Words not enough for leg­end Het­tema

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

THE many obit­u­ar­ies to mur­dered mo­tor­sport leg­end Jan Het­tema fall far short of de­scrib­ing the man who taught me how lit­tle I can race.

But enough has been writ­ten about the man who made the To­tal Econ­omy Run, the World Rally Cham­pi­onship racer and the Olympic cy­clist not to re­peat it here.

What was not added is that Het­tema was also a shoe model in his hey­day; or how the dash­ing young man never con­firmed or de­nied ru­mours of a fling with a cer­tain young princess in Monaco when he raced there; or the ding-dong bat­tles the old bull had with the then up-and-com­ing Sarel van der Merwe.

A clue­less young car writer, I used to meet up with the gnarly old leg­end at the plot be­tween Pre­to­ria and Ray­ton, for him to give ex­pert com­ment on the han­dling on what­ever new bakkie I had.

I re­called when the Navara bakkie just came out how he calmly drifted the big ve­hi­cle through farm gates with one hand while with the other point­ing out to me how well Nis­san had done to over­come the lim­its of a tor­sion bar and leaf springs.

When I left, he would press on me some fresh eggs, from which farm fresh pro­duce he and his re­tired teacher wife Elsa made their liv­ing then.

What im­pressed me most about Het­tema was not his sport­ing achieve­ments, but how pa­tient he was with his hens, which as any chicken farmer can tell you is not a nor­mal re­ac­tion to the of­ten pesky de­mands made by this do­mes­ti­cated de­scen­dant of the Tyran­nesaurus Rex.

Het­tema was a spry 83 when he was shot in cold blood by two rob­bers who made off with a few bits of elec­tronic goods. Our em­pa­thy goes to his wife, Elsa, and their daugh­ter He­lena, a star in her own right, as well as his staff at the plot.

We can sing the old Coun­try and Western hit On The Road Again with them, as we did at many an econ­omy run, for wher­ever Jan is now, I am sure the road is just a blur of joy­ful speed go­ing past.

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