"After setting the 120-metre record we stopped – it was becoming too dangerous and expensive".
Hot stuff – riding a sidecar through a 120 metre long fire tunnel involves temperatures of over 900 degrees Celcius – enough to ignite paint on the machine and boil sweat inside the riders’overalls. Picture: Michel Bega
Guinness World Records, especially those involving dangerous pursuits, are not easily come by. People who hold such records are scarce, and those who own two such records at the same time almost unheard of. The added fact that very few people over the age of 60 hold dangerous world records at all, makes South Africans Enrico Schoeman and Andre de Kock members of a very, very, exclusive world-wide club. Schoeman and De Kock jointly hold both the Guinness World Record for the "Longest Motorcycle Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire" and the "Longest Quadbike Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire". They…
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Guinness World Records, especially those involving dangerous pursuits, are not easily come by. People who hold such records are scarce, and those who own two such records at the same time almost unheard of.
The added fact that very few people over the age of 60 hold dangerous world records at all, makes South Africans Enrico Schoeman and Andre de Kock members of a very, very, exclusive world-wide club. Schoeman and De Kock jointly hold both the Guinness World Record for the “Longest Motorcycle Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire” and the “Longest Quadbike Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire“.
They set the Longest Motorcycle Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire in Parys, South Africa, on 5 September 2014, at a distance of 120.40 metres. It still stands, despite four separate overseas efforts to beat it. The longest Quadbike Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire was achieved by Schoeman and De Kock in Meyerton, Gauteng, South Africa, on 14 September 2019, at a distance of 36.59 metres.
Andre de Kock, left, Enrico Schoeman, the Fire Tunnel Quadbike, and the pairing’s latest Guinness World Record certificate.
Schoeman, a fuel station manager and The Citizen Motoring‘s De Kock plan to improve the quadbike record distance considerably, as soon as Covid-19 regulations allow things like record breaking again. Both men have spent the majority of their lives in the motorsport world, with Schoeman racing off road bikes and De Kock 250cc Superkarts in their late teens.
They both ended up in the tough world of sidecar racing – Schoeman as a rider, and De Kock as a passenger. Though they never raced together as a team, they met at the Dunswart oval track, with Schoeman becoming De Kock’s safety man in a variety of stunts at the circuit.
“The owner, Piet Venter, decided the circuit should have a stunt every two months and he asked the sidecar passengers to do it, since he reckoned they were too crazy to recognise serious danger,” De Kock remembers.
Tough training – both De Kock and Schoeman hailed from the hard world of oval track sidecar racing. Picture: Mack van der Walt
His consequent stunts included crashing burning cars through pyramids of burning car wrecks, jumping burning cars through burning buses and barrel-rolling a burning bakkie through a burning wooden wall. A highlight came at the Tarlton drag strip, where De Kock lay on the back of a Westinghouse Jet dragster, doing the standing start quarter mile in 6.68 sec, with a top speed of 396 km/h.
In 1996, Schoeman and De Kock rode through a 30-metre long fire tunnel at Dunswart, using Schoeman’s Kawasaki-engined Australian sidecar. Shortly afterwards the oval circuits banned sidecar racing after the deaths of a number of racers and Schoeman’s machine ended up under a dust sheet in his home garage. Then the Dunswart circuit closed its gates permanently, and it looked as if the pairings’ stunt days were over. But, the advent of the internet and Google intervened.
“On an impulse in 2010, I Googled the Longest Motorcycle Ride Through a Tunnel of Fire, and was amazed to see it stood at just 63 metres,” That we could certainly manage, so we dug out the sidecar, stripped it, cleaned it and got it running, using favours from friends in the motorsport world,” Schoeman says.
In the late 1980s De Kock lay on the back of Johnny Pieters’ Westinghouse Jet Car dragster on four separate occasions, with their quickest run through the standing start quarter mile 6.68 sec, with a top speed of 396 km/h. Picture: Ken Oosterbroek
“In the old days, the Dunswart track paid for the stunts, providing cars, car wrecks, petrol, diesel and protective clothing. That era was over and we are both poor, so we went begging,” De Kock adds. Taking a video of the Dunswart fire tunnel run with them, they knocked on many doors. In the process, they lined up three long-term supporters – NJR Steel, for the metal in the sides of the fire tunnels, Truck and Cargo, for the transportation and erection of the tunnels and First Race, for the supply of fire retardant clothing.
“Without these people, we could not have attempted a single record. We do not have a low budget, we have a no budget. So we rely heavily on our backers, who have also become firm friends over the years,” Schoeman says. Motorcycle runs followed over the next four years – twice at Tarlton, twice at the Vaalwater Wildlife Festival and twice at the Rhino Motorcycle Rally in Parys.
“After setting the 120-metre record we stopped – it was becoming too dangerous and expensive, since the motorcycle engine, which was originally built in 1974, needed a full overhaul, which we could not afford,” Schoeman says.
“Then, I noticed that the world record for Riding a Quadbike Through a Fire Tunnel was just 25 metres,” De Kock says. “We scraped money together, bought the cheapest 400 cc quadbike we could find, and fire-proofed it by wrapping duct tape around its electrical systems.
The first test run with the quadbike went wrong, when the bike’s engine cut out, causing the back wheel to lock up and the pairing to crash just outside of the fire tunnel. “Ten metres earlier and we would not be here” Schoeman says. Picture: Michel Bega
“We also contacted our long-time friends and they, as always, provided steel, fireproof clothing and skillful hands. We did a 30-metre test run that gave us a fright – the engine cut out and we fell as we exited the tunnel – 10 metres earlier and we would not be here,” he adds.
Undaunted, the pairing did another run soon afterwards, to clinch the official record at the Midvaal circuit near Meyerton. Their plans to almost immediately improve on it were binned by Covid-19, and they do not anticipate being able to set any records this year.
“But, next year we will be back, tackling one of the records dreamed up by Evel Knievel, while also trying to improve the quadbike distance,” Schoeman says. “We have to do it – we are both getting very old, and must guard against the possibility of growing up,” De Kock concludes.
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