|When||Friday 14 May 2021|
Motorsport television kingpin Hartzer passed away on Wednesday
Days like this are always difficult. The only way to do it is to tell the story, so here goes. A few people asked if I would write an obituary for my great friend Jan, which I would have done regardless. A larger than life character in so many ways, Jan Hartzer passed away on Wednesday night after suffering flu-like symptoms over the past week. He was 60.
I met Jan on the train to army basics at 6SAI Grahamstown in the middle of the gloomy winter of ‘79. We ended up in the same platoon, I was in the bed next to him. Wasn’t a clever move for the paraat (ready, disciplined) boertjie from Lichtenburg — he had to deal with the wild Eyeteye (Italian) from Bryanston. He ran for a good few extra leaves for me, ironed my kit and claimed a good share of my parcels from home.
Our mutual love for motor racing and our command of the company rugby front row however brought a far greater bond. We went our own Permanent Force ways chasing our respective dreams, oddly enough, after basics. Jan went on to the military media and broadcast centre KOLOT, where he learned and then plied his trade. We regularly bumped into each other — at Kyalami, at rally stages and the like through those PF years.
After his military service, Jan joined Arthur Abrahams’ Videosport as a videographer. I will never forget our first acquaintance with him wielding that revolutionary giant Betacam while I was racing Group N. In those days, South African Sports TV comprised five hours of TopSport on a Saturday afternoon and all our races were live broadcast free to air to every South African home. Motor racing was big news and Jan was instrumental in broadcasting it…
Jan progressed within Arthur’s organisation and established himself as a regular and vital facet in all forms of motorsport. Wearing his chino fly fisherman’s waistcoat, brandishing his huge camera and thrusting that furry mic in the next racer’s face post race, often at the most inopportune moments! It took a while to make him understand that ‘th’ wasn’t pronounced ‘f’. And Jan also escaped some scary moments — even once being run down by Jan Hettema’s Jumping Hilux.
Jan went his own way around beginning of the new millennium at about the same time that local motorsport’s live TV waned, but he certainly did his bit for the sport. His passion for younger talent led Jan to karting, which he had a huge hand in keeping top of the public’s mind. Jan has been to just about every ‘Olympics of Karting’ Rotax Max Grand Final around the world over the years.
There, he not only became an integral facet of the international broadcast team, but also looked after the wide-eyed local racers in far more ways than just covering their exploits on video. Something of a godfather to the touring party, he even stayed on one year when his late friend and great racing scribe Steve Wicks was injured in a road accident. Jan cared for Steve in hospital and got home as soon as possible. Pretty sure Hartzer and Wicksie are catching up right now…
Jan was also a survivor of note. His doctor warned him about his weight about ten years ago and Jan simply transformed his life to emerge skinny and healthy. He bounced back when darker facets of local motorsport shunned him, even resorting to his second love of coffee when he opened a little shop in Hartbeespoort to make ends meet for a while. But then Jan always adapted splendidly when the world changed so radically around him.
Always the go-to guy when you needed a damn proper TV show for your race or event, Jan’s recent live streaming efforts using almost impossibly slim resources to produce world class footage will remain peerless. Nobody is, or likely will ever come close to his top notch productions. Never mind that he brought so many of today’s top names into the business...
But what I will always remember first about Jan Hartzer will be his huge heart, his friendship and his encyclopaedic knowledge of motorsport. Yes, he certainly had his views, he would argue them and he’d always had a logical rationale for them. Personally I will miss his visits whenever he came to town, his always pleasant social media presence and his unconditional friendship.
Jan has left us and with that, he has left a huge hole within motorsport and life in general. On behalf of the entire motorsport community, we extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to Jan’s partner Cindy, his cherished daughters Alana, Grete and Gabrielle, his family and his literally thousands of racing friends.
Go well my friend, we are poorer without you. — Michele Lupini
Issued on behalf of Motorsport Media
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