From taxis to KYALAMI

Bruce Fraser (BF): Do you fancy your chances more on the roads of Jozi or tearing around the racetrack of Kyalami?

Philip Kekana (PK): Definitely Kyalami! At least there the drivers know what they are doing and the surface is good.

BF: So you reckon your days as a taxi driver were good preparation for your professional career as a racing car driver?

PK: It's a good background because as a taxi driver you have to think quickly and I did manage to learn a few tricks about driving. As a taxi driver it's a race among ourselves.

BF: And the hearse?

PK: My family has owned a funeral parlour in Soweto for a number of years and to help out I used to drive the hearse. My brother still runs the family business.

BF: Born and bred in Soweto how did you get into motor racing?

PK: I was always interested in cars but from about 15 years of age I realised that this is what I wanted to do. When I used to do funerals in the Fourways area I would rush and do what I had to and then park the hearse on the pavement outside Kyalami and watch from there. When I used to go home and tell my parents and brothers I want to race they used to tell me I would kill myself. Eventually, after driving a taxi for two years I did a couple of advanced driving courses.

At the time I was the only black guy and I used to ask myself "Eish, what am I doing here?" Eventually though I passed.

BF: The other day you told me an interesting story about a meeting you had with Sowetan's former editor, the late Dr Aggrey Klaaste.

PK: When I had finished my driving courses I needed to find a sponsor. One Sunday morning I knocked on the door of Aggrey Klaaste's house in Diepkloof Extension, Soweto. He asked his kids what I wanted and I explained to them I wanted to be a racing driving. He then called me through to his living room where I found him still in his pyjamas watching TV. He told me to come and see him on the Monday morning and we would take it from there.

The Sowetan ran a story on me in its motoring section and this drew the interest of Sasol. They called me for an interview and I ended up on the track with Ben Morgenrood. We went and tested a vehicle in Midvaal and that was my first taste of motor racing. When I got home after that day I was so sick because I was not used to driving fast.

BF: In the early days was there racism in motor racing?

PK: Those early days were tough. Today it is much better.

BF: Have you raced overseas?

PK: It was always a dream but unfortunately the backing was not there.

BF: How do you prepare for a race?

PK: I start preparing a week in advance. I will race in Port Elizabeth soon and I am already thinking about the corners and how I approach them. But the most important aspect is you must be one-on-one with the car. Even when you close your eyes you picture the track - the corners, the straights, where you accelerate, brake and so on. You have to be reasonably fit as well to race. Before I used to run a lot but I broke both my legs in an accident but now cycling keeps me in shape.

BF: Any superstitions before a race?

PK: I just pray.

BF: After tearing around the racetrack at over 200kph how does it feel back on the roads in suburbia?

PK: At times it is tempting to put foot and often you have to remind yourself to back off.

BF: Do you get many speeding fines and how is your relationship with the cops?

PK: I get my fair share of tickets. I know a lot of the cops because we train them in advanced driving courses.

BF: And their standard of driving?

PK: They need a lot of training.

BF: Plans for the future?

PK: I may get into rally driving but my dream is to build a track in Soweto to get children from the township involved in the sport.

We have identified an area close to Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital that would be suitable and we are having discussions with various parties. Hopefully it doesn't remain a dream and we implement what we envisage. It would be a massive financial outlay but WesBank have expressed an interest in the project.

lTo view a video of this interview log on to