A local father and daughter are of the opinion that they are both beyond the time of getting nervous before a race and keeping focussed while having fun in a competitive manner is why Heath Bent and his 11-year-old daughter Tanieka, members of the Polokwane Oval Raceway, are feared competitors on the oval race track.
Tanieka is the club’s defending champion in the Ninja Midget class and has since the beginning of this year done a great job in keeping her title as she currently leads the class for this season.
She started racing at the age of eight and has always finished in a podium position since her first race. Keeping a steady hand on the steering wheel at speeds of about 80 km/h in her 60 cc race car, Tanieka holds the best lap time of 19,84 seconds.
“It is fun and the thrill I get from being on the race track is priceless,” she said when asked what she enjoys most about oval racing. Being a girl does not scare her in a world of sport for men. “Girls can do just as good and even better in anything men are doing,” she stated and continued explaining that her time on the track is long not gone as she will enter in the Rookie class the moment she turns 13. Heath Bent has been a name introduced to oval racing about five years ago. “I started in the 1660s class and joined the Hotrods class this year. I achieved my SA2 number last year after finishing second overall at the end of the 1660s national championships. Now it is time to take on a new challenge and the Hotrods is keeping the adrenaline pumping at all times,” he said.
Heath also entered for the National Hotrod Tour this year and is currently second in the pro-amateur division. “It is difficult to move into the Hotrod class and to be competitive from the start. We have been told the only other driver ever to have achieved immediate results was SA1 driver Jason Loosemore,” according to Heath. Heath qualified in the top five during the third leg of the Hotrod Tour recently hosted in Polokwane and won his first heat at the event. He was unable to complete the race after an accident which cost him the opportunity to move into the first position of the pro-amateur class of the tour. His next race in the Hotrod Tour will be next month in Johannesburg where he could qualify for the world championships in the United Kingdom should he gain the points needed.
Heath has always been a motorsport enthusiast and said that oval racing is one of the cheapest forms of motorsport. He also enjoyed short circuit racing but it became too expensive.
According to him the qualities of a good driver is someone with patience and respect for other drivers on and off the track. “It is not always about winning but about being consistent and the results will follow.”
Besides Tanieka his younger son Jayden (7) is also an avid racer in the Ninja Midget class. “The only thing that makes me nervous is watching them on the race track, but it is also a very proud moment not every father can enjoy. It is difficult to keep them happy and ready before a race and to get myself prepared for an event but it remains a privilege and honour to have them sharing the same interests as me,” Heath said.
This family can be seen in action during the next race at Polokwane Oval Raceway on 25 August.
Story and photo: RC Myburgh