Enaam Ahmed – the beginning

Edgar's Hyundai Super One MSA SeriesI don’t suppose than many readers will be familiar with the Rover comic, but during my childhood it was essential reading for just about every young lad.

Alf Tupper was a great Rovers character. Known as the “Tough of the Track”, he shattered world records in every athletics event, surviving on an exclusive diet of Fish & Chips. Someone once opened a Fish Restaurant in Alf Tupper’s name and no doubt made substantial profits from the association. 28 years ago, Shami Ahmed exploited another legendary British name when he moved from his parents’ market stall in Manchester to set up a factory producing Jeans and T-Shirts under the “Joe Bloggs” label.

Shami promoted this brand by sponsoring several emerging personalities who, he believed, would eventually become household names. Included in the list were Robbie Williams from Take That, together with boxers Nigel Benn, Michael Watson, Lennox Lewis, Prince Nazeem and Amir Khan. He was also associated with Tottenham Hotspur and various rugby teams. When Anthony Hamilton asked him to help his young son who had just taken up kart racing, Shami stepped in with a sponsorship package.

“I never actually saw Lewis racing in those days, even though we were providing quite a bit of money,” Shami confesses. “I was impressed by Anthony’s pitch for sponsorship and made a few enquiries amongst some knowledgeable acquaintances. They assured me that the lad had talent and so I took a gamble. The first kart meeting I ever attended was at Rye House when my son Enaam made his racing debut almost four years ago. He’d become interested through a family friend, Chris Zobe, who was racing Renault Clios. A month after trying a corporate kart at Rye House we bought him an MS/RPM Honda. Enaam raced it for the next 12 months, mainly at Rye House, Buckmore and Bayford Meadows.”

Just like Lewis Hamilton had done 15 years earlier, Enaam was soon catching the eye of Martin Hines who advised him to move out of Hondas and into Comers. “I joined the Zip Young Guns outfit racing alongside Oliver York, Alfie Brown and TJ Nelson,” says Enaam. “For the best part of 2010, though, I was competing in Formula Kart Stars and Super One with Eclipse. I remained with them throughout 2011, too. It was quite a large team with Jamie Caroline, Cameron Roberts, Alex Stott, Tom Gamble, Hugo Bentley-Ellis and Cory Jay Coupe in amongst our ranks.”

In November last year Enaam switched to Fusion and is very happy with the set up there. “It’s quite a pleasant environment as we all seem to get on fairly well together,” he says. “Being with a top team is definitely an advantage, but I realise that not everyone can afford to go racing in this way. I think there will be quite a lot of very talented drivers who don’t get to show their potential and so I’m very privileged that my family has been able to support me in the way they have. My job is to do the best I can out on the circuit and so far this year things have gone very well for me. Obviously, winning the British Championships has to be my top priority, but the other major competitions are on my list of targets, too. The O Plate at Rowrah came first and I was pleased to win this one, even though it involved a large slice of good fortune.”

The good fortune referred to by Enaam came about because of a last gasp attempt by Josh Smith to overtake Dean MacDonald. It sent Dean sliding off the circuit before he resumed in 5th place. Smith was hit with a 10s time penalty that relegated him to 7th position. Enaam had started the last lap of this race having to defend 3rd place against a fierce onslaught from Jack Armstrong and Oliver York. MacDonald’s sudden demise handed him 2nd spot, which was swiftly changed to 1st after Smith’s time penalty had been applied. “I don’t like winning races in this manner,” he confessed afterwards, “but it’s nice to become an O Plate Champion, nevertheless.”

Some months earlier he laid down a marker by claiming the ABkC Winter Series with wins at PF and Glan-Y-Gors. These victories gave him a perfect score when the Shenington round was cancelled. In Club meetings, too, he’d enjoyed great success notching up a brace of wins at Kimbolton and a 2nd place behind Dean MacDonald on the PF circuit. “I knew that Dean was going to be one of my main rivals in 2012 but we get along quite well together,” he says. “In fact Dean’s father, Johnny, prepares some motors for me. John Davies does the other ones.”

