1972 - 1973

In 1972, Alain decides to give up soccer and to concentrate more on karting. The 17 year old Alain has hurt one of his knees, which makes the decision much easier for him.

At the end of the year 1972, Alain sells his old Mercadier-McCulloch kart, as he wants to buy his dream kart with a French Vacquand chassis and an Italian Parilla engine. It's the most used chassis at that time and, very important, the engine, with which he should be able to win races. Guy Pelletier, the president of the karting club of Rive-de-Gier is supporting Alain, who decides to take part at more races now as he has the new kart. Alain even gives up his studies and doesn't want to become a sports instructor anymore: He failed a swimming test because of a cramp! Again, he helps his dad to earn some money and he also works on some engines for a few customers from the region...

But very soon, everybody realises, that Alain is good enough to take part in the national karting championship! Alain takes part at the French Senior Karting Championship race on the famous track in Thiverval (Yvelines/France). Alain has only the minimum material, but good hopes. His parents accompany him to the race, where only the best French kart drivers take part. Alain's dad assists while his mom watches the race and supports Alain, hoping that her Alain will have good results and – mainly – that he won't get hurt. Alain drives a great race, finishing on second place right behind a driver called Jean-Louis Bousquet, who will say later that "Alain was not someone who was hard during a race, that Alain was always correct and didn't take any big risks" and mainly that he was someone "who went fast naturally". Alain is happy with the second place. With some newly gained self-confidence, he writes himself in for the 1973 European Junior Karting Championship, which is held in Oldenzaal, in the north of Holland. Alain is not really well prepared for that race, which is also called "Junior Worldcup", but decides to drive regular laps without risking anything. He has the advantage to be one of the oldest drivers, as France allows drivers up to the age of eighteen years to take part in junior races, while in Britain, the age of juniors goes up to the age of sixteen. Alain even has a moustache and looked very old, which created rumours that Alain was married and had a child! – In the race, there are many turbulent fights and lots of collisions. Alain is able to get away without problems and wins all five runs, including the two final runs, which he wins decisively. Therefore, he is the new European Junior Karting Champion in 1973! On the podium, Alain was smiling wistfully. After this big success, the French decided to take Alain to their Senior team, because he was so quick. So, Alain goes to the Senior Karting Worldchampionship, which takes place on the Nivelles track, situated near Bruxelles (Belgium). Drivers of twenty countries take part. Alain has no idea what to expect there, he gets no help from anywhere... Alain doesn't have the best material, drives a good race in the middle of the field, but only finishes 14th. But his dad met another Frenchman in the pits: Michel Fabre, a member of the national team, who imports Italian karting material. Michel Fabre owns a small "Sovame" store in Aubervilliers, close to Paris. Alain's dad asks Fabre to let Alain test some karts and Michel Fabre agrees. Already one day later, Michel Fabre organised a small "private test" for Alain Prost. – Michel Fabre is very impressed by the driving style of Alain! Even with karts, that were not really set up, Alain drives very good times! But what impresses Fabre even more: After only a few laps, Alain is able to give more detailed information about the the kart and the engine than anybody else Fabre has ever seen!

Alain tests just everything: chassis made by Taifun, Tecno, Squale and even a Python chassis, which nobody wants because it is difficult to handle. But Alain realises soon that his smooth driving style is fitting wonderful to this chassis. At the same time, there are many different sorts of tyres to choose from and Alain tests them all until he finds the ideal combination. Michel Fabre can hardly believe his eyes and decides to support Alain. Fabre proposes to support Alain at the big races and offers Alain to do the official distribution for karting material, which is imported or produced by Sovame for the region where Alain lives. Michel Fabre also introduces Alain to Jannick Auxemery, a driver who stopped racing. Auxemery becomes a supporter and kind manager for Alain, Auxemery is also a strong teacher. But there are more people who discovered the young Frenchman in the meantime: An Italian constructor contacts Alain while he is working in his small Sovame karting shop in Saint-Chamond. The constructor offers him to be their official driver with a monthly salary of 2000 French Francs and a place in the BM junior team. It's a very good offer for the young Alain, but he refuses to drive for the Italians. He doesn't want to leave Michel Fabre like that after all. Alain is too honest to do such a thing... So, Alain continues to drive for Michel Fabre.

To be continued...

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