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A talented young driver sees far and wide

A talented young driver sees far and wide

In elementary school, he was told that he had become rich because he participated in karting. No, Alexis Baillargeon’s family doesn’t trade in gold, but they are doing everything they can so that this talented young driver can fulfill his dream and rise to the ranks of motorsport. Welcome to the life and reality, especially to say the least, of a 12-year-old, champion of Quebec and Canada.

“Not everyone has that opportunity to drive on the slopes, but what young people keep telling me, that’s not the case,” Alexis says confidently and clearly in an interview with Newspaper About his life.

Very kind, the Baillargeons constitute a middle-class family like thousands elsewhere in Quebec. My mother, Dominique, is a teacher, so she is on strike. Father Matteo, from the racing world, works in the field of mechanics when he is not tinkering with his son’s “machine”.

They don’t live in abundance and wealth like Lance’s outings in this world, but they don’t pull the devil by the tail. This reality is what keeps Alexis’s feet on the ground. He travels across Quebec, Canada and the United States driving his go-kart and winning championships.

“At my age, it’s a special thing, but it’s a trifecta. In addition to driving fast, I visit places I might not have seen or known.

Young Quebec kart driver Alexis Baillargeon is a rising star in auto racing. In 2023, in addition to his Coupe de Montreal title, he won, among others, the Rotax National Championship and the important ROK Vegas race. Photo by François David Rouleau

Photo by François David Rouleau

World Championship in Bahrain

Exactly, next week, he is in Bahrain to participate in the Rotax World Championship near the Formula 1 International Circuit, where his idol Lewis Hamilton has won the premier event on five occasions.

Alexis is among the 20 Canadian drivers registered in the nine categories. This is the second time he has found himself in Bahrain, an island in the Persian Gulf near Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

At the end of a year in which he won just about everything, including Montreal Cup titles, the Republic of Korea Vegas Championship, and regional and national championships, Alexis has big ambitions. Among the world’s elite and the 72 cars registered in the 125 Minimax class, he’s thinking big.

Alexis Baillargeon

Photo courtesy of Cody Shindel / CANADIANKARTINGNEWS.COM

“Last year, I was unable to reach the final, which was held in Portugal. This time the goal is to reach the final. “If all goes well, I aim to reach the top 15,” asserts the man who will be participating in his third participation with confidence. In this major global event, and in 2021, in the Micro Max category, he obtained 5H Rank.

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Work and fun

According to her mother, Alexis puts a lot of pressure on herself. “It’s hard on him,” she said alongside her son in an interview in the kitchen of the family’s home in Lipifani.

His father, who is accompanying him to the Middle East, prefers not to pay the bill. He would like to see him on track in the final, but “he wants him to do his best and see him happy.”

Upon his return from Bahrain, Alexis will already be preparing for the 2024 season as he will travel to the United States, among other places, in the Super Karts Series! United States of America. On the track, he will compete with older drivers.

Kevin King, co-owner and manager of the PSL Karting race team in Trois-Rivières, believes in his potential. According to him, with a good attitude and the motivation he drives every day, Baillargeon will be able to take a place in the top five and even top three in this competitive series.

“He’s a hard-working, combative young man. In Utah last summer, he was among the five fastest on the track. He still has things to learn. He listens and wants to improve,” says the former driver who has taken his young team under his wing.

Alexis Baillargeon

Young Quebec kart driver Alexis Baillargeon rose to the top of the podium in the MINI class at the important American competition ROK Vegas at the end of October 2023.

Photo courtesy of Cody Shindel / CANADIANKARTINGNEWS.COM

From two wheels to four wheels

The talented young man has been driving karts for only four years. The passion for motorsport has been running through his veins since he was in bed. When he was two years old, he was already riding a motocross bike. Then the F1 Grand Prix on television gave him a taste of trying another system.

Alexis then asked his parents to start go-karting so he could dream of Formula 1. Without a second thought, the family embarked on this adventure. After a trial period to observe Alexis’ talent and interest, she sold everything so he could thrive in his field.

In his mission to rise through the ranks of motorsport, he is heavily involved in searching for sponsors and partners. Because every dollar must be invested fully and skillfully. With the cooperation of many, the costs of a racing season in Quebec can be amortized to approximately $10,000 for a family.

