From virtual to reality: South Africa’s next potential star Mika Abrahams

South Africa has produced its fair share of racing talent over the years, with drivers flying the country’s flag in many of the world’s top racing series. Mika Abrahams, competing in the Danish F4 Championship, spoke to us about his ambition to join that list and about the remarkable start to his single-seater career.

By Oorjit Mishra

Abrahams, who was born in Johannesburg in 2008, found his love for racing in the virtual world when he was nine. “I never really liked motorsports much, but one day we went to a friend’s house and I wanted to play on the Xbox. They asked me to choose a game, and then I saw the Formula One game and it really looked interesting, so I played and really liked it, and after that I immediately asked my dad, ‘How can I get into F1?’  And then he knew a guy who did karting in South Africa, and that’s where it all started.”

I saw the Formula One game … so I played and really liked it, and after that I immediately asked my dad, ‘How can I get into F1?’

Mika Abrahams

Career beginnings

Abrahams began his journey through the ranks in four-stroke karting before moving into two-stroke competition in South Africa, racing in both the South African Rotax Max Challenge and Rok Cup SA. He described the experience of honing his craft in the ultra-competitive South African national championship.

We were just working on myself, trying to get myself better and better.

Mika Abrahams

“Well, at the beginning we didn’t really focus on getting results in terms of equipment-wise. We were just working on myself, trying to get myself better and better. We just go to the track four days a week, just train, work on myself. And yeah, the beginning was quite hard, obviously not fighting with other equipment, just learning [by] myself [and] race craft. But at the end, when I had a bit of experience and I had a slightly decent package, everything was amazing.”

In 2019, less than two years after he made his karting debut, Abrahams made the step up to European competition, racing in the Mini 60 class in the WSK Euro Series and WSK Super Master Series. This leap proved to be a challenging yet enjoyable step in his career.

“At that time, I was really stressed. It was insane. The level of competition was like, you can’t even compare it to South Africa. Everything was so different. It was like a completely new experience that I had to get used to. But as soon as I jumped out on track, it was completely better, it was so much more fun. I didn’t adapt so quickly, but I was getting there because the grip levels compared to South Africa were completely different, so I was just getting used to everything. The step up from South African karting to European karting was an amazing moment [in] my career.” 

At that time, I was really stressed. It was insane.

Mika Abrahams on his step up to karting in Europe

Unlike most of the drivers he was racing against in Europe, Abrahams was able to live at home in Johannesburg owing to the fact that travel between South Africa and Europe is relatively straightforward. “We would leave one day, the next day rest up, and then again on track. So it really didn’t affect us. Staying in South Africa was not really a problem in my career.”

Mika Abrahams | Credit: Mika Abrahams

Unexpected setbacks and their opportunities

Unfortunately, that would all change as the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to international travel. This interrupted Abrahams’ career at a crucial time for his development as a driver, and he recounted the effect it had on him.

“It was really bad. At the beginning of 2020, things were starting to go really well in Europe, but then COVID unfortunately happened and then we had to stay in South Africa the whole time. My dad and I, we would just do tons of practice at my local track, lots of training physically, mentally just to keep me prepared for the following season because we didn’t think it was going to end anytime soon. We were just practising the faster class, just to get me ready.”

My dad and I, we would just do tons of practice at my local track, lots of training physically, mentally just to keep me prepared for the following season

Mika Abrahams

While many drivers would have opted for more time in karting after an interruption like that, Abrahams chose to do the opposite, making the step up to cars before he’d even turned 14.  “I wanted to have more experience compared to my competitors. In karting, at the World Champs last year, we had some issues, and it really discouraged me and I was questioning myself and my ability. And then we decided to give cars a go here in South Africa, a little series called Inex Legends, because it’s the only car I can drive at the age of 14. And I was actually pretty quick and I was competing with guys at the front that have been driving for five plus years, and I immediately gained my confidence back.” 

Inex Legends is a low-cost grassroots category in which drivers race 5/8-scale replicas of 1930s American coupes fitted with Yamaha motorcycle engines.

“And then I was hoping we could do testing in F4. We were going to do Rosberg Academy F4 that we were referred to, but logistics didn’t work out, so we got referred to Danish F4. We found out that I could do it at the age of 14, and then here we are.” 

Mika Abrahams (FSP Racing) wins at Sturup Raceway | Credit: Danish F4

Early success

Abrahams was forced to miss the first round of the championship because of age restrictions, which affected his preparation for the season. “[We did some] testing at the track and a couple of days of testing at different tracks, so I didn’t have as much experience as the others, so I didn’t expect too much of myself.”

He may not have expected much of himself, but when he made his début during Round 2 of the championship at Sturup Raceway, he took everyone, including himself, by surprise, scoring podiums in all three races and taking a win in race 3.

“When we came down, we were on pace and even fastest of everyone. It was really surreal. I think it finally kicked in, [during] qualifying when I qualified P2 and I was on the front row, and it just kicked in that I was a contender for the championship. It was an amazing experience winning my first weekend, winning, and it’s given me lots of confidence for the season.” 

Abrahams currently sits 4th in the standings, 45 points behind championship leader Julius Dinesen. After such a strong start, he reflected on his goals for the season.

“The original goal was to finish top five, now it’s to win. Although the gap is a bit far from first place, anything can change over a weekend. I definitely think I can win. I’ve just got to push hard, focus on everything, train hard, and just be consistent with my results, like how I’ve been doing and it’s definitely possible.”

The original goal was to finish top five. Now, it’s to win.

Mika Abrahams

Looking forward

His plans for where he wants to be next year are clear. “Definitely one of the main F4 championships – Spanish, Italian, ADAC, British. This year is definitely just preparation, getting lots of experience, learning the car, the speed and just everything. It’s preparation for next year.”

Given the fact that Abrahams’ love for racing came from the F1 game, it’s no surprise as to what his ultimate goal in motorsport is. “Definitely Formula One. That’s definitely the main goal – always has been, always will be. There’s always side goals, but I’m only focused on Formula One for now because I definitely think it’s possible.”

Should he make it to F1, Abrahams would be the first South African to do so since Jody Scheckter bowed out of the sport in 1980. He spoke about the racing scene back home and gave his thoughts on why the country has had no representation in modern F1.

“It’s amazing. It’s really competitive. I just don’t think we have many drivers like many European countries do. We’re really limited on different classes, but I think we have really competitive, strong drivers that have a lot of potential, but many of the drivers just don’t go to Europe to see how they can actually perform.”

Abrahams will return to action for the fourth round of Danish F4 on 13 August at Padborg Park, where he’ll be looking to cut down the gap to the lead of the championship.

Header photo credit: Mika Abrahams

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