Red Bull gives you Wiiiiings - Box Cart Style

"Red Bull are having their Box Cart Race again. I think we should enter and You must be the driver!"

"Okay, No problem, I'm in"

And that's how it started. The Red Bull Box Cart Race was something I had no clue about. I just heard the word 'Race' and 'Drive' and I was hooked. Little did I know, the race involved a list of things to be achieved before any racing took place.

1) Get a 4-person team together. Elton the DJ. Bradley the engineer. Reagan the clown/entertainer and myself, the driver. Check!

2) Design your own cart and send designs to RB for approval - this was the entry form as it were. After some brainstorming with the team and our talented Uncle Eric, we came up with a plan to weld two mountain bikes together to form a 4-wheeled, lightweight racing machine. Red Bull liked it, and we were in. 1 of the 55 teams selected out of more than 700 entries. Check!

3) Build your own cart: No engine; more than 2 wheels; restrictions in size; maximum weight 100kgs; MUST have a working hooter; MUST have a working steering mechanism(but of course) and MUST have a working brake system.

And this is where the fun started. Uncle Eric 'Mrebi' Middleton, took the bull by the horns and within a matter of 2 Sundays of welding and cutting and trimming and bending, we had a very good first draft version of our cart. The steering was seriously homemade, and the brakes were the same system that was on the Mountain bikes when they arrived, except that only the rear brake cables could be wangled in such a way that our homemade footbrake could work. With a cart almost mechanically sound, we decided to do some testing. And this is what happened. (Eish)

Plan B: The brakes were suspect. As soon as I hit them, the right rear locked up and I rolled the thing after just 1 test. Eish!! So we frantically rushed to the bike store and got another 2 rims. With these fitted, the team decided that no more testing could be done. If anyone was going to roll it again, it would have to be on the day in front of thousands of people. Eish again!

4) Get a Team name and a theme for your team: Somehow, we ended up with the name JIVA INKUNZI which loosely translated means, the Dancing Bulls. Catchy hey? And we decided to name the cart, INKUNZI SPEEDSTER. The team theme was supposed to be around state-of-the-art engineering technology, but with a hint of fun. The real theme was the exact opposite, with FUN being the operative word and state of the art being a complete lie. With Red Bulls that were given to us every few weeks, we seemed to be in a general state of clowning around. And after 4 weekends of work, We had our dance routine prepared, our brand was solid and our kart was complete. We were Ready!

Thursday morning, the day before the event, we were all tasked to be there for the first of our 3 judging sessions. Soweto at 7 in the morning was perfect! The culture, the colours and the people were very welcoming, and it dawned on us that all our clowning around would be for the entertainment and enjoyment of this historical place. When we arrived, something was very wrong. Our competitors were all there, carts and all, but somehow, we were VERY underdressed and our pit area was even worse. We had missed the bit about decorating your pit area and creatively bringing across your theme. Four bewildered faces stared at each other and at every other team there. This was waaaay more serious than we had anticipated. Man! There were karts there made entirely of aluminium. There was a Spaza Shop, with all the stock including a live chicken. There were sportscar replicas; 3 wheeled lightweight works of art; Formula 1 replicas; Bathtubs with running water. I am talking serious stuff. And there we were, with our beloved Inkunzi Speedster. And that's it! We were feeling very conspicuous! And the media and few people that were there made it worse by not paying any attention to us whatsoever.

So we hatched Plan C: Reagan and Elton headed into Soweto to try and salvage something of this situation. Bradley and I remained with IS and made some desperate calls to do the same. Media would be with us within 2 hours and by then, we would need to get our story straight and have out pit area fairly respectable. After hanging some printed sheets and pillow cases, and some posters around our machine, we were as ready as we could be. We certanly weren't the best, but we were feeling much better. The media came and went as did the competitors and though we were clearly not the favourites to win in the decor, there was a quiet confidence about our carts performance.

Friday 24th September: National Heritage Day and Race Day for the Red Bull Box Cart Race 2010. Soweto came alive in the morning sun, and crowds began to gather around the narrow 400 metre course that we were seeing for the first time. A long narrow straight followed by a S-bend leading onto another straight, then onto another kink preceded by a 20 cm ramp before the end stretch. I wasn't too phased. It was way less intimidating than I had conjured up in my mind. So, track walk done, briefing done, and the races started. We knew we were going to be in for a long wait when the schedule was passed around. We would be the 34th Team to run.
We were supported by great friends and family who came from all over Joburg, and even managed to get some support from some of the local kids. Our Ladies team T-shirts were printed in Zulu, but our spelling was wrong which didn't impress all but one or two men who came to lecture us on why it was wrong and why we are embarassing. Oh well, My bad!

At about 14:30, we wheeled our beloved IS up the hill to the start line. The thousands of people in the crowd seemed to inspire me as I started to realise that I was about to put the hopes of 3 other guys on my shoulders. Thanks to the commentators, Gugu Zulu in particular, that weight was quadrupled after they mentioned that I was the only one to ever have driven an F1 car. No pressure then.

But before we raced, we had to 'show dem da moves'. Our unique entertainment piece was a combination of Tsipa & Quasa Quasa moves which involved some heavy gyrating movements. The crowd seemed to love it and most of the judges did too, except for Pollen Ndlanya who is obviously still bitter about not being young enough to play in the 2010 World Cup.

With about 4 teams who made it below the 60 second mark, that was where I was aiming. The 3 iEngines, Reagan, Elton and Bradley gave me a superb push and I was off. This is what happened.

Once again, the brakes let us down. In fact, this time, they didn't work at all. I knew that if I were to take the s-bend at the speed I was doing, it would be all over, so I scraped some of the sides of the hay bales that lined the track and slowed down enough to steer through the corners. YES, we did it. No accidents, No rolling, and no embarrassing stops on the track.

I met Carol Manana at the bottom who gave us our time: A disappointing but respectable 1:01:26. Eish. I was somewhat gutted. I knew we wouldn't be quickest, but a sub-60 would have been quite respectable. After some calculations that put us 7th fastest overall and quite surprisingly, our creative score was 39/50. MUCH better than we had initially thought.

And that was pretty much it. Adrenalin pumping, legs shaking, I made my way back up to a very proud and cheerful team. We could hold our heads high knowing that as 1st time entrants, we had made it close to the top 3(in the speed stakes). More importantly, we had come to Soweto to have the time of our lives. Yes the sun was hot and the food was off, but the support and time with friends and family was unmatched; the crowds were inspirational and the event itself was top notch. No hitches, no issues, no unhappiness - just genuine unprecedented FUN.

Our beloved Inkunzi Speedster rests now: waiting for the day in 4 years time, when she will be refreshed, reformed and refined to take on the challange once again.

Nice one Uncle Mrebi! Nice one Jiva Inkunzi team and the beautiful ladies who supported us through all the late nights, building, arguing and dancing. Nice one Red Bull South Africa!

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