Building race cars sounds like something akin to rocket science, but 56-year-old Johanna Goitsimang says it’s one of the easiest things to learn.
Can’t say I agree, but as I watch her create what’s eventually going to be a motorbike, she describes her job as the best, having acquired numerous amazing skills to teach – just like her late mother, who passed these on to her.
Goitsimang, who works at Midvaal Raceway and specialises in fibreglass, says there weren’t opportunities to learn how to create things such as boats, cars and bikes after she left school. But she happened to get into the industry, that she now loves, by default.
“I finished matric and my mother, who was building boats for a company in Vaal Marina, took me to work with her and taught me everything I now know about using fibreglass to build products.”
The warm and friendly woman, who works on her own in her Midvaal Raceway workshop, is surrounded by the sight of cars that will soon be screeching on the tracks not too far from where she builds them. She even designed some of these herself.
“I’m old now and hope that I can teach other kids, especially girls, how to do this amazing job. Hopefully, they can go further than I did. If I could go to a school and teach someone how to be a fibreglass product expert I would be so happy.”
As she works on what will be the seat of a motorbike, Goitsimang says that the next generation could start their own businesses, which will help to lower the unemployment rate.
“So many people are surprised when they see who builds their cars. Others want to know how I do it. To me, anyone can do this easily, but you just need to have the desire to work with your hands. Whatever you create with your hands has to be done with love and I love everything that leaves this workshop.”
The owner of Midvaal Raceway, Nino Venturi, says Goitsimang has all the skills needed to work at some of the biggest manufacturers of race cars around the world.
“I’ll be so glad if young women and children could come and see what we do: from the design to what I create, Nino’s addition of the engine and Phillip [Kekana] who drives and tests the cars,” she says.
Goitsimang mixes products together, their fumes making it almost impossible for me to breathe easily. But she doesn’t bat an eyelid or complain, as she smiles and explains the importance of working in a clean environment. “Anything that is done in dirt will be ugly and I love creating beautiful things.” I ask whether she has ever driven in any of the cars she’s made, “No, no no! It’s too fast! I’m afraid,” she says, bursting into laughter. “They must drive slow, neh? I should do it because when these people are driving here ... the speed of that car is too much for my old heart.”
Goitsimang says she wakes up at four in the morning to travel to work from Everton. “It takes me two and a half hours to get here, either by bus or by taxi, and it’s the same story going home when I leave at 2.30pm, but it’s not hard because it makes me happy being here.”
She says it takes her about two weeks to complete creating the body of a motorbike and three weeks for a car.
Venturi says the dream is to start a school at the race track that would have Kekana, who mentored and taught late racing driver Gugu Zulu and Goitsimang, teach kids how to build cars from scratch and race. “We have to improve the facilities first and have kids receive training from Johanna and learn to race from Phillip,” both of whom he says are concerned about leaving a legacy behind.
“You know, Johanna can do magic, she’s one of the best I’ve ever seen, but the problem is the young kids of today don’t care for things that need them to work with their hands.” He takes me to see a completed car that was created by Goitsimang (the engine done by himself) and says her skills and the bodies she creates are astounding. “I hope we can teach kids that, when they have passed the test, they can drive on this race course with a car that they built themselves from scratch.”
Goitsimang says while she couldn’t encourage her children to take over from her, hopefully she can empower another young woman to become one of the best in the world.
- Anyone serious about learning from Goitsimang or helping with the school that Venturi envisages can call Venturi on 082 774 4285