Tschops back on track with Sasol GTC debut
Legendary Port Elizabeth racing driver Batshobonke “Tschops” Sipuka made his Sasol GTC debut last weekend, and despite not having the best day at the office in the first round of the competition, he believes things will get better.
Sipuka was unveiled as the second driver alongside Simon Moss for the Terry Moss Racing team 2019 season at a press briefing held at the Audi Centre in February, and he believes this will be his biggest challenge yet.
Having started his racing career with Moss in 1999, almost six years have passed since the 40-year-old last drove in a competitive race.
Born and bred in Qumbu in the Transkei, Sipuka achieved legendary status in motorsport by competing in a diverse range of categories locally and globally, including Formula Volkswagen in Germany, a 25-hour endurance race at Spa Francorchamps, saloon-car racing in Malaysia and super-truck racing in SA.
But it was his record wins with Terry Moss Racing that stand out most, having won the Volkswagen Polo Cup titles back to back in 2002 and 2003.
On his return to the Terry Moss Racing team, Sipuka said he received a call from team principal Moss asking him to come and have a “shakedown” in the car.
“I was a bit hesitant, but I agreed because I thought it was just a shakedown – where we put the car through its paces to see if there are any faults and whether it is race-ready.
“I did about 10 or 12 laps, and I think Terry was happy with what he saw, and a few days later, he suggested we do the first round and then take things from there,” he said.
That practice session was the first time the 40-year-old father of two had been back behind the wheel of a race car since he left the sport in 2012.
He said, as a racing driver, it was “great to be back behind the wheel again”.
“It is a great experience. When you drive the car, it reminds you of what was. There are moments where you can sit back and rethink the moments you once had, and after a while all the memories start flooding back,” Sipuka recalled.
He said the call from Terry was very unexpected, as he had no plans to get into a racing car again.
“In all fairness, this was the team I began my racing career with, so it was not very difficult to convince me to get behind the wheel again.
“I’ve had more success with this team than with any other team,” he explained.
Speaking about his return to the competitive scene at Port Shepstone’s Dezzi Raceway, a track he has not previously visited, he said it was good to be back among the other competitors.
His decision to return to the racing scene came as a shock to his family, having been out of the game for such a long time, but he said he had received the full support of his wife, Siphokazi, and daughters Talisa and Zandile.
“It came as a shock [for them] as I had been out of it for a long time, and they have to deal with all the build-up and emotions of a race weekend, but they never really kicked it back and said if I still had it in me, then why not?” he said.