SMOKE SCREENS: Mad Mike Whiddett was the star of the show at Wheels of Fury in Cape Town. Image: Reynard Gelderblom
Cape Town - GrandWest casino and entertainment world is the prime spot for placing big bets to bag big rewards in Cape Town.
On Saturday (Sept 17), this certainly proved to be the case at the Red Bull DriftX competition – the main the event at the 2016 edition of the Wheels of Fury automotive lifestyle show.
A quality field made up of regional, national and even international competitors took to the special course laid out in the parking lot to deliver the best display of drifting seen by Capetonians in a long while… with Red Bull athlete 'Mad Mike' Whiddett keeping a close eye on events between his demonstration runs.
Star of the show
Whiddett was the headline act for the event – starting his two-week tour of South Africa which will also see him competing at the next round of Supadrift at Carnival City on September 24. The Formula Drift star had people cheering with every grunt of the 800kW Mazda RX-8. The New Zealander thoroughly enjoyed his time in Cape Town and was very pleased with the standard of drifting being put on by the locals.
The high standard was evident from the word “Go”. As the competition went into the Top 8 elimination round all bets were off as to who would be the clear favourite to be crowned champion.
Bronny White impressed throughout the day, but he fell out against the short-course specialist Izak van Zyl in his V8 Lexus powered Toyota Corolla.
Otto Graven - Image: Reynard Gelderblom
Next up, Otto Graven was pitted against Wade van Zummeren. The latter put on a valiant effort, but all in vain against a very motivated Graven.
The visitor from Mozambique Zanil Satar went up against Jean Mare. Mare is always a favourite among the Cape Town crowd, but on this visit he could not beat Satar who hooked the tight course up perfectly.
February vs. Green
The last quarter final saw two of Cape Town’s biggest names, fierce rivals, yet very good friends go head-to-head. Sean February has been impressive on the national scene and is one of the most highly regarded talents in the sport, but no one knows his style and technique better than Shane Green. Their initial two runs did not yield a conclusive result, forcing them into a 'One-More-Time' scenario. Competition could not get any closer than this, for most of the two repeated runs there was the smallest margins of daylight between the cars. In the end it was Green who impressed the judges the most – pushing him into the semi-finals.
Two equally tight duels saw Satar and Graven progress to the final, resulting in the Capetonians having to scrap things out for third place. Head-to-head encounters between Van Zyl and Green have provided some fierce action throughout 2016 and this would not prove to be any different. Green however proved triumphant this time around. The stage was set for a humdinger of a final. Neither Satar nor Graven made any mistakes and they weren’t going to make things easy for judges to end the day.
With nothing between them, the calls from the spectators were answered for a 'One-More-Time' to determine the overall victory. The first of these runs proved just as tough to call, but in the last run Satar spun out resulting in victory for Graven – the big man from Kimberley was clearly ecstatic with his title of 2016 Red Bull DriftX Champion.
With all the competitors delivering their A-game on the day, selecting a driver of the day would be a daunting task. No one could question the decision to award this to Raymond Hearn. It has been a quiet season for Hearn since taking a similar award earlier in 2016, but he was back with a bang at GrandWest. He been pitted against a driver of lesser quality than Van Zummeren in the Top 16, and we could well have seen him upsetting the day’s results. Nothing bad could be said about his Toyota Cressida either. In fact when Whiddett was put on the spot during an interview, he picked Hearn’s car as the one which he would really like to take back home with him.
The Wheels of Fury exceeded expectations on the drifting front, but sadly the event as a whole could not be deemed as a success. While social media platforms are always a buzz with criticism after an event, one could not help but feel that some of these comments were well validated.
The biggest disappointment for some were the fact that they paid for tickets and planned their day according to the timetable the show promoted up front, only to arrive on time for the Top 16 and find that they just missed the podium celebrations. While everyone is usually very happy if a motorsport event runs a little bit faster than what’s predicted, the action finishing three hours earlier than planned is inexcusable.
The media had a very difficult time in securing accreditation with replies coming through sporadically, and very late. As a result only a handful of those always providing coverage for these events kept persisting, while the rest found the host of other motorsport events around the Western Cape a much more secure option.
Compared to previous editions of this event especially the one taking place at GrandWest, Wheels of Fury 2016 had many evident flaws. The Cape Town petrolhead culture expected more – especially after the notable success of DriftCity back in April. For sure, the event was saved by Mad Mike and DriftX.
But it wasn’t all doom-and-gloom either as there were positives – one of them being the commentary team. Vic Pardal is no new name to South African petrolheads and has become one of the most respected commentators for drifting. What’s more - his knowledge of the competitors as well as his personal experience from being a professional spinner and drifter himself always adds value to any event.
Zanil Satar - Image: Reynard Gelderblom
Joining him was Test My Ride Cape Town host and stunt driver Ernest Page providing technical explanations regarding cars and drivers alike. A welcome addition to the line-up was E News sports anchor Wardah Hartley asking questions which would lead to very informative answers.
Although the event would not be remembered as one of the greatest success stories ever, we’re looking forward to those who put the long hours in behind the scenes building on this. And we’re already waiting in anticipation for the next edition – wanting to see it live up to its proud heritage as one of Cape Town’s premier automotive lifestyle events.