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Exclusive Interview with Remo Luciani

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Pictured Right:  Remo and Sabrina Luciani with their eldest daughter Remii 

Over the past 20 years Remo Luciani has built his business from a one-man show in Horsham to be one of the most significant players in the Australian karting industry.

Two months ago, he dropped a bombshell with the announcement that Drew Price Engineering (DPE) would take over the distribution of the Remo Racing inspired Monaco chassis, which has always been made in DPE’s Melbourne factory.

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However, the bigger bombshell was still to come for the karting industry with Remo Racing also selling off 60% of his business, including the rights for the Australian distribution of MG tyres.

KARTX spent some time with Luciani to discuss openly how these deals came about.

For almost 12 months, there’s rumours floating around the Australian karting community about Remo Luciani and Drew Price working together on various projects, so how much truth was in those rumours.

“Steve Johnson started at DPE back in January 2012, Drew Price employed him as the new Sales and Marketing Manager and it was his role to come up with ways Drew could improve the business,” said Remo Luciani.


“(In a management meeting) Steve suggested that they should approach me to purchase the Monaco brand so that they could then market their product as Tony Kart do with the OTK Chassis range. They’re effectively the same product but under different brand identities such as Kosmic, Exprit and Redspeed.


“When they initially approached me to purchase Monaco last year I had no intention or desire whatsoever to sell any part of Remo Racing and I told DPE that I wasn’t selling but if, or when, I did want to make that decision I would offer it to them first and that’s where we left if.


From that point, it seemed that like many things in the karting industry, the rumours began to circulate but as Luciani explained they were exactly that – RUMOURS!


“In September 2012 rumors started to circulate that I was selling out. They were exactly that, just rumors with not one ounce of truth to it,” stated Luciani.


“There had been information leaked out of the Arrow factory about the Monaco discussions I had with Drew and Bart Price. I was soon taking phone calls from various interested parties within the industry who each wanted to buy my business – or parts of it.

I took five phone calls from other karting business’ who’d said that they’d heard the rumour that Remo was for sale, or was selling, and I would say three of them were very solid in terms of interest in making a purchase.

The first call I didn’t think much of, it was the second and third call that came in almost consecutively that I truly sat back I thought my business might be worth something here, and is quite desirable to others.



Looking back at it now it actually started the sale cogs ticking, but despite the rumors I had no intentions to sell. However, it did put thoughts into my mind that if I did want to get out the assets that I have are a desired purchase by more than one party.”

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So, what changed in the past eight months for Luciani’s thoughts to not only sway but take almost a 180-degree turn. He tells KARTX that there was one moment on February 10, 2013 that his mind was made up and not at any time before that had he seriously taken steps towards any sort of sale arrangement.


“I can clearly remember the phone call, vividly that day"

"I was in South Australia for the Nationals Shakedown meeting at the Monarto circuit. I received a phone call to say my wife Sabrina was in hospital with heart problems and with all the tests it was put down to stress and anxiety and she needed to back off and take it a lot easier. The decision for me was that I either needed to employ more people to ease our personal workloads or to offload some of the business to ease the stress on Sabrina,” reflected Luciani.



They didn’t tell me until after the race meeting finished so I wouldn’t leave early, Sabrina never puts herself before me but instantly when I got that phone call the penny dropped",

“My health had also been suffering in the last twelve months with depression and after taking that phone call I immediately decided that on Monday morning I would pick up the phone and tell Drew I was ready to talk.

“In the end, looking back... it really was quite a simple decision, I wasn’t prepared to completely step aside and put a full time manager into Remo Racing, I didn’t want to take the risk of the business we’ve worked so hard to build fail because I was no longer involved on a
 full time basis so a decision was made to sell the Monaco Chassis distribution and the import rights to MG Tyres.



“Even though I had strong interested from other parties it really was a clear decision for me to stand by my word and go back to Drew Price Engineering and offer it to them first. 


