ILLEGAL TO LEGAL: Wheels24 user Reynard Gelderblom believes continuous efforts to bring street racing to the track will put an end to illegal activities. Image: Reynard Gelderblom
Wheels24 user Reynard Gelderblom believes efforts to bring petrolheads to tracks in SA will put an end to illegal street-racing in SA.
Cape Town - I’m positive that half the people reading this would have a stack of very valid arguments against illegal drag racing. The other half will have their counter-arguments at the ready.
Regardless of your view, one thing which none of us can claim is that we're saints.
Let’s face it, at some stage we’ve all been part of it: Be it competing, watching or recording it with a mobile phone – and I’m not excluding the guys performing “robot-to-robot dices” (robot being a South Africanism for traffic light) while on the way home after a night out.
Illegal to legal
It’s just part of what defines you as a petrolhead and don’t feel ashamed: You’re part of a club that includes some of the most respected race car drivers and acclaimed motoring journalists globally.
Honestly, don’t you just wish you could eliminate that from your past?
During the last decade several advances were made to bridge the gap between the robot-racers and the real-racers – the so-called illegal-to-legal platforms. The Street 2 Strip concept is one such an example where you can show up and have a good old dice against your crew in the same safe environment as professionals do it.
'Robot racing' at Killarney: 81 great pics!
With any racer having that competitive instinct they wanted to walk away with more than just bragging rights.
So from here came the events organised outside the scope of the only official governing body of motorsport in the country – Motorsport South Africa.
I’m of course referring to some of the events receiving a great amount of coverage held at private venues and air strips. Although measures are in place to ensure safety of competitors and spectators alike, you must wonder how far these measures really go to provide protection.
The most recent addition to the illegal-to-legal stage came from the Western Cape local government. During December 2015 the Killarney International Raceway staged the first of the appropriately named Robot drag nights.
Image: Reynard Gelderblom
The concept is very simple. As with Street 2 Strip you have races staged in a controlled environment with adequate safety measures in place. No timing – just a case of who crosses the line first. And as for starting, they’re using a standard traffic light to get things going.
I was one of the photographers covering a portion of this one and when I left there was a queue of runners along the back straight waiting for a chance to compete. Although these events are held outside the MSA scope, they are hosted by the same venues and personnel usually entrusted with official competition events.
In January 2016, latest concept in keeping races off the streets was launched – this time initiated by MSA themselves. Street Legal Drags as it will be known will provide a brand new avenue for the social racer to enjoy the sport. Unlike any of the before mentioned examples this will combine the draw cards from each concept, but without the limitations involved. For quite some time people have been asking for reduced costs, but still desire the benefits of official times and standings.
MSA delivered on this.
Instead of competitors having to apply for a racing license, MSA will now license the car provided that it meets standard roadworthy requirements. Effectively this means that two or more competitors can compete in the same car. MSA will also introduce a national log readily available on their social media platforms listing the top contenders nationally.
This creates an opportunity for inter-club competitions as well: Both head-to-head events and virtual rivalries. In addition to the car license fee of R200 per annum competitors will have to pay a minimal fee to compete, as well as sign an indemnity form.
It all sounds very good in principal, but with so many things in life the success is depends on buy-in from the market. I’ll be quite frank – after all I’m not just posting the press release as I received it: I’d love to see this concept develop into something spectacular and for a couple of valid reasons.
Image: Reynard Gelderblom
First and foremost we’re talking about the very important fact of road- and competitor safety. How many times haven’t we heard of dices ending up in tragedy – sometimes even involving innocent bystanders? By providing a platform for people to compete, MSA is actively aiding to make our roads a safer place.
Marshals have to undergo training and trained individuals are exactly the type of people you want on the scene in case something goes wrong – not someone without any idea of what he or she is doing.
Adding to this is also the fact that MSA approves venues to host events based on standards that you have to comply with, you don’t just host an event because you own a long, straight piece of road or have access to an airstrip.
My second reason is money.
Yes competing in a season of your regional drag racing championship is an expensive hobby without much reward if you want to show up in your daily cruiser Opel Corsa – let’s be honest you’re not going to set any records so prize money and sponsorship opportunities will be fairly limited.
Now I’ve heard this one quite a lot before: “That MSA lot, they’re just a bottomless pit filled with greedy sharks that don’t really care about sport.” Don’t you therefore find it quite interesting that these greedy sharks didn’t just introduce a street legal class to their existing drag racing championships which would be more effective to fill their bottomless pit? MSA have truly listened to the concerns of the people they expect to abide to their guidelines and brought forward a concept that will keep your racing budget cost effective.
Image: Reynard Gelderblom
My last point is that MSA is effectively taking away any argument for involvement in non-sanctioned events. Quite honestly I’m getting rather tired of those believing that racing is only truly enjoyable when it’s run by a bunch of wanna-be outlaws who believe that MSA is just: “The man trying to keep his hand on things.” I’d certainly like to invite those corporates putting sponsorship money into non-sanctioned events to rethink their marketing decisions.
A question to those sitting at these boardroom tables: If some rather serious and tragic incident occurs at one of these so-called lucrative events, what’s the blowback that you’ll have to spin yourself out of when it becomes known that the event didn’t hold any official sporting status? I know I certainly wouldn’t want it known that I’ve been bankrolling it.
Even while conducting my research into this I’ve been reading some public comments laughing off the MSA Street legal drags.
My favourite one: “Guys don’t understand the culture of street racing and how it works.” I’d like to challenge this with: “Do you understand the sport called racing?” From my point of view it’s clear that MSA understands it and is making a valiant effort to incorporate everyone in it – even the culture of street racing.
Read the original post here.