Rubber meets road against racing

JP Smith speaks to drag racer Ikeraam Moses.

A project with Killarney International Raceway, which the City kick-started with R450 000 two years ago, to get illegal racers off public roads, is working, but “more remains to be done”, says safety and security Mayco member JP Smith.

He was speaking at last week’s “robot racing” event at Killarney.

Held every Wednesday with an entry fee of R70, robot racing tries to meet petrolheads’ need for speed without them endangering the lives of other motorists.

Mr Smith said the 200 competitors at the event on Wednesday were “proof” that the event was working. The stands were packed with spectators.

The City hasn’t put any more money into the event since its original contribution, and Killarney has been carrying it as a loss-maker since, but Mr Smith indicated last week that more City funding was a possibility.

“I think it’s time for us to renew that agreement and make a substantial annual commitment,” he said. Killarney spokesman Dave Abrahams said they were losing money with robot racing but would continue to host it because of the track’s commitment to road safety.

“Even though it’s running at a loss, our commitment alongside the City is getting racers off the road and into a safer environment,” he said.

He would not reveal just how much Killarney was losing.

Illegal racing hit headlines again after a video surfaced on social media of a crash near Century City on the N1. That crash cost suspected drag racer, Taufiq Carr, 26, his legs (“Race war ends in tragedy,” Tabletalk, January 23).

Provincial police spokesman Captain FC Van Wyk said a case of reckless and negligent driving had been opened against Mr Carr last week.

Days after the crash was caught on camera, another video clip was circulated of what appears to be a passenger in the car with Mr Carr on the night of the crash.

In the clip, which runs just over a minute, Mr Carr appears to be racing against a white BMW when the car begins to shake and sparks can be seen. There’s a loud banging just before the video ends.

Mr Smith said he was dealing with his fair share of “hate mail” from people accusing the City of doing nothing to stop illegal racing.

He said illegal street racing was still happening on Cape Town’s roads despite what he said was the success of robot racing.

“We need to look at what needs to be done to make robot racing more attractive, to get those people off the streets and into a safer, more controlled environment,” said Mr Smith.

Ikeraam Moses, one of the spectators at the event, said he approved of the event, but it was not for him.

“I have a full drag-race car. There is no bumper or seats etc. These kinds of cars are not allowed to compete in this event. We are only allowed to race with our cars here once a month, and our cars have to be towed or trailered because it’s not roadworthy,” said Mr Moses.

The event was a nice social occasion, though, he said. Other racing enthusiasts have complained that traffic cops use the event to “prey on the competitors”; the tickets are too costly, and the track is not long enough or straight enough for their sort of racing.

Mr Smith said Killarney and the City were now “exploring the feasibility of creating a longer strip at the present facility or, alternatively, finding venues where Killarney could host top-speed runs”.

Mr Smith said senior traffic officials responding to the claims that they were ambushing racing enthusiasts had told him they were only after “obviously unroadworthy vehicles” and reckless and negligent drivers. They had vowed to only act on moving violations in future.

Mr Smith then made his way to the drag strip where he flashed a smile as he put on a safety helmet before getting into the passenger seat of a Ford Fiesta ST for a race.