Champagne motorsport taste on a beer budget - Africa's only 24-hour race for 'lemon' cars is back

Cars line up for the 24 Hours of iLamuna at RedStar Raceway.
Cars line up for the 24 Hours of iLamuna at RedStar Raceway.
  • Red Star Raceway will host the second annual 24 Hours of iLamuna on 29 October.
  • Teams of four can enter a vehicle which must cost R50 000 or less.
  • The winner will be the car or team which completed the most laps in 24 hours.

Being able to race a car for 24 hours usually comes with a long list of prerequisites. You know, certain lifestyle accessories advertise the fact that you're financially ripped enough to keep a carbon fibre rocketship running around 13.6km of prime French asphalt for 1440 consecutive minutes. 

These might include an oversized gold diving watch with dial hands forged from moon rocks, a private plane fitted with a backlit koi aquarium and a satellite phone with Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey on speed dial. And while your business card is currently imprinted with titles like 'Hedge Fund Manager' or 'Investment Banker', you know that next year's showdown will be powered by that new lithium mine you've just purchased because the future is electric, baby, and you are plugging your bank account in.

Fortunately, there's a far more cost-effective alternative: the MF Autobody 24 Hours of iLamuna, which is again unfolding at Mpumalanga's Red Star Raceway this year. 

An older VW Golf participates in the 24 Hours of i
An older VW Golf participates in the 24 Hours of iLamuna race at RedStar Raceway.

Circuit-prepped for 50k or less

To take part, you don't need to wear your net-worth on your wrist, regularly yacht to the Maldives to replenish your tan or converse with Hollywood A-listers. Nope, all that's required to rock out on the race track like a billionaire industrialist with an Alonso complex is three or four mates and a sketchy old car purchased and circuit-prepped for 50k or less.

For example, you may choose to throw down R30 000 on some rusty skadonk and then spend another R20 000 kitting it out with YouTube-inspired upgrades, or simply run a standard R50 000 jalopy and pray damn hard to whatever deity you dig the most that you actually finish the event.

The choice is yours. This tight budget cap does not include mandatory safety equipment – for which no restriction is placed – but it will be strictly enforced by a mysterious band of faceless officials just itching to dish out penalties for those who've invested more cash than they should have. Either way, you'll be spending less than what it costs to secure an ice bucket full of bottles in some neon-lit Monégasque nightclub. 

A car wrapped in lemon-themed wrapping in spirit o
A car wrapped in lemon-themed wrapping in spirit of the 24 Hours of iLamuna at RedStar Raceway.

The mandatory entry fee: R25 000 

Of course, as with said nightclub, access to the MF Autobody 24 Hours of iLamuna supported by Insurisk Insurance is only granted after paying the mandatory entry fee: R25 000 (excluding VAT) will get you through the door, which works out to R6 250 per person for a team of four. 

You won't get patted down by a bouncer en route to the grid, but you will score some sweet, sweet freebies to help keep you and your crew of uncut driving gems romping around the circuit from start to finish. The good folk at Tyremart Menlyn are coming to the party with a set of Davanti control tyres (four per team), while Siyanda Petroleum will be on hand to pump as much free juice as your whip can draw through its carbon-encrusted intake valves. 

Roaring to life like it's 1969

Now, if you think that's awesome, just wait until you witness the genuine Le Mans-style standing start. Like it did last year, the MF Autobody 24 Hours of iLamuna will be roaring to life like it's 1969, with each team's chosen driver having to waddle, walk or sprint across the pit straight to their race car once the starter's flare goes off.

Only once safely strapped in behind the wheel can the driver then crank the ignition and join the malaise: a colourful field of cars and pilots so bizarrely diverse in shape, speed and talent that you'll think you've woken up in some weird motorised fever dream. 

From forgotten Hyundai sedans and ear-shredding Mercedes-Benz SLKs to grubby Datsuns and VW Golfs with giant rocket-riding Wile E. Coyotes strapped to their roofs, the entry list is enough to put the cast of Wacky Races to shame. Readers of anorak motoring magazines will pull up their noses, but this race is like a shot of NOS being sucked through a freshly drilled airbox to anybody with a sense of humour.

In the spirit of the event, creativity is rewarded (entrants go wild with themes and liveries), while cheating (lapping quicker than a 2min30seconds because you've somehow managed to sneak a Polo Cup engine inside your Chico) will incur hefty time penalties. 

An older Honda Ballade participates in the 24 Hour
An older Honda Ballade participates in the 24 Hours of iLamuna race at RedStar Raceway.

Second to none 

Circulating faster might impress the pit girls but adopting a more leisurely race pace, using less fuel and thus spending more time on the track, could ultimately prove to be the more ingenious long-term strategy. Remember, many of these cars would struggle to complete a trip between Johannesburg and Pretoria, let alone a 24-hour race.

However they wish to play this quirky game of vehