Motorsport - It's Dangerous!

You can make a small fortune out of motorsport, but only by starting with a large one, or so the saying goes. By Adrian Burford

That’s why, when someone comes along and expresses an interest in the career of a youngster, promising to ‘find money’, most fathers will prick up their ears. Problem is, one Patrick Barnard seems to be out to weave a web of lies and thereby take potential sponsors – and also the competitor’s reputation – for a ride.

The sequence of events which led to Mr Barnard being exposed is an unusual one: he sent an e-mail to Sport and Cargo SA, the company which has the South African agency for Thule. As many of you will know, they make a range of excellent products: luggage, bike racks and other equipment for sports users and roof-top luggage boxes, to name a few.

I’ve had a long association with Thule, and am on their payroll as a consultant on motoring matters – what goes on in the broader motor industry obviously impacts their business.

So when I got an e-mail from their marketing team, forwarding a sponsorship “proposal” (I put it in inverted commas because it was a proposal in name only) I was quite curious: the name of the motorsport personality being promoted was very familiar to me and some of the claims made in the proposal were quite ludicrous.

One was that the young man ‘signed’ by Barnard had recently tested a Jetta GTC car and would be moving into the series for 2018. The other was that Barnard had worked closely with the likes of Hennie Groenewald and George Fouche. That turned out to be something of a half-truth – he did seek sponsors on their behalf some decades ago – with an unhappy ending in both instances. According to George, Barnard still owes him money…

Other statements raised red flags, for example, that the series the young man in question was competing in was a national championship one and that on average 8 000 spectators watched each race.

It appeared Barnard desperately wanted money from Thule – pronto. So I phoned the young man’s father – AJ Kernick, a respected racer, fabricator and car builder. Needless to say, he was speechless: he’s never so much as clapped eyes on Barnard nor spoken to him. Yet he claimed to represent Michael, AJ’s teenage son. Thule are not parting with any money just yet and if they had, who knows how much of it would’ve been channelled to the competitor?

Durban-based 24/7 Fuels was less lucky. Barnard approached them too, claiming to represent young Michael Kernick. He talked them out of 240 litres of race fuel, a substantial amount of other product, and some thousands in cash. None of which the Kernicks have seen.

AJ, who in his racing heyday just missed out on a national Formula Vee championship when the category was frenetically competitive, was horrified. Not only that his good family name would be besmirched, but that someone was being ripped off.

Despite their loss, 24/7’s Kershen Naidoo decided not to pursue legal action – it’s more trouble than it is worth - so he has put it down to experience, albeit a bad one.

Barnard has been stopped in his tracks – at least as far as Thule and 24/7 are concerned but how many more ‘proposals’ are there in circulation?

There is no happy ending to this kind of story unfortunately and the youngster is battling on, wiser than before but no better off in terms of funding. Does he have talent? I think so. Does he have the right work ethic? I think so too. Maybe someone should take a look – if he is like his dad, he’ll be a fast, savvy and technically astute driver.

However, what he has managed to hang on to despite the so-called ‘agent’, is his reputation - and that’s priceless.

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