Sabrina and I are very very passionate about our business and the products we sell and to the suppliers who we have an excellent relationship with and it was really a clear decision that we had to do something with someone that would represent and continue the trust of the products we introduced to Australia. “I’m not saying the others couldn’t do the job but Drew Price and his team were the best fit for us.

remo interview 12 PM Remo and Casey testing

 
While Luciani was outright in saying that the team at DPE were the best fit for the Monaco brand, the decision to sell to anyone wasn’t an easy one.

”When we were negotiating the sale with Drew and Bart my biggest concern was to continue on with the production of Monaco karts,”

“For me this (the continuation of
 the brand) was something that was vitally important as it was a brand name that Sabrina and I worked extremely hard on together and in fact Sabrina’s got to take the credit for the Monaco chassis name, reflected Luciani.

“At the time that we decided to build our own kart brand, I was three-times Australian National Champion in 1992 and then followed it up with another National Championship in 1993.
“Back then you had the big European factories like CRG naming their chassis after race circuits and we thought that was a pretty good idea. We were discussing names and it just so happened that the Monaco Formula One GP was on, naturally anyone into motorsport knows of Monaco and if you said the word Monaco people just know its to do with racing so it stuck and really became the perfect fit for our brand.

“One of the negotiations from day one was that if DPE purchased Monaco, was that they would want me to stay around for a six year period as a brand ambassador for the product. That’s purely and simply a sign of Drew also being a person who is genuine and sincere and he wanted to reassure all of our Monaco customers, people who have had trust in me and my name over the years that they weren’t going to be deserted. He wanted to re-assure them that I was still there to support them and was contactable if any problems arose and to help in the transition for those who have never dealt with DPE, so I will still be happily associated with the Monaco name until at least 2019.


2012 NZ sprint champs YAM100H 266


“When hearing news of the sale nearly every Monaco dealer rang me up with concerns predominantly that DPE would stop producing the Monaco chassis and leave them without a chassis to sell. Well, DPE have paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Monaco name and the brand alone in this sale, they’re not going to desert it.

“DPE are not going to pay that sort of money to throw it in the bin, they’re going to work hard to sell the chassis to recoup their money so the biggest fears of my dealers thinking DPE would kill the brand off in favor of their house Arrow brand should be the furthest thing from there mind as Monaco’s not going anywhere. DPE will market it and market it well. Monaco will be around in Australian karting for forever and a day.”

Does Luciani see DPE moving towards the plan discussed almost 12 months ago in the Clayton office of becoming an OTK style manufacturer with more than just two brands?

“I guess now if DPE do wish to eventually run the Arrow brand in similar style to Tony Kart/OTK and bring out the same chassis under new names to give Australian karters further choice then there now free to do so, but with so many options already available personally I don’t see DPE going down the path,” said Luciani.
 

remo interview 20 PM remo racing warehouse Remo with last and final truck with stock
The Remo Racing Warehouse and the 3rd and final semi trailer filled with stock heading to the DPE factory


“As a fully Australian made chassis and for the size of the Australian market I’m quite confident they would be happy with just the two brands but on the other side of the coin they will now look to push the Monaco brand internationally alongside the Arrow.

“If they want to discount something heavily and give away further karts and money rewards like they did last year to Arrow drivers, Monaco should now be involved in that as well which is great for Monaco customers.”

So that’s the Monaco side of the deal, there’s no doubt about the fact that DPE have purchased the rights to become the importers of MG TYRES has been the talk of the pit area at recent events. With AKA tyre contracts in place, these negotiations were nowhere near straight forward as the Monaco deal.

“MG Tyres was the big carrot in the mix and was the biggest hurdle to overcome with an AKA tyre tender contract in place, it was also a big draw card that Drew and I had to accept that it was going to be a part of the deal,” stated Luciani.

“There was a lot of legalities to work through with the sale of MG but if anyone asked me what was the one item I wanted to keep I would say to you ‘MG’ because its been very good to me and quite a successful product line for Remo Racing. In saying that though, we know sometimes when your trying to put a package together you’ve got to take the good with the bad and it had to be included for this sale to work.

