This is probably, no definitely, the craziest thing you’ll see done with the BMW E30.
When you hear the word spinning, you’re probably thinking sweaty ladies in tights riding static workout bikes, while an instructor yells loud words of inspiration over high-tempo music blaring in the background. The spinning I’m showing you today has a whole other level of intensity that can’t even compare.
To most, the screeching of tyres combined with simultaneous donuts is seen as complete recklessness, but to us here on this African continent it is seen as a pure form of automotive art. This is truly an African motorsport.
So what is spinning, and how did this unique motorsport start out? Although it’s become more mainstream in recent years, spinning has its roots in the township of Soweto. The E30 325i and 325is, or ‘Gusheshe’ as they’re known locally, were originally associated with gangsterism and rebellion. With 0-60mph times under 8-seconds and top speeds of 140mph (225km/h), they were quite popular getaway cars for robberies and other crimes. The BMWs were also often spun at the funerals of activists, and of course gangsters as an act of defiance, as well as honoring fallen comrades.
Ever since that time, the E30 has simply remained the car of choice for spinners. Many will keep the bulletproof M20 motor, while some swap them out for V8 powerplants, or even stuff like the good old Toyota JZ series engines. E30 parts are relativity easy to find and cheap here too, but more than anything, people continue to use this model for spinning because it’s such a cultural icon.
Fun fact, the Urban Dictionary defines ‘Gusheshe’ as follows:
“Originating in South Africa, the word Gusheshe refers to the BMW 325 iS model, usually pre ’93 models. The car and word is equivalent to the cult status of the American Mustang Shelby. The meaning of the word ‘Gusheshe’ means ‘Panty Dropper’ in English. From the streets of Soweto to the flats in the Cape to the township of Umlazi, this word crosses the mouths of local South Africans on the regular.
“This car has gained immense popularity as well as notoriety over the decades, having been used as the getaway car of choice in many a heist. It is hailed as the car of all cars to local drag racers and car fanatics in South Africa alike for its spinning, racing and drifting capabilities.
“Recently, the South African hip-hop scene has come out with tracks mentioning the cult classic.
“Original South African underground culture, eg: guy sees a 1989 BMW 325iS, he shouts… Aweh, check out the rims of that Gusheshe bra, that sh*t is gaadly.”
Now, you might think spinning is just an out of control thing with a bunch of law-breaking citizens, but it’s really not. Yes, there is still a lot of spinning that takes place on the streets, and yes there are videos of cars spinning and crashing into houses, people or both. But there are also videos like this, with a driver controlling his car with pure precision, albeit still in a public place. The Grand Tour‘s James May even partook in some fun sideways activity.
Over the years, the sport has evolved in leaps and bounds. One of the biggest milestones was that in 2014, spinning was finally recognized as an official motorsport genre by MSA, South Africa’s primary motorsport association. This has allowed it to evolve into a sport with more rules and and an ever bigger following. There’s now even some monetary rewards for drivers, although they still can’t really make a full-time career out of it, mainly because of the lack of corporate sponsorship.
This isn’t really the biggest issue though, because spinners don’t do this for the money. Passionate, humble, and community-focused would be the three words best to describe this fraternity.
Organised spinning events usually take place on large square pieces of tarmac with cement barriers around them, providing a place for fans to safely spectate from. Basically, spinning is the art of precision driving in a very tight space, with lots of oversteer and tire smoke. There are marked areas – called ‘kitchens’ and ‘make-out corners’ – where the cars have to do reverse slides, donuts and the like, and drivers must get as close to the barriers as possible without actually touching them.
Then there are the stunts. Nowhere in the world do you see drivers doing ‘suicide slides’, ‘Jordan salutes’ and the ‘running man’ – except in spinning. Fast & Furious CGI graphics don’t even come close to what these talented drivers – and usually a passenger or two – are throwing down for their loyal fans every weekend. These can be things like a passenger hanging out the window and smacking the tarmac, or doing the aforementioned running man, which is literally hanging onto the car and running on the tarmac while the car is moving. It’s an astonishing sensory experience.
If you’re a spinning fan in South Africa you’ll definitely know who Vic Pardal is. This guy is more passionate about the sport than anyone else, and he’s played a big part in getting spinning to where it is today. Vic commentates right next to the action, even standing on top of obstacles while drivers spin within inches of him. That’s either trust or just pure bravery. Whatever it is, no one can deny his love for the sport.
A spinner and drifter himself, Vic hosts and MCs numerous spinning events around the country (and other motorsports, too), and he’s worked so hard at promoting the sport that even Red Bull took notice.The Big League
Red Bull is very selective about the events it puts its name behind, and from the moment Shay’iMoto’ was announced, I knew it would be an amazing spectacle.
What’s Shay’iMoto? Loosely translated, ‘shay’ means to throw or gooi in Afrikaans, and ‘imoto’ relates to a car.
The Red Bull event was held at a popular local venue known as Wheelz N Smoke, which has been the spiritual home of spinning in the city of Johannesburg since opening in 2011. Spinning events are held almost weekly throughout South Africa’s nine provinces – and here at Wheelz N Smoke under the #SpinningNights guise – but none have been of this magnitude. Red Bull created an arena where 16 top spinners could perform for the masses, with DJ Ready D jamming some awesome ’90s hip-hop beats to hype up the crowd.
Usually spinning is more entertainment than a competition sport, but this time around there’d be a winner crowned, so things got competitive.
Shay’iMoto was a nighttime spectacle, and as the sun set the pits filled up with competitors while the grandstands became populated with eager fans – about 4,000 of them. For many, it was their first time seeing spinning in person.
The event kicked off with a little demo by Vic and Ready D in the Southside Crew E30s; they performed donuts while a breakdancer did some spinning of his own in the middle. Then it was time for the competition to kick off proper.
Competitors would have a few minutes to impress the judges with as many stunts as possible, and the crazier the better. Some started out calmly – if you could call it that – while others went balls to the wall right from the get-go.
As the night progressed things naturally got more and more intense, with drivers and their passengers putting everything on the line to move onto the finals.
With such hard driving, it came as no surprise that there’d be a few breakages. Amazingly though, there wasn’t a single crash on the night, which really shows the drivers’ precision and skill.
One of the most awesome parts of spinning is crowd interaction, and I don’t think there was a quiet moment during the entire night. Spectators were constantly screaming, standing on their chairs, and just having a great time.
The real fun part came closer to the semi-finals when the crowd could have a say in the outcome. Every spectator received a card with a red and a blue side, and eventually they could start voting for their favorite car.
The pressure really starting mounting and after the semi-finals were completed and the crowds had voted. Now there were only two spinners left.
Funnily enough, the two drivers that ended up in the final were actually teammates, both representing Southside Crew. Kayla Oliphant and Veejaro Hendricks both put on an awesome display of stunts and precision driving in their finals performances, but during Kayla’s run a water hose burst under pressure before she could finish.
The judges decision came in, and the winner of the inaugural Red Bull Shay’iMoto was Veejaro.
I know that no matter how cool and crazy spinning is, it won’t be for everyone. One thing you can’t deny though is how alive it is; spinning brings people from all different cultures and backgrounds together like no other form of motorsport in South Africa.
This is also not just a sport for the wealthy, like many forms of motorsport are. Pretty much anyone can compete here, and that’s what makes it so great.Cutting Room Floor