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Drag racing at Rainbow Drag Strip

Broadcast dates : 27th June 2004
1st July 2004

Drag racing is the fastest growing form of motorsport in the world right now, thanks to cult car movies like The Fast and the Furious.

Illegal street racing has been going on since the second motorcar arrived in this country.

At drag strips all over the country there has been a concerted drive to get racers off the street and competing in a controlled environment.

The 400-metre stretch of tarmac used by drag racers at the Rainbow Strip near Alberton is the oldest drag racing venue in South Africa. Competitors have been burning rubber here since the strip opened way back in 1967.

A serious drag racer like Gavin Wilkins has his work cut out preventing wheelspin. With something like seven hundred and fifty kilowatts fed through to the rear tyres on his Ford Sierra XR8, this car can wheelspin at over 200 kilometers per hour. This is a 1984 classic in mint condition. And the five-point eight litre Ford V8 engine has had thousands of rand spent on it over the years.

Every single component is specially made for drag racing, including the dual stage Nitrous Oxide system. When Gavin hits both nitrous buttons in the cockpit, there’s an instantaneous two hundred and twenty-kilowatt power injection. This fully street legal Ford covers the four hundred metres in under eleven seconds and has an officially-tested top speed of two hundred and ninety eight kilometers per hour.

The weird and the wonderful at a legal drag race just gets weirder. This is true in the case of Louis Lima's Nissan 1400 pick-up.

Louis' bakkie started out as a legal street machine, but these days Louis no longer pretends that his Nissan is anything other than an out and out racer. Using a two comma two-litre Mazda engine with a massive turbocharger and dual stage nitrous oxide, this Nissan is the fastest pick up in South Africa and one of the fastest in the world.

It runs the four hundred metres in eight comma six seconds with a top speed of over two-sixty through the timing lights. That's when Louis can find enough traction, even using those massive drag slicks.

Bringing a semblance of normality to the drag scene is Rob Green's supercharged BMW M3. Now this is a car that you would expect to go fast, and indeed it does. Rob was testing out a new GPS timing system on his car, which gives data readouts all the way through a run.

This mighty BMW is an 11-second car and one of the interesting tidbits from the GPS read out was that it covers zero to one hundred kilometres per hour in three comma eight seconds.

Colourful cars, colourful people, that's what drag racing is all about. There’s a delightful informality about a drag meet, unlike circuit racing where everyone seems to take themselves much more seriously.

Supercharged Chevy V8s, rotary-engined Beetles, and what seems like an endless stream of modified Nissan pick-ups.

That's drag racing for you!

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