“I’ve got an excellent relationship with all of my suppliers and MG tyres Brazil is no different. I first started importing the MG tyre range into Australia in 1995 and won my first AKA Tyre Tender Contract in 2000 for the ReSa class.

“I contacted the MG factory to explain the situation and inform them I was in discussions with a company about selling part of the business, which included the importation of the MG tyre range. I reassured MG Brazil that the company I was in discussion with was capable of doing the job as good, if not better than what we were currently doing it for them and that they would continue to be looked after.

“With a tyre contract in place with the AKA, it wasn’t just between myself and DPE, we needed to ensure that we were able to complete a transaction. After a fair bit of legal discussions between each party, the approval was then given by the National Karting Council for the sale to be finalized,” said Luciani 

REMO-2010 AUST CHAMP F100
Remo pictured above winning Formula 100

“For the karter, the transition of MG tyres from Remo Racing to DPE should be seamless.”

So, that’s Monaco and MG tyres that has been sold to DPE, two very large income streams for Remo Racing but that’s not all that has been a part of the arrangement.
“Approximately 60% of the business has now been sold to DPE,” said Luciani.

“We have sold the rights that we previously had to be the distributors for Monaco chassis, MG tyres, KG Plastics, Freeminds, Yamaha, Talon Sprockets, RK Chains, Motul and all the other incidental stocked brands available through Remo Racing.

“The key items we are keeping at Remo Racing is IAME ENGINES and our OTK range which is the KOSMIC and FA chassis along with the OTK spare parts.”

The question had to be asked to Luciani, why not sell the lot?
“I’ve been racing karts for 32 years and on Friday at the Victorian Karting Series Round I didn’t miss a session, I went out when the green light came on and came off with the red so I stayed out there for 13,14,15 laps non-stop all day. You would think after 32 years of racing I would have had enough, obviously I’m still so passionate about karting, I really enjoy every single moment of every single lap out there striving to improve and I’m not ready to walk away from the industry,” stated Luciani.

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“By having IAME engines and OTK range of Karts and parts I still retain my business interest in karting at a much smaller level that is more easily managed for Sabrina and I, for her health and for mine as well. I feel as though we can also go back to more dedicated ‘hands on’ customer service of those products.”
Luciani went on to state why he elected to keep the IAME engines under the Remo Racing umbrella.

“I still feel that there’s room for a high performance class with our IAME X30 engine and the Leopard class. I feel for State and National championships there’s always your die-hard high performance people that want the Leopard class to remain,” said Luciani.

“The proof of that is look at the recent Australian Nationals Championships where Leopard Light on MG Yellow tyres had the biggest class with 39 entries and was spectacular to watch. There is room for a high performance Leopard class in Australia and it should be run at selected events, I intend to keep working on the Leopard class with the AKA for all of our customers.

Running the TaG classes to fill gaps in-between I haven’t got a problem with, but Australian karting has been built on single brand engine classes and for Australian karting to be successful into the future it needs to continue this way.”

remo sabrina and remii 2013


Like many businesses in the karting industry, Remo Racing is a family affair and his three children have grown up with the Monaco kart almost being a part of the family. Luciani shared with KARTX the moment he told the children.

“It was an amazing moment. We’re just a ‘Plain Jane’ Italian family sitting around the kitchen table having a meal and we announced we were having a family meeting and everyone put there knives and forks down and put there heads up to listen,” shared Luciani.

“The kids (Remii, Marcus and Scarlett) were all looking at me and I said, look we’ve actually sold the business today – they didn’t really understand it at first.

“My 12 year old son Marcus said “What do you mean, what are you actually selling?... so there’s no more Remo Racing?”
“I said, no were selling 60% of the business but we will still have Remo Racing. The two girls were also listening and Marcus says “but what are you actually selling?”

“I was running through the product list and when I got to ‘Monaco’ he interrupted ... “MONACO? ... don’t you mean Kosmic?”.
I said no, ‘Monaco’ and he replied “But you can’t sell that, that’s YOU! ... You are Monaco!”