It was his performance despite the limited budget that allowed him to attract the attention of good karting teams.

“Natural talent”

On the phone at PSL Karting’s headquarters in Trois-Rivières, Kevin King was categorical. “Alexis is a natural talent. He understands how to improve and ride faster. Which is rare.”

King, who is well known in the Quebec motorsport scene, has met drivers throughout his career. Baillargeon quickly came into his sight.

“He shows tremendous motivation. We see that his parents are not the ones pushing him. It is very different. Despite his lack of experience at the beginning, he has managed to do well in the big races.”

After moving to the Ben Cooper Racing Academy, Baillargeon continued his progress.

“The basic concepts are inside him. They’re innate. All he has to do is develop them, explains King, who has worked with him for two years. He visualizes the track, racing lines and braking well. He understands his kart. Only about 15% of young people have this .

On the track, he guides an impatient young lion, who takes great pleasure in overtaking those who ride in front of him.

He stresses: “He is a fighter and does not give up.”

Intentional start in the last row

Car racing is exactly what drives the young driver who loves to overtake and win. Even at the season finale this fall at the ICAR circuit in Mirabel, he dared to deliberately start from the back of the grid…

Drooling? sonorous? Very confident?

“Not at all. It was for fun,” he answered quietly.

His parents did not completely agree, but they allowed him to make up his mind after listening to his arguments.

He allowed his 13 competitors to pass after the training round. After starting a 15-lap race, he climbed to the top of the classification and crossed the finish line in first place, also setting the best time. But his strategy earned him a 10-second penalty. With the addition of another penalty kick, he dropped to seventh place.

Which did not prevent him from putting his paw in the 2023 championship, despite driving the car with worn tires throughout the season.

“He loves challenges. To learn, he has to know how to lead in the group and not always at the front. You don’t always learn leadership at the front,” says his father Matteo.

Great confession

His performance on the track and his qualities behind the wheel allowed him to add his name to great Quebec drivers like Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ringer on the Gilles Villeneuve Trophy. The recognition symbolizes combat ability and excellence on the Quebec driver’s path.

He says: “It is a great honor and a great pride to see my name engraved on this cup, because there is no one there who is between 11 and 12 years old.”

This title also allows him to open the doors for the 2024 season. Which is a relief in many ways, including managing a limited budget.

Alexis Baillargeon

Photo courtesy of Cody Shindel / CANADIANKARTINGNEWS.COM

Look for tires in trash cans

Alexis Baillargeon is so aware of his reality and the financial challenges he faces in his karting seasons that he searches for slightly worn tires that his competitors have tossed in the trash at competition sites.

Chase lets you save money while mastering the track.

This season, apart from qualifying for the world championship, the young Quebec driver has not worn new tires, which cost nearly $400 per train.

Instead, he was able to use scrap tires. By rummaging through trash cans, he found some real bargains: “rubber” that only wears out a few rounds.

“It’s not uncommon for new tires to be almost thrown away. Since runners don’t want them anymore, I collect them.

At his side, adds his mother, Dominique Vagnant. “We don’t always have the means to practice and ride in qualifying with a set of new tires, so we use worn tires.”

Precious seconds

His father, Matteo, believes that giving a second life to these erasers is not reprehensible.

A new set of tires can consume up to 0.7 seconds per lap, an important fact in qualifying. On worn tires, Baillargeon still managed to repeatedly qualify his car around the top five.

Then he got the job done in the race.

“Alexis knows her situation. His father says he doesn’t always have a go-kart with new tires, but he knows where it comes from. Being raised in cotton wool doesn’t give the best lessons.”

Alexis Baillargeon

Young Quebec kart driver Alexis Baillargeon is not a driving enthusiast by chance. He knows how to tune his car so his father Matteo prepares it accordingly for the race.

Photo courtesy of Cody Shindel / CANADIANKARTINGNEWS.COM

This reality also creates tension across the board. In a harsh environment, some of his rivals are shocked, especially when they finish behind the talented youngster.

“Alexis is aware of the issues. He hasn’t cooked everything in his mouth and is able to do a good job,” concludes his proud mother.