Petrol heads often take to the streets to enjoy a limitless dose of adrenaline. Operating late at night, they are not slowed down by traffic or rules. Is this hobby merely a way for car enthusiasts to appreciate speed, or is it becoming a problem on the streets of Cape Town? Is the inspiration drawn from movies like The Fast and the Furious becoming too literal?
Illegal drag racing does not have a good track record as many incidents were reported in the past few years – with some carrying fatalities. Looking back two years ago, Molemo ‘Jub Jub’ Maarohanye, a local musician, was charged with the death of four schoolchildren as a result of drag racing in Soweto. Fast-forward to last year when three children lost their lives to a drag racer’s reckless driving in Mpumalanga, it is clear that illegal racing remains a concern on the streets.
Cities are closely monitored by undercover traffic officers who drive around in unmarked vehicles – typically cars that are prone to attract willing racers. This method proved to be successful when a 16-year-old teenage boy was arrested on Klipfontein Road over the weekend. Not only was he driving recklessly, he was also doing so without a driver’s license. His brother, to whom the car belongs, confirmed that he had been driving the car without permission.
The arrested racer had pulled up next to the ghost squad vehicle and revved his engine, to initiate a race. After wheel-spinning away, he continued driving until the ghost squad caught up with him and he eventually stopped.
Consequences of being caught drag racing include: arrest and charges, the removal of license discs which would require the owner of the vehicle to redo the roadworthy tests, and in extreme cases the vehicle could be impounded.
Although legal efforts are being made to reduce the occurrence of these street races, drag racing is still available to the public through entrance to events at designated race tracks. Cape Town is home to the Killarney Race Track which hosts various events throughout the year and also invites keen racers to race among themselves, under regulated supervision.Annual events are also held in Saldanha on the West Coast of Cape Town. These events attract interest from speed junkies all over the country and provides a space for them to be spectators.