Spin city thrills with big, big name in Soweto
GAME ON IN SOWETO: RIDING WITH A BIG, BIG NAME
Each week Marie-Lais looks out for the unusual, the unique, the quirky or just something or someone we might have had no idea about, even though we live here. This week she’s spinning in a gusheshe.
The car tips and rocks and spins in our own tyre-smoke and we’re whirling round so often, so fast that it seems this gusheshe just has to roll onto the pitch.
Jeff James, big, big name spinning legend, is behind the wheel. Outside the car he looks like a body builder. Inside or out he has what must be the most likeable smile in South Africa.
The old boxlike BMW 325-i is the spinning car of historical and practical choice, named gusheshe for its distinctive revving sound.
James’s dark grey one’s number plate is 325 JEF GP. The dash, the doors, everything except the wheel, pedals and seats are stripped down to metal. I hang onto the roof through the window because there’s nothing else.
Tight whorls of tyre marks show up grey on glistening tar. Throughout all this, I’m surprised that the feeling Jeff exudes next to me is of palpable calm. There is nothing faintly maniacal or even silly-gleeful about him, only professionally smooth control. It can feel strangely slow motion within the vortex of thick smoke and screeching noise.
His Hub or academy is here in Soweto, where spinning probably began. In the 80s, local, proudly ungovernable youths used the 315s they stole and at gangster’s funerals the brothers would spin those cars until the tyres popped. Spinning is not drifting as seen in other countries and it’s now recognised as a sport, free of its tsotsi tone. Instead, it’s attracting some heady glamour.
One of Jeff’s most promising spinners is an ex-drug addict and that’s the idea – to tempt kids off the streets, their amateur spinning off the roads, and offer them something to live for, an adrenalin rush that’s safe in this controlled environment. They can be stars. Bongani Mkhatshawa told me that spinning is a lifestyle, like soccer.
The academy teaches driving stunts and how to modify vehicles and maintain them. He’s got his own gusheshe but there’s still a lot of work to do on it.
I step away from Jeff ’s car into another whirlwind of excitement, expecting my legs to buckle suddenly. They don’t but Pumzile Manikele, the able head of events (and Jeff ’s manager), and the onlookers crowd around asking how I feel. The answer is “thrilled”. “You’re one brave white woman,” offers one student.
Jeff James Spin Hub GOG Gardens Protea Glen Soweto 073-380-0569