Rat-tat-tat-taaaaat … Competitor Chris Long’s Mike’s Place Toyota Supra hammers on the rev limiter like a turbocharged woodpecker before the off. Flames shoot tens of feet into the air from the Monster Energy start line, and the local drift king launches off the line, getting up to speed like he’s hit the fast forward button. In an unbelievably short distance he’s up to three-digit speeds before pitching his 500 kW beast into an effortless and lengthy slide around multiple barrels that make up the first obstacle. From there what follows is a stunningly orchestrated mechanical ballet of the pivot, surge, brake, skid, power-on variety to navigate the complex inner section of the course. An acrid, billowing plume of smoke begins to form all around the Grand Parade arena from both cars as the cement surface gradually starts to blacken with expended vaporized rubber, as exhaust bangs, howling motors and tortured tyres violently invade your ear holes. What a spectacle this is, especially contrasted against the iconic backdrop of Table Mountain.
One thing’s for certain, these drivers – the finest professional and amateur drifters and gymkhana exponents in South Africa – are showing serious commitment. Just the expense on mechanicals, fuel and tyres for the weekend will run into tens of thousands of Rands probably, a not-insubstantial amount for talented enthusiasts like Francois van Jaarsveld in his E36 BMW who sees this as the highlight of the local petrol-head calendar. For protagonists further up the grid (pun intended) with big sponsorship deals like Jason Webb in his Monster Energy Ford ‘Monstang’, Otto Graven in his supercharged ‘Gravedigger’ Nissan Silvia S15, or defending champion Jim McFarlane in his V8-powered Achilles Nissan 350Z, no expense is spared to show off their delicate yet powerful artistry in front of a sellout Cape Town crowd.
Gymkhana Grid explained
Originally conceived by master tyre shredder, Ken Block, Gymkhana Grid is gymkhana perfected; honing democratised if you like. Drift City, now in its fourth year in Cape Town, requires drivers to compete head-to-head, completing two mirrored courses comprising of several obstacles such as barrels, tyres, cones, all in the correct sequence and without hitting anything. This is all against the clock, and the other driver on the course, which adds to the spectacle. Time penalties apply for contact with any obstacles, while course deviations result in a DNF. The winner is determined by the fastest aggregate time over the two runs. But this is billed as Drift City, don’t forget, so it all needs to be done sideways, and time penalties are handed down for ‘straight lining’. The irony of this is, the best dialed-in cars on the grid are quicker going sideways than point-to-point like traditional gymkhana.
Read me the regulations
This is the best part, arguably. There are none. Both four-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive vehicles are permitted – just as long as it’s going to create a show for the spectators – and there are zero constraints on engine configuration, displacement, output, drivetrains or tyres. That said; each car must adhere to a thorough safety check to pass scrutineering before it can compete, and as you can imagine, a car thrown together quickly will barely last the practice sessions – that’s how intense the mechanical toll of Gymkhana Grid is on the machinery. If there’s nowhere to hide, there’s even less room for inferior drivers, because after open practice sessions, the pressure is on and there are no second chances. Two qualifying runs act as seeding to determine the top sixteen drivers in each category. These drivers then go head-to-head in a knock-out format. You mess up, you’re out.
See you out there on September 2019
And that was just Drift City 2018 … it all lies ahead for 2019, taking place on September 29th at the Grand Parade. An event where any spectator can get almost scarily close to the action, Drift City is a world-class event run by cool people, working for a cool brand, tailor-made for drivers and spectators alike. And that means MOTOR’s going to be there. We hope you are, too …
For more information visit www.driftcity.co.za