WATCH: City of Cape Town stuck in a vice between public and street racing community
Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is stuck in a vice between the anger of the general public and the street racing community, as they try to combat illegal street racing in the province.
This was according to JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security, who attended Wednesday evening's Robot Racing event at Killarney International Raceway.
Smith participated in the Robot Racing event as a way to highlight the alternative avenues to illegal street racing, which has been placed in the spotlight since the horrific crash on the N1 in the early hours of Monday, 21 January.
While in the Scrutineering Bay, where vehicles are accessed before taking part in Robot Racing, Smith said it is a challenge striking a balance in accommodating the street racing community and keeping the general public happy.
“The general public doesn’t share the sentiments held by the small circle of car racing enthusiasts. They want us not to allow it, and you will not believe the hate mail I get of people saying, ‘you are doing nothing’ and ‘why aren’t you arresting these guys’ or ‘why aren’t you taking their vehicles away?’” Smith said.
The event has its challenges besides trying to get illegal street racers off the road, in that Killarney International Raceway is losing money in hosting the event, which Smith states shouldn’t be the case.
The City contributed R450 000 to hosting the event at Killarney, but Smith reveals that was as long as two years ago.
"Since then Killarney has been carrying it, so I think it's time for us to renew that agreement and make a substantial annual commitment."
Des Easom, Executive Manager of the Killarney International Raceway, said that on average they have 400 spectators who attend Robot Racing and 200 racers taking part, who would otherwise be racing on public roads illegally. He also revealed that he is aware of the arguments racers have for doing it illegally.
“It’s difficult to speak on the racer’s behalf but according to some of the Facebook posts, they appear to find the R70 entry fee a bit expensive, some of them prefer the thrill of doing it on the road - the cat and mouse chase - and there’s also an element that looks for the top end runs over a longer distance, which we currently can’t provide due to the configuration of circuit that we have,” Easom said.
“Motorsport is inherently dangerous, but when you come to a purpose-built facility like Killarney and with the infrastructure that we have in place - the trained race officials, the medical facilities, the recovery vehicle and etc, it is by far safer to come and do it here.
“The racing is under a controlled environment, and there are no other cars doing weird and strange things, and travelling at different speeds to what you are.”
Smith added that they are seeking ways to ensure that illegal street racing is curbed, and he made a commitment to ensure that they find solutions to the problem.
“We will manage the issue of harassment outside the venue, or as it is perceived, by the Ghost Squad.
“We will try to look at the length of the track, in as much as that is possible, to attract more of the top end racers. We are renewing the agreement with Killarney around this particular event, and I will see if the City will contribute a bit more funding so that we can make it possible for people to have less of a barrier of entry,” Smith said.
“I understand what it is to be in the sport. It’s expensive and you are putting a lot of money into your tires and car, so we don’t want additional barriers that tempt people to go and do what happened on the N1 last week.”@thelionmutters