Kazeem Manzur announced his presence on the international scene in 2005, finishing 4th in the Italian Open and finishing as the top British driver in the European Junior Championship. This year his family have taken the major step of moving out to Italy, partly so Kazeem can be closer to his team and the circuits. Mary-Ann Horley caught up with him immediately after the Winter Cup to find out more. Kazeem started racing five years ago after his father Mohammed bought him and his sister Ameelah karts for Christmas. They originally drove them around the family property but, as they got faster, their mother Fiona suggested they go to a proper track for safety reasons! Kazeem started to go to the kart circuit at Silverstone and eventually Dan Hazlewood, who was working there at the time, suggested that Kazeem get his licence and start racing properly. Kazeem started racing in Cadets at Whilton Mill, gaining several trophies from his novice races and entering Stars of Tomorrow the following year, racing for their family run team, SpeedForce. In the first year he came 22nd in the championship but in the second he finished 6th which is when Kazeem started to take the sport more seriously. He then moved to Minimax for 2004 and finished 3rd and 4th in the Super One and Stars of Tomorrow series. For 2005 he progressed into JICA, winning the Pomposa International Cup at the start of the season. Over the winter Kazeem raced for M-Sport, now the British Zanardi importer, but when the decision was made to head overseas, Dino Chiesa’s Chiesa Corse was the natural choice. The company handles the design and business side of Alex Zanardi’s chassis, made by CRG. “I get on very well with Dino, he’s more of a friend than a manager”, says Kazeem. Dino speaks four languages so there isn’t a barrier but Kazeem has made learning Italian a top priority. Chiesa has worked with drivers such as Nico Rosberg, Williams F1’s new driver, reigning European F3 champ Lewis Hamilton (who he guided to the 2000 European Formula A title) and Alessandro Manetti. At one time it looked as though Chiesa was being groomed to become team principal at CRG but he has preferred to go out on his own, first with DC-One and now Zanardi. The plus points for racing on the continent rather than in the UK are the longer tracks and the increased competition, with 90 drivers competing in the Italian Open rather than the 40 or so in Super One. Kazeem also praised the friendliness and professionalism of the officials in Italy.
The next big step was moving out to Italy but the move wasn’t just for Kazeem’s benefit. “My parents have wanted to live in Italy for a long time so it works out well for them too,” he explained. Fiona lives there full time and Mohammed divides his time between Italy and the UK for work. Kazeem and Fiona moved out to Florence in time for the new school year and both are convinced of the value of continuing Kazeem’s education when other drivers on the international circuit have all but given up on school. “It’s good for me to get to know people outside karting as well,” he said. Kazeem now attends the International School in Florence, not far from the Zanardi and Chiesa Corse base near Padova, and he’s settling in well. “School’s a lot more relaxed here and my studies are improving because I don’t have to spend so much time travelling.” Kazeem is able to race or test every weekend without missing much school, although he did have a long list of maths assignments to catch up on after the Winter Cup! The school was originally American and gives all its lessons in English, with a third of the students being American, a third Italian and a third from other nationalities. They follow the International Baccalaureate curriculum that unlike GCSEs requires that students study languages and a broad range of subjects. Also unlike British schools there are no games or music lessons on the timetable so students don’t spend as much time in school as they might otherwise. Kazeem plays squash and goes to the gym regularly but is definitely missing the opportunity to play cricket! He also enjoys the greater community feeling at the school. “We’re closer to the teachers and the year groups mix much more as well.” Although Kazeem misses the countryside surrounding his home near Milton Keynes (and his dogs), living in Florence has been overwhelmingly positive. “The city is very safe and there’s so much to do. And of course it’s much older than Milton Keynes!”
He and Fiona found it hard to think of any down sides to the move and are starting to think of Florence as home. Racing-wise, Kazeem is ambitious for 2006. “I think I’ll win several races this year. I’m disappointed in my results at the Winter Cup and at the first round of the WSK. In the WSK at La Conca I didn’t even get out for qualifying and finished 6th and 14th in the Finals. At the Winter Cup I was suffering from a chest infection but was leading the Final when I went off on some water left by someone who went off before me. Eventually they red-flagged the race but I wasn’t allowed to restart as I had gone off on the lap before the flag.” Kazeem is aiming to take this year’s Italian Open title. “Last year I could have won it as I was leading until the last round but a collision meant I dropped down to 4th.” This year the Opens have a wider points gap between 1st and 2nd which Kazeem believes will work to his advantage. However, there are also 20 more drivers entered this year in JICA so the series will remain as competitive as ever. He is of course aiming to win the European Championship as well but it’s less predictable as there are fewer races. As he now holds an Italian licence, Kazeem will race at the Central zone qualifier at Sarno against the Italians and Germans, instead of the Western qualifier at Braga with the rest of the Brits. Last year he was the top British driver at both the qualifier and the Final so will be hoping to improve even further. Kazeem will also compete in the revived CIK North American Championships at Norman, Oklahoma in October. His next race is the Margutti Trophy at Parma and the day after I spoke to Kazeem he was due to go to the track to do some half term testing. He was also hoping for it to rain at the test as he had felt under-prepared for the very wet weather at the Winter Cup. The Zanardi team has been streamlined this year, with Chiesa preferring to concentrate his attention on just Kazeem in Juniors and Adrien Tambay in ICA. “There’s a family feel to the team,” said Kazeem, “Dino’s father is often around, he’s in his 80s and still building engines.”
Alex Zanardi is obviously an inspiration to the team and Kazeem has read and enjoyed his biography. As well as competing in various international races, Kazeem is an official development driver for both Zanardi and IAME. He’s had a hand in developing the new Zanardi chassis for the 2006 homologation and there’s also keeping the all-conquering Parilla JICA engine on top. With the new chassis homologations this year, Kazeem has had a lot of influence over the new Zanardi and says it’s now much better in the wet than the original model. This season Kazeem has also added photo agency Sutton Images to his list of sponsors and has already done a studio photo shoot which he enjoyed a lot. Keith Sutton, CEO of Sutton Motorsport Images commented “We are delighted to be supporting Kazeem as the only karter in our family of supported drivers for the coming season. His rise up the karting ladder has been sensational and we are looking forward to a long and successful relationship with this young champion of the future.” Plans for 2007 are already being formed and Kazeem will move up to ICA. He’s hoping that the engines will stay as 100cc as he will be doing much more development work for IAME. As an official IAME driver there’s not as much for Kazeem to do in JICA as the Parilla engine is so dominant, but in ICA the engine scene is much more competitive. Kazeem is part of a generation of outstanding British drivers and feels that British Junior Champion Will Stevens will be one of his biggest rivals in 2006. The CRG drivers have also gone well so far but at this stage in the season it’s hard to tell how much testing the other racers have done. He considered Luca Genini a threat but he won the Winter Cup, which the Italians say foretells an unlucky season! Mary