It’s not all about speed! CATCHING THEM YOUNG . . . Zac Dufty (left) gives some racing tips to one of his young students at Zacademy during a kart racing meet at Donnybrook Park Raceway in Harare.

Sports Reporter

WHEN a spectator attends a motorsport event, it is easy to think that the only thing that matters is how fast you can go. However, what happens off the track, especially when you are starting out in this highly competitive sport, is just as important!

Unless you are lucky enough to have been born into a family that already takes part in motorsport, getting started can be very difficult. However, well-known karting ‘’ace’’ Zac Dufty has identified a way to make it easier to begin kart racing at Donnybrook Park Raceway in Harare.

The 18-year-old has formed “Zacademy’’, a kart team that offers support for the novice driver. 

“I noticed that some people would not be able to race karts without assistance and I wanted to help grow karting in Zimbabwe. My karting academy offers another option apart from the current ‘owner-driver’ set-up,’’ said Dufty

“I’m able to support an aspiring karter to learn the sport at a minimal cost before they have to buy a kart, source the correct kart and necessary safety gear for that particular driver and help them register with the karting club. I offer a full package — from storage and preparation of the kart to maintenance and race set up. I even transport the kart to the track and make sure the kart is fully compliant with all the regulations before the race starts. Basically, all the driver has to do is turn up and drive!’’

Dufty operates from a specialised kart workshop where he is able to work on engine rebuilds and repairs. He is able to carry out work ranging from chassis straightening to laser wheel alignment for the type of kart and the driver’s style. 

For team members, he also carries a full range of spares, meaning that back-up spares on race days are immediately available for fitting. Race and practice days see him load up karts, spares and tools into his branded and customised trailer before heading off to the track to get everything set up and ready for the team drivers.

Apart from the technical backup, Dufty draws on his kart racing experience to offer coaching and mentoring. 

“I have raced in Zimbabwe for more than 12 years and in South Africa for a decade. I qualified and raced in two Rok kart world finals in Italy and I’ve also driven in the UK,’’ he explained. “I saw how world-class kart teams operated and I wanted to bring the concept back home.’’ Zacademy develops and trains young drivers to be the best that they can be. 

“I teach from the very basics — steering, braking and accelerating, right up to advanced racing techniques such as trail braking (where you brake and corner while maintaining complete control), overtaking manoeuvres and how to predict the lines of the driver ahead of you.’’ Dufty’s mentorship programme includes race etiquette, encouraging young drivers to learn about the intricacies of kart maintenance and technical set up, good sportsmanship on and off the track, persistence, dedication and self-motivation. 

“These are transferable life-skills that young people need,’’ he comments.

It seems that parents and young drivers alike appreciate this unique opportunity. 

“The youngsters are benefiting from Zac’s experience. Some of us have children who want to take up the sport but we only have knowledge of driving cars and nothing else! Zac is promoting a sport that was seen as quite exclusive and which might end up putting Zimbabwe on the map,’’ said one parent. “A Godsend!’’ exclaimed a mother. “With no mechanical knowledge, I had no plan for my son to race but the academy makes that possible.’’  The young team members are also excited with one driver saying how much he enjoys not only the racing, but also the time spent in the workshop learning all about kart mechanics.

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