I am fortunate to race a 125 Superkart at Killarney in Cape Town. There are two classes racing together: 125 Superkarts (for over 30s) and 125 Shifters (for drivers 20 to 29 years old). I am in the latter category, with the younger and less experienced drivers. Fortunately the classes race on the same track at the same time, which gives the younger drivers the chance to race against more experienced competitors.
The performance of the karts is phenomenal – acceleration and braking forces are brutal, and cornering speeds defy logic. Speeds around 200 km/h are possible depending on gearing, and that’s in a vehicle that is light enough to be picked up comfortably by two people. Driving one of these tiny beasts is an enormous thrill, and racing wheel to wheel in them is exhilarating.
Not only is the driving experience extremely satisfying, but it is also surprisingly accessible. Karts can be purchased second-hand for around R15,000 (less than $2,000 and not much more than £1,000). Once the equipment is purchased, a season can be completed on a budget of R15,000, including race entry fees, fuel, oil and most regular maintenance. As racing goes, this is about the most cost-effective series around.
And the racing is of a high quality. The drivers are competitive, pushing themselves and each other to the limit in pursuit of victory. Off the track, however, all those involved are as close as family, and the post-race prize-giving and party are as enjoyable as the racing.
The 125 Superkarts and Shifters will be racing at Killarney race track in Cape Town on 17 November, for the final event of the season. The championships are already wrapped up, and the club has chosen to open the day to competitors with single event licences in order to offer them a taste of competitive racing in the format of a normal race weekend.
This video was produced in 2011, before the introduction of the under-30s Shifter class, to provide some insight into this highly competitive yet affordable racing formula:
Formula 1 is becoming increasingly global. In the last decade or so the sport has expanded heavily into Asia and the Emirates, and moved away from its European roots. There are now F1 races in China, Korea, India and Abu Dhabi, to name but a few. In 2012, Formula 1 returns to the USA, with a race in Austin, Texas. In 2013, there will be a race in New Jersey. 2014 sees a first race in Russia. With all of the new circuits in the last few years, Formula 1 is now represented on almost every continent.
But where is Africa on the F1 calendar? Until 1993, there was a South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. Before that, there was a Moroccan Grand Prix in the fifties. Africa is now not represented at all.
There has been talk over the last 18 months about a return to South Africa. Bernie Ecclestone commented after the 2010 FIFA World Cup that South Africa was ready for F1. Possible venues include Kyalami (which has been used for international bike racing recently), a street circuit in Cape Town, and a possible purpose-built circuit in Durban.
The local racing scene in South Africa is quite small, compared to what is happening in Europe, and needs an injection of funding and energy to become world-class. A purpose-bult circuit would provide year-round opportunities for local racing to develop.
A street circuit, by comparison, would only be used for racing once a year, but would have the added benefit of bringing racing to the city streets. Racing at a purpose-built venue is often invisible to members of the public who are not already racing fanatics. Racing through the streets exposes the general public to a spectacle that they might otherwise not see at all.
Whichever curcuit option is chosen, Formula 1 would be good for South Africa, and South Africa would be good for Formula 1. South Africa is excited about Formula 1. South Africa has shown with the 2010 FIFA World Cup that it is a country capable of putting on a great show for the world. It is time for Formula 1 to return to South Africa.