Duct and drive: These jerry-built jalopies are good to go

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Duct and drive: These jerry-built jalopies are good to go

Homemade box carts are taking over the streets of Joburg this weekend. Find out why

Journalist


They won’t be racing in Mustangs or Mazdas, but when they take to the streets of Johannesburg on Sunday in their box carts, it will be gravity and heart pulling them to the finish line.
In backyards and workshops, weird and wonderful nonmotorised things posing as vehicles are taking shape – some held together with copious amounts of duct tape. And all in preparation of the Red Bull Box Cart Race, a global event for amateur drivers racing homemade soapbox carts.
Each handmade machine is inspired by their creativity, a sense of adventure and fun. It’s been eight years since the last Red Bull Box Cart Race took place in Johannesburg, in Soweto in 2010. Red Bull has held more than 100 box cart races around the world since the first one in Brussels in 2000.
This year, Sandton Drive will be the track for the 72 teams competing for bragging rights. This racing event challenges teams to design and build outrageous, human-powered soapbox dream machines and compete against the clock in a downhill race.
But there are two teams who are seeking more than just bragging rights. These Johannesburg-based teams are team Bulldozer from the Adora-Bull Terrier Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Vereeniging and Rubbish Refined. Team Bulldozer will use the race to highlight the rescue and rehabilitation of pit bull terriers.
The group, captained by Ian Kahn and supported ably by Andre Dumas, Eugene Botha and Dean Blignaut, are close friends who have been volunteering to help and rehome their furry friends for more than three years. 
Their cart will be built according to the notorious egg-shaped face of a bull terrier, and they hope to be a proud representation of the breed. 
Riaan van der Merwe of Adora-Bull Terrier Rescue, the nonprofit organisation behind the cart, said they were just a group of “crazy” people who shared a love for bull terriers. Their sole purpose is to create awareness for an animal that is “marred by misconceptions”.
“This breed is vilified; people don’t know bull terriers are the kindest dogs. That child will turn out to be just like that. Through this race we are trying to change the misconception of bull terriers,” Van der Merwe said.
Apart from his “real” job as head of supply chain at a corporate organisation, he said the team started building their cart a month ago, with his only box cart racing experience coming from YouTube videos.
Their cart, which will resemble a bull terrier, is made out of recycled goods such as plastic bags, wires, papier-mâché and recycled metal.
Another team using recycled material is Rubbish Refined. Their aim is to highlight the plight of waste pickers and street recyclers in the City of Johannesburg.
Their captain, Goolam Sirkhoth, a truck builder by trade and now involved in construction and logistics, will be racing with Fahim Coovadia, Ziyaad Mamoojee and Justin Carver. Also on his team are Raeesah Mangera, Nabeelah Carelse and Cashel Harris.
Sirkhoth, 30, who describes himself as an extreme sports fanatic, said they started building their cart only two weeks ago.
Passionate about recycling, his wakeup call was a few years ago when he was almost involved in a motorcycle accident with a waste picker.
“I almost lost my life to one of these guys. I was coming around the corner, doing a stupid speed, and I’ll admit that. It was at night, and I didn’t see this guy pulling his trolley in the road. I swerved just in time. I got off my bike and had a big fight with him, asked him how he could just walk in the middle of the road. He asked me how could we just leave dirt and rubbish lying around. That man changed my life. He cut me down to size,” Sirkoth said. 
Since then he’s been acutely aware of the scale of littering and the state of the environment, which these street recyclers help to keep clean. This is why Sirkhoth, together with his friends, will be racing to honour who he regards as “street heroes”.  
While most racers will be seated upright, Sirkhoth, who will be the sole driver of his team’s cart, will race face forward, lying on his tummy.
“These guys clean up after us, and we think they’re a nuisance. I believe these are the hardest working people in South Africa. And no one gives them anything. They work 12 hours a day pulling over 100kg,” Sirkhoth said.
Having already taken his cart for a test drive, Sirkhoth said on an open road with no obstacles, his cart did 62km free rolling.
The race starts at 11am on Sunday on Sandton Drive in Johannesburg.
The following roads will be affected from September 14-17
Sandton Drive will be closed between the corners of Alice Lane and Grayston Drive from 10am on Friday, September 14, to 6am on Monday, September 17.
Road closures on Sunday, September 16, from 5am to 6pm include:
- The intersection of Grayston and 5th Street;
- The intersection of 5th Street and Fredman Drive; and
- The intersection of Sandton Drive and Rivonia.
For details on road closures for the Red Bull Box Cart race visit the Joburg Tourism website.

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