Beijing, July 25, 2017 – In 2013, rising talent Alessio Picariello enjoyed a dominant title campaign in the German ADAC Formel Masters single-seater series, winning 12 races in a strong field. The following year, the Belgian would only get to run five races.
“It was really funny because I won the ADAC Formel Masters championship, now called the FIA F4 Germany, which is quite a high level in Germany. I was expecting to join the FIA Formula 3 afterwards, but the budget wasn’t there so I was more or less one and a half years without any driving, completely out of racing,” laments the 23-year-old. Picariello filled his days coaching other young drivers, working in the family business, and keeping himself in top physical shape, dreaming of what could have been.
Hampered by a lack of contacts in the motorsport world in part because, unlike many young drivers, Picariello did not come from a racing background, what had been such a promising career floundered. Little did he know though, Lady Luck was about to smile on the young Belgian – but when she did, he was so unprepared that his change in fortunes initially faltered.
“Suddenly, a team owner in Germany, who I’d never really had contact with before, asked me if I was interested to drive in Asia in the [Volkswagen Group China-run] Formula Masters China Series. Of course, I was really interested because I wanted to race again even though my racing career was off course. Unluckily, we couldn’t make it that time because they called me really late and it’s funny because I had no passport because I had never been out of Europe before. I had no valid racing license or anything!”
“One month later, they contacted me again and this time it happened. That’s how I got involved with Absolute Racing. They gave me the chance to do one round, which was the Kuala Lumpur street Grand Prix in 2015. It went really well. It was so nice to be back racing, especially in KL.” Two podium finishes in three races in Malaysia confirmed to Absolute Racing that Picariello was indeed the real deal, and it was the start of what was to grow into a strong and successful partnership.
Another stroke of luck for Picariello was the international nature of Absolute Racing’s operations, which span three continents. The team keeps a watchful eye on emerging talent wherever in the world it may be: “Nobody knew me here in Asia so I needed to prove myself over again. Absolute Racing team boss Ingo Matter is German, and he knew about the high level in ADAC Formel Masters so he had an idea of how good I was. Racing in Asia is another world though, so you need to prove yourself here.”
“Absolute Racing trusted me with the rest of the championship, and we won the last five races in a row. Because of that, they pushed me really hard and I was able to do the season final weekend of the Audi R8 LMS Cup in 2015. That went really well and was my very first GT race. That is how I ended up doing the Cup. It is all because of Absolute Racing that I am here today, and also thanks to the support of the MGT team and Audi Sport customer racing Asia.”
In his first-ever full season of GT competition Alessio missed taking the 2016 Audi R8 LMS Cup title to Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong by a single point. “Last year I had to learn everything but it was not a big deal to be up there on the pace. It was more about racing. I learned a lot last year. I was already quick, but I was missing small elements which were making a difference. I feel a lot more comfortable in the car this year.”
The talented driver now has his sights firmly fixed on a successful GT career, and this time around all seems to be going to plan: “If you would have told me two years ago that I would be in Asia and racing in the Audi R8 LMS Cup, I wouldn’t have believed you. It has been crazy. Luckily I always believed I could get back into racing. I stayed fit just so I’d be ready if something came.”
Come it did. In a matter of months, Picariello went from pouring wine in the family restaurant to spraying champagne atop the Audi R8 LMS Cup podium. One of Europe’s brightest talents has been given a second chance to shine.