car SPINNING craze

THE revving of the engines roused Douglas Baloyi from the warmth of his bed and led him to the parking lot of Lenasia's Trade Route Mall on a cold Sunday afternoon.

THE revving of the engines roused Douglas Baloyi from the warmth of his bed and led him to the parking lot of Lenasia's Trade Route Mall on a cold Sunday afternoon.

"I was sleeping at home, down with flu and I didn't know there was spinning at the mall. I just got up from bed and followed the sound of the engines," Baloyi said.

Baloyi, 26, said he could hear the distinct sound of the engines from his shack at Thembelihle informal settlement, about 1km from the shopping mall.

A keen follower of car spinning, Baloyi said he was eager to watch the spectacle because he missed cheering for the drivers in his home town of Pretoria.

"In Pretoria we have Spin City. It is nicer there because different cars, not just BMWs, spin. I don't mind paying the R30 entrance fee because it is just so exhilarating."

The mall hosted the exhibition with New Nation Spinners as part of a 10-day car festival, with manufacturers displaying models in the shopping centre.

A parking lot near the entrance has been turned into a mini racing circuit, which is open to shoppers at no charge.

A low barrier made of old tyres marks off a rectangular area from where the cars spin. Distracted from their shopping by the revving of the engines, curious onlookers start trickling from as early as 10am. Mothers and fathers leave their children on shopping trolleys and form a wall around the "arena".

Aneesa Provence, 31, brought along her four children to watch. She becomes animated as she explains her fascination with spinning.

"I've loved the screeching, the burning of tyres and the sound of engines since I was a little girl. I love it when they jump out of the car and perform stunts," Provence said.

An ambulance parks metres away from the perimeter and fire extinguishers are on stand-by in the event that some vehicles catch fire.

The likelihood of that happening does not faze the drivers and spectators.

"When you get into a car to spin, you accept that anything can happen. You just need to stay focused," said Linda Tshabalala.

Known as Lady Lee, 23-year-old Tshabalala is the only woman spinner in the line-up.

Tshabalala said she owed her skills to Sabelo Ximba, better known as Damage, who taught her to spin a little over two months ago.

The crew spin with old BMWs 325i and 331i, with peculiar names like "Green Mamba" and "Big Man" emblazoned on the windscreens.

Like shrapnel from a missile, the worn tyres of the cars spew bits of rubber in all directions as the back wheels smudge the parking area with marks similar to the figure eight. Sparks fly from the tyres, generating smoke whose smell lingers long after the cars have left the circuit.

Damage is unceremoniously ushered out of the circuit when the bumper of his BMW falls off.

It is these kinds of mishaps and the drivers' stunts that excite the crowd, who whistle and cheer as spinners display their prowess.

But these stunts would be nearly impossible without a "co-pilot" to steer the car or slow it down while the driver performs stunts, said Fuad Nathoo.

Nathoo's co-pilot is Franklin "Krikie" Guinea, a shy nine-year-old, who says nothing more than his name. But when spurred on by the cheering crowd, Krikie is transformed into a daredevil, sticking out his tiny frame from the window of the moving car.

Nathoo said he did not want an "old co-pilot" and chose Krikie not only to steer his car during stunts but also to help fix his car.

"If I climb out of the car he keeps steering and plays with the brakes to slow down the car," Nathoo said.