Spin city thrills with big, big name in Soweto

GAME ON IN SOWETO: RID­ING WITH A BIG, BIG NAME

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - WORLD - Marie-Lais Emond

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

Pic­tures: Heather Ma­son

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