Event date: 26 October 2013 | Photos & story: RaceMasteR J | Location: Saldanha Airfield.


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The best way for me to describe going to this event is like giving a knife to a monkey, you just never know what’s going to happen. Saldanha Top End Drags has been in existence for the last half a decade or so and has firmly grown into one of the Western Capes most anticipated and well attended events. There’s thousands and thousands of people who flock to the airfield every year, sometimes twice a year. This year however the organisers decided to skip the April event to focus on making the end of year one a success. But did they?

Well there’s a few different ways of looking at it. What makes for a successful motorsport event? For starters you have
to provide the action, i.e. high powered cars racing against each other. Well there was ample of that. And then there’s keeping your guests happy.

A hard job indeed especially since there’s a few thousand of them. I know the guys at West Coast Racing do their best in all aspects, but from where I’m standing, things always seem to get a bit rawkus on the other side of the fence.

I hear people complaining about that year after year. The organizers technically can’t be blamed for other individual’s behavior but I do blame alcohol for this even though I’m glad that there was no alcohol brand as the title sponsor this year. Mixing alcohol into a crowd of a few thousand is like throwing Mentos into a coke bottle. There’s going to be a reaction. And when the crowd has been camping out from the night before things are really going to go “bos”. Alcohol needs to be banned at these types of events, period.

There needs to be more visible security too. Way more! Not the “car guard” type ones, the ones wearing full tactical gear walking around with dogs. Ones you don’t want to mess with. Walking around in the crowd I honestly felt unsafe. And I’m a grown man. It’s the alcohol thing again. I was walking through people who were clearly way past their sell by date. Monkeys with knives I tell you… or in this case specifically, braai grids.

It doesn’t help when the event starts an hour late and that very same highly strung mob of a crowd has to wait ages between runs. Yes the time between actual runs was ok but there was a point when the racing stopped for more than 30 minutes due to a massive grid lock in the pits. There were just too many non racer vehicles and trailers parked in the pit area not leaving enough room for the cars racing to get back in.

Getting to some of the highlights even though last year’s reining champ and record holder, Schalk in his 2J powered slant front Corolla wasn’t here, the title was up for grabs by two of Saldanha’s usual suspects… Zain in the XR8TT and Suspect-Wp, Shaheen, in his Lumina bakkie. Some say he is pushing out close on 900kw’s… I don’t know how true that is but now was the time to show it.

Everyone expected the XR8TT to put on some good speeds since he never made it to last year’s event. Suspect did break the XR8TT’s previous record last year. So the day was shaping up to have some crazy battles. But who would come out on top?

One of the first high hitting speeds of the day was done by PDubs in his red Focus ST running well into the 240km/h mark. 243.9km/h in fact. That is a truly remarkable speed for a front wheel drive car.

Soon after it was taken down by Shane Martin’s crazy Mitsubish Evo running 245kh/h. But would it stand as the “big boys” haven’t come out to play yet.

Shane’s speed was shattered by the very famous orange slant front Corolla of Shamiel not too long after running a very impressive 255km/h.

The complete underdog of the day has to be Robby Chang in his orange Ford Cortina who came out of the blue and smashed the timing board with a speed of 260km/h!!! No one expected that!

The numbers were only getting higher and higher. It was time for Suspect to run. He did a warm up, things looked good… stage… launch! The green Lumina bakkie blasted past and seemed to carry on picking up speed all the way down the strip. It looked like a solid run, but what would the speed be?

262km/h! Not much faster than the old Ford, but that was good enough to place Shaheen on the top of the leader board! Well done!

But wait, Zain in the XR8TT hasn’t run yet… what will he do? He finally made it to the line. This is what thousands of people came here to see. Can he do it? He warms up, stages, launches! Everything looks good so far, good launch… it flies past me. What was the speed??? 177km/h! Oh no, something went wrong.

The XR8TT unfortunately retired after doing only one run due to broken boost pipes. What a bummer!

The mighty GTR was humbled by his fellow neighbours.

Another high hitter was this E30 running a impressive speed of 241km/h with plenty of sideways moments.

Be it as it may, I believe no one deserves to win this event more than Shaheen/Suspect-Wp. He has been coming to this event year after year with bigger and better improvements on his car/s only just to be nipped at the end. A well deserved R15 000 goes to Suspect-WP. R15 000 put up by West Coast Racing themselves and not by any sponsors. Big ups to them for that!

When the cars make their way back from the finish line it feels like standing in a gladiators colosseum. The car's are the gladiators and they perform for the crowds who intern go absolutely nuts!

On the two wheeled side the biker boys put up a good show snaking off the line and even wheeling down the strip. This year’s ultimate battle was in fact a grudge match from last year with the boys from SRD wanting to beat the AIR Developments Hyabusa’s previous speed of 301.

Speaking to Achmat from AIR before the racing started he was anxious to get going. The wind was starting to pick up and the temperature was starting to rise. His first run was just shy of the 300km/h mark which was fine as the first run is always a good testing platform. Achmat ended off with a 300.3km/h run. That was all he could get from the Busa on the day.

The competition being SRD and rider Garion Slamet on his Busa was out on a mission to break records. After a few runs they managed to beat the AIR Developments Busa with a speed of 301km/h taking the title of fastest bike of the day and the R5000 cash prize. Well done guys!

The unfortunate down side of this celebration was when the SRD crew blocked poor Achmat on the line causing a blockage on the strip. Words were exchanged and a fight almost broke out on the starting line. I don’t care who said what, who was right or who was wrong. Getting your “brasse” to come block the strip because someone else said or did something is totally uncalled for. That kind of attention seeking attitude stinks, this is not a bike rally! Thousands of people had to wait for you guys to finish up your quarrel so the racing could continue. It was a shocking experience to watch how grown men could carry on like children.

Bikers will be bikers, and as much as they are to blame for this, I have to look at the security aspect of this situation. Security should have not even allowed non racers on the strip in the first place for that to happen.

The GTS Tuned 1M was kicking ass all day long... I just love the way it looks... Straight out of Forza.

Both car's getting out of shape...

That's what an AWD launch looks like.

I can’t help but rant here but when Raceweb was with West Coast Racing from the beginning helping promote, cover and market their event, to now be given attitude regarding media passes was a total disbelief. Our secondary photographer decided to go home because after requesting two media passes well in advance and then sending a follow up email enquiring about the first one, the WCR media team failed to even send a reply to any of our emails.

Sitting here writing this article I fail to understand why I keep on going back to this event. It’s like the fast and furious movies, you know there’s a chance of it sucking, but we go watch it anyway because we are just die hard petrol heads. I know running an event of this scale is a monumentous task and hats off for giving petrol heads a platform to showcase their pride and joys, but in my personal experience during this event, there were unfortunately too many negatives.

I think it’s time to hand this event over to a professional events company so the real organisers can stand back and see the bigger picture. I still want to attend this event next year as I really did enjoy the racing. But Saldanha Drags seriously needs to change their reputation of being a disorderly event to one of pure adrenalin racing action and high standards of being safe and enjoyable for the entire family.

Till next year…?

RaceMasteR J

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