South Africa’s 2016 Rotax Mini Max karting world champion Jayden Els has a certain spring in his step as he prepares for the big jump up to the 125cc high school Junior Max class this year. He may just be 12 years old, but Jayden has proven himself more than just ready for the move.
“There’s a big difference between the Mini classes that I am used to and the Junior Max kart,” Els explained. “The Junior is a much heavier kart and far more powerful too, so it’s a big step and takes a bit of getting used to, but I have really enjoyed testing it so far and I can’t wait to race it.
“I will also be racing against kids of up to 16 years old, who are stronger and have raced the bigger class for a few years, so I look forward to learning all I can as quickly as possible and to be racing at the front very soon.”
Jayden Els started karting when he was given a Cadet kart for his seventh birthday. He was quickly on the pace and ended up second in Cadet the championship the following year before moving up to the ultra-competitive 60cc Mini Rok in 2013. In 2015 Jayden joined Leeroy Poulter’s Extreme racing and won the Vereeniging Mini Rok national on his way to third in the SA Championship, which earned him a seat in the Mini Rok World Final in Italy, where he finished 15th out of 130 karts.
2016 was a big year or Jayden as he chased a double in the National and Regional title, but it did not come easy. He started on the front of the grid in almost every race, but due to mechanical issues and some bad luck, he only managed 4th in the National Championship. Then Jayden entered the Rotax African Mini Max Open and won the Final from the back of the grid to book his seat to the Rotax World Finals in Italy...
“The Rotax World Finals are very different,” Jayden explained. “Fields are far more evenly matched with all kids driving identical equipment with identical chassis, brand new sealed engines and controlled tyres — it’s the purest form of racing. “But with only one week of practice and only two sessions a day it was always going to be a big challenge.”
Finishing just outside the top 10 in all his practice sessions, Jayden qualified tenth in the final and in a show of sheer determination, Jayden worked his way to the front in the 12 lap race to clinch the World Title. “That was the biggest day of my life — I am so proud to be world champion at just 12 years old!”
But Jayden was not finished with his 2016 season — he still had an outside chance to win the Northern Regions Mini Max championship and with the pressure on, SA’s newest world karting champion did not disappoint as Jayden won all three races in wet conditions to secure a-come from behind regional title too.
Now its time to step up. “I’m ready,” Jayden admitted on the eve of his first race in Junior Max. “Let’s do this!”