The inaugural Kalahari Speedweek is done and dusted. From 22-30 September, around 150 competitors from around South Africa converged on Hakskeen pan in the Northern Cape to participate in a high-velocity fest modelled on the famous Bonneville SpeedWeek in the USA.
RUN WHAT YOU BRUNG
Supercars mingled with classic cars, hotrods, bakkies, superbikes, and even humble company cars as petrolheads from all over the country came to see how fast they could go over a flat 5km straight. The speed fest, which is supported by the Northern Cape government and will take place annually, is a “run what you brung” event and anything with wheels and an engine - standard or modified - is eligible to compete in various classes.
Hakskeenpan is also where Richard Noble and Andy Green will attempt to break their own world land speed record in 2014 with the jet- and rocket-powered Bloodhound SSC, although they will cover a distance of around 16km in their quest to break the mythical 1000mph (1610km/h) mark.
Problems with the surface of the dried-up lake meant speeds were lower than expected. A chemical compound sprayed onto the track to harden the dried clay unexpectedly broke up and made the surface too slippery to use. Competitors had to make their runs on the untreated clay pan which itself proved to be somewhat slippery, causing cars’ traction control systems to work overtime (and a few cars without traction control to spin out - fortunately without any harm to driver or machinery).
Kalahari Speedweek organisers Jan Els and Peter Westcott promise that scientists are in their labs working on a better chemical brew, and that next year there will be a proper hard surface to drive on that will yield higher top speeds.
Despite the teething problems, competitors showed great enthusiasm as they made run after run in the hunt for a two or three extra kilometres per hour. Whether it was Lamborghini versus Porsche at over 270km/h or classic Volvo versus Dodge at 150km/h, some great rivalries developed in the quest to be best in class.
To spectators, the fast-moving machines made a dramatic sight as they came roaring out of the heat haze with big plumes of dust in tow. The tented camp on the pan gave the event a festival atmosphere, and every night participants converged in a giant marquee to eat dinner, wash the dust from their throats, and swop tales of high-speed heroics.
The top speed in the car category was 308km/h, achieved in a Lamborghini Aventador driven by Greg Parton. Another Lamborghini came second when a modified Gallardo went 298km/h in the hands of Anton Cronje.
Third was a Porsche Panamera Turbo S entered by Porsche SA and IOL’s sister publication Star Motoring, which achieved 275km/h. The fastest motorcycle, and best overall speed of the event, was a turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa ridden by Andrew van Zyl which achieved 321km/h.
Full results will be posted on the www.speedweeksa.com website within the next few days.