The weekend is a beautiful thing, especially when Saturday is spent watching the Power Series at Killarney.
The racing in formats such as Clubmans and Formula GTI is intense and highly entertaining. Stepping it up significantly in terms of power, the V8 Masters and Formula Supercars also provide plenty of thrills. The incredible backdrop of Table Mountain in the distance only added to the spectacle. All that was missing was more classics…
The great thing about cars is that there are just so many ways to enjoy them. From Sunday morning breakfast runs with friends and “non-competitive” track days, through to full race seasons in purpose-built cars, the endless variety of cars caters for every type of driver.
But, as fun as breakfast runs are, there is no denying that competitive sport is something that South Africans love. Quite frankly, the only reason most of us still have DSTV is because of SuperSport. Then again, finding decent coverage of anything other than Formula 1 on SuperSport is damn near impossible. Where did WRC go anyway?!? Sigh.
Although we are somewhat starved for major motorsport events in this country, there are some absolute gems put together by people who are completely committed to keeping the sport alive (such as the Knysna Hillclimb or Passion for Speed events).
2017 saw a fully FIA-sanctioned event come to our shores once more, this time in the form of World Rallycross. A VIP pit pass for the event resulted in the magnificent sight of Sebastien Loeb dishing up his chicken for lunch. I finally understood what it must feel like to be a 15-year-old girl at a Bieber concert, as I came to terms with “meeting” (stalking?) one of my all-time sporting heroes. That man drifting a rally car is more graceful than Swan Lake.
Unfortunately, South Africans are a rare breed in the upper echelons of global motorsport. The sheer cost of pursuing a career in motorsport is generally prohibitive. By the time you convert the costs to Randelas, you are in deep trouble no matter how many good speeches Ramaphosa delivers.
There are some exceptions. The locally-based Toyota Gazoo racing team does an incredible job of giving the Peugeots a run for their money at the Dakar, despite each Peugeot costing six times more than the equivalent Toyota. I’m privileged enough to personally know two Dakar finishers and these guys are seriously tough. Among our young talents trying to crack the big time overseas, the van der Linde brothers seem to stand out. Kelvin has written some excellent blog posts on what it actually takes to become a professional racing driver – well worth a read if this is something that interests you.
Based on estimates I’ve seen, developing your 5-year-old from an adorable “bambino series” 5-year-old karter through to a 20-year-old with a Formula 1 contract will require as much as 7 million Euros. I don’t have 7 million Euros and I suspect you don’t either. A future as a professional racing driver is nothing more than a pipe dream for most of us and our children.
Let’s take a step back. The goal of racing is to have fun. Ruining yourself financially isn’t fun or smart under any circumstances, so you need to find something affordable if racing is something you dream of (spoiler alert: there is a difference between “cheap” and “affordable” and only the latter can be found in motorsport).
I’ve started out in Clubmans karting, but there are main circuit equivalents that will similarly set you back R30k – R50k a year to compete decently in one of the lower classes. I would highly recommend karting as a starting point though, as the main circuit classes are littered with ex- and current karters on the podium.
If you are really serious about your driving, then racing a reliable car with readily-available parts is probably the wisest choice. These classes are more about the drivers than the cars; I struggle to believe that anyone can truly feel an emotional connection to an old Polo, even if it does have a brightly coloured roll-cage and lifts the inside wheel through every corner.
There is of course another option, where the car is more important than the driver. You know exactly where I am going with this. Historic racing…where resale values of collectible cars generally go to die. Seriously though, historic racing is a special event and is growing in popularity worldwide. If you really get it right, the value of your car won’t take too much of a knock, as historic racing cars are also sought-after in the right circles.
Everybody loves watching a Mini battle it out in the twisties with a Mustang. The cars might not swap paint nearly as often as the fast Polo crowd, but this is still proper racing. If you have a racing itch, this might be a great way to scratch it.
Long live club racing, in every format.