyres cope with the stoppage?
We decided to suspend our activity one week before the government order. This allowed us to ensure the safety of our staff, which was our priority. While several European countries, including our own, were desperately short of protective masks, we quickly converted one of our workshops to produce them ourselves. Today, we can produce up to 65,000 masks per day. These are of course models that meet the standards in force and are validated by the Institut Supérieur de la Santé. Our goal was to quickly deliver protection to the local authorities and to provide work for some of our employees.
It’s 18th June, has work really restarted?
I’m very pleased to see that Italy, the first and most affected country in Europe, is quickly getting back into action. This quick recovery is a good sign for the karting world. The LeCont factory reopened fully in the first week of May, after a two-month interruption. Tyre production is running at full speed to make up for lost time while respecting a health protocol based on the wearing of masks, physical distance and disinfection of the premises.
What are the possible problems with this resumption?
We don’t have any particular concerns about tyre production. Our stock of various components is more than sufficient to ensure year-round production. As regards the European Championship for example, we can use our reserves to ensure that the entire production process is carried out under exactly the same conditions. This also applies to the other races open to the OK and Junior categories. We can also meet the needs of another of our important markets in Italy as this year we are equipping the very popular KZN national category.
Apart from concerns about some external service providers who have to deliver our products, our main concern is to anticipate the demand for a very tight end of season. Given the pace at which the races are going to take place, we won’t be able to adjust production to the circumstances. We have, for example, built up a large stock of our new wet tyres in advance, which give very promising performance and a very convincing driving experience, so as to be able to cope with any weather conditions that may arise.
How would you sum up the year-end results?
Of course, we are expecting a significant drop in sales. We’ve had a long interruption, the recovery is very gradual depending on the country, and we don’t yet know how the end of the season will turn out in terms of participation. The pandemic is not over yet, some countries are still in the midst of a health crisis and this could affect the size of the grids. Like all manufacturers linked to karting, we are directly impacted by the interruption of the races. Moreover, tyres are not products that can be stored indefinitely.
No one could have foreseen a new situation like this one. Until now, this kind of risk had not been one of our concerns when we responded to a call for tenders, for example. There are many parameters that we are already taking into account in developing our overall strategy, but now we will have to add this one. This will encourage us to be more cautious. I think we’ve all learned from this. The necessary reflection resulting from this should lead to sustainable and beneficial actions for karting.
What is your state of mind regarding the resumption of the Competition?
We are looking forward to the end of the year with a certain optimism. The situation is improving faster than we thought it would a few months ago. We are satisfied with the calendar that has been gradually put in place. The CIK-FIA has acted prudently and finally managed to reschedule almost all the events. Long before Brazil found itself in a worrying health situation, the FIA Karting World Championship – OK and Junior was relocated to Portugal, which is in the general interest in these circumstances. It will be wiser to go to Brazil next year if all goes well. I hope that LeCont Tyres will again win the tender in one of the categories that will take part in this competition, because Brazil is a market that is of great interest to our brand and it is becoming established there. On the other hand, the private WSK Promotion and RGMMC series have managed to fit in reasonably well between the FIA Karting Competitions, both in terms of dates and choice of circuits.
Without prejudging the infection protocol that will be put in place by the FIA, we will have to adopt special rules when distributing our tyres at the circuit in order to avoid an excessive concentration of people and long waits. On this point, we hope to work well with the teams to anticipate the delivery and reduce unnecessary back and forth to our truck.
Having said that, we are delighted to be back on the race track.
FIA Karting Interview / Photo © KSP