Meet Zachary Francavilla, 3x K1RS Champ
If you’ve been to any American K1 Speed location over the last several years, you’ve likely seen his name on your scoresheet or where the Top 50 K1RS finishers board is displayed at your local track. Zachary Francavilla, 13 years old, has finished as Champion of the K1RS National Leaderboard a total of three times: in 2015, and the last two years, 2017 and 2018. He was also the K1NG of Speed in Carlsbad in September and has won both the Junior League and Challenge GP titles at that location. A quick glimpse at his scoresheet in January revealed he’s in the 100th percentile, has 584 visits, has completed 4,223 races, and posted 234 best times of the week. But that was January – they’re definitely higher numbers today.
But exactly who is this guy? Read on and learn more about this remarkable teen.
Zach began his love for his speed when he was just two years old. His parents had gifted him a ride-on Cadillac toy and it wasn’t long before the toddler took it for speed trials down the family’s steep driveway. Aside from some Crazy Carts later on, Zach didn’t drive much else until he came to K1 Speed for a friend’s birthday party when he was eight years old in 2014. Competing with his friends in a racing-style format cemented the deal.
“I didn’t do the best in the qualifier or practice, but then in the final I came back from fifth and won it,” says Zach. “I’d gone here a couple of times before that, but that’s when I realized I really liked racing here. After that, I’d come here two, three times a week.”
In 2015, at the age of 9, Zach took K1 Speed by storm. He won the Junior League championship in his first attempt, then realized that he met the 4’10” height requirement of our Adult Karts. But the jump up to the faster kart wasn’t an easy transition.
“The speed boost was big but being more competitive was the hardest part. I think the first 30 races I did (in the adult kart) I didn’t do better than 4th place. And so it was a little difficult not getting first all the time,” says Zach.
A Marine from Camp Pendleton, Lauren, noticed the young Zach and decided to help.
“(Lauren) was very nice to Zach and helped him, because when he went out there the speed was so much higher,” says Robert, Zach’s father. “But he showed no fear, but always really good judgement out there. And so he’s aggressive but at the same time respectful.”
“Lauren really helped me,” says Zach. “I had to use a different line. I had to learn how to really race people because before I would just be able to pass them on the straightaways, and I had to learn how to pass them in corners.”
Zach’s First Successes
With special permission, Zach went on to enter the teen/adult Challenge GP races. He raced people at least twice his age, but still scored three Challenge GP wins and finished second in the points to veteran K1 Speed karter, Brandon Walsh. Zach was even featured in a K1 Speed promo video (found here) that shows him passing Brandon and other veteran K1 Speed racer, KC Cook at one of these races.
At the end of 2015, Zach claimed his first K1RS National Leaderboard title – not bad for his first full year racing at K1 Speed. And the success continued for Zach at K1 Speed in the following years.
“At one point he was leader of the K1RS Points, had the track record for both junior and adults, and was number one in Challenge GP,” says his mother, Carla.
Zach loves travelling to K1 Speed whenever he’s near one. In addition to Carlsbad, he’s been to seven other locations: Ontario, Irvine, Anaheim, San Francisco, Denver, San Diego, and Hawaii.
“When we go to some place, the first thing he looks to see if there’s a K1 Speed close by,” says Carla. “When we were in Hawaii, we had to go to K1.”
“I know when we were in San Francisco, we actually took like a $27 Uber ride just so he could race at K1,” adds Robert.
Zachary Francavilla : The K1 Speed Celebrity
With Zach’s name adorned on the walls of each K1 Speed location and on every scoresheet across the country, it’s no surprise that he’s become a bit of a celebrity no matter which location he visits.
“In Colorado the first time I was there, (the cashier) saw my name and she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s you?” Zach recounts.
And she’s not the only person who’s star-struck over the youngster.
“Zach actually had a dad who brought his son here and they were racing, and he was so excited that he took his picture with Zach like he was a celebrity,” says Carla. “The Dad! The kid was like a year older than Zach, but I think he was a little like, ‘really, Dad?’ But the Dad was like totally going all ‘fan’ on him and wanted a picture with him. He then posted it on his Instagram ‘I was with the number one racer!’”
“And he was very complementary because he said he followed Zach (on the track) and he got his best time ever by following him,” Carla continues. “He was very much like, ‘You helped me’.”
Zach Pays it Forward
Like Lauren helped Zach when he was just starting out, Zach pays it forward by always volunteering to help fellow racers.
“When someone comes up and asks for advice, I’ll show them the line, I’ll them where to gas and lift off, and I’ll give them the first couple of laps to follow me,” says Zach. “And then once I see that they’re starting to do good, I’ll go behind them and make sure there’s no parts of their line that they need to improve. And sometimes I’ll tap them in places where I know I’m catching up to them too much.”
Someone who has seen Zach’s mentorship first-hand on numerous occasions is Scott Russell, the General Manager of Carlsbad.
“It’s fantastic. The guy is an ambassador to K1,” says Scott. “What’s great is he’s so approachable. A lot of either adults or kids, he will actually mentor them. If he’s in races with them, he’ll actually slow down so they can get on his tail and he can show them the line, where they can take their foot off the accelerator, the whole thing. So, really, really incredible.”
The Points Master
Zach typically does six to ten races in a day when he visits throughout the week. If he needs to collect some serious points, he’s been known to do some epic karting marathons.
“When I was really fighting for (the K1RS Points Leaderboard) last year, towards January and February just trying to get a good lead,” says Zach. “There were a couple of weeks when I’d come in three, four, five times a week. There was this one day when I went on a Sunday, opening to closing, and I did 45 races. I was really tired, but I just kept pushing.”
“You know, he actually has a strategy,” adds Carla. “When he was fighting for the record, he’d want to come when he knew he would have clean laps. But then when he’s trying to get the points, he knows I want to come when I can get more points.”
After being number one on the K1RS National Leaderboard three times, two in a row, we asked Zach what’s in store for 2019.
“I’m going to try to make it three in a row!” Zach enthusiastically answers.
Look out K1 Speed racers.
What the Future Holds for Zach
Zach’s hoping to turn his passion into a professional career. Zach’s started racing outdoor karts and has already won his first race. He’ll be contesting his first full outdoor series this year. He looks up to drivers like Lewis Hamilton and young prodigy Max Verstappen, and like them, hopes to become a young F1 driver himself.
“Really as far as I can get,” he says. “If I can get the opportunity to do it, I’ll do it.”
If his successes at K1 Speed are any indication, we’d say he’s certainly on the right path.
Awesome! Congratulations Zach!
Zach we are all SO proud of you! This is a fantastic article about you. Its your calling in life. (For now anyway ) im going to be following your success. I love that you are being recognized all over the map. Good job Zach!
That’s awesome Zach. Congratulations!