Once upon a time, drag racing was big in South Africa. For a multitude of reasons, including politics and the country’s main venue abandoning any kind of national series, the straight-line motorsport died right down. But as I witnessed at The Elite Massacre a couple of weekends ago, the tide seems to be turning.
The event was conceived as a way to put some new energy into the South African drag racing scene, and it’s definitely paying off.
While stalwarts of the drag racing community have remained dedicated to the cause, hitting the strip at every opportunity, the lack of a national series really put the brakes on.
So the owners of a small local track, Midvaal, along with apparel brand 2bGusto, did something about it. A massive effort to bring South African drag racing back saw a new strip built and fine-tuned over the last few years.
Today, it’s able to accommodate full-blown drag racers, like this 2JZ-powered E36 BMW.
The Elite Massacre is a four round series open to a wide range of cars, and with big prize money up for grabs. It runs a bracket racing format, which means that even if you don’t have the quickest car or biggest budget, you can still be competitive and have a chance at winning.
In a nutshell, each competitor chooses a dial-in time before the event – essentially a prediction of the time it’ll take to cross the finish line. The start lights are then set accordingly; the slower car in the race is given the green light before the faster car by a margin of the difference between their two dial-in times.
In theory, if both drivers have the same reaction time and perfectly run their elected dial-ins, they will cross the line at precisely the same time. In reality this almost never happens, but the goal is to run closer to your dial-in than your competitor does to theirs, which will see you take the win. If a racer is too fast and breaks out (read: goes faster than their dial-in), they automatically lose.
There were four classes competing. The first was FWD, which didn’t have a massive amount of entries to start with, and then less as the day went on. Driveshafts seemed to be the Achilles heel for most, a result of too much power and a very sticky surface. The guys from 24-7 Race Fuels did an amazing job of the track prep.
The AWD category wasn’t huge either, but it had some really cool cars. Included in this class was an EG Honda Civic owned by the same guy with the mad AMG-powered carbon fiber-bodied Lotus we featured last year. The Civic ran a quick 9.1-second ET down the quarter mile.
I really loved this Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV. Classic rally looks paired with a high horsepower setup that can effortlessly smoke all four wheels is hard to beat.
The top two classes were Elite and Massacre. Both consisted of RWD cars, but in Elite you are capped at a 28-inch tyre and have to run either a manual or auto gearbox. In the Massacre class, bigger tyres are allowed and there are no limitations on air-shift and clutch-less transmissions.
As you might’ve noticed, there’s a large variety of drag cars in South Africa, but the older stuff is especially popular.
This wheel-standing Camaro was imported from the USA not too long ago, and its new local owner has since upgraded it with a Steve Schmidt racing engine that makes bucket loads of all-motor horsepower. It looks absolutely stunning too.
This is clearly not your average Supra. What started out as a road car, is now a monster of a machine capable of around 2,000hp with the boost wound right up. The fact that it remains stock-bodied is pretty cool.
Need a speedy delivery? This 2JZ-powered Hilux will definitely get the job done.
I’m not exactly sure why, but the Toyota 4A-G is a super-popular engine for drag racing in South Africa. This Toyota 86-bodied machine is one of the fastest 4A-G-powered cars in the world.
Socializing was a big part of a day and, as always, braai (BBQs) were being put to good use trackside.
The car featured in the opening image is a special one. It was built by Budler Motorsport in Johannesburg, and is officially the fastest BMW-powered drag car in the world, previously running a 6.51-second ET at 251mph at the 2018 Import vs Domestic World Cup Finals in the USA. The engine based on an S38, but features a locally-made billet block and many more custom parts. I’m hoping to take a full look at this beast in the near future, so keep an eye out for it.
Events with passionate people behind them are great, and in the case of The Elite Massacre, it’s also doing big things for the South African drag racing community. Long may the momentum continue.