With all the hype and excitement surrounding the Wesbank Car of the Year competition it is easy to overlook the achievements of the individuals in motorsport, and the Guild of Motoring Journalists, with sponsor Bridgestone, annually hand out a Motor Sportsman of the Year award.
The incumbent for 2012 (following the announcement on Tuesday) is Leeroy Poulter, who drives a rally car for Toyota and who burst on the scene in 2010 and moved up to the premier S2000 class last year and ended the season as the top-seeded driver. It came as no surprise to many, and Leeroy has been a star from the moment he first sat behind a wheel. He’s so naturally gifted, it is almost freaky.
Another award handed out at the event is the Colin Watling Award for special achievement in motor sport by someone other than a competitor. The winner of this was the Kyalami Marshals’ Association, a small core of volunteers who tirelessly support motor sport. They are true unsung heroes, spending days in the sun so that the guys in the cars and on the bikes can rest assured that they will be assisted as quickly as possible if something does go wrong. It is not only at Kyalami where they are active; the same people work at other circuits and on rallies and off road races, helping out where they can for no other reason than their dedication to motor sport.
But one of the most interesting nominations for the Colin Watling award (Colin was an immensely talented and popular motoring and motorsport photographer who died in 1999) was Yoshyiaki Nakamura, CEO of Honda South Africa, who has promoted and supported the South African Motorcycle Riding Academy, a school that uses Honda’s NSF100 for instruction and racing by youngsters of all races and genders from 8 to 13 years old. Low-key and understated, Nakamura is a highly capable motorcycle racer himself, with quite a pedigree.
Thanks to organisations such as the KMA and individuals like Nakamura-san, motorsport in South Africa can be proud of itself.