Two American men got more than they had signed up when they were joined by two cheetahs while on the Grand Ruaha Safari in Tanzania. One of them entered the jeep, while the other settled down on the hood.
This was Britton Hayes and his stepfather Peter Heistein’s first trip to Africa together. They were observing cheetahs hunting in the Gol Kopjes of Serengeti National Park, and had stopped for lunch to observe some of the wild cats taking a break.
Heistein wrote on Instagram (below), that while they were photographing the cheetahs from the road, two younger brothers broke off and came towards their jeep. “The cheetah makes use of high points such as termite mounds to scan the environment. Apparently we represented a unique scouting platform to them. Before we knew it, one jumped on the hood of the safari vehicle while the other made use of the spare tires out back to get into the rear window.”
Though terrified, the men forced themselves to remain calm and avoid eye contact with the cheetahs, so as not to startle or provoke them. Hayes, the eerily still man visible in the video above, credits their guide Alex Mnyangabe with helping him remain calm, even as the cheetah nibbled on the seat right next to him.
A longer video below also shows the other cheetah, who took a liking for the hood of the jeep instead:
Sportspersons are known for their superhuman discipline, single-minded determination and the will to overcome all obstacles. Biographies, films and documentaries have brought to the fore the behind-the-scenes reality of the sporting life. Being up at the crack of dawn, training without distraction, facing injuries with a brave face and recovering to fight for victory are scenes commonly associated with sportspersons.
Racers are no different. Behind their daredevilry lies the same history of dedication and discipline. Cornering on a sports bike or revving up sand dunes requires the utmost physical endurance, and racers invest heavily in it. It helps stave off fatigue and maintain alertness and reaction time. It also helps them get the most out of their racecraft - the entirety of a racer’s skill set, to which years of training are dedicated.
Racecraft begins with something as ‘simple’ as sitting on a racing bike; the correct stance is the key to control and manoeuvre the bike. Riding on a track – tarmac or dirt is a great deal different from riding on the streets. A momentary lapse of concentration can throw the rider into a career ending crash.
Physical skill and endurance apart, racers approach a race with the same analytical rigour as a student appearing in an exam. They conduct an extensive study of not just the track, but also everything around it - trees, marshal posts, tyre marks etc. It’s these reference points that help the racer make braking or turning decisions in the frenzy of a high-stakes competition.
The inevitability of a crash is a reality every racer lives with, and seeks to internalise this during their training. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, racers are trained to keep their eyes open to help the brain make crucial decisions to avoid collision with other racers or objects on the track. Racers that meet with accidents can be seen sliding across the track with their heads held up, in a bid to minimise injuries to the head.
But racecraft is, of course, only half the story. Racing as a profession continues to confound many, and racers have been traditionally misunderstood. Why would anyone want to pour their blood, sweat and tears into something so risky? Where do racers get the fearlessness to do laps at mind boggling speed or hurtle down a hill unassisted? What about the impact of high speeds on the body day after day, or the monotony of it all? Most importantly, why do racers race? The video below explores the question.
The video features racing champions from the stable of TVS Racing, the racing arm of TVS Motor Company, which recently completed 35 years of competitive racing in India. TVS Racing has competed in international rallies and races across some of the toughest terrains - Dakar, Desert Storm, India Baja, Merzouga Rally - and in innumerable national championships. Its design and engineering inputs over the years have also influenced TVS Motors’ fleet in India. You can read more about TVS Racing here.
This article has been produced by Scroll Brand Studio on behalf of TVS Racing and not by the Scroll editorial team.