The South Africa native has led an interesting life on his way to being a top Mazda racer.
You know Danny Steyn has a potent Super Touring Lite NC MX-5 SCCA race car. You probably also know he’s pretty good in a Spec Miata, with a podium and another pair of top-five finishes at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs and a trio of victories at the Chicago Region June Sprints. But his journey to being one of the best Mazda racers in the country is an interesting one.
Another thing you might know about him is he makes part of his living as a glamour and model photographer, shooting beautiful women and men for model portfolios and magazines. But that’s not all he does.
“A lot of people assume that I’m only a photographer,” the Florida resident says. “I have a machinery company as well. So I travel all over the world, and I always do my photography and machinery at the same time.”
Steyn is vice president of Ocean Machinery, which sells steel fabricating equipment, and he is responsible for the dealer network that sells the equipment worldwide. MazdaMotorsports.com was able to speak to him when he was home for a brief moment, in between trips to Mexico and South Africa.
South Africa is where Steyn was born, raised, and earned his mechanical engineering degree. He raced motocross there until he ended up in a coma in 1983. He immigrated to the U.S. 24 years ago with nothing to his name, and lived in a van. But the enterprising Steyn developed some businesses and made some money, enough to by a Mercedes AMG, which earned him a customer appreciation day at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After beating both his instructors in the autocross, one of them suggested he try racing.
His first shot at it was in the short-lived Panoz series, which featured very powerful tubeframe cars based on the Panoz Esperante. That, interestingly enough, is what led him to Spec Miata.
“I wanted to get some more track time at Road Atlanta and ended up in a Miata, which I did not want to do. In my mind, I needed 500hp. It was miserable. And after the first lap I was in love. It would do everything you wanted to do; we were going three wide, four wide in a turn. I was hooked – the closeness of racing in these Miatas is amazing,” he says.
It’s the closeness that keeps him coming back for more. He claims he’d rather place fifth in SM than win by 10 seconds in the STL car. In many ways, it harkens back to where he got his start in racing back in South Africa.
“I started racing Spec Miatas because it was by far the most competitive class in club racing,” he says. “In my opinion, it was like motocross with a cage. That really appealed to me.”