“I actually didn’t expect it or realize it meant so much to him. Obviously he’s seen my passion and Sabrina’s passion for the Monaco brand over the years that he thought this wasn’t possible, this cant happen.

It actually bought him to tears and was quite a very special moment for us a family.

“The other two, they’re girls, they’re sort of you know “whatever” but Marcus’ reaction really was the surprise package in terms of being concerned about it.” 

remo  sabrina 09 leopard final 
Sabrina pictured with Remo

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE MAN – SABRINA LUCIANI

“It’s true when they say behind every good man there is a good woman and in all honesty if it wasn’t for Sabrina I wouldn’t be where I am today,“ reflected Luciani

“She has been so supportive of me as far as me being away from the family with three young children, being allowed to go away as often as I like and has never stood in my way.

If anything, Sabrina has been the one to push me to go and race, she runs the administration side of Remo Racing, she is in the office there and for the size of our business and the work she does she is every bit to be commended on the success of Remo Racing as what I am.



“Sabrina and I met each other in 1989 when I went to Oran Park for the Piston Port Final race. Sabrina’s father Franco Guaitoli was the PCR importer and he ran a Piston Port Series and I qualified by winning the Victorian State Series so I was able to enter the Final race and their family being Italian like me I was later invited to their son’s 21st Birthday 21st October, 1990, and it was there I first saw Sabrina.

At the time she was the secretary for PCR Australia and four months later she moved to Horsham and we now have three beautiful children together, Remi, Marcus and Scarlett.”


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So where to now for Remo Racing?

“There’s four people employed by Remo Racing and I still feel there will be enough workload with the brands we are retaining to keep our staff. Once we dispatch the current MG tyre and KG Plastics stock to DPE we are looking at relocating to a new shop that’s better suited to our new needs,” said Luciani.

“I own another piece of land here in Horsham so we will now start to build a new 400m2 factory and shop front as the new home for Remo Racing and lease our current 1200m2 factory out as the space we have now is over capitalized for our future needs.

“I cant see my personal racing commitments slowing down, yes I don’t have to go to every single race meeting now but there’s a lot of family commitments we’ve missed out on over the years, so if there is a special family occasion now whether its an engagement, a wedding, anniversary etc; that will all come first”, “I can say no to the racing without customers down, I couldn’t do that before.”
One thing is for sure, Remo Racing is here to stay, as is Monaco and MG tyres – albeit in a different guise. 


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Monaco Kart Relaunch

Remo Luciani believes that 
the sale of Monaco to DPE is possible the biggest ‘shot in the arm’ for the brand.

“We sold 125 Monaco karts 
for the year of 2011-12 which
 was a down year, we’ve been up to 260 karts but we were down last year - the whole market was down in Australia. DPE as far
 as marketing goes they have professional people in marketing roles so with the new look, new colors and sticker kit the re
launch has proven successful already for DPE with 85 karts on back order in the first month and won’t be surprised if they sell 400 karts in the next 12 months,” said Luciani.

“If the brand had stayed with me I don’t think I could have achieved that because I’ve never been one to be up to date with this modern day of marketing so I really think it needed it and the brand has definitely been given an injection. “It’s a strange feeling actually seeing other drivers with the new Monaco M3 today at Todd road in competiton for the first time, I was thinking “boy they would have never driven Monaco before”. They were an Arrow customer or a Tony Kart or some other brand driver and there now actually in a Monaco, I don’t know how to explain it, it really was a strange feeling, one that I can’t put into words, it was weird.

“If you had of asked me the question before I saw it (the orange color) I would have been alongside all the “Subaru blue” Monaco customers wanting the blue chassis color retained. For me I thought our blue was more than just a color, it was our identity to the brand but to be fair and honest to DPE they had to make the kart a different color so people would look at it - and I can see that.  “If it stayed the same it wouldn’t have been anything 
new or generated the impact it has had. Having now seen the color and raced the kart, that if anyone asked me now,I would say I prefer the orange, its new, its fresh and its vibrant and really does look great.”


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