Chit Chat: Lebo Tilsley

2010-10-22 08:44

Janine-Lee Gordon chats to Lebo Tilsley, a 12-year-old who was recently crowned king of the seventh Africa Cup Truggy Off-Road Challenge after outracing 40 adults on the 1km track with his custom-made radio-controlled Losi car.
Congratulations! How does it feel to be the champ?
I am very happy because it was my most difficult race. I won by one lap.

What exactly is a truggy?
A truggy is a remote-controlled monster truck with big wheels – ­only it’s miniature.

How did you build it?
We bought the Losi body, then added all the parts, including the chassis, the Novarossi engine and a battery.

It’s like running a ­real car, only smaller.

There is an engine, tyres, a clutch – everything you find in a real car.

What else do you enjoy doing?
I have lots of model cars and toys, and I go quad-biking.

I love playing sports, such as soccer and basketball, and PlayStation games with my friends.

Other days you’ll find me preparing for my next race with my mechanic, ­Martin Khambule.

Do you have a pit crew like F1 racers?
No, but my dad flies my car down to Durban after each race, where it’s stripped and then ­hand-built again by South Africa’s truggy champion, Dean Steenmans. At races, Martin tops up my fuel.

My pit stops are shorter than five seconds.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I hope I can be a professional soccer player and play for the ­national team.

What kind of skills do you need to race a truggy?
You need really good hand-eye coordination skills because you have to remote-control a car from a raised platform next to the track.

Depending on where you are on the track, the controls change.

Left is left and right is right, but when the car is coming towards you left is right and right is left.

And when you are airborne, you have to make sure you brake just before you land.

What’s it like racing against older competitors?
When I’m standing up on the platform, I’m not nervous or ­intimidated at all.

I just have fun and try to improve – except when it’s a national contest. Then you have to be a bit more serious.

How did you get into racing ­remote-controlled cars?
We had gone to the AVN track in Kempton Park to get some help for my dad’s remote-controlled electrical car.

The mechanic, who was a former Portuguese champion racer, told my dad I had real talent after he spotted me playing with it.

And when did you start ­competitive racing?
After the AVN track, we immediately signed up at a club so I could take part in ­regional and national competitions.

How long have you liked things on wheels?
Since I was born. I’m told that when I was a year old my dad took me for a ride on his quad bike and I fell asleep in his arms.
I had my first quad bike when I was five.

I hear you have a nickname on the track?
Fellow competitors call me ­Africa’s Lewis Hamilton.

Is this an expensive hobby?
The start-up ready-to-run car can cost about R3 500. And then you need about R1 500 a month just for races and parts.

What goals do you want to achieve?
The World Championships are ­taking place in Thailand and I am inspired to win the SA Championships next year so that I can ­compete at world level.

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