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For the love of g-force and speed
Chassen Bright behind the steering wheel of the “incredibly quick” McLaren MP4-12C GT3. Photos: DARRYL KUKARD

HOME-GROWN racing champion of various provincial as well as national championships, Chassen Bright, started the 2020 racing season on an accelerating way, after being invited to race in an international specced McLaren MP4-12C GT3.

“It was a fantastic experience to drive something that is so quick. The McLaren simply is an incredible car. It might not be extremely fast on the straight, but the amount of grip is phenomenal,” said Chassen Bright, who has earned his South African Protea national motorsport colours multiple times.

Bright, who hails from Uitenhage, did a race in a McLaren at the East London Grand Prix racing circuit, and then did some testing at Aldo Scribante racetrack with this car which is worth probably R3.5 million. It was built in Woking by McLaren and is the same type of racing car which internationally is raced at the GT endurance series.

“What is interesting is that the pull-away procedures are tricky owing to the complexity of the proper racing gearbox. You can’t just pull-away like a normal car, you need to let the clutch come … let it take … let the wheels start to roll … get some speed … and then let go.

“The gear changes of the McLaren GT3 are so fast that the clutches have to be strong enough to hold them. If it had launched control, it would have been easier, because you would activate it and then off it goes.”

COVID-19 put a halt to racing across the globe and racers were left without the adrenaline of the sport they love so much.

“Unfortunately, owing to this pandemic and financial constraints, we will not enjoy the opportunity again this year to race in the McLaren. But, at the end of October I will be in action at Aldo Scribante, racing in an endurance series in my own car, a Lotus 7, which also is pretty quick.”

As racers for months were not allowed to get on the track, most ironically enjoyed the opportunity to “drive” cars they would never have had the chance to drive! This was made possible through virtual simulation racing. Bright has also set-up a simulator to keep himself eye fit for racing.

“During lockdown I’ve spent an average of up to six hours daily racing virtually. It was a lot of fun and it is very realistic. The virtual racing is live against racers across the globe and the same rules as real racing apply. With iRacing we did a few South African online racing series’, but mostly we competed on the international front against proper Formula 1 drivers. The other online racing was on RaceRoom.

“My eyes definitely are racing fit, but I’m not car fit, as we were not allowed on the track.”

Bright started his racing career at the age of four-and-a-half, participating in moto-cross. He raced bikes up to the age of eight and then moved on to karting, which he raced for many years to come.

As a former learner of Daniel Pienaar THS, the only school in Africa to host motorsport as a school sport, Bright has been awarded the Daniel Pienaar full and honorary colours for his racing and also was awarded his Protea colours for motorsport.

Bright is a member of the Algoa Motor Sport Club, based at the Aldo Scribante Raceway in the Coega IDZ and when not racing can often be seen helping local race drivers hone in on the skills.

“Although dangerous, moto-cross is the best experience you can get when you want to go into racing. The transition to karting is relatively easy for all who first did moto-cross racing because you already know the feel of things moving around.

“I always wanted to go four wheels as it was my scene and upbringing as my dad, Sparky, was a racer and rallied as well,” said Bright.

As racing is part of his genes, Bright is very much involved in a national development programme, training kids in karting. Therefore, he regularly visits Cape Town and Johannesburg to train young aspirant racers.

“Karting is pretty big and compared to anything else, karting is the closest step you’ll get to Formula 1 in terms of speed and g-force.

It might not be fast, but the distance you do it in is phenomenal. It is extreme, everything is narrow, tight, small, the hardest on your body and you are so close to the tar.

“If you ask me let’s go racing now, I will say yes ... let’s go karting!

“It is the most entertaining of all forms or racing and keeps you the most fit because it is extremely demanding on your body.”

Bright said his ideal breakthrough would be in the GT cars like the McLaren and to race overseas. But without serious funding this will remain a lifelong dream.

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