EPT9 Sanremo: Players under starters orders with EPT Concierge
On the outskirts of Sanremo lies a dusty thunder bowl known as the Pista Oleandri karting circuit high up in the San Donato foothills in a part of the country where rows of greenhouses turn the valleys from green to white. To those from out of town it looked like bandit country, particularly from the window of a coach without air conditioning weaving its way through the various hairpins and gasping up roads chiseled into hills overlooking the town and with spectacular views of the sea.
When the bus pulled up 23 men and one woman disembarked ready to be put to the test in some high adrenaline adventure, thanks to the EPT Concierge.
Let's be clear from the start. While some motor sport is draped in glamour, with sponsors paying for luxury mobile homes, massive hospitality and celebrity appeal, karting is towards the bottom of the motor racing food chain.
Ready to race
Motor homes were replaced by plastic moulded garden furniture. Hospitality included some pizza and orange juice, while the only celebrity in sight was a picture of Michael Schumacher hanging over the coffee machine behind the bar. On shelves alongside were a dozen or so silver trophies that we either on display or for sale.
Go, go, go!
But while karting may be entry level motorsport it's also incredibly fun, even on this rustic level. That was all the motivation that as needed for players who had taken advantage of the EPT Concierge service, available to all EPT players, to join extra-curricular activities during EPT events. For a few Euros players looking to escape the confines of the tournament room, or are too deep in the hole in Open Chinese, could jump aboard a bus to go race against each other around a 600 yard track in a well organised race format. And as you'd expect, the competitive instinct soon kicked in.
The early money was on the Finns, Joni Jouhkimainen and Aku Joentausta, hailing from a country whose driving test is more like basic training for getaway drivers, complete with power slides and rough terrain. The two of them drove as they played cards, without any fear of ruin.
Joni Jouhkimainen looking the part
Then there was Marcin Horecki, a former slalom skiing champion, who looked like the favourite even before he'd climbed into his kart. He was the only one to have the classic formula one shape: tall and skinny. He also affected a racing driver's posture, rolling down the top half of his overalls and tying the arms in a knot. This deeply impressed some of the others who quickly did the same. It was also rumoured that Horecki had brought his own gloves.
Before that a detailed safety briefing, which Dario Minieri spent looking at Facebook. The different coloured flags were explained as well as what to do if there was a crash ahead of you or your kart became a spinning ball of fire. Then a warning from the track manager:
"You must avoid any unconventional driving," he said, saying that dangerous driving would mean disqualification. "These are not like bumper cars where we try to kill each other."
And that was that. Moments later the first drivers were giving it beans down the back straight, where it soon emerged that it's one thing to fancy yourself as a bit of a racing driver, it's something else to manage a sharp hair pin turn in a cart doing 40 mph. Three drivers crashed at their first attempt, keeping the steward with the curly ginger hair busy as he dug each them out of a tyre wall.
The infamous hairpin
Giada Fang, brought a flash of glamour to the event by racing in high heeled boots. She had no trouble avoiding the barriers, although she may have found it hard to keep her foot on the gas.
Gaida Fang managed the hairpins on and off the track
After a qualifying session drivers were able to see for themselves how fast they were, with print outs of lap times taped to the wall of the garage. Then came racing proper, followed by a final and a consolation final to ensure plenty of racing all round.
In a league of their own however were Horecki, Jouhkimainen and Joentausta. Each found the perfect racing line and eventually finished on the podium, in that order. They took a share of €600 worth of EPT Concierge for their efforts.
Marcin Horecki tops the podium
For the others it was an afternoon well spent while trying not to look stupid in racing overalls that bulged in odd places. You didn't need to win to get some kind of buzz from the competition. Even those who had not so much clipped the Armco as driven right through it, were talking about it all the way back to the casino.
Find out more on the EPT Concierge website.
Keep an eye on the live tournament reporting from EPT Sanremo for all the news from the tournament floor.