But it were a lot of front pages. The first time he made headlines was in 1973, in a local newspaper. Already then they called him the youngest kart-driver of the Federal Republic of Germany and heaped superlatives and records upon him.
Little Michael learns how to drive
Michael’s father Rolf modified the young boy’s pedal kart by adding a small motorcycle engine. He was only four years old and turned the car park of the kart-track in Kerpen into a very dangerous area. Finally a lamp post stopped the young wild one and his father realised: that is too dangerous. It was time to exchange the car park for a race track. Michael became a member of the “Kartclub Rennsportfreunde Graf Berghe von Trips”. While Michael was driving his kart, father Rolf was looking after the track and his mother Elisabeth was supplying the hungry kart-driver with sausages and chips.
Michael could not afford new tyres and professional karts. He used discarded tyres of his wealthier competitors, screwed them on his kart and won nevertheless. He preferred to drive in the rain. On the one hand because most of the time there is nobody else on the track but him and on the other hand because then the equipment does not play such a big role. And of course he liked the sliding and drifting on a wet track.
A Champion is born
He won his first race at the age of five – the trophy was a piston screwed on a piece of wood. The design of some of the F1 trophies was not much better … One year later, at the age of six, Schumacher won his first club championship. 1984 and 1985 he won the German Junior Kart Championship and became second in the world championship. 1986 was his first senior year and he became third. One year after that he could call himself kart champion.
Michael only managed to get so far because he had a lot of sponsors, friends and helpers. Extraordinary talent is not enough in the motor sport business but in Michael’s case it was rewarded with deserved support. Quite early the carpet and wallpaper dealer Gerhard Noack took notice of Michael. He was thrilled by the skills of the young boy and got him his first real race-kart. Jürgen Dilk also took a part in the development of Michael’s career. He organised money from sponsors and was the chauffeur. Together with Dilk’s son they drove from one race to the next one, most of the time Michael won. “It was a wonderful time“, Michael remembers, “driving in the camper from race to race.”
The kart is growing up
But also that time ended and the next step followed: karts turned into race cars. 1988 Michael competed in two series. In the Formula König he won nine out of ten races and snatched the title. In the Formula Ford he only managed to drive 8 out of 12 races but in the end he still became second.
But much more important: During that time Willi Weber took notice of Michael. He observed the young Formula pilot during a wet race in Salzburg and two other races. The Formula 3 team principle was thrilled about Michaels ability to figure out the racing line and drive it, lap after lap after lap. The rest is history: a Formula 3 testing session at the Nürburgring and then he signed with Willi Webber’s WTS Formula 3 team.
Michael never forgot where he came from. After his second Formula 1 world championship title with Ferrari in the year 2001 he took part in the last race of the season of the Super A world-championship at his home circuit in Kerpen-Manheim. He rearranged his training sessions and lost 4 kilos – he did not want to be at a disadvantage with the young kart drivers. But the driving force was fun – on and off the track.
“That is my world”
“I love working on the karts“, he said. “In Formula 1 everything is done by the mechanics. They take care of everything but here you can still do it yourself.” He also loved to work on the kart of his brother Ralf, even as a world champion, which he proved at Felipe Massa’s kart race in Florianopolis in the first year after his Formula 1 retirement. Michael did not leave anything to chance, took care of every minor detail, he even took tools from the mechanics in order to check the tyre pressure…
“That is my world“, said Michael. “It is part of my natural rhythm, my childhood and I have only good memories about that time. Every time I see a kart I react instinctively. I am convinced: If I had not become a Formula 1 driver, I would have driven or lent karts. I would not have become as rich as I am now but certainly as happy.”
Courtesy by motorsport-magazin.com