The only criterion at the Saldaha Top End Drags is top speed at the end of an 800 metre run.

Paarl, Western Cape - During working hours Nicola Els is a bookkeeper for a local business, but weekends are when this 28-year-old indulges her need for speed.

Her passion is motorsport - on two wheels, and in the most macho discipline there is: drag racing.

Els, a self-confessed adrenalin junkie, has been passionate about riding motorcycles since she was a little girl. She bought her first bike, a Honda CBR400, in 2008 when she was still a teenager, and soon began attending mainstream biker events.

At the local Desert Wolves rally in Worcester in 2011 she entered the drag races, purely for fun, as most of the competitors were on machines more than twice as powerful as her 400. As much to her own surprise as theirs, she won outright - and that was it, she was hooked.

Spinning the back wheel heats up the tyre and improves traction. Picture: Reynard Gelderblom

Since then Els has entered every drag meeting she could, winning her class almost every time. Her biggest achievement on the little bike, she says, was winning a Bracket Racing handicap competition at Killarney (in which all classes compete against each other) and being awarded Best Female Rider.

In 2015 she upgraded to a Suzuki GSX-R750, a much newer machine of about the same weight but with more than twice the power - and won her class first time out. In November 2015 she took the Suzuki to the Saldaha Top End Drags, a contest where the only criterion is top speed at the end of an 800 metre run. And once again Els took first overall in her class at 251km/h.

Els in action on the Honda CBR400 at Killarney. Picture: Junaid Hamid

As of August 2017, Els has amassed a total of 27 trophies, all but the Best Female Rider award from Killarney having been won in competition against men. Motorcycle racing, she says, is all about skill and nerve, and has nothing to do with gender - although she is keen to promote awareness of women in motorsport.

She’s also planning to upgrade again; she would like one day to be able to say that she has competed successfully in every class of motorcycle drag racing.

It’s what she lives for, she says.

“Just me, the bike and the strip in front of me - and going for gold. 

"The hype of the crowd, cheering me on, gets me going every single time.”

IOL Motoring

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