Jean “Panjero” Kruger is not your average boy-next-door. He is a daredevil with a mission – to thrill. Kruger, 12, is as boyish as they come but wait till he gets behind the wheel of his “Gusheshe” – an idol name for a BMW 325is – to appreciate how he quickly earns the awe of spectators and the respect of seasoned car spinners. He joined the adrenaline-pumping township motor sport two years ago and has become the top spinner and leader of his team.
On Saturday Jean, from Mafikeng, in North West, stole the show at the Battle of the Nations stunt parade at Mahem Raceway, Pretoria. Jean is one of a few spinners to have mastered the technique of locking the turning car’s accelerator and steering wheel in place so that he can leap out of the spinning car . With his co-driver Kevin Abrahams, 30, by his side, Jean drove the crowd insane when he performed, standing on the roof of the car with one foot on the open door.
“To me the crowd is what petrol is to the car – fuel. This is my playground and this is my toy,” he said, pointing at the car. The power to thrill runs in the blood of the Kruger boys. His 16-year-old brother, Austin “Powers”, is also a mean-machine on the track. His speciality is the multiple-spin, in which he spins the car, leaps out of it and, when it is covered in smoke from the screeching tyres, jumps into the swirl and speeds off in a cloud of dust.
About 30 spinners and drifters from Botswana, Swaziland and Mozambique battled it out for the hearts and minds of the crowd at Mahem Raceway. From humble beginnings five years ago at a 1000cc race for self-built cars in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, the event is now a top crowd puller in Tshwane. Organised by Sosh Spin Kingz, it is the initiative of two motorsport enthusiasts: Lesego Skosana, 28, and Tshepang Mkhonza, 32.
Skosana said that as the event grew in popularity it drew participants from other African countries and throngs of local fans and they decided to move to a bigger venue. “We brought it to Mahem last year and the response has been massive. We were targeting 7000 spectators but by 6pm we had more than 7500.” The event costs R350,000 to stage – including paying the participants, booking their accommodation and providing used tyres. The hire of the privately owned raceway costs R80000 a day.
Skosana said he expected the next event – the Summer Showdown – to be even bigger. Tshwane municipality has teamed up with the organisers to warn against illegal drag racing on public roads. In 2011 three people were killed in an horrific accident in which two cars drag racing on Voortrekker road crashed into two other cars that were not racing.