Since our last interview in the April issue of Karting Magazine, Kazeem has got properly stuck in to racing in Europe and highlights have been a wins in the first round of the WSK International Series and the last round of the Italian Opens as well as pole positions in several races.
To recap, Kazeem and his family moved out to Italy for the 2006 season to make things easier for his racing career. He is at the International school in Florence and is very happy with the difference it’s made. “ I don’t have to take two extra days to get to a race,” which is an obvious help with the top level of karting being so much centred on Italy. He’s doing well in school and his Italian has come on in leaps and bounds after using it every day.
Since 2005 Kazeem has been a member of the official Zanardi Kart team, Chiesa Corsa, with his racing managed by Dino Chiesa, who has concentrated this year on Kazeem in JICA and Adrien Tambay in ICA. This season he has raced in the European Championship, the WSK International Series and the Italian Open Masters and has been universally quick but hasn’t always had the luck that he needed.
Kazeem was initially very confident in his expectations for the Italian Opens and was sure of improving on his 4th place in 2005. “Dino designed the chassis for the Vega White tyres but the tyres were later changed and it hasn’t been as good as we’d hoped,” he said. On top of this Kazeem suffered two mechanical DNFs at the first round of the championship at La Conca and in such a competitive series, starting off with no points is a huge disadvantage. Dino Chiesa and Zanardi Kart have been working on the chassis since to adapt to the new rules and just two years after the launch of the Zanardi Kazeem and Tambay have shown it’s now equal to anything else on the track.
So as the championship ended at Val Vibrata, the week after the European qualifier, Kazeem was fourth in the table again but the development carried out by the team was vindicated by pole, a heat win, a win in the first final and 2nd in the second final.
In mid-July Kazeem competed in the European JICA Championship qualifier, but unlike the other British drivers he raced in the Central region qualifier at Sarno in Italy. As an Italian license holder he was competing against drivers from Italy, Germany, Czech Republic and other eastern European countries, and was fastest in timed practice.
After a heat win he was second on the grid for the first final, but then slipped down to 7th in the first final. He stormed through to 3rd in the second race but a rod failure in his engine five laps from the end gave him a finishing position of 28th. Those results put him 17th out of the 20 qualifiers in the Central zone, and qualifying for Mariembourg is after all what it’s all about. At Mariembourg Kazeem finished 10th after coming through from last at the start of the Prefinal after a spin, slightly disappointing after a three top-five positions in the heats.
He also competed in the WSK series, a highly competitive championship with rounds in Italy and Belgium. The Mariembourg round was a useful warm-up for the European Junior Final, held there in September. He was one of the only drivers to conserve his tyres until the second final but was hit by a carburettor problem before he could take full advantage.
The final WSK round at Jesolo was hit by some of the most severe rain in the Venice area for many years causing the cancellation of the first final. Kazeem was second to Championship winner Will Stevens in the second final after struggling with drive out of the corners, giving him third in the championship.
As an official IAME driver, Kazeem has been doing much of the development testing for the new125cc engine, the formula that the CIK intends to replace 100cc racing in 2007. The European Championships will change over to the new engines, which are intended to reduce costs, as well as the Italian Opens and the WSK. “It’s not much different,” said Kazeem. “There’s just more power everywhere and it’s a natural progression from what we have now.” His experience as an official tester should ease the transition period that everyone will go through next year.
Kazeem’s final race in JICA will be the Monaco Kart Cup on 15th October. He will then move on to testing the new engines in readiness for his move to KF2 in 2007. His early season results in KF2 will determine whether he will remain in the championship or move immediately to KF1, the new CIK elite class that is due to replace the current Formula A Class from the beginning of next season.
Living in Italy has non-racing benefits as well: “It was good to be in Italy during the World Cup – even though England didn’t win there was such a great atmosphere.”