Karting Guru Dino Chiesa (the
man behind Danilo Rossi's, Alessandro Manetti's, Nico Rosberg's,
and Lewis Hamilton's karting careers) has put all his eggs
in one basket by choosing Kazeem Manzur as the sole junior
driver for the official Zanardi Kart Team for 2006. This tells
us one thing - Kazeem Manzur must be a karting driver
with something extra special!
So we tracked Kazeem down to see if we could
get an insight into what it takes to be a world class JICA
karting driver, and what it is about him that impresses Dino
Chiesa so much. Kazeem gave us some revealing answers about
his own personal driving style, and some great tips on winning
kart races in Europe!
After a successful year in 2004, most notably
winning nearly half of the Karting Stars of Tomorow's rounds in
Minimax karts, why did you think it is important to live and race
in Europe rather than staying in the UK to develop your karting
'Without wishing to sound big headed the level
of competition in Europe is much higher as I am racing against all
the top drivers in the world. In addition, I feel to be the best
you have to race against the best. All the factory teams are represented
as well, and this alone creates greater competition. The Italian
Open Masters for instance had 72 drivers in JICA Alone last year
and through out the four karting classes (Formula A, ICA, JICA and
ICC) there were over 30 different nationalities represented! Overall,
karting in Europe is more challenging and makes it a greater achievement
when you do well. We made the decision to move to Italy so that
I could still continue my studies at school and race. Obviously
the travelling distance is reduced and as I’m with Team Zanardi
who are based in Padova, Italy it makes the logistics much easier.
Also there is a huge advantage to be gained living in a country
and learning the language. I really think that for me it is a great
decision and I appreciate what my parents have done to allow this
What is the biggest difference between driving
a Rotax and driving a JICA kart, and did you find anything about
changing to JICA karting difficult
'The biggest difference between driving a
Rotax and a JICA is a JICA is a lot faster and louder and because
it has so much more grip due to the softer tyres you have to be
physically stronger to handle it. The amount of fitness training
has been much more intense because of the increased physical demands
of racing in JICA.'
Does your karting technique change to race karts
in Europe compared to the UK? If so, how?
'Due to the softer karting tyres in Europe
and the amount of rubber on the track I have to be smooth and not
slow the momentum of the kart too much. In UK karting there is not
as much grip (tyres are harder in the UK JICA Class) and so I have
to use a more aggressive approach by turning the steering wheel
more. Also the karting tends to be much more aggressive because
officials (unlike in the UK where karting officials tend to be over
zealous) rarely penalise poor driving standards and almost never
exclude a driver from a race because of reckless driving. This unfortunately
means that unlike karting in the UK defending your position in the
last few laps is something that drivers in Europe rarely do. They
know it is a recipe for the driver behind to try a reckless move
and possibly take you out without fear of being penalised.'
What kart driving techniques do you think are
essential to use when racing a kart? E.g. Do you like to be aggressive
with your driving or super-smooth, and do you like to be snappy
with your brakes, or more progressive?
'Every driver probably says the same thing
but my karting style has always been to drive as smooth as possible.
In cadets with the harder tyres this was not always an advantage
but I knew that ultimately my style would benefit me in the higher
classes. Being smooth keeps the speed flowing and in Europe where
the tyres are softer it also means I preserve my tyres thus having
faster lap times. I feel it is essential to only
turn the steering wheel once since if you turn in too many times
you will slow the kart and reduce the exit speed. That is why being
smooth helps because you progressively turn the wheel leaving less
room for error. I brake in a more
snappy way as you can brake later and overtake easier but the
way you use the brake depends on the type of corner it is.'
How much time at the circuit do you get to practise
driving a kart and how important do you think karting practise is?
'It is essential to test at the circuits before
the race because it is important to know the correct set ups in
all conditions and for me to get a feel of the circuit in the different
conditions. Also I need to find the limits of the kart. I feel practise
is extremely important in karting, and so I test as much as possible
when I am not racing. Team Zanardi focuses it’s testing at
the tracks closer to its base of operations whilst also being convenient
for me to get to from Florence where I am living at the moment.
This means we tend to test mostly at Parma and South Garda although
for important races we do like to test on the circuit wherever it
is at least once before the race. This Season testing has been even
more important since we have new chassis homologations at the start
of 2006 which has meant much more intensive testing to ensure we
understand how the new chassis behaves in different conditions.
Being the official Junior Driver for Team Zanardi a lot of the development
work will fall on my shoulders, as Dino will be looking to constantly
improve performance through out the year.'
When racing with a grid of 30 quality drivers,
starts must be an important part of a race. Do you ever have a plan
of attack at the start of kart races?
