Highgate School teenager gearing up for first race as he gets to grips with new car

Highgate School pupil Damani Marcano will compete in his first race as he takes part in the Volkswagen Racing Cup this weekend.

The 16-year-old, who lives in Muswell Hill, has spent the past few months preparing for the event at Oulton Park in Cheshire, which is held as part of the British GT Championship weekend.

After two years of karting, he is graduating to the Golf GTiR that is used in the VW Racing Cup, and recently completed his third and final test session in Rockingham, as he got used to the capabilities of his car.

“I can’t wait for my first race but we have to be realistic about this year,” said Marcano, who qualified for a racing licence when he turned 16. “I’ve only had four or five hours on track and the other drivers on the grid are all in their 20s, 30s and even 40s.

“They have thousands of hours behind the wheel of a car and I really can’t expect to be faster than them on my first time.

“It’s more like another test day where I’m going to practise my starts and race craft and learn from the more experienced drivers around me.

“All I can do is put in 100 per cent and see how I improve from race to race. Wherever I am on track, I’m still going to push as hard as if I was going for the win - but that’s just the racer in me.”

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Marcano was aided by instructor James Dixon during his practice session in Rockingham.

“James was an amazing instructor,” said the teenager. “He really encouraged me to explore the limits of the car and I learned so much from him.

“There were times when I pushed the car past its limit and nearly lost control. It was a great feeling when the car was sliding sideways and I just managed to bring it back under control.

“It’s completely different in a front-wheel drive car compared to a go-kart. When the back lets go in a go-kart or rear-wheel drive car you ease off the throttle. In a front- wheel drive car you do the opposite and apply more power.

“I knew this in theory, but that is so different to when the car is actually sliding sideways! You just stay calm and get the car pointed in the right direction again.”

Dixon said: “Damani showed promising signs of car control – something I hadn’t taught him, but he naturally coped with the situation. Sometimes you have little time to deal with situations and need to think quickly – sometimes before the event has even happened.

“Damani made fantastic progress, developing in all areas and especially in his braking. He really listens and takes things in.

“He also showed natural car control when on or over the limit. I was particularly impressed with how he handled interviews on the day. This is extremely important if a driver is to be the complete package – something that Damani is well on his way to becoming.”