REST IN PEACE GUGU: The South African motoring industry mourns the tragic death of Gugu Zulu. Image: David Ledbitter
Cape Town - Earlier in July, Wheels24 reported that South African rally champion Gugu Zulu died while attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Many motoring industry journalists, writers and experts sent us their thoughts regarding Zulu's tragic death and the affect the veteran has had on local motorsport.
South Africa's motoring fraternity mourns the passing of Zulu:
READ: Wheels24 remembers #GuguZulu
Phuti Mpyane: The phone call did the opposite of what was expected. 'Are you fine Phuti? " the voice at the other end asked. I wasn't fine. I was shattered. Shocked, sad, and all the associated emotions. However I now understand why you never said die.
I get it now why as teenagers you never hesitated to cycle all the way from Soweto to Bryanston to take photos of Ferraris and Cobras. Yes, many don't know that your favourite car in world was a Shelby Cobra.
So many moments we shared; all night PS3 racing; that night with a loud, supercharged Nissan 350Z; weekend karting; family gatherings; the laps around Killarney Raceway with the Civic Type R; so many memories.
I now understand the pedal -to-the-metal outlook. I see why you became a success at all the racing codes you entered.
I now understand your undying love for Letshego AND Lelethu; your Mom and Dad and Sister. I understand why you smiled to the world.
I understand why your name rolled off easily on the tongues of your fellow man, colleagues, friends, neighbours, strangers nje in general.
You were a good guy with a big heart and a metal foot. You just had little time to spread your magic. Hamba kahle Zulu Warrior!
Image: Phuti Mpyane
Benedict Maaga: It was clear from the time that I first met Gugu Zulu that he was a true champion. No so much for his racing achievements that were still to come, but his attitude towards motor racing and his competitors.
Though I'm not sure I'm qualified to be called a competitor, as he always left us in the dust in the Sports 2000 series. On track he was a consummate professional who knew the perseverance, dedication, skill and work ethic required to become a champion.
Off track he was kind, giving of his time, offering a kind word and some advise if asked, and caring about the well being of those around him and their families. Family was clearly quite important to him as the love and support of his family to see him succeed was quite clear. Many of his on track competitors benefitted from the generosity of his family, with words of encouragement or last minute help with strapping into your race harness.
It was also this nurturing part of Gugu that saw him take on some exemplary projects to try and better the lot of his fellow citizens who were not as lucky as some of us. If you asked him about this work, you could sense the passion not only in his enthusiasm, but also the glint in his eyes accompanied by that infectious smile.
It has been an honour and a privilege to watch him grow to become the national icon that we have now lost. He will be sorely missed. Heartfelt condolences to his wife Letshego, his daughter Lelethu, the Zulu family, and Gugu's friends.
Cindi Crossling Harding: So sad and so sorry to hear of the loss of another one of my precious friends. Gugu, you were there for me and my first driver after loosing Paul. I can't believe you are gone, you are such a good soul, always helping others. Rest in Peace my friend, you are in really good company ... My sincere sympathy to Letshego.
Image supplied by Cindi Harding
Anton van Graan: I met Gugu for the first time in the Longmore forests between stages during a Volkswagen Rally in July 2006. He was campaigning a factory backed Class A5 Citigolf at the time. What struck me is that he made me feel like I was the most important person, even though he was amped for the next stage which was about to start.
Over the following number of years I was privileged to be part of a number of national rallies doing duty as the service park manager. This allowed me to get a bit closer to the crews, including Gugu, who by this time had become a good friend. He was always ready for a photo or a friendly chat. But one thing that remained the same as the day I met him, was the humble and positive person he was, even when he was going through a bad patch workwise or when things did not work out on the stages.
I will surely miss him, he has left a massive void my life and in SA Motorsport.
I recall a message I once saw – For the concert of life, there be no programme. Thank you Gugu for the honour of being able to be part of your concert.
Image: Anton van Graan
Johan Jonck: Will always remember him for his willingness to share the Arrive Alive road safety messages to a wider audience – and for the adventurer that he was – he has lived a life well lived and we would like to extend our condolences to his wife and daughter, friends and relatives.
Vuyi Mpofu: I am shocked to the core at the passing of Gugu Zulu. He will may not be here physically but he will always remain my brother, friend, hero and inspiration. I first met Gugu in 2011 shortly after starting out in the motoring industry. I was trying to find my way in the vastly male dominated field and invited him for a coffee and chat.
As an avid motoring fan I had watched his career over the years and had always been in awe so meeting him was like a dream come true for me. He quickly put me at ease like the humble gentleman I would come to learn him to be and his counsel that day so many years ago still rings true for me till today. There are avenues of my business I may not have readily ventured into had Gugu not encouraged me to do so.
Image: David Ledbitter
Our paths crossed countless times over the years and through all the time I knew him Gugu was always humble, ready to lend a hand of an ear and always quick to flash his pearly whites. We worked fairly closely during his short tenure racing under the Sasol banner and we did a series of interviews about in-car baby safety closer to the time of him becoming a father. To say he was excited was an understatement. The pain I feel today is indescribable. I am shattered and utterly broken. Devastated. Heart-broken.
It is nearly impossible to imagine how someone with so much life could be without life but I take comfort in many things a few being that:
1. Gugu unreservedly lived and enjoyed life to the fullest
2. He never let setbacks hold him down for long.
3. He inspired people of all walks of life – of all ages, races
4. He ALWAYS had a ready smile – even when he wasn’t completely up to smiling Gugz had time and a joke for all his fans.
The motoring industry will never be the same without him. He has left a void which will not be easy to fill but somewhere out there is a young man or woman who will rise and follow in his footsteps because they gained courage – as I did – from Gugu’s life. My sincere prayers are with Letshego and Lelethu and the entire Zulu family, including his colleagues, sponsors, fans and the motoring industry of South Africa at large. Lala kahle bhut wam’.