The art of spinning had a bad rap back in the day, when drivers flew at breakneck speed through townships, burning out their rear tyres and causing havoc. Now, spinning is a controlled, highly entertaining and competitive sport. Sthembiso Lebuso talks to some legendary spinners about the second instalment of the Red Bull Shay’ iMoto competition, which takes place on Saturday
DRIVERS IN THIS YEAR'S COMPETITON
|1||Vernon Hendricks||Veejaro, South Side Crew||Nigel, Gauteng|
|2||Eddie Rasta||Eddie Rasta||Cape Town, WC|
|3||Samkeliso Thubane||Sam Sam, Team Numbi||Numbi, Mpumalanga|
|4||Katra Mokgoshi||King Katra||Polokwane, Lim|
|5||Allison Fortuin (F)||Team Ally||Bloem, FS|
|6||Lance Brophy||XXX Strong||Kokstad, KZN|
|7||Yassen Damon||Damon & Sons||Cape Town, WC|
|8||Tina Roussouw (F)||Solider Girl||Pretoria, Gauteng|
|9||Bradleigh “Skopas” McGregor||Bad Company||Joburg, Gauteng|
|10||Bareng Mpane||BGB||Pretoria, Gauteng|
Red Bull is turning spinning into a fully fledged motorsport. But before the Volkswagen Golf GTI, there was one car that all kasi kids dreamt of owning – the BMW E30 325i, popularly known as iGusheshe, iThemba lama gomosha.
The sound of the 325i’s 2.5-litre inline six engine used to stoke every petrolhead’s emotions as it drove through the kasi streets. Only the meanest, coolest grootmans drove the car.
Mamas would tell their young children to play very far away from the people driving the car.
The reason for this was that many people who drove iGusheshe were, according to the grown-ups, gangsters.
It was common to see them driving at breakneck speed through townships and burning out the rear tyres, causing havoc.
Crowds of amused township kids would gather around the cars.
They would cheer as the grootmans spun on the narrow streets, trying to avoid hitting people’s fences, and looking like superheroes to the young ones.
They were nothing but a nuisance to everyone.
And, while most of the time the stunts were greeted by loud cheers, sometimes they ended in horror as the grootmans lost control of their cars and ploughed into spectators.
Over time, law enforcement officials cracked down on the illegal events and the spinners had to find lawful ways to chew up their rear tyres.
Jeff James (48), who is from Soweto and an OG in the spinning community, says things had to change.
“We wanted to continue spinning, but we realised that doing it in the streets was not the way to go,” James tells City Press.
“We can’t run away from the sport’s history. We need to focus on what I and other people in the community have worked to transform the sport into.”
James and other legends in the spinning community worked hard to make the sport safer by organising events arenas to take the activity off the streets.
The move saw spinning evolve into more than people just hooning their cars to entertain the crowds, but into a competitive sport.
“We are working on educating people about the sport and what it has become. It’s a competitive motorsport with competitors from all walks of life. It provides family entertainment and a whole lot more,” he says.
Spinning events see competitors go out on to a barricaded race course and try to outdo each other. They perform the craziest stunts to wow the crowds and judges.
“It all looks like chaos when people are on the circuit doing their thing, but that’s essentially what spinning is – controlled chaos.”
James says that the sport has come a long way in the 22 years he has been involved in it.
“When we moved away from the streets, only car enthusiasts would attend the events in arenas. But, as time went by, more and more people started to come.”
ENTER SHAY’ IMOTO
With a more varied crowd attending, the events needed to evolve again to providing a level of competitiveness for the participants, but also to make the sport into a different kind of entertainment for the diverse crowds.
James says that no event has pushed the sport like the Red Bull’s Shay’ iMoto competition: “It is truly a spectacle.”
Bradleigh “Skopas” McGregor describes the first instalment of Shay’ iMoto last year as the “Hollywood of spinning”.
The event took place in October at the Wheelz n Smoke arena, south of Johannesburg. It saw 16 top competitors vying to be crowned South Africa’s top spinner.
One of them was Pretoria-based Tina Rossouw (25), a diesel mechanic in the SA National Defence Force. She says that there was no question she’d become involved in spinning.
“My father was into spinning when I was growing up in Cape Town. My brother got into it, kinda taking over from my father. When my brother had his family, he grew out of the sport and I got more involved,” she says.
This was back in 2012 and she says that, at the time, getting into the sport was difficult as a woman because it was still male-dominated.
“I felt intimidated by the guys. I always wondered if I would be able to do what they did. But the more I got into it, and the more time and effort I put into it, meant I was able to compete with the boys.”
Rossouw had to move to Pretoria because of work, leaving her support structure back in Cape Town.
“When I moved here, it was difficult. I had to do things for myself, something I was not used to. I was used to having my father around to help me out in Cape Town,” she says.
Another thing Rossouw found difficult was the cost of everything.
“It’s an expensive sport. If you do not have sponsors on board to cover the car, travel costs and accommodation, it becomes costly when you’re paying coming out of your own pocket.”
Rossouw, who is getting ready for the second instalment of Shay’ iMoto, recently lost her mechanic because he moved back to Cape Town. She now has to juggle work, find time to work on her car and practise for the event, which takes place on Saturday.
Rossouw says she is looking forward to this year’s event: “I have been involved in a lot of spinning events, but the biggest one I have taken part in was Shay’ iMoto last year. It was an awesome opportunity for me. I learnt a lot there,” she says.
The biggest challenges for her in last year’s event were the obstacles that were set out on the course.
“I am used to freestyling, where you just go out and perform the craziest stunts, and that’s how you get your points,” she says.
Shay’ iMoto does things differently.
During last year’s competition, the 16 spinners had to finish a specially designed course by manoeuvring around obstacles within three minutes to qualify to go into the second round.
The second round was a freestyle event, where the drivers got the chance to showcase their craziest stunts for the title.
James, who is part of the judging panel for Shay’ iMoto, says this year’s event is going to feature crazier stunts than before.
Unlike many other forms of motorsport, spinning doesn’t have different categories for men and women. The first Shay’ iMoto saw Kayla Oliphant from Kimberley in the Northern Cape go all the way to the finals.
Oliphant’s car broke down during the obstacle round in the finals, giving Vernon “Veejaro” Hendricks the win.
Rossouw says the fact that there aren’t different categories for men and women makes it even more interesting: “You get to showcase your skills against the best spinners in the country – male or female.”
This year’s Shay’ iMoto will be the first competition Rossouw takes part in.
“The Covid-19 coronavirus has made things even more difficult. I haven’t had as much practice or competition as I would have liked going into the event. It will also be interesting competing without crowds there,” says Rossouw.
“I would like to see more women spinners taking part in the sport. Getting in now is not as hard as it used to be.
People are now used to seeing women spinners in the ring. Anyone looking at getting into the sport should do it for the right reasons.
“You should not do it for the fame, the money or anything like that. You should do it because you love it.
If you put your mind and effort into it, the sport is rewarding. It is possible to go all the way and find yourself competing in events such as Shay’ iMoto.”
Due to Covid-19, there won’t be any spectators at this year’s event, but fans will be able to livestream it and take part by voting.
Ten of the best spinners will take part. The first round will see the spinners take to the course that has been set out for them.
The viewers will then get a chance to decide who they want to see in the finals.
“It’s nice to see Red Bull Shay’ iMoto evolving.
I think it will be weird without the crowds as they are a big part of the events, but I feel this has given them more power too, as they get to decide who they want to see in the finals,” says James.
- For more about the event, visit redbull.com/za-en/events/Red-Bull-Shay-iMoto
- 10 invited athletes will compete in a head to head style battle format.