Sunday. It’s a hot day at the Grand Parade in Cape Town’s CBD where the the inaugural Drift City event is taking place. The smell of burning rubber and the roar of car engines floats in the air.
I’m set to meet 19-year-old drifter Aqeelah Sasman. It’s weird. Given the nature of her work, I expected Aqeelah to be forward, confident and “in-your-face”. Instead, Aqeelah — who was dressed in stonewashed denim jeans, black hight top sneakers and a white shirt — is uncharacteristically shy. She speaks in hushed tones and throughout our interview her father periodically answers questions on her behalf. But once she’s behind the wheel of her BMW 325i, her shyness flies out the window. She becomes “Aqelaah The Drifter”.
“I don’t like the spotlight,” says the 19-year-old. People are often surprised when they see me drifting because my personality doesn’t match up with what I do.”
Where did it all begin?
Aqeelah’s love for drifting began as a passenger in her uncle and dad’s cars. They used to be drifters and she’d often watch them burning rubber during events. She saw them behind the wheel and promised herself she’d do the same thing one day.
Her parents fully supported her decision.
“We were never against the idea,” says her father. “It’s a family thing, but we gave her one condition: to make sure she goes to school and that her grades never suffer.” Mr Sasman adds that Aqeelah — who is doing her second year in Speech Therapy at UCT — kept her end of the deal, as she is doing well at school.
“You always have to prove yourself as a female drifter”
This isn’t to say everything’s been smooth sailing. The UCT student admits that the lack of female drifters gets to her. She’s often the only female drifter (and the youngest too) at drifting events.
“Being a female drifter can be intimidating at times. It’s like you have to prove yourself all the time. People are always looking at you, wondering whether you can really pull off a certain trick. In a way, that pushes me to work harder.”
Still, she loves the thrill of drifting. From the speed to the smell of burning tyres, Aqeelah loses all sense of inhibition when she’s behind the wheel. “The smoke pumps up my adrenaline. I love it,” she says. “And the crowd as well. I love it when they go crazy and start chanting my name. That assures me that I’m doing everything right.”
Life outside of drifting
At the moment, Aqeelah is firmly focused on finishing her degree. She loves drifting, but given the lack of professional drifting events in Cape Town, she wants to make sure she aces her studies. But don’t expect her to quit drifting anytime soon. As long as she has her father’s support, she says you can expect to see her a whole lot more behind the wheel.
“My team and my family are the main reason I continue with this sport. Especially my Dad. He’s like my manager, my fan and my biggest cheerleader.”