YOUNG KIWI DRIVER IS WORKING HARD TO FULFIL HIS AMBITIONS, WRITES SIMON CHAPMAN
Despite having a strong family history in rugby, Taupo-born Faine Kahia always had a passion for motorsport. With his sights set on Asia, Kahia is determined to establish himself as a professional racing driver.
From a young age, Kahia’s parents knew he wouldn’t be like his father before him who played rugby for the Maori All Blacks.
“My obsession with racing began as a toddler. I would study tracks, racing lines and driver footwork of the greats like Greg Murphy,” said Kahia.
Photo / Peter Lim
“As my passion grew so, too, did my determination, and dreams soon became goals.
“ Racing is where my heart is. Racing is everything to me.”
Kahia is one of many young talented Kiwi racing drivers coming through the racing ranks with the goal of becoming a factory racing driver. Drivers such as Nick Cassidy and Earl Bamber, who have both succeeded in Asia with manufacturer-supported drives, are role models Kahia aspires to be like. However, it’s a fellow Maori racer that Kahia takes most of his inspiration from.
“Mitch [Evans] is definitely a driver I look up to. His achievements on the world stage are outstanding and I aspire to reach his level of accomplishments.”
At 19, Kahia already has experience in a variety of disciplines. Like many racers looking to forge a career as a racing driver he began racing in karting, before taking an unusual step towards his goal by contesting the SsangYong Racing Series.
“Every step I take is towards my main goal of becoming a professional motorsport athlete, even if my choices seem unconventional,” he said.
“My pathway from sprint karts, to superkarts, to Formula First, to the New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy, to SsangYong Racing Utes, to Formula BMW, to Formula 4 South East Asia is a great example.” Still in the early stages of his motor racing career, Kahia’s dream to make a career in motorsport got given a boost two years ago. At the time, Kahia had already driven for SsangYong in the ute series, but he then received a call to race in the Formula BMW based AsiaCup.
“I was fresh out of the 2014 NZ Elite Motorsport Academy and had been testing in Formula Ford because my intentions were single seaters in New Zealand then overseas. After the SsangYong series I was looking into other racing options when I was contacted by the Meritus GP Team to race in one of their Formula BMW events in Malaysia.
“It was an excellent opportunity to represent New Zealand and to get back into a single seater class which was where I wanted to be, so I didn’t hesitate.”
But 2015 was breakthrough year for the teen as he began his campaign for a manufacturer supported drive. Kahia’s maiden overseas expedition came with great success, taking a third and two second place finishes over the five race weekend at the second round of the AsiaCup in Malaysia.
The result led to an opportunity of a lifetime with Formula 1 team Renault. Kahia joined Renault drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer at the Australian Grand Prix in a weekend of learning what being in a Formula 1 environment is like.
F4SEA driver ambassadors Faine Kahia, left, and Adam Khalid meet Renault F1 driver Kevin Magnussen.
“It was a real privilege to meet Kevin and Jolyon. Spending time with them was inspiring and I learned a lot from them both.
“Jolyon told me to keep focused with eyes forward on my goal and stay determined. I absolutely aspire to be like them.” While the racing calendar for many has already started, Kahia’s 2016 campaign doesn’t begin until July when he’ll take part in testing for the newly formed FIA Formula 4 South East Asia Championship (F4SEA). Kahia’s result in 2015 was good enough to see him invited back to compete in the series, but he’ll have to pay his own way.
“Right now 100 per cent focus is on the 2016 F4SEA Championship and impressing Renault. I’m really looking forward to the very first pre-season testing coming up in June, at Sepang F1 Circuit Malaysia. In the meantime it’s all about the preparation and commitment to becoming leaner, stronger and fitter,” he said.
“My intentions are to continue progressing through the formula categories in Asia to eventually land a factory drive or academy position with a manufacturer, in order to fulfil my main goal.
“When I make it to the grid it will be because of people who invested in my journey and I aim to make them all proud to be a part of it.”