The entry list for this year's CIK-FIA World Cup contained a couple of high-profile surprises with the inclusion of Formula One drivers Robert Kubica and Jaime Alguersuari in the premier KZ1 class.
The pair are both former international karting champions and will headline the 125cc gearbox category at its blue riband event as they attempt to taken on established experts like reigning double champion Jonathan Thonon, multiple world champion Davide Fore, reigning KF1 world champion Marco Ardigo and rising star Bas Lammers at Sarno in Italy over 3-6 September.
Despite the current economic climate, the 76-kart entry is already showing a 50 per cent increase of both 2007 and 2008, but the addition of both 2008 Canadian Grand Prix winner Kubica and newest F1 graduate Alguersuari will grab the attention as they represent the first top flight drivers to return to the equivalent category in karting since Michael Schumacher challenged the elite in the 2001 World Championship on the family circuit in Kerpen. The German finished as runner-up to a certain Vitantonio Liuzzi, who continues to harbour a return to racing in F1 after serving as test driver at Force India for the past couple of seasons. Alguersuari had been due to take part in the European KZ1 championship, but was summoned by Scuderia Toro Rosso after completing the practice days....
The real challenge for both Kubica and Alguersuari, however, is not necessarily switching back to karts - almost all F1 drivers keep their hand in with a spot of karting from time to time - but that they have opted to return in the gearbox category, which neither raced during their international careers and which, being more powerful and heavier, behave differently to the direct-drive karts which they raced until 2001 and 2005 respectively.
Kubica warmed up for the Sarno event by staging a competition among his F1 rivals - where he was joined by Liuzzi, Schumacher, Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel, Timo Glock, Nelson Piquet Jr and Christian Klien - and last season launched his own brand of competition kart, the RK, alongside those endorsed by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. The Pole will obviously drive one of his own karts at Sarno, where he will be entered by manufacturer Birel Motorsport. Alguersuari's entry is with the Intrepid team with which he raced in 2005.