Andre de Kock
"Local Cross Country racing needed a new, original way to widen public knowledge of its existence".
Terence Marsh has spent more dirty weekends with South African celebrities than anybody else. He also believes that life is too short to drive boring cars.
Marsh is the CEO of the Red-Lined International company that sells V8-powered T1 Nissan Navara off-road race cars, constructed at its Kyalami Business Park-based workshop. To advertise the cars, Marsh takes South African celebrities in wild rides with the vehicles, contesting actual off road races. More than just race vehicles, Red-Lined sells the complete Cross Country racing experience at its highest level, whether overseas or in this country.
“We are a one-stop shop for adventurers with the means to do so who wish to tackle Dakar Rally-type of competition at national or international level. Our target market are wealthy people between the ages of 35 and 65 who want to add serious off road racing to their adventure or bucket lists,” says Marsh.
“Race vehicles apart, we offer such customers training in off road driving and navigation, plus technical schooling for their crews. We also offer our personal technical support during international events, supply parts, rebuild damaged vehicles and update cars, as needed”.
Marsh and a Red-Lined Nissan, exposing a celebrity to the rough side of motorsport. Picture: Nadia Jordaan
Red-Lined International’s offerings are popular – there are currently 34 of their Navara vehicles in the hands of international teams. Marsh has the background to head up such an enterprise. At the age of 50 he has competed in more than 130 National Cross Country Championship events.
Starting with motorcycles in 1993, he switched to cars in 1999. He is one of very few competitors to have competed in both the Roof of Africa and Toyota 1000 Desert Race on a bike and in a car. He tackled the Roof of Africa five times on a motorcycle and twice in a car, plus the Toyota 1000 Desert race twice on a bike and 16 times in a car.
He has also participated in numerous international Cross Country events, the most notable being the 2017 Taklimakan Rally raid, stretching over 13 days and 6 500 km in the Chinese Taklamakan Desert, plus the 2018 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, run over five days in the Abu Dhabi desert.
So, when did the racing passion turn into a business? “In the beginning I paid people to work on my race cars – notably Graeme Thornton, who joined me 21 years ago, and today is Red-Lined International’s Technical Director.
Marsh and DJ Fresh, who told more than two million people about Cross Country racing, before and after the event. Picture: Nadia Jordaan
“A dozen years ago we bought two Nissan Navaras from Glyn Hall and modified them substantially. By 2013 we decided to take the big step and started building our own cars. We are now on our third design, sporting a mid-engined layout on independent suspension.
“The cars are still powered by the 5.6-litre NISMO V8 engine – it is simple, reliable and easier to work on than a complicated, turbocharged V6. They do not have to be represented as Nissans. We can basically fit them with any bodywork, as required by the customer,” March says.
Locally, the Red-Lined equipe and Marsh are well known for their close relationship with a wide-ranging number of South African celebrities from non-motoring arenas. “I have always been strongly marketing-orientated, and figured local Cross Country racing needed a new, original way to widen public knowledge of its existence.
“We decided to get celebrities to participate in the sport – off road racing can do that, via getting people one-weekend licences as navigators, and putting them with established drivers. In 2017, our very first celebrity was cricketer Fanie de Villiers, followed by Stefan Terblanche and Jonty Rhodes. After that, there were actors, singers, rugby players, soccer players, television news presenters, radio personalities and so forth – instead of us having to plead with celebrities to participate, they started to approach us,” Marsh says.
The Red-Lined race cars are powered by 5,6-litre NISMO V8 engines – hardy, strong and reasonably easy to work on – all good qualities for off road vehicles. Picture: Nadia Jordaan
Over time, Marsh has emerged as the driver of choice to take the celebrities on their first experience of a dirty weekend with a real difference. “I have a lot of experience and the idea is to finish every race I start with a celebrity in the hot seat. We go to great lengths to adequately prepare them for the experience. We spend time in a classroom, telling them what will be required.
“Then we go for a dry run in the race car, over a short route through a quarry or some such, to give them a practical idea of this game, and the chance to walk away, if they decide it is not for them. We have never had anybody decide to walk away – confirming my knowledge that off road racing is the best game ever,” March says.
As a marketing tool, the celebrity participation programme has succeeded enormously. “It gets media coverage, but that apart, the celebrities themselves are very active on social media, and let their followers know about the experience. Every celebrity talks to a different audience, and the news about out game gets distributed to thousands of people who otherwise might never have known about the existence of Cross Country racing.”
Along with every other petrolhead, Marsh can’t wait for motorsport to resume good and proper. “We have 34 cars overseas and they need to run – that is our business, apart from racing in what might be left of this year’s South African Cross Country championship,” he says
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