• Mandla Mdakane currently competes in the GTC championship racing for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
• The driver comes from a racing family and has followed in his father's footsteps.
• Mdakane wishes motorsport could be mentioned in the same breath as rugby and soccer.
• For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24
For as long as he can remember, Mandla Mdakane wanted to be a racing driver. Of course, having a racing driver dad and spending weekends trackside made the career choice more accessible, but it never meant an 'easy pass' on all things motoring.
Sharing his story with Wheels24, Mdakane says his uptake of motorsport almost happened by chance. He was barely out of his diapers when, one day at the old Zwartkops racetrack, he spotted a kart track and asked his dad if he could have a go with the other kids who were doing laps. His dad didn't think twice about saying yes, and by the age of four, Mandla got into his first cadet go-kart.
The youngster honed his skills on the track and worked with his father and other role-players within the industry to climb the motorsport ladder. Expectedly, it wasn't easy, and Mdakane experienced first-hand just how tough it can get. Thankfully for him, he saw every challenge as an opportunity to grow - so much so that he is now signed to the Toyota Gazoo Racing team and competing in the Global Touring Car (GTC) Championship.
Keep working at it
Although Mdakane is now racing in South Africa's premier motorsport class, the work is never done. He is always in the gym, always keeping a close eye on his diet, and is doing his part in keeping his end of the bargain.
"I take my training seriously," Mdakane says. "I train at the gym weekly, and the trainer ensures that I'm always in shape to deliver my best. The team does such a great job preparing the car for me, so I think it's only fair that I do my part. The combination of the two breeds great results."
The TGR driver gained initial racing experience through various karting classes before participating in regional saloon racing, the Polo Cup, and eventually the GTC2 Class racing for Toyota. Joining TGR was what truly put Mdakane on the map, and his efforts and continuous upskilling of talent were rewarded with a drive in the GTC.
And on this 'talent' thing, Mdakane is quite big on it. He is an advocate for youngsters to follow their passion and dreams of wanting to become a racing driver and lives by the creed of always believing in your dreams. "Motorsport is costly, but I urge youngsters not to allow that to deter them as there are "young driver programs" emerging (TGRSA has started one in karting recently). They should also come out to race weekends where possible as all the drivers are willing to help and assist where possible."
As far as his motorsport ambitions for South Africa go, Mdakane would love nothing more for his sporting code to be mentioned in the same breath as rugby, soccer, and cricket. His wants are not far off, either, given the country's talent pool.
He concludes: "I believe we as motorsport drivers have a great entertainment value. We have many world championships and boast some of the best talents!
"I also wish more South African corporate companies could be involved and assist in getting more kids into the sport. I believe that along with life skills learned through motorsport, the on-track training will also make them better and safer drivers on our roads."