Plea for space to race

2017-02-13 10:07
Pietermaritzburg’s national award-winning motor spinners and drag racers, Bruce Swartley and Garth Harwood standing next their customised BMW E46 M3.

Pietermaritzburg’s national award-winning motor spinners and drag racers, Bruce Swartley and Garth Harwood standing next their customised BMW E46 M3. (Ian Carburtt)

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PIETERMARITZBURG’S drag racing and spinning fans are no closer to getting a race venue from the City where they can race legally.

This emerged after an incident last month, when a Durban man was beaten up by a group of drag racers after he went through a red robot at night and interrupted their illegal drag race. The incident attracted widespread condemnation but drag racers say incidents like this highlight the need for a legal track.

It is not uncommon during the night for some of Pietermaritzburg’s streets like Victoria Road to resemble a scene from a “Fast and Furious” movie as cars race down the narrow lane left by double parked cars and cheering spectators.

Local award-winning motor spinner and drag racer Garth Harwood from Woodlands told The Witness that drag racing enthusiasts want the municipality to set aside a small area of land for a legal track as there is a huge interest from youngsters in the sport.

“This is what we love. Just like you get soccer players and basketball players who have their sporting facilities, we too would appreciate it if we were given a facility where we can do what we love legally, without getting into trouble with the law,” said Harwood.

Harwood said there had been long negotiations with the Msunduzi Municipality to allow a race venue at Mason’s Mill, if environmental impact requirements were met.

“Before my time the guys invested a lot of money and time collecting data for the environmental impact report. But after they submitted it nothing ever materialised, so we all just gave up,” said Harwood.

Harwood said until the municipality steps up, motor sports lovers will continue to take part in illegal drag races in Pietermaritzburg. He said he often gets invited to other provinces and cities for motor sport events where it is legal, but can never host his own events because there is no venue here.

“I get many youngsters asking me to teach them how to spin and race. I would really love to do that as it helps them stay off the streets, but I can’t because we don’t have a venue for such things in our city,” said Harwood.

Harwood owns one of Pietermaritzburg’s fastest racing cars, a customised BMW E46 M3.

Michael Chetty, of the Illegal-to-Legal Drag Racing Committee, who also hosts the local Sidewayz drifting races, said if given the go-ahead, the Pietermaritzburg drag racing club could boost the local economy.

“The city has a vast motor sport fraternity. Just imagine how many people would be employed if we had a local motor sporting facility.”

He said legalising the sport would also make it safe. Chetty said the Illegal-to-Legal Drag Racing Committee tried numerous times to get the municipality to lease them the land at Mason’s Mill but it was all in vain. “There is practically nothing interesting for youngsters to do in Pietermaritzburg.”

Former Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Jay Jugwanth said hopes of legal drag racing were raised during the last municipal elections. He said the ANC had made “huge promises” but nothing came of it. “I think it was just used to get votes and then the idea was abandoned,” he said.

He is in favour of legalising the sport as it has a huge following in the city.

Former municipal speaker Babu Baijoo admitted that four years ago he, with the backing of then mayor Chris Ndlela and others, promised to help identify land for motor sports in the city.

“We did try but after the environmental impact assessments and objections from the DA and neighbouring people we could not get the land.

“We had identified three places, but nothing was ever finalised because many complained about the sport being a nuisance,” said Baijoo.

He said he would love to see motor sports in the city become legal and urged people in power to make it happen.

The Witness was unable to get comment from Msunduzi Municipality on Sunday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  drag racing

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