The small town of Kariega (formerly Uitenhage), about 25 km north of Port Elizabeth, is not only famous for being home to the oldest technical school in South Africa, Daniel Pienaar Technical High school, but is also renowned for its big sporting achievements having been the training ground for world class sportsmen like Chassen Bright, Heino Bezuidenhout, Daniel Saayman (professional rugby in France), Dewald Potgieter, Nantie Hayward and Wernich Van Rensburg.
What not everyone may realise however that it is also probably the only school in South Africa with motorsport as an official school sport. With customised cars and the sound of roaring engines, pupils at Daniel Pienaar Technical High School are living every boy’s dream at the only known school locally — and one of only three in the world — to offer motorsport as an extra-curricular activity.
Motorsport South Africa’s (MSA) Chairman of the Safety and Technical Panel, Sparky Bright, remembers well when it was first introduced to the school almost 20 years ago in 2004 by himself and Jimmy Murray. MSA has been a firm supporter of the school all these years and Bright’s own son, Chassen Bright (now 33), started at the school in his Grade 8 year. Chassen went on to become a three-time South African national and seven-time Eastern Cape Regional Karting champion and earned his South African Protea national motorsport colours.
Today Chassen works abroad in Germany as the aftersales specialist for Hyundai Motorsport. ‘And that,” says Sparky “is what a technical school like Daniel Pienaar gives you.
It is never just about the racing – but more about the other world of opportunities that become available like marshalling, timekeeping, engineering, motor mechanic and other exciting careers.” The school is also doing a great job in empowering women in motorsport. Matric student Ashley Pape for example recently took another step forward in her timekeeping journey when she was given the opportunity to timekeep a National Championship event earlier this month. Bright says the project with the Daniel Pienaar Technical school can be used as a model throughout the country to get more people involved in motorsport.
The school even boasts its very own 4km racing circuit alongside a professional rally team and are making some impressive headway here too. Francois Vermaak, who heads up motorsport at the school says, motorsport at school level definitely has an impact as three of DP’s former learners are now navigating at professional level.
Ashley Bezuidenhout (also a timekeeper at circuit events) currently navigates for Nick Davidson, Marise Roos used to navigate for Neels Vosloo and Ruan Gerber navigated for André Bezuidenhout and Jacques Louw.
Vermaak is passionate about the sport and is always looking for ways to get more involved so he can bring back value to the learners. He also runs the DP Teacher’s team and with colleague Paul Ludeke, races under the DP banner.
The school is closely involved with the Algoa Rally Club, possibly the largest rally club in the country, and so many of the ex-Tigers as they call themselves from DP actually are employed there whether it be in the pits, navigating, timekeeping or driving.
“Our school curriculum also complements our motorsport. Our students refer to it as ‘Motor’ and it forms one of the streams in our Mechanical Technology Department. “Learners, under the very capable guidance of well-qualified, highly experienced teachers, learn about components of a vehicle, as well as the servicing of engines. They are exposed to diagnostic systems so as to remain abreast with developments in the motor industry. This subject comprises theoretical and practical components and Mr Paul Ludeke, an enthusiastic Automotive teacher at our school, gleans international experience by rendering his services as a mechanic at the Dakar Rallies. He shares his knowledge and experience with our learners and colleagues, and this is of immeasurable value. DP learners and teachers are thus very involved in the various facets of Motorsport,” says Headmistress Kola du Toit.
She says the school is also very fortunate to have the support from nearby Volkswagen under the watchful eye of Ashwin Harri who also supports with apprenticeships. VW Motorsport has sponsored the school with a VW Polo 1.2 tsi Rally car and the school has its own 1.4i Citi Golf rally car.
Vermaak and Bright both share a common vision for the learners and that is to get involved in whatever way possible. “It is not just about being a driver. There are countless ways to get involved regardless of your age, sex or income bracket and this is one sport you can make a living from, either locally or abroad. You just need the passion and the dedication,” says Vermaak.
It is hard not to be impressed by the school’s motoring pedigree, but it is equally home to so many other great sporting disciplines. This past weekend was significant, this time not for its motorsport achievements but to celebrate its rugby achievement. Sparky had the privilege of being invited to the School to join in the celebration of their 1st Rugby team beating Brandwag High School in the FNB Derby last weekend. It is more than10 years since they managed to achieve this on the Brandwag grounds, so a good reason to celebrate.
Kola was delighted to welcome Sparky back and said she was so glad to see that MSA continued to support all the schools achievements and not only motorsport. She extended her sincere thanks to the management of MSA for their unwavering support.
PREPARED ON BEHALF OF MOTORSPORT SOUTH AFRICA BY CATHY FINDLEY PR