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.
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’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.
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.