SA drifting champ Gutzeit savours ‘fantastic feeling’

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Quintin van Jaarsveld

Shane Gutzeit is savouring his position at the summit of South African drifting after he was crowned SupaDrift Series champion at Carnival City at the weekend.

The Oslo Beach star fired on all cylinders in his SR20-powered Nissan Silvia S15 this year and finally won the maiden national title that had eluded him for four years when he finished second in a smouldering hot Brakpan on Saturday.

Gutzeit crowned SA drifting champ

“It’s feels fantastic… It’s been a long time coming and to finally go all the way this year is very special and a fantastic feeling,” Gutzeit to eHowzit.

To the victor goes the spoils. (Supafly Design & Media)

To the victor goes the spoils. (Supafly Design & Media)

Like the sideways science itself, Gutzeit’s road to becoming national champion had several twists and turns. He showed potential in his debut season, finishing fifth, and registered back-to-back third positions in 2014 and 2015.

He patiently stayed the course as he shook off the odd crash, continued to burn up countless sets of tyres in practice and regional and national competition and, crucially, learned from his mistakes.

A more seasoned Gutzeit emerged this year and made his title intentions clear from the outset when he claimed his first-ever win in the series opener at the Red Star Raceway in Mpumalanga.

With the monkey off his back, Gutzeit showed new-found confidence and clinched Round Two in Cape Town. Two runner-up results sandwiched the only blemish on his 2016 record, a ninth place due to mechanical issues, and a win in Round Six at Carnival City put him firmly in the driver’s seat heading into the finale at the weekend.

“We got off to a really good start, built momentum with a few wins and was much more consistent than in previous years. Maybe it was the good luck of having a child that changed my mindset,” laughed Gutzeit, who welcomed his first child Brayden with wife and former pro golfer, Nicola Gutzeit (nee Eaton), just prior to the series finale.

Shane Gutzeit. (Supafly Design & Media)

Shane Gutzeit. (Supafly Design & Media)

With a commanding 83-point lead at the top of the standings, the GC (Gutzeit Clark) Racing driver technically just had to start his qualifying run in order to sew up the championship, but he was intent on finish his breakthrough year on a high.

“Every competitor lines up with one goal in mind and that’s to win. The goal was to get the car to cross the line at the very least so that we didn’t have to worry, and then compete with far less pressure.”

His competitive nature served him well and led to a fairytale finish to the series. After wrapping up the title with a fifth in qualifying, he worked his way into the final where he came up against his dad, Des.

It was the unluckiest of scenarios as Des, who had qualified 14th, enjoyed a fortuitous path to the final. Remarkably, the series stalwarts had never gone head-to-head at any point in tandem battles. Now, seemingly by fate, they were set to do battle in the first father and son final in SupaDrift history.

“We actually talked about how funny it was that my dad and I had never crossed paths in the series in the morning and sure enough, we ended up meeting in the final.

“I couldn’t believe that it worked out the way it did. Winning the championship was the ultimate goal, but going up against my dad in the final was the cherry on the cake.

“It’s hard to put into words…it was a moment.”

Intermittent engine problems had hampered Gutzeit all day and after having established a lead with a strong lead run, his engine packed up, handing Des his maiden series win and podium.

Des Gutzeit. (Supafly Design & Media)

Des Gutzeit. (Supafly Design & Media)

Runner-up Gutzeit said he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“My dad had a bit of fortune with one or two drivers having mechanical issues, but the best in the business have had the same fortune and he deserved to get in the final and to win it.

“Those things happen for a reason. I firmly believe that it was his for the taking. If I was meant to win, my car would’ve carried on, and he thoroughly deserves it. He’s been training hard and trying hard and it’s lovely to see him doing well.”

Father and son then celebrated their wins by showering each other with champagne. It’s a moment Gutzeit, said, he’ll never forget.

“I’ve never felt something like that in motorsport before…it was incredibly special.”

Des showers son Shane Gutzeit with champagne as the latter is crowned SupaDrift Series winner. (Supafly Design & Media)

Des showers son Shane Gutzeit with champagne as the latter is crowned SupaDrift Series winner. (Supafly Design & Media)

Reflecting on his four-year journey, Gutzeit said, “It has been a bit of a rollercoaster to be honest.

“Coming so agonisingly close to finishing second last year fuelled me this year, but I went into this year as a more seasoned and confident driver. More importantly, I feel I’ve become a more aggressive driver in terms of improving proximity, aggressive switches and things of that nature.

“I’ve made big mistakes, I’ve learned from them and I really came into my own this year as a better competitor. Much of that is thanks to the other drivers; I practiced a lot with them this year and they push me to become a better driver.”

Shane Gutzeit. (Supafly Design & Media)

Shane Gutzeit. (Supafly Design & Media)

His major speed bumps this year came when he, rather bizarrely, was forced to jump into his dad’s car in Cape Town in Round Two and somehow still managed to pull out the win, and his turbo exploding during a tandem run at the Rock Raceway in Round Four that ended his day prematurely.

Gutzeit praised his team for getting him through the tumultuous times and said he wouldn’t be where he is without them.

“We’ve built a fantastic car and all the credit goes to the team and our sponsors for giving us the tools. We’ve been developing a new engine this year and we battled in that regard.

“Fortunately, we’ve been able to carry another engine with us. We had some mechanical gremlins throughout the year, but never to the point that it stopped us in our tracks for good.

“Big thanks to my dad for giving us the opportunity to shine and bring it home for the South Coast. Thanks to Patrick and Senzo for being an important part of the team, from changing tyres to keeping the engine cool and to Steve Clark for making sure the engine sings beautifully and we have a top set-up.

“Thanks to the whole Dunlop Tyres team for giving us a competitive edge, to Sharpline Graphics for giving us the best-looking vehicle by far, to Expand-a-Sign for giving us exposure and being a good marketing tool and a special thanks to my wonderful wife for always supporting me ad being there every step of the way.”

Main photo: Des showers son Shane Gutzeit with champagne as the latter is crowned SupaDrift Series winner. (Supafly Design & Media)

Shane Gutzeit collage

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