This weekend the Dubai Kartdrome hosts the final round of the Endurance Championship driven by Mini, an event which has been a mainstay of the venue since the inception in 2004. The December edition is invariably one of the most anticipated as it draws not only the cream of local endurance karting teams, but also some of the best squads from Europe to take up the challenge at an event which has grown in stature to be one of the most respected of its kind in the world.
Every time, for the past few years, when I drive into the parking lot ahead of setting up the media operations for the two days of action (one of my roles as Communications Manager at Dubai Autodrome) my thoughts invariably turn to the late Christophe Hissette, who was considered one of the finest protagonists of the Sodi kart-based endurance series.
For me, and undoubtedly many others, his spirit looms large at each and every endurance karting event at the Kartdrome. Such was his impact that to this day drivers still pay tribute to the racing driver, who grew up in Dubai and touched the lives of so many people, by running helmet replicas or a jigsaw piece in pink and blue – the kind that were part of his helmet design – or simply a sticker with his name on the visor.
Records show that Christophe was part of more winning teams than any other driver in 24-hour endurance races at the Kartdrome. What they won’t show is the huge role he invariably played to help his teams to victory on these numerous occasions. he often did the hard graft, but in the end shunned the limelight.
I am particularly fond of telling the story of the closest ever finish in the history of the event, and perhaps even the closest ever for any 24-hour karting race, where he had the starring role.
It was at the 2007 edition of the 24-hour race, which has become part of karting folklore and is etched in the collective memory of all those present at the Kartdrome on that day.
Christophe had already driven more stints than his team mates when team manager Mike Wilkes assigned him to the last stint, where he was mandated with the unlikely task to make up a whole lap – over a minute – on the leaders, Racing for Russia, in the final hour of the race.
In a show of relentless determination and astounding grit, Christophe started to reel in the leading driver and proceeded to scythe down the one minute lead by about a second per lap until he was within striking distance.
Halfway around the final lap of 1155 laps and 24 hours of racing, Christophe darted out of the Russian driver’s slipstream as they passed under the bridge. In the chicane he pounced to take the lead and win the race by the narrowest of margins ever. Unforgettable, pure Christophe.
Catching up with his father Jean Louis recently we reminisced about the race, and he recalled, “Christophe told me immediately afterwards that on the final lap as he crossed the line he was not sure he would catch the leader, but then the young Russian guy looked back briefly, with anxiety in his body language, that’s when Christophe knew he had him!”
That performance epitomised the tenacity, precision and sheer speed of Christophe doing what he loved most – racing and competing.
For the final round of four of this edition of the Endurance Championship – which takes place on Friday and Saturday – at the Kartdrome. Undoubtedly his legacy will loom large.
Had Christophe not been stolen from us, so cruelly and prematurely, I have no doubt he would be the man to beat again this weekend. For sure, come the end of the gruelling 24 hours, Christophe would be on the top step of the podium, grinning broadly, and holding aloft the winner’s trophy – the big one – as was his habit at the Kartdrome.
By Paul Velasco
Originally published here>>>