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 super-successful 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.
Lives: Broxburn, West Lothians, Scotland
27th in Super One IAME Cadet
First in British Bambino Karting Championship
Second in MSA Bambino Karting Championship
First in Super One Bambino Trophy at Llandow