Motorsport driver Xolile Letlaka doesn’t hold back in his assessment of the landscape of motorsport in South Africa.
Having always been an advocate for transformation and inclusivity in motorsport, the racing driver and businessman says motorsport in the country continues to be an exclusive, elitist sport for white people.
“Motorsport has been an exclusive, elitist sport for white people; now we are here to change that, to change the face of the sport and inspire black kids to pursue this as a career,” said Letlaka.
“We want children from disadvantaged communities to see black faces on the track and believe that they too can achieve success regardless of where they come from.”
The season has been nothing short of spectacular, featuring the SA GT National Championship with 12 rounds across the country, complemented by seven rounds of the SA Endurance Inter-Provincial Championship.
This is all led by the trailblazing Letlaka, who made history as the first-ever black promoter with his business partners from SAES, Izak Spies and Wayne Riddell, motorsport legends.
Letlaka is known for his work in business but more so as an advocate for transformation and inclusivity in motorsport.
He leads a team of drivers that competes locally and internationally. Letlaka and his team left a mark in motorsport by acquiring championship status for the South African GT National Championship in 2022.
“I am a black man from Mthatha, and I grew up never imagining that I would participate in a sport like this.
“This event is about that. We have put in a lot of money to make it work, not to profit off it but to demonstrate to black and POC communities that our dreams are valid,” he said.
Letlaka says the event provides the perfect opportunity to show that people of colour can compete in motorsport too.
“Inclusiveness is our quest every day, and we are pushing to make sure that the sport must transform.
“It’s seen as an exclusive, elitist white sport, and it needs transformation. That's why I got involved and bought the series so that it can be open to everyone and it’s accessible, and corporates can come back and see the value in it,” he added.
He believes that the talent is there for South Africa to be among the top in motorsport, but that talent just hasn’t been unearthed.
“For sure we have plenty of talent. We are told that the South African carting people are probably the best in the world.
“The South African carting series is ranked very top in the world , but because there is no sponsorship, no government involvement, these people’s passions die at an early age because they can’t fund themselves while they are among the best in the world during their youth.
“Now, the kids who are seen as the best are the privileged kids whose fathers are paying to further their careers.
“If there is an understanding of how the sport functions, because I don’t think there is, if there was a complete reach out and diversity in the sport, we would have plenty of numbers.
“And what happens when you have numbers? There is capital and investment, and corporates come back. The backbone is volume and people. That’s why we are doing what we are doing.”
The 2023 South African National Championship consists of 10 SA GT Championship races and five SA Endurance rounds, representing a strategic effort to reduce costs and support competitors during the evident economic challenges.
Nineteen competitors have started a race this year, while the SA Endurance National Championship has 68 drivers with an average of 25 cars per event. This event has officially attracted no less than 190 cars to the start line.
The series will see drivers such as Fikile Holomisa, Stuart White, Letlaka and the youngest driver in the International GT Open, Mikaeel Pitamber.
The event will see the likes of Cassper Nyovest, DJ Zinhle, Mörda and the Kings of The Weekend perform live, bringing high-end entertainment to an exclusive audience at the track today and tomorrow.
The SA Endurance National Championship includes multiple performance-related classes, namely the Index of Performance Championship. This unique aspect rewards consistency throughout the season, providing every competitor an equal chance, regardless of the class or vehicle status.
The series has expanded its reach beyond South Africa’s borders, regularly attracting competitors from Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
This aligns with the series’ philosophy of being truly “Southern African”, incorporating participants from other African nations. The long-term vision is to extend these thrilling races to other African countries.
Letlaka said he was incredibly motivated to succeed in getting racing to be more diverse and inclusive in South Africa.
“I am sure anyone who is black and South African worries about the fact that everything is enjoyed by a few, but it will be a quest for all of us to ensure that everything we do must reflect the dynamics of the way that this country is and the demographics.
“You cant have a sport that has 80% or 90% white people competing in it. It can’t happen; it shouldn’t be happening.
“If you go to bed and sleep and don’t do anything about this, then you are clearly not interested in change.”