Mapiro chases World ROK Kart finals qualifying STRATEGISTS . . . Young Zimbabwean karting driver Takunda “TK” Mapiro (right) discusses racing lines with his mechanic and mentor Zac Dufty ahead of this weekend’s ROK Cup World Finals in Italy yesterday.

Collin Matiza Sports Editor

AFTER a nine-year break, Zimbabwe will be represented at the 21st edition of the World ROK Kart Racing Finals that take place at the South Garda Circuit in Lonato in Italy this weekend.

Local ROK Champion, 11 -year-old Takunda “TK” Mapiro, won the privilege to race in this prestigious event by winning the Zimbabwe ROK Championship in September.

The Zimbabwean driver will join over 400 top kart racers from 40 countries from around the world.  He will race in the very competitive MINI-ROK class that caters for drivers between the ages of nine and 13 years.

The event started on Wednesday with documentation and free practice. Thursday saw drivers selecting their race engines by a draw system.

This ensures all competitors have equal equipment before the qualifying sessions begin.

The elimination heats for the final started yesterday (Friday) and will continue through today and will see all 72 drivers competing in the three heats to decide which drivers progress to the finals that take place today.

In the past 10 days, Mapiro has only had one day off during a very pressurised introduction to international kart racing.

Last weekend he competed in the ROK Tropheo Cup where he managed to qualify for the B final.

Therefore, he is having to push himself extremely hard to cope with the physical and mental demands of such a competitive environment.

In addition, the high grip, crowded track adds pressure for the inexperienced driver.

TK has been accompanied to Italy by local kart champion Zac Dufty, who is no stranger to the pressure, having competed in two world finals previously.

Dufty has taken on a different role this year as mechanic and mentor to young TK, and has been extremely busy finding the perfect kart set-up for such an extremely challenging track.

Speaking to Zimpapers Sports from Italy yesterday, Dufty said: “We haven’t stopped working since we arrived 10 days ago. Every day is hectic, either preparing the kart or testing different set-ups to find the ultimate lap time.

“We arrive at the track by 6:30am and often finish after 7pm! We are both thoroughly enjoying the experience and it’s been amazing to race and work with the CRG Holland Racing Team which is the exact team that Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen raced with in his karting days.”

Dufty added: “Everything depends on the final elimination round, but our target is to qualify for the B final which will be a super achievement considering TK only started kart racing less than two years ago.”

Yesterday, Mapiro had a group photo session with neighbour’s South Africa who are being represented at this big international karting event by more than 10 drivers.

He is among 14 drivers from Africa — 12 from South Africa and one each from Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe — who have been entered for this weekend’s ROK Cup World Finals in Italy.

South Africa are fielding seven drivers in the Mini ROK, two in the Junior ROK, two in the Super ROK and one in the Shifter ROK.

Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe each have one representative in the Mini ROK section.

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