Motorsports Mondial

Coming to America. Axcil Jefferies from Zimbabwe is a young man in a hurry. His early racing career in karting was lubricated by Castrol and Toyota. Championship success led to sampling single seater racing in Formula BMW Pacific series after winning a scholarship from BMW. Last year he won a scholarship to join the MSA Academy to study in Loughborough University in UK.

Later this month Axcil arrives in America to embark on his journey to the Brickyard.

F1 Weekly would like to welcome and wish him success in the US. Please enjoy our ‘digital dialogue.’

Q. Your first kart race was at the age of six. Please tell us what led to your interest in motorsports?

A. At three, I picked up a karting video at a store near home, and I would probably say that is where it all started. I watched that video nearly every day for two years. My father had an interest for motorsport as well, so we obviously followed Formula 1. We used to go and watch karting races when I was 5, and after I showed so much interest in it, he bought me a kart for my sixth birthday.

Q. You are from Zimbabwe. How popular is karting among young kids, and what kind of facilities and opportunities are available for young drivers?

A. Karting is not as popular in Zimbabwe as it is in most European countries mainly because all the kids focus on the sports they play in school, as it is very competitive and compulsory, for everyone to play at least three sports. In Zimbabwe there are only two karting circuit, but only one that is in use. To be honest the facilities are very poor. There are no real opportunities for younger drivers as there is simply no funding or sponsorship going into motorsport.

Q. You won karting championships in Zimbabwe and South Africa; how was the level of competition in South Africa compared to Zimbabwe?

A. Competition in South Africa was and still is very tough. It was definitely a level much higher compared to Zimbabwe. In fact the years I raced in SA (2002-2007) they had won five World Championships, and four European championships. Even last year they won two karting World Finals.

Q. In 2006, you were appointed Toyota/Castrol Development Driver. How important was this to the advancement of your career and how long did this support last?

A. The signing with Toyota and Castrol helped me become a professional. Most importantly they taught me all the aspect needed to be a success in the sport. All the little things they taught me, gave me an edge over my competitors. They sent me to Sports psychologist fortnightly, a nutritionist, had a personalised gym instructor and a media trainer with me all the time. The media training taught me the most and I still use everything I was taught by them in the early days. Of course they helped us financially as well. I was with Toyota and Castrol for three years where we had a successful partnership winning 5 championships together. I am grateful for everything they did for me.

Q. What was your impression of European karting when you raced there in the 2007 Rotax Euro Challenge?

A. The biggest shock when racing in Europe was how close competition was. The first 70 drivers were covered with in one second. I qualified sixth overall in my first round, but the weekend did not go as well, mainly because I was not used to driving as rough as they do in Europe. The racing was aggressive and border line dirty sometimes. That was probably what I had to learn the quickest as motorsport in South Africa is very clean. I picked it up fast and gave it as hard I was given and steadily improved through the year.

Q. You won the opening round of 2008 Rotax Euro Challenge in Salbris, France. Do you consider this your biggest achievement in karting?

A. It definitely is up there, but my biggest one was becoming the first person of colour to win a national championship in South Africa. This was very important for me and a great way to thank Toyota and Castrol.

Q. You raced in Formula BMW Asia series. What was the biggest challenge you faced moving from karting to single seater racing?

A. I was very fortunate that when I started my single seater career I had a couple of sponsors which helped secure budget. So that was not such a problem. In terms of driving I would probably say was convincing myself how similar it was driving a kart to a single seater. I needed to approach it with the same mentality and same aggression in terms of race craft. It was just about learning the limits of the car really.

Q. What were the highs and lows of your Formula BMW Asia experience?

A. The best memory for me was in Malaysia, Sepang, where I won my first event in only my third race in a Formula car. It was a very special moment for me and my family. Worst moment of the season came in Singapore in the first race. I was in a race long battle for third place and with two corners from the finish got clipped and rolled. This was a big setback for me, as I had started becoming really confident in the car and it killed my confidence a little bit. But I had to learn and move on.

Q. You are now moving to the American racing landscape. Please tell us what your plans are?

A. This is very exciting. It will be the first time I race and visit the States. I have joined a race team called 2xl Racing (www.2xlracing.com), where we plan to compete in the Firestone Indy Lights series in 2012 and 2013. From there we hope to progress into the IZOD Indy Car Series. I am very grateful for the faith being shown in me by Mr. Lenny Miller Senior and Mr. Lenny Miller Junior (Team Owners).

Q. What are your short-term and long-term racing goals?

A. Short term would just be to get up to pace as quickly as I can. It’s been two years since I’ve been in a race car, so will need a couple of days to get up to speed. The first year will all be about learning as much as we can about the Indy Lights car and tracks. Of course we would love a couple of podiums and maybe wins. 2013 will be the year we will fully focus on winning the Series, and I believe we will be able to do so. From there the obvious progression will be to move up into the IZOD Indy Car Series. Ultimately I would love to become the youngest winner of the Indy 500.

Q. Please tell us about Axcil Jefferies, the young man away from racing track. Your taste in music, food and what sports do you enjoy watching apart from motor racing?

A. I like most music, but do tend to stick to hip hop and r&b. I have a big interest in older music as well. My favourite song is probably Careless Whisper by George Michael. Favourite meal would probably be a Chicken wrap from Nandos. Other than motorsport I don’t really follow other sports. I watch a little bit of rugby because I played rugby growing up.

To find out any more info please visit my website: www.axciljefferies.com

— Nasir Hameed