At only 14 years old, Enzo Deligny has joined the Red Bull Junior Team and has also been announced to make his single-seater debut next season in Spanish F4 with reigning champions Campos. Feeder Series talked to the French-Chinese teenager to know more about his childhood and his karting years.
By Perceval Wolff
After Jean-Éric Vergne, Pierre Gasly and Isack Hadjar, it’s the fourth time that Red Bull has signed a French driver in their junior team. However, it will be their first time recruiting a Frenchman who is yet to race in single-seaters. Following an impressive 2022 season where he was undoubtedly the biggest revelation of the international karting scene in the OK category, Deligny has done enough to convince Dr. Helmut Marko to bring him into the Red Bull Junior Team fold.
From China to the USA
Born in April 2008 in Shanghai from a French father and a Chinese mother, Enzo Deligny doesn’t come from the classic national karting background organized by the FFSA (French Federation). “It’s thanks to my father that I fell in love with motorsport. He used to race [in Polo Cup China], and when I was six, he introduced me to karting. I first drove at the Shanghai track, just near the F1 circuit… it was an unreal feeling, I loved it straight away,” he told Feeder Series with a subtle American accent.
Indeed, it’s on the other side of the Pacific Ocean that Deligny first started to shine on the international karting scene, by winning the Challenge of America in 2018 and by finishing runner-up of the prestigious SKUSA Supernationals at Las Vegas the next year. “We moved from Shanghai to Los Angeles around 2015. It was not at all related to karting or to my career as I was only seven. My parents moved to the USA for professional reasons.”
European karting: “The best of the best”
Eventually, the majority of karting drivers looking to progress their career end up moving to Europe and especially to Italy where the major international karting events take place and where the best teams are located. Coming from the USA, it has been quite a change for Deligny who was used to fighting at the top when he arrived in Italy at the end of 2020.
When I arrived I was two or three tenths behind in the first racesEnzo Deligny had to adjust quickly to racing in Europe
“I had to adapt and to learn so many things in such a short period of time. It was quite difficult at the start for me, as I was not really ready to fight against the best drivers who were used to these tracks, who had been training there for years. When I arrived I was two or three tenths per lap behind in the first races and I knew I had to work on myself and not just simply rely on talent.”
“I also had to learn Italian, everything was so different from the USA. But there was no real language barrier, I learnt Italian quite quickly. It’s easier when the whole environment around you is Italian: karting, day-to-day life, and even though I was in a French school at Milan, I still learnt Italian there. It helped me to quickly talk to my mechanic in this language.”
Despite living his childhood in China, growing up in the USA and racing in Italy, Deligny keeps a special link with the country he represents. “I don’t think I’ve ever raced in France and for sure, that’s a pity, I would love to! But I do feel half French (and half Chinese) because I have always been to French schools, I speak French with my father everyday, I have plenty of French friends at school… so even though I have never lived there, it’s a part of me” he explains.
The revelation of the 2022 karting season
After a maiden podium at Franciacorta, Deligny signed with the Parolin factory team for the 2021 season in the OK-Junior category. The French youngster showed great progress with several top 5 finishes, and a first win at Campillos in the “Champions of the Future” series. At only 13 years old, he decided to step up with Parolin in OK. This category is often described as the last step for drivers before single-seaters: Antonelli, Câmara, Tsolov, and Ugochukwu raced in this category last season before entering F4.
When we won at our third race, we really were not expecting that for sure.Enzo Deligny surprising everyone early in the season
“Last year, Parolin was far from being the best OK team, they didn’t have any of their drivers in front, even though they still had good drivers such as James Wharton from the Ferrari Driver Academy. So when we signed with them for the 2022 OK season, we weren’t sure we would be able to fight for wins and podiums,” Deligny explains.
But the results quickly arrived with a win for his third race at Sarno during the WSK Super Master Series, in front of drivers such as Freddie Slater, reigning World Champion Tuukka Taponen, or F1 Junior Team’s protégés like Kean Nakamura-Berta (Alpine) or Alex Powell (Mercedes). “When we won at our third race, we really were not expecting that for sure. Parolin said to us they would work hard during winter to improve, and it worked.”
“It wasn’t only one-offs. Our standard level was always in the top 5 globally, we have managed to be really consistent.” Indeed, Deligny finished fourth of the European Championship, and second of the WSK Euro Series, despite a mechanical failure at the first of the two rounds.
“When I look at my year and what I achieved with Parolin, there are a lot of races where things could have been better. There is always room for improvement. But when I look back at the start of the year, when we just wanted to be competitive, and then we ended up winning several races, it’s fair to say it has been a positive year. But you know, a driver always wants more. At least, I want more!”
Deligny also spoke to Feeder Series about his upcoming new challenge with Campos Racing in Spanish F4, with the support of the Red Bull Junior Team. More to follow.
Header photo credit: Forza Enzo Deligny
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