Oleg Karpov

This text is a fragment of the original chapter of the book.

Talent didn't have anything to do with it. Daniil's eyes gave it away. The first to recognize a future racer in Kvyat was Pavel Baramykov, the administrator of rental kart place "Kartland", where Daniil and his father, in the early two-thousands, once turned up on their way back from school.

"Every boy's eyes light up," Baramykov recalls. "When they see the car for the first time, when they 'stand' on the asphalt. For some the eyes dim right away, for some after a couple of practice rounds and for those remaining... There's not a lot of them, but they'll continue to obsess.

"That's how it was for Dany. A thin, small kid, with those two front teeth. His eyes were always lit up. He didn't participate in our school, I was teaching him myself when I had time off-work. His dad is, first and foremost, his [?] friend and he started it. One day came to me and said: 'Listen, yesterday my kid came back from school and said: 'Dad, I'll be a racing driver.' I went straight to you.' "

Kvyat's first tests in a sport kart were near Zelenograd, at a kartodrome in Firsanovka, which had already at that point been torn up a fair bit. Baramykov asked for help from Oleg Guskov, a children coach in the "Kartland" school, and his son Pavel, a once-promising former driver whose career was cut short by injury.

Their team, "Stolitsa [Capital] Kart", was created for their children by Guskov Sr. and Peter Aleshin, father of Formula Renault 3.5 2010 champion and IndyCar's first Russian driver Mikhail. The team raced in Moscow championships and national championships. There already wasn't space in it for Kvyat, but Baramykov convinced the team to see the promising boy in action.

"Oleg always took no more than four drivers," Baramykov says. "For his team that was the maximum. Otherwise he simply couldn't offer all of them a normal level of support. The seats were filled, so I had to convince him. I told him: 'Oleg, the boy is gold.' He wouldn't hear it. I insisted: 'Let's at least let him out on track, see how it plays out.' Kids after rental karts, when they try out a big kartodrome, many are done after a lap. It's a different speed, different corners, all different. Some are simply scared. Finally, Oleg caved in: 'When I have a break, we'll let him out on track.'

"So there comes his break and we put Dany in the kart, and he drives out. Couple of minutes later, Pavel runs over from the other side of the kartodrome. 'Is father taking him on?', he asks. 'No', I tell him. 'Then the two of us should go for it. This here is a talent.' "

The karting season at that point was already in full swing. Baramykov and Guskov Jr., who would later become Daniil's coach and mechanic, put together a programme to prepare for the first competitions. The programme included testing at the new kartodrome in Iksha, and later even trips abroad, when Russian weather no longer allowed for practice.

"I was then preparing a programme for the children school," Baramykov recalls. "We took kids to Sheremetyevo, arrived to Cyprus, did an evening practice, then a full day on Saturday and a bit on Sunday morning. After that I took them back to Moscow. I had all ready and prepared: the tracks, the maps, the transfers.

"With him we'd come to the kart track at nine in the morning, and leave when the sun was already going down. Me and Pavel were falling over from exhaustion, and he was still lapping and lapping. And it was impossible to convince him: 'Let's go home already'. He wouldn't. And that's when we realised – yeah, with this kid, we'd have to work for real.

"In the fall, when we were in Italy, we trained only at a wet track. It rained there for two weeks, non-stop, and he was driving ceaselessly – no days off, no breaks. We didn't get to see anything. First race in Sochi he then won with ease – it was raining and snowing before the start, and Dany was very well-prepared for that. Because while the others sat around in their tents and picked their noses, he was driving eight hours a day, almost not getting out of the kart."

The team – still "Stolitsa Kart" but created around Kvyat – left for Sochi for the first competition. The Christmas race of January 2005 was the first in Daniil's career.

"When we were preparing, the speed was clear to see, but I did lack, of course, in race experience," Daniil himself recalls. "We went to Sochi: unfamiliar track, plus it's raining and snowing. I remember I was very worried, but it was more or less a smooth drive. Only nine people, of course, but many had more experience. I remember, Sergey Sirotkin was also getting his first start there. I think he was second or third, and I was the winner – and that feeling, of course, I liked right away. You get used to it really fast. And then anything but first feels like defeat."

From the very start, Pavel Guskov was preparing Kvyat for European karting. The path to foreign competitions was trodden by Peter and Mikhail Aleshin, and Guskov, quite familiar with their experiences, tried to account for any mistakes that had been made.

"Right away Dany was taught a European style of driving," Guskov Sr. recalls. "The stewarding in Russia and Europe was different. Over there, they had a clear understanding that karting was a contact sport, whereas here moves that would go unpenalised in Europe would often lead to strict sanctions. Aleshin, when he was racing in junior classes, lacked track knowledge, but also an understanding of racing situations. He was simply not prepared for battles that were this tough. So when Pavel was hashing out a plan for Dany's preparations with Vyacheslav, he right away stressed that they would be gearing up for European karting.

"Pavel taught hard racing – the kind that you needed to know to compete in Europe. Because of that, in Russia, Dany would often fall foul of the stewards. He, a model student, was simply following instructions that he'd been given.

"From the start, he learned a rule: you have to stand your ground. If a rival had acted in a bad way, you had to let them know that they were in the wrong. Now, that didn't mean push them off the track or ruin the race – but, for example, a dive down the inside under braking in practice, and when they're to shut the door and turn into you, simply back out and let them slide through the grass."

At the end of 2005, Daniil started travelling to competitions in Italy. The father and his son soon understood that Europe was the place to build a professional career. "I remember when we first arrived to Parma," Daniil says. "The week before the race we were testing, and there were never fever than 30-40 people on track. For me, actually, it was no big difference. Of course, the paddock is different, but we had tracks, too – in Iksha, in Kursk. It's just that there were basically two of them in Russia, and 150 in Italy. The main thing was the number of competitors and their level. Everybody's you met had some sort of a bio, a story behind them. I think that's when we first crossed paths with Carlos Sainz and his son. We thought, whoa, a two-time world champion. All in all, it was like ending up in a special kind of world: all the drivers in their official overalls, with patches on them, everybody with a different-coloured helmet, their karts polished to a shine. Everything in ideal condition, surrounded by massive tents.

Kvyat Sr. added: "Take any mechanic - 'I worked with Lewis', 'me – with Trulli', 'me – with Kubica'. Of course, that was immediately captivating. And the racing season was over only in November, and in December we would be told: 'You can go do this race on January 4.' And that was the difference. There in the winter you were already racing – sure, in small-time competitions, but you were still gaining experience. The weather allowed for it, the tracks were in abundance. It was as if Italy itself was offering: 'Well, if you want to race, here you go.' "

Throughout the year Kvyat continued to compete in two countries, the schedule was getting more and more packed and the question of moving out of Russia arose by itself. "At a certain point we were racing in Italy more than in Russia," Daniil says. "Moving back and forth wasn't easy: a plane to Moscow, then straight to Kursk for a Russian championship round. By car, at night. We'd arrive all burned out. So in any case, it was steadily becoming clear that, if I were serious about racing, I had to move on. Winning the Russian championship is one thing, but winning the Italian or European championship – that's an entirely different story. We had to focus on one option. We had to choose."
Original author's orthography is preserved.