'Having raced against many of the drivers
before I try and assess those who are near me based on my grid position.
Generally unless I have messed up my qualifying I am normally near
the front and it is easier to predict what the “better”
drivers will do. If I’ve had a bad heat or two and find myself
at the back of the grid it is more likely to get caught up with
the back markers and because of their lesser experience and ability
they can be very unpredictable. With the better drivers I can take
into account each of their driving styles and usually (but not always)
know what they will do at the start and I calculate my manoeuvres
based on this assessment.
You’ll be racing at 11 different karting
tracks this year. Do you have any ways of learning tracks quickly?
E.g. some drivers like to draw maps, and include reference points,
while some drivers prefer to drive on instinct. What techniques
do you use?
'I always walk the track during a race weekend
and especially on race day with my engineer where we can try to
understand the braking point, turn in etc. I also try to take note
of any unusual features of the track such as the amount of rubber,
elevation changes, track surface and kerbs. To learn a track I go
slowly for about 5 laps analysing each corner and the way to take
it. I gradually go faster and faster and then I do one lap putting
together everything I have learned. '
You are racing at the pinnacle of junior karting
on a regular basis. What kind of preparation, and fitness level
does it take to compete at this level?
'It is important to be physically and mentally
strong. I have a personal trainer in a gym in Florence, Italy and
I go a few times a week. I also have a squash coach and I participate
in matches during the week, which helps with my stamina and improves
my reaction times. To keep mentally strong I spend time before a
race, mentally driving the track and
keep focused on my race on the weekend.'
Driving at high level karting means that getting
the set-up nailed becomes more and more important. What areas of
set-up do you regard as essential to get right, and what things
do you do during practise that mean you can get the right set-up?
'Generally because of the amount of testing
we do and the simple fact that Dino is not only the team principle
but also designs the chassis the set-up changes over a weekend tend
to be minimal. Dino has such extensive knowledge and experience
that he can translate my feedback into a set-up change that instantly
works. The Europeans tend to be a lot more conservative and I have
noticed that the extreme set-up changes that karting people tend
to do in the UK are very rare in Europe.'
Karting is becoming more professional, more and
more karters are hiring
coaches like other sports e.g. tennis, golf etc. Do you have a karting
coach and if
so, how does it help having someone keep an eye on your driving?
'I have Dino Chiesa and Blasé (My Karting
Engineer) who help me fine tune certain corners and help me understand
a quicker way to go around. Apart from that we use a lot of data
logging which helps identify any weak parts of the track that
need to be worked on.'
Will you be returning to the UK karting events
at any point to race? E.g. the Kartmasters GP at PFI Kart Circuit.
'We have taken the decision to race under
an Italian karting Licence since our move to Italy. I would love
to race in England but it depends on my schedule. It is likely that
I will enter the GP Kart Masters if they allow junior non-MSA international
licence holders to compete.'
Is there any characteristics of the Zanardi kart
that make it stand out from other chassis
'Last season was the first full season for
the new Zanardi chassis which could only be developed in a limited
way as the design had to be very similar to the CRG (who make the
chassis) homologation and Dino was unable to design the chassis
the way he would have wanted. This has all changed for 2006 since
we are dealing with brand new homologations and Dino was able to
be as creative as possible in designing the new KZ1 and KZ2 chassis.
Also Dino now better understands my driving style having worked
with me for the last 12 months and this hopefully has been translated
into a chassis, which will work even better. The team are constantly
making improvements and with each improvement the chassis is becoming
faster and faster. Also it’s a really cool colour.'
I guess the plan is to move up the ranks of Motorsport,
but do you have any plans to move into senior karting before moving
on to cars?
'Like all drivers my ambition is to reach
Formula 1 and become world champion. Until then I will continue
to push and the plan is to do two years of Formula A after this
season before thinking about the right single seater route. I think
it is very important to hone one’s driving skills in karting
before going the single seater route. I’m very fortunate that
I have a fantastic network (Team, Family, Sponsors) supporting me.
And with their help and my determination I believe we can make this
Kazeem Manzur shows an outstanding amount of professionalism,
and passion for the sport of karting. With the talent to back it
up aswell, it looks as if 2006 is going to be an exciting year for
Kazeem. And I suggest you study hard Kazeem's karting tips here
on this page because he has giving some really practical about his
karting driving style, his mental preparation and his determination.
Kazeem starts his season on the 5th February at
La Conca in the WSK karting series. Be sure to check
out his karting website to keep up with his progress throughout
Alan Dove - 3/2/2006
All karting pictures couresy of Sutton