ACR and Birel - 20th Anniversary !
June 1995 to June 2015.
A little tale of a bit of history...........
In 1989 I was working for my old boss Paul Carr, we went to the European Champs in Sweden, this is the first time I saw the name "Birel" - a large double decker truck which they shared at the time with Vega tyres. I looked at the Birel chassis and remember thinking wow that's what I want to sell some day.
Little did I know then, that 20 years later I would be lucky enough to be the Sole UK Importer for both Birel and Vega tyres !
In 1995 I accompanied Jenson Button and Tom Sisley to Genk in Belgium for the Junior European. Both were driving with the Italian outfit Team Rambo run by Fabiano Belletti - they used Birel chassis.
In the UK at the time I was working and helping Alan Turney and Tal - Ko with the Kali brand made by CRG and running Tom Sisley. Whilst in Genk, Fabiano spoke to me and said that Birel were looking for someone in the UK to sell their chassis. He called Birel and told me that I could have a meeting in Birel the following Thursday - I agreed.
So aged 23 years old and a bit naive about business, I flew by myself to Linate airport in Milan in my best suit carrying a new brief case which contained only a pen and jotter pad!
I could not speak Italian and showed the taxi driver the address Via Michele del Carso 35, Lissone - he looked puzzled but then said "Si Si" - after a time it was clear he had no idea where he was going!. Back then the currency was Italian Lira not Euro's - it felt and sounded like millions when he asked for his fare to be paid when I eventually reached Birel !
It was boiling hot day, and I was wearing a stupid suit. I arrived to the gates of Birel - they were locked - there was no one around ! At this point I started to panic but soon realized it was lunch time - and the Italians love a good long lunch ! I walked down a side street and found a Irish themed Guinness Bar ! so I had a beer, calmed my nerves and waited until 2pm.
When I arrived at Birel and went through the gates it was a really special feeling , it was the old office at Birel which is now used for the Birel race team. I was shown into Mr Oscars office. I remember thinking that this guy looks like the "God Father !" sat behind his perfectly arranged desk with an enormous black and white photo of a Birel driver racing at the Parma circuit I think ? behind him, which spanned the entire back wall of his office.
At that time Mr Oscar smoked cigarettes which was a struggle and quite over powering for me during the meeting - thankfully soon after he changed to Cigars.I have bought him cigars nearly every time I go to visit Birel since!
As Oscar didn't speak English and I didn't speak Italian his secretary translated. He asked a bit about me and asked me what I knew about Birel - the history etc. I had done my research and gave him my pitch of what I could do for and with Birel. Mr Oscar looked impressed nodding and making the odd note. he then explained to me that we have to work together in good times and bad and be loyal at all times,Mr Oscar was very sincere about this point.
I have always felt that Birel with its history is similar to that of Ferrari - both are red of course but the passion in Birel like Ferrari is very special.
He then asked me how many chassis I would like to buy. At this time I had very little money as ACR had only be going three years. "Two chassis !" I said proudly - Mr Oscar didn't look impressed and for a second I thought I had blown my chance with Birel. he sat back in his chair and said "OK - I don't really know who you are , but I like what you have said and your ideas - I going to give you a chance !" - I was so happy.
As I left, through his translator he said - next time you come make sure you have learnt some Italian ! - he was joking but of course I took it seriously and started to learn Italian as soon as I got back home - I'm still terrible at it today !
I have never forgotten that meeting with Mr Oscar Sala or "the old man" as I call him !.
It was the meeting that changed my life and gave me the opportunities that have seen my company ACR grow along with Birel itself over the last 20 years. Mr Oscar is a truly special person that has contributed so much to our sport of Karting and someone who time after time has helped me.
The concept of Easykart was Mr Oscar's idea. The name Easykart was Oscar's son Ronni's idea. What a fantastic concept it has been and still is today. The staff in Birel have also been fantastic to me over the last 20 years, many of them are still there - loyal and hard working.
In 2001 Oscar introduced me to his son Ronni , over the last 14 years Ronni has taken over control of Birel and he I have become very close friends. We have worked together closely step by step as Birel has grown. We are both excited about the new projects and opportunities that we now have with Birel ART.
So to Mr Oscar and to Ronni and all the Birel staff - thank you for the last 20 years, its been special and we continue to go on step by step bringing Birel and now Birel ART back to the top of karting.