The go-getting gokart kid
Could Zane Maloney be the next Lewis Hamilton? We track down the boy wonder from Barbados to ask him (and his dad) what it takes to become a Caribbean superstar
Zane Maloney fell in love with car racing at the age of one. His father, Sean – a racing driver himself – would sit young Zane on his lap and take him around the race track in his gokart, much to his son’s delight.
At the age of three, Zane was riding on his own. He entered his first competition the month before he turned four and was competing overseas aged five. He was the youngest Champion Driver of the Year in 2011. Also in 2011, he won the National Sports Council Family Award for recognition of Outstanding Contribution to Motorsports. Now, still aged only 12, the future is looking bright for this young boy from Barbados.
Zane comes from a proud racing dynasty. His grandfather is Doug Maloney, the region’s only driver to have competed across five decades. But Zane’s success isn’t simply genetic. The reason why he’s such an inspiration isn’t because he has talent, as impressive as that is. It’s his unwavering commitment to his sport – even when, like most adolescent boys, he might rather be hanging out with his friends instead. So how does he do it? What (forgive the pun) drives him? We put these questions to Zane. We also asked Sean to give his advice on how a parent should nurture such a talented child.
Q Zane first drove a kart aged three. What do you both remember about that moment?
Zane Maloney: I remember I was very excited because I loved to be around gokarts and race cars.
Sean Maloney: He had driven an electric toy kart before so I was very confident that he could control the 50cc kart. He absolutely loved it right away. And I realised from that young age that he had a real talent. Even when Zane was driving the electric kart he showed that he could feel the kart with his body; all of his inputs were instinctive.
Q The Maloneys are a bit of racing dynasty. Does advice get passed down the generations?
SM: My father bought a kart for me and my brothers when I was 12. It was more of a fun run-around kart, not meant for competition. The first time that I drove a kart competitively I was 25 years old. I do give Zane lots of advice but the older he gets the less he listens! He is, however, quite good at taking advice and actioning it when it counts.
ZM: My family gives me a lot of advice. Sometimes they give me very good advice. Sometimes the advice is wrong!
Q What about friends and school work?
ZM: I don’t really like school but I know I have to do it. I know that I can’t continue karting unless I put in the effort at school. My teachers give me school work while I’m away. Sometimes when my friends are doing things I wish I could be there but I know that I need to put in the time at the track to get better.
SM: It was tough in the beginning as most of Zane’s school work had to be done in airports or on the airplane, often in different time zones. He has gotten into the habit now, so it has gotten easier.
Q What has been your karting highlight so far?
ZM: The first race I won overseas in Wales in 2015. Also I have won five big races in America. Lastly, I was able to compete against some of the best drivers in the world in Italy in a kart that I hadn’t had much experience in. It was an amazing experience.
Q What are your hopes for the future?
ZM: I would like to be a Formula 1 driver. I would like to race in Monaco and Singapore. Mercedes is my favourite F1 team.
SM: We hope that Zane can go as far as his potential allows in whatever he does.
Q How do you feel before and during a race?
ZM: I say a prayer before and after every race. I’m not nervous. I love EVERYTHING about racing, it’s the entire package.
SM: My wife finds it difficult to watch Zane as she is extremely nervous. My nerves tend to relate to things like, did we get the set up right? Or did we go with the right tyre pressures? I don’t get nervous about the racing as that’s up to him and we have sent him out with all necessary safety gear, so he can leave it all out there on the track.
Q Which other racing drivers do you look up to?
ZM: I really like Lewis Hamilton. I’ve liked him since I was four years old. He shows great sportsmanship, he’s very fast and he takes a lot of risks. When I met him, he gave me some advice. He told me to stay in school, keep practising and get as much seat time as possible.
Q Is it a challenge, trying to nurture a talent like Zane’s on a small island?
SM: It is difficult, especially when it comes to finding competition. To get better at anything you need to be pushed through competition and, as with most sports, we in the Caribbean need to go away to find a higher level. This makes it difficult for young Bajans to relate to the top sportsmen and women in the country because their careers take them away from Barbados as soon as they start to develop. Like anything, we need some of them to take the time to give back to the sports that made them great.
Q What key bit of advice would you give to parents of a child who seems to display a big talent at a young age?
SM: Put in the time to help them develop.
Q How do you feel about Zane becoming a role model for young Bajans?
SM: Zane is very humble and has always been willing to take the time to help other kids. There is a lot more to being a role model, but other kids can certainly take note of his work ethic as that is a necessity for anyone to achieve in any sport.
Q What would you say to a kid who thinks they can’t achieve their dreams because of where they come from?
SM: I would tell them not to let lack of trying be the reason that they prove that correct. Put in more work than those around you. And represent yourself respectfully on and off the field, track or wherever, and then people who have the ability to help you will notice.
Quick-fire questions with Zane…
What is your favourite food? Pasta with meat sauce.
What is your favourite place in Barbados? Animal Flower Cave.
What is your favourite subject at school? Food and nutrition.
Least favourite? Spanish.
What would be your dream job if you couldn’t be a racing driver? I would want to work with cars, maybe an engineer.
For 2017, Zane has signed with Ricky Flynn Motorsport, one of the world’s best karting teams, and will race across Europe.
Zane is sponsored by SOL, Bushy Park Barbados and Rock Hard Cement.