For any driver at­tempt­ing to work their way up the rac­ing lad­der, it is al­ways a chal­lenge when com­pet­ing against rac­ers that are much older than you. But that is even more dif­fi­cult when you are as many as five years younger than the driv­ers you are bat­tling with in a com­pet­i­tive kart­ing se­ries. That was the case this sea­son for Monde-jnr Konini. He was rac­ing in the Su­per One IAME Cadet class aged just eight. Some of his ri­vals were as old as 13. Konini fin­ished 27th in the stand­ings this year, but the re­sults weren’t too im­por­tant – in­stead it was more about gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing,” ad­mits Konini about the task of rac­ing against much older com­peti­tors. But this is a driver who clearly en­joys that chal­lenge. He has only been rac­ing in karts for two years, so to take a best fi­nal re­sult of 19th this year is an im­pres­sive achieve­ment. His kart­ing jour­ney, like many, be­gan with a birth­day.

“My mum took me kart­ing for my sixth birth­day and I re­ally liked it,” says Konini, who has dual Bri­tish and South African na­tion­al­ity af­ter be­ing born in the UK but with both of his par­ents orig­i­nally from South Africa.

That birth­day sparked a love for the sport and he quickly marked him­self out as a star of the fu­ture. In 2016 he won the Bri­tish BKC kart­ing ti­tle and was run­ner-up in the MSA Bam­bino se­ries. And it was that level of suc­cess that sug­gested he was ready for an early rise up the ranks.

This year he has been com­pet­ing for the suc­cess­ful Straw­berry Rac­ing squad and Konini is rel­ish­ing the chance to work with a top team.

“They help me in lots of dif­fer­ent as­pects,” he says. “They take me on lots of track walks and show me other peo­ple’s cam­eras to help me to do the re­ally good lines, and we look at lots of data.”

An­other com­pany that has recog­nised Konini as a star of the fu­ture is DNAFIT. The or­gan­i­sa­tion works with sports peo­ple and looks at an in­di­vid­ual’s ge­net­ics to pro­duce be­spoke train­ing and di­etary plans to im­prove their fit­ness. Many suc­cess­ful sports stars are on the com­pany’s books, in­clud­ing Olympic long-jumper Greg Rutherford.

“We focus on re­search and the re­la­tion­ship of ge­net­ics [on sport],” says founder Avi Lasarow, who is also of South African des­cent. “But it’s im­por­tant to say that ge­net­ics isn’t ev­ery­thing. It’s about un­der­stand­ing your body in a way no-one has be­fore.”

While Konini is too young to yet have ben­e­fited from the com­pany’s re­search,

it has proved to have suc­cess else­where. “We’re re­ally start­ing to have an im­pact,” says Lasarow. “We’re work­ing with the Egyp­tian na­tional foot­ball team and they have qual­i­fied for the World Cup fi­nals for the first time since 1990.

“It’s not just about find­ing [ex­ist­ing] tal­ents, but I would like to work with tal­ents that will emerge. MJ is a great new tal­ent and we would like to sup­port him. It’s about as­so­ci­at­ing our brand with a fu­ture leader – we are sure he will be su­per­suc­cess­ful and a great driver so we have an as­so­ci­a­tion with him from an early age.”

Konini him­self is tar­get­ing a grad­u­a­tion to the very top of the sport. “I would like to be a For­mula 1 driver, but if I can’t make it to F1 I would like to do GT3 rac­ing,” he says. In the more im­me­di­ate fu­ture, it’s about him get­ting as much ex­pe­ri­ence as pos­si­ble. Al­though the main Su­per One sea­son has fin­ished,

Konini will con­tinue com­pet­ing dur­ing the com­ing months in events such as the Trent Val­ley Kart Club’s Win­ter Se­ries at PFI. De­pend­ing on re­sults, he is likely to re­main in the IAME Cadet class un­til he’s 11 and ready to make his next move.

And if he can con­tinue his re­mark­able rate of progress, then Konini could be a name that ev­ery­one is talk­ing about in years to come. Konini is now look­ing for new spon­sors and part­ners to help sup­port him in the next stage of his ca­reer. Next year he will race in Su­per One, LGM and in the Kart­mas­ters GP.

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