Enaam’s British Championship aspirations were given a major boost when he won the opening round of Formula Kart Stars at Kimbolton ahead of Lewis Taylor. Things didn’t work out quite so well for him during Round 2 on Sunday. He claimed a front row grid position for the final but could finish no better than 11th in this race. Rounds 3 and 4 were held at Ellough Park, which Enaam now considers to be his favourite circuit. He won Saturday’s final very convincingly but took a knock in Sunday’s race that initially placed him outside the top ten. However, he fought back well to finish 2nd, catching Dean MacDonald on the line to finish just 0.08s behind.

Larkhall marked the half way point in these championships. Enaam arrived with a lead of three points in the championship table hoping to consolidate his position. However MacDonald proved to be unbeatable on his home turf, especially in the wet conditions that prevailed throughout. Enaam’s weekend ran much less smoothly. He finished 6th in Saturday’s Final, improving by two places the following day.

He left Scotland with an 18 point deficit to MacDonald but looked to be in good shape down in Wales. At the picturesque Glan-Y-Gors circuit near Betws-Y-Coed came home 1st in Saturday’s Final ahead of Bentley-Ellis, MacDonald and Smith. Only four or five yards separated these four drivers at the finish. He was disappointed to be subsequently docked two places for an alleged incident involving MacDonald, but this matter is now the subject of an MSA Appeal. Sunday’s Final resulted in a comfortable win for Smith, but Enaam finished close behind Zak Fulk to take 3rd spot. With four rounds still remaining, the championship is still wide open..

It looked for a while as if Dean MacDonald’s S1 title bid had got off to a super start at PF when he won both Finals in extremely wet conditions. However, Dean was subsequently excluded for a technical infringement in Final 2, allowing Enaam to inherit the win. Earlier that day he’d finished Final 1 in 4th position. Next time out at Whilton Mill the weather remained dry throughout. Enaam claimed 4th spot in Final 1 after being pushed out of position whilst challenging for the lead. He fared better in the next one taking 2nd place behind Zak Fulk. It was sufficient to hand him a championship lead of five points before the next round at Larkhall.

Once again MacDonald was in fine form at Larkhall and won the first final quite comfortably ahead of Enaam whose tenure on 2nd place was equally secure. Dean was out on his own in Final 2, a race which Enaam will no doubt want to forget. His engine lost power in this one which left him badly exposed to the chasing pack. He finished 17th, hopefully a result he’ll be able to drop from his final championship tally. “It means that Enaam is six points behind Cameron Roberts in the table, but on dropped scores he’s still four points in front,” Shami emphasises.

It’s been a pretty good year so far for Enaam and his championship prospects are certainly bright. I asked him, though, to look into the more distant future. “Ultimately, I’d love to get into F1 which, I suppose, is every young driver’s dream,” Enaam replied. “That’s still a very long way off and I’m taking one step at a time. I’d like to race KF3 in Europe next year and we’ll be starting discussions with several teams quite soon. Obviously, I’m not going to be affected by the change in Cadet motor for 2012, although I still have an opinion about it. I believe that Comers should have been retained for drivers aged between 8 and 10 with the new engine available in Super Cadets for 10 to 13 year old competitors.”

At every race meeting Enaam makes a careful study of various competitors and their driving styles. He doesn’t confine his observations to Cadets, but is interested in any driver who might be able to teach him something. He also pays close attention to various F1 stars. “My favourites are Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and, of course, Lewis Hamilton,” he points out. “Apart from motor racing I’m interested in Cricket, Rugby and Basketball, all of which i play. I also like swimming and playing the piano.”

Shami insists on the importance of having a good education. “I wouldn’t like Enaam to grow up believing that a motor racing career is the only thing that matters,” he emphasises. “I know that many drivers racing at top level are out on their karts just about every weekend and probably during certain weekdays too. However, I believe that balance in all things is very important and so we confine his racing activities to a couple of weekends per month. That way he can maintain all those other interests without damaging his education.”

Certainly Enaam comes across as a very intelligent and well balanced person. Perhaps In another eight years time we might see him on a Formula One grid at Monaco, Valencia or the Nurburgring.  On rather less exotic kart circuits throughout Europe, meanwhile, he’ll surely be a force to be reckoned with.