I knew that I had to take the initiative as soon as an opportunity presented itself
The transition of a professional driver is always a difficult step to negotiate in terms of timing and choice. It is not easy to go from a hectic life driven by the passion of racing to a more mundane life. This is probably why some champions delay hanging up their helmets as long as possible. Frenchman Anthony Abbasse is an exception, as he retired from racing at the age of 30 of his own free will, even though he certainly still had a lot to achieve in competition.
Throughout his 20 years in kart racing, Anthony has collected successes: two times vice-World Champion in KZ, vice-European Champion, five times French Champion, multiple winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Karting and victorious in Las Vegas at the SuperNationals are some of the highlights.
A professional driver for nearly 10 years with Sodikart, he explains the reasons for a choice he made long ago.
I never thought about setting up my own team or coaching young drivers. I know that several of my colleagues have followed this path, but it was never my ambition. When you have been lucky enough to race at a high level for a big brand for several years, I think you have to know how to turn the page without regrets and keep only the good moments, because there were many of them. I am proud to have been appreciated by someone like Gildas Mérian (the founder of Sodikart) to whom I owe a lot. The situation in karting has changed a lot and the status of a professional driver is becoming more and more difficult to reach. I loved racing at the highest level in KZ, but this category, which should make young people and spectators dream, has difficulty gathering a sufficient number of participants to thrill the crowds. So I had a clear idea for a long time of what I didn’t want to do after my racing career. I knew that in order to do that, I had to take the initiative as soon as an opportunity arose so that I wouldn’t have to endure a situation I didn’t want to.
However, the decision must not have been easy to make?
My project gradually became clearer among a few possible options. I knew what I wanted several months before I went ahead with it. From then on, you have to put all the necessary elements in place. It’s a bit like preparing for a major sporting event. I had to be sure that the choice to take over a leisure karting track was the right one for me. It was not difficult for me to contact different track managers and to immerse myself in this new activity in order to appreciate all the aspects, directly on the ground. My excellent relations with Sodikart, the world’s number one in this sector, were an important factor. To benefit from enlightened advice is priceless. So I went into the business with full knowledge.
Tell us more about your new activity
I am now a young entrepreneur with new challenges. I took over the Mecamax track in the Vendée with the aim of developing a leisure site with good potential. There is of course karting, but also quad biking and peripheral activities. The idea is to develop the attractions of the site all year round, which until now has been operating mainly in the summer period because of its location in a tourist area near the seaside. The beginning was quite stressful since it coincided with the arrival of the coronavirus. We had to stay closed for many weeks. I didn’t want to be idle, so I did some work that I wouldn’t have been able to do so quickly in normal times. The recovery was gradual, but I was ready. Of all the things that high-level competition has taught me, perseverance when times are tough has helped me a lot.
How did the first year go?
Until I experienced it I couldn’t imagine that there were so many similarities between my new job and high-level competition. You have to know how to manage stress, take a step back, adapt to a new environment and understand all its facets, and rely on a team. Sincerely, I find all this exciting. My business is now well established, I have no complaints, it is a business that is doing very well. Now I have to make it grow, to be imaginative and daring. It is never monotonous. On the other hand, this new life is more conducive to ongoing human relationships. My social life has changed a lot and I can say that I am fulfilled in my work. The fact that I live in a nice area makes my daily life more pleasant.
Have you put an end to competition for good?
For my ambitions for success or a title definitely. However, I have never hidden the fact that I would like to race again on certain occasions. I was lucky enough to be able to do so this year when I took part in the FIA Karting World Championship – KZ in Kristianstad. This participation was possible thanks to Sodikart and TM Racing. We all knew that I wasn’t going to come back to Sweden to win the Championship, but I was very touched to have their approval and support. I prepared on my home track regularly before racing on more demanding circuits. The most difficult thing was maybe to get back to my weight, KZ being unbeatable on this point. Otherwise the result of this comeback was very positive for me. I was only a few tenths off the best and I enjoyed myself a lot, even though I didn’t win!
2021 FIA Karting Best-of / Photo © DR