HUMAN INTEREST BY HAYLEY – The Last of the Gentlemen Racers – 4 FEBRUARY 2023

HUMAN INTEREST BY HAYLEY – The Last of the Gentlemen Racers – 4 FEBRUARY 2023

Back in the day the term ‘’gentlemen racer’’ denoted a competitor who drove their car to the circuit, raced it and drove home again. These racers, although brave and daring, were often looked down on by the drivers of ‘real’ race cars who mistook this for being less than professional. How wrong they were.

Over the years the term faded away as most drivers opted to trailer their vehicles to the track – with the exception of father-and-son team Piet and James Matthee from Stellenbosch.

Speaking to Piet and James, they shared the reasoning behind driving their cars from Stellenbosch to Killarney and back again. It’s easier to transport the two cars this way, they said – and yes, both cars are roadworthy, complete with the necessary licenses and number plates.

Now you all are probably wondering… how do they get home if the car is damaged? If it’s a quick fix, James, the team’s mechanic will repair it with the help of his father but if the damage is severe the best bet would be to store it at Killarney until the next morning, then hire a trailer to tow it back home. However, they hope that won’t be necessary anytime soon.

Former two time Pre-90s Classics Champion Piet has been racing at Killarney for many years; his first race car was a Porsche 944 S2, a car some Killarney fans will remember as ‘Polizei’. Piet said that he didn’t win because he had the fastest car or because he was the best driver but because he was committed to racing.

That Porsche was entered in approximately 120 races in its racing career and never failed to finish.

Piet’s inspiration for racing came from then-65-year-old Roger Wood, a fellow member of the Sunbeam Club. Roger took Piet for a spin around Killarney in his 1964 Sunbeam Tiger and although Piet thought it would have been boring considering Roger’s age, he was in for quite the surprise! By the second turn, Piet realised how much fun racing actually was.

James started racing about five years ago due to his father’s involvement and made racing a weekly father-and-son activity where they would work on the cars together, race, and once home enjoy a braai and cold beer together. Unfortunately, this came to a stop in 2019 when Covid-19 impacted the world.

Round 1 of the Power Series presented by Wingfield Motors on Saturday 4 February was their first outing in three years and Piet’s first with his #33 Porsche 928, while James was in their #700 Honda CRX. They finished 19th and 18th respectively in the first Laude Classic Cars race and 18th and 17th in Race 2 – but they say it doesn’t matter where you finish as long as you’re having fun. And that neatly sums up the ‘gentleman racer’: You race because you enjoy it and you win because you’re committed.

Image and Text by Hayley Zaayman