Vivek Kanthan Races To The Top

Anoop and Lee-Ann Kanthan know a lot about the world.

He grew up in Australia; she’s from South Africa, but her family moved Down Under in the 1980s. Anoop travels frequently for business.

Now Lee-Ann and her son Vivek are on the road often too. And the family is learning a lot about one particular kind of world: karting.

Vivek is a New York State champion. Now he’s competing at the national level. Not bad for someone who took up the sport just a couple of years ago.

Oh, yeah: Vivek is just 10 years old.

Vivek Kanthan, with some of his trophies.

The family — including his 14-year-old brother Nikhil and 13-year-old sister Shivali — moved to Westport from Manhattan 5 years ago.

His parents were huge Formula 1 racing fans. Anoop has gone to the track in Melbourne; this summer, they head to the Grand Prix.

Two and a half years ago, Anoop took Vivek to an indoor go kart track in Bedford, New York. The youngster liked the speed, the challenge of getting the right “lines” on the track, and the competition. “I like winning,” he says simply.

He joined a junior league, and competed there every weekend. Outdoors, he raced at Oakland Valley Race Park in Cuddebackville, New York, a 3/4-mile professional track. One lap takes about 40 seconds.

Quickly, he moved from 2.5 horsepower karts to 9. His machines are now 10 to 12 HP. They reach speeds of 60 miles and hour.

Vivek Kanthan, in his kart …

Vivek’s karts are the real deal. A mechanic works on his kart alone. On the road, he’s joined by a team manager and coach.

There’s a lot to deal with: tire pressure, engine temperature, steering and throttle inputs, even the track temperature and precipitation. Vivek’s team analyzes all the data, and tells him the best “racing line” (route) to take on that course, that day.

Then it’s up to the 10-year-old to execute.

“You need self-esteem. You have to push to the limit, and not be afraid,” Vivek explains.

On a new track, “you have to learn the fastest ways to get to the corner, and when to accelerate.” He seldom uses his brake.

“And you need patience, and the will to win,” his mother adds.

Vivek prepares for a race by watching GoPro videos of himself. He pictures in his mind what the track looks like; how to roar into and out of corners, and when to throttle up and down.

The goal is to come as close to the curb as possible — within millimeters — without hitting it, and spinning out.

Vivek says he does not get scared. “I do!” his mother says.

… and in the lead.

A typical race in Vivek’s 8-11 age group is 15 to 20 laps, against 20 or so competitors. Last year — his first as a competitor — Vivek won his very first race, in the pouring rain.

He reached the podium 12 more times, including 6 on the top step. The only 2 times he did not was when his kart failed. The season culminated in his state championship.

His most recent race was in Ocala, Florida — his second visit to the state in a month. Just 3 days after seeing the course for the first time, he finished in a time one-tenth of a second slower than the record for his age group.

He returns to Ocala this month, for a Gran Prix competition.

Go karting is a big deal. Races are streamed online, with commentary. Vivek’s relatives in Australia watch avidly.

His goal is to be a Formula 1 racer. But the funnel to get there is narrow, his mother notes.

That’s okay. Vivek — who because of his rigorous travel schedule is being schooled online this year, after attending Saugatuck Elementary School from kindergarten on — has many other interests and options.

He plays string bass in the Greater Connecticut Youth Orchestra (they performed at the Klein Auditorium the other day). He studies classical piano at Suzuki.

And he’s a junior black belt at Kempo Karate.

Vivek Kanthan is clearly on track for big things.

8 responses to “Vivek Kanthan Races To The Top

  1. Netflix has a great 2-season documentary on Formula 1 racing. They give a fascinating inside look at the drivers and the teams that support them. When they do a retrospective of the different drivers, such as Lewis Hamilton (who is also interviewed on David Letterman’s Netflix show), they all started in Karting. Go Vivek, go!

  2. Rindy Higgins

    Vivek, congrats! Though I’ve been a sub at ses and had you in class, I never knew all this about you! You are super talented!

  3. Awesome, cannot wait to watch you climb your way to the top of the F1!

  4. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    Wow, what a lucky guy. When I was his age all I had was some primitive little go-cart my dad cobbled together that was just a metal frame and a plywood seat with an anemic old lawnmower engine. I don’t think it even had any kind of brakes- in other words a death trap (except it didn’t go very fast or far). I’m envious of Vivek- best of luck and be safe.

    • Yeah, Tom, but you are alive and whole in body as you tell us about your deprivation. Had those formula go carts been around in your nascence, your folks would probably have been smart enough to deny you access to one.

      • Erik Johansen

        Mr. Katz, it would appear as if you are unqualified to comment since you likely have no experience in that respect. Surely if one was skilled enough, racing karts would be of no major concern to anybody’s folks. It’s no use to comment about how everyone else is wrong if you don’t know any better. Let the man be.

  5. Vivek is a very cool, smart and super talented kid who is lucky to have equally as cool, smart and supportive parents. Watch this kid, he’s going to do great things.