How this 14-year-old go-kart racer punched his ticket to Bahrain

Olivier Mrak’s Junior Max division kart travels at speeds of up to 125km/h

CBC News · 

At first, Ottawa teen Olivier Mrak had to be “forced” behind the wheel of a go-kart, but it wasn’t long before he was enjoying himself — and showing promise as a driver.

Now, the Grade 9 Ashbury College student is set to compete in a global go-kart race that will pit him against hundreds of the world’s best young racers in a high-speed contest in Bahrain.

By now, any trace of that early doubt has faded.

“I just lock in,” he told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning. “I focus up and I do what I have to do to make my coach and my dad happy.”

And not without reason. Karts used in Mrak’s current Junior Max division can travel at speeds of up to 125 km/h.

On top of that, he races in a fire-retardant suit and doesn’t wear a seatbelt. In the event of a crash, drivers are ejected from the seat to prevent them being pinned under a flipped kart.

Drivers from ‘everywhere in the world’

Mrak’s prize for braving the risks has been a ticket to Bahrain.

The Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals has been held annually since 2000. The event started with a few dozen racers but has since grown to just shy of 400 participants across a range of age classes.

Racers can earn a spot in the finals by capturing a coveted ticket at an event throughout the Rotax Max Challenge racing season.

Mrak secured his spot by finishing in the top 20 at an event called the ROK Superfinal held in Lonato, Italy.

“Felt great being on the podium,” he said. “It was so rewarding because I’ve been wanting this for so long.”

The upcoming competition in Bahrain will host competitors from “everywhere in the world,” Mrak said.

Go-kart racing is a training ground and springboard for all the world’s top Formula One drivers, he added. Mrak hopes to follow in those footsteps by one day becoming an F1 driver himself.

Even further down the line, he said, he’ll encourage his own kids to get behind the wheel.

“Gonna force them like my dad did,” he said.