Kart­ing prodigy vows to dust F1 driv­ers

Jesse Lazare, 10, will test his skills against pros tonight

Montreal Gazette - - Sports - ARPON BASU SPE­CIAL TO THE GAZETTE

With the world’s great­est race-car driv­ers con­verg­ing on the city for this week­end’s Grand Prix of Canada, Dollard des Ormeaux na­tive Jesse Lazare is pre­par­ing to pro­tect his turf.

Lazare is one of the bright­est young kart­ing tal­ents in Que­bec, and tonight, for the sec­ond year in a row, he will wel­come Scud­e­ria Toro Rosso F1 driv­ers Scott Speed and Vi­tan­to­nio Li­uzzi to go for a spin at his home track, Kart-o-Ma­nia on De La Sa­vane St.

Last year, Lazare won one and lost one in the friendly chal­lenge at the in­door kart­ing track, but he fully in­tends to erase that blem­ish this time around.

“I was happy to beat an F1 driver,” Lazare said. “But this year, I’m go­ing to win both for sure. No one beats me on this track.”

Those are strong words from some­one go­ing up against two of the world’s elite, but they’re made even stronger when com­ing from a 10-year-old boy in Grade 4.

Lazare has been kart­ing com­pet­i­tively for three years, and last win­ter he fin­ished eighth over­all in the Florida Win­ter Tour, a six-race cir­cuit that at­tracts driv­ers from across North Amer­ica.

This sea­son, Lazare has been dom­i­nat­ing Que­bec’s kart­ing cir­cuits for his SH Kart­ing rac­ing team, de­spite be­ing one of the youngest driv­ers in the Mini-Max en­gine cat­e­gory, which can reach speeds of up to 110 km/h.

Lazare has won three of his four races, his only loss com­ing af­ter his kart stalled on the first turn. He blew away the field at his race last Satur­day, win­ning the pole po­si­tion by more than a sec­ond in qual­i­fy­ing, win­ning the pre-fi­nal by more than 11 sec­onds, and fi­nally win­ning the main race by nearly 23 sec­onds.

But Lazare’s suc­cess should come as lit­tle sur­prise con­sid­er­ing he was prac­ti­cally placed in a car straight out of the womb.

“We knew some­thing spe­cial was go­ing on when we got him a bat­tery-pow­ered car when he was one,” Lazare’s fa­ther, Gordie, said. “He would go around and around in our base­ment, and he never touched any of the furniture.”

Lazare re­ceived a 50-cc ATV a year later when he was 2, and now he is so in tune with the me­chan­ics of his kart that he can come into the pits with amaz­ingly spe­cific ad­just­ments that are needed, like mov­ing a wheel a half inch to the out­side.

Lazare hits a kart­ing track ev­ery week­end of the year, and says the thought of skip­ping a week­end has never crossed his mind.

“Never,” he said. “Never in my life.”

Though Lazare is more of a NASCAR fan to­day, he as­pires one day to make his mark in For­mula One. Be­fore that, how­ever, he has some busi­ness to take care of this evening, and Lazare is al­ready pre­pared for the ex­cuses he will hear if he’s able to beat Speed and Li­uzzi at Karto-Ma­nia.

“They al­ways give the ex­cuse that I’m lighter,” said Lazare, who weighs 85 pounds soak­ing wet. “Well, I have the ex­cuse that I’m 10 years old.”

MARIE-FRANCE COAL­LIER THE GAZETTE

“No one beats me on this track,” Jesse Lazare, 10, says about his race tonight against F1 driv­ers at Kart-o-Ma­nia.

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