There’s something oddly satisfying about a street car that’s been well built to go fast and make a lot of noise. It’s better than a purpose-built racer, any day.
Let me be honest here for a second – drag racing doesn’t normally entertain me nearly as much as circuit racing racing does. All that prep work, bucket loads of money and lots of breakages, all just to wait in a long line before hitting 400 meters of tarmac for a few seconds.
It doesn’t really sound exciting, does it? But when you get to experience it in person, your mind will be probably be changed. This is especially true when the drag racing’s being done in street cars and there’s no massive pit team sorting everything out for the driver. It’s much more grassroots than that.
With these private racers, it’s all about the crazy passion they have for this sport. They spend countless hours getting their cars ready for these events, then drive themselves and their buddies to the track super early to register and do last-minute adjustments. It’s all in the hope of running a good time, not breaking their prized possession, and just generally having a good time.
Sure, there are some guys that will turn up with a transporter full of gear, spare parts and a pit crew. But they’re still not a full-blown race team, just passionate people who love racing and have some money to spend on it.Variety Is Life
The variety of cars is what makes Tuner Wars, held regularly at Tarlton International Raceway near Johannesburg in South Africa, so interesting for me. Firstly, you always get a huge contingent of hot hatches from the VAG stable, like Audi S3s and RS3s, and different generations of Golf GTIs and Rs. These cars get driven to the track and home again, and many of them run 11 and 12-second ETs with ease.
That said, they aren’t all that exciting to watch. With the event being timed and not heads-up, it’s even worse. You’ll see these cars line up to start, then sit there forever until they get the launch of their DSG and S tronic gearboxes right. Often, you’ll see one racer take off and almost make it down the strip before the car in the opposite lane has even tripped the start line beam.
Don’t get me wrong, once they launch they go like a bat out of hell. For example, the Audi TT RS above has run a 9.7-second pass, and it’s a full weight car. But even still, it’s never going to be as exciting to watch as a loud and rowdy Supra, or an old school Corolla with a crazy engine swap.
Luckily, Tuner Wars has those too.
On the day there were quite a few crazy Corollas all rocking different engine combinations, and I’ve got a separate story on that aspect of the event coming soon. There were also a few Supras, Nissan 1400 vans, Escorts, Evos, and even a Hilux truck with a 2JZ setup.
Just imagine a fully-built 2JZ, twin-cam or V8 motor with a massive turbocharger slapped onto it, making eargasmic noises, smoking its tyres on the start line, then struggling for traction all the way down the strip. That’s what I call excitement.
The grey R35 GT-R is a full-weight car with added roll cage, that ran 8.86 at 272km/h (169mph). It’s also run 353km/h (219mph) over 1km before.Making That Power
Opening the hood of any car and seeing an absolutely bonkers engine in the bay always gets me so excited. I love it when I’m surprised, or when I see something that’s built so well it looks like a showroom piece.
At this event my engine bay appetite was definitely satisfied. There was a KE70 Corolla running a 500kW Mazda 13B rotary, a Datsun GX with a turbo Toyota 4A-GZE, an E30 BMW with a Toyota 2JZ, and another two Corollas with Mazda FE engines in them. Some of these packages make close to 1,000hp, which is crazy in a car that remains road registered.
Drag racing definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and although I really enjoyed watching the racing at this event, circuit racing is still my thing.
But that’s the great thing about motorsport and cars in general, though. There’s definitely something for every petrol-head to enjoy in every genre. Drag racing, circuit racing, time attack, high-speed events and even park-offs can be enjoyable, and I would definitely recommend you experiencing every one of them at least one. Thanks to Showtime Magazine for the invite to this awesome event!Cutting Room Floor