WHEN Remo Luciani borrowed a friend’s go kart for the first time at the age of 20 he had little idea what impact it would have on the rest of his life.
“I had one drive and I was hooked,” he said. “I then had to go out and buy one. My first kart was $400 and now the rest is history.”
There was no family history within motorsports and Luciani himself said he had not been overly involved in sports beforehand.
“I didn’t had the coordination to play ball sports like soccer, football, tennis or cricket,” he said. “I was hopeless at all those sports and that meant I didn’t play them.”
While some of the more conventional sports played in the Wimmera had not come naturally to Luciani he took to karting with ease.
“I think I was gifted,” he said. “You hear of good football players or tennis who are just born with it without looking like they have to try – I think I was a little like that.
“I was able to become pretty successful almost immediately”
As an unqualified P plate driver he had to start from the back of the grid in his first race at Hopetoun Karting Club in 1980.
It was an interclub challenge between the Horsham based Wimmera club and drivers based out of Hopetoun.
“I went from the back to first in my first ever race,” he said.
“That was against the current club champion at Horsham and guys that had much more experience.
“Then I was second in my next two heats which meant I was first overall for the day.”
He also managed to finish second in the club championship in his first season before taking out the top honour for the next three years.
In 1984 he decided to test himself at a higher level and applied for his Victorian Karting Association licence.
“I wanted to race in the Victoria Country Racing series which continues to run to this very day,” he said.
“Again I had to start on P plates because our club wasn’t associated with them.
“That meant having to start at the back of the grid once more but that didn’t stop me from winning the series in my first year.”
Luciani had to wait a little longer to win his first state championship though.
It was in his fourth year of racing on bitumen that he broke through to claim the Victorian title in 1988.
Another four years down the track he won the first of his seven Australian championships in 1992, his most recent came in 2010 when he was 50 years old.
He also won a New Zealand championship at the age of 52 in 2012.
“All of those championships were quite special,” he said.
“I became the oldest national champion in two different countries with my wins in 2010 and 2012 but anytime you can win a national title is a highlight in different ways.”
He considered the Australian championship that he managed to win in 1993 as one of the most important of his career because it came in difficult circumstances.
“I wasn’t having a good day at all and consider myself really lucky to have managed that win,” he said.
“Things just weren’t clicking for me at all. I was having difficulty driving the track, my gear wasn’t working how it should – my chassis, my engine and the whole combination wasn’t working right.”
He said despite everything being “not quite right” he continued to go through the motions of racing.
Come the final he had almost resolved that he would not be able to win because you cannot win every day.
Then things changed in the final when everyone else started to have bad luck.
There was crashes, engines blowing up and equipment failures for the competitors in front of Luciani before he realise he was in a position to take the win.
“To win, you first must finish,” he said.
“The moral of that was that I never gave up because I didn’t know what might happen.
“That kind of win has kept me hungry even on bad days at so many different stages of my career – that was a changing moment for me in terms of becoming more determined.”
During his career, both on and off the track, Luciani has come into contact with a number of high profile drivers.
“I’ve been involved with the likes of Steve Richards, Mark Winterbottom and James Courtney,” he said.
“All those guys were actually racing in the juniors while I was racing.
“Then there are other guys like Jamie Whincup and Daniel Ricciardo who actually did work experience with me in Horsham before they went on to bigger and better things – lots of the top drivers start off in karting.”
Luciani continues to compete at a high level and has resisted the opportunity to move into the masters class which is reserved for drivers over the age of 40 despite now being 58.
“I continue to race in the open class because I get a lot more time than others to spend on track,” he said.
“My work allows me to test and practice a lot more than the average person,” he said.
He grew his company – Remo Racing – from the ground up to become the biggest go kart wholesale business in Australia.
“We sell tyres, chassis and all the accessories,” he said.
“My wife Sabrina and I ran the business together.
“She ran the office and I became the face of the business.”
He said it was not something he had ever planned.
“We had no business plan and no idea that it would end up becoming what it has,” he said.
“When I think back today at how lucky I’ve been it’s like a dream come true because I’ve been able to do something I’m so passionate about and make a living out of it.
“It hasn’t been work at all and everything has gone so fast because every day has been an enjoyable day.”
He said the most important thing for young people to do was to follow their dream because they will never know what might happen.
“Anything is possible and nothing is out of reach if you put the effort in,” he said.