PEOPLE outside of South Africa just won’t understand it, but this is something really special,” said well-known British journalist Chris Harris as he stepped from Chris Davison’s Group N replica Opel Kadett GSi 16V S “Superboss” at Killarney. The Superboss, along with JSN Motors’s magnificent championship-winning BMW 325iS, were drafted into the CAR Performance Shootout to provide historical reference (see the feature on page 72), but also because, 20 years since they last dominated local racing circuits and provided platforms for drivers such as Mike Briggs, Tony Viana and Deon Joubert to become local icons, they continue to remain something special. They’re the last of the truly South African specials and products of a time when local motorsport was vibrant and ultra-competitive. Their icon statuses are guaranteed forever.
As I buckled myself into the Superboss for a few laps of filming, it was hard to ignore the butterflies in my stomach. After all, I was solidly in the Opel camp back in the day, and I hated Deon Joubert’s guts! But there I was, sitting on the Killarney grid in a bright yellow Superboss, with Deon, now CAR’s treasured track tester, in the JSN 325iS next to me. Forget about a bucket-list moment; this was the stuff of fantasies …
But we need new heroes. Twenty years from today, will the new Opel Astra OPC and BMW M135i be remembered as fondly? Will the public sit up and take notice when Graeme Nathan (current Production-car Champion) walks into a room for other reasons than his beanpole status?
Or was the era of Briggs, Viana and Joubert the end of South African motorsport as a platform for heroes and icons to be born? Sadly, it’s hard not to answer in the affirmative.
I completely support Sarel van der Merwe’s proposal for a real Production-car Championship (basically showroom cars fitted with slicks and roll cages). But, besides that, the ensuing spectacle should be shown on television during prime time. South African racing circuits are, generally speaking, not family-friendly, but ironically our sport-obsessed nation has no qualms spending plenty of time on the couch watching their favourite discipline. Furthermore, some of the formulae are of interest only to a shrinking motorsport community and should be canned, rather than just be allowed to continue because they’ve always been there. Big decisions need to be made. Who has the guts? The person who saves local motorsport will be a true hero.
PS. CAR wishes all its readers a relaxing festive season. Thank you for the continued support, and have a safe journey!