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!
Apartheid. Have You heard of it?
are there no black people in south africa that cares about racing? lol not a single one in all the pictures
I couldn’t resist commenting on this one...
Perhaps the bigger issue is when people scour dozens of photos counting black people?
No perana ):
South African here to give my opinion:
Stefan's photos are fantastic to get the feel of tuner wars in my honest opinion
As to the lack of Black Africans I think it is down to two factors:
Lack of publicity for events
Lack of interest in drag racing
In South Africa a different type of motorsport has started called "spinning", if you look at the crowds in the below videos you will see it's a very different demographic:
think of it like a mixture of Gymkhana and drifting with less f**ks given
Hopefully that gives a little more insight
I’d really thought I had already seen the worst form of “Motorsport” until I watched a video on spinning. That’s officially the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.
Why is it that certain individuals see the need to turn a South African feature into a social/political issue? Different strokes for different folks (as mentioned elsewhere in this thread). Certainly, nobody is barred from entry, its a matter of culturally influenced preference, that is all. The narrative could be flipped, and the question could be asked: Where are all the Native Americans at North American car-meets – or Aborigines at Australian ones? No need to answer.
P.S. It's ironic that the vehicle in the title visual hasn't been "appropriated" by 'spinners' (yet).
If there is one thing I truly miss about living in SA it is the drag racing, at one point if you lived in the Johannesburg area you had a choice of at least 4 legal drag strips to visit virtually every Sunday of the year, never mind the illegal Sunday night drags, can recall the one near Nasrec where there could be a few thousand spectators, made it interesting when the police turned up.
Sadly some of these drag strips gave into the high value of commercial property and sold up. It was a sad day when Wesbank Raceway closed its doors.
Every time I am in SA, I do my best to visit Tarlton for one of their Friday night events, they are truly something to watch as the variety of vehicles is amazing.
Keep the articles coming Stefan, thanks for making me homesick.
That Escort is pretty rad! That 2JZ E30 looks like it has no more room in the engine bay.
And people say Christmas is the best time of the year. they don’t know what this is like
Im a black south african . Theres no apartheid in car culture.i personally go to tuner wars and drag racing evens just cause i love the passion that goes into the cars . I prefer drifting but its not that popular here . Stefan is right when he said most of the older guys like older cars and i agree with that sentiment . The other side of a spectrum is just guys who like fast cars but wont really dedicate a full day to go drag racing or even fork out some extra cash for upgrades . Most of my friends just buy ready made machines - amgs , m sport , Audi rs etc . I prefer building and that boils down solely to interests . Its not a racial thing . The car culture is as welcoming as other places . From my experiences that is . Hope I gave some insight
Anyone else notice the MK2 Golf front bumper on the KE70 corolla?
LEKKER BRU! STOKED FOR THIS POST MAN!
with love from Cape Town man.
Yes, more south african content
Its so sensational to see SA on SH! Glad to see that the rest of the world will get a glimpse into what the ouens do for fun. Looking forward to your next article Stefan, keep up the good work. Aweh!
Awesome post! Anymore info on the white fiat x1/9?
Aweh aweh ma se kind!!. Thanks for representing us!!
It isn't that difficult to keep a car road registered in South Africa.
I see plenty non-Whites...
I find it strange and somewhat cool that people are interested in the segregation in racing.. Stefan maybe this is something to touch on and explain. And yes Apartheid did pave way for certain races (not the automotive kind) being involved in different types of racing.
However there are some non_Whites who raced alongside many great White racers in the apartheid era/ transition period. Amien Levy/Farouk Dangor (he had some legit e30 M3's, in a country that never had the pleasure of purchasing them) were testimony to the fact that if you truly passionate about racing you will do whatever is needed to get in.
I have to admit, people at car events dont see colour or profile others as they there to enjoy the cars/racing.
Are we going to gloss over the fact that there is a Fiat X1-9 set up for drag racing? Am I the only one that is both intrigued and terrified by this?
Awesome coverage from another side of the planet. Glad to see that cars are a hobby over there.
I couldn't help, but noticed that there is a lack of a Black Africans in your photos. I understand that there has historically been an income disparity. Could this be the reason why there is a lack of ethnic diversity in your coverage? Apologies for rustling feathers. I'm from California and there's a huge amount of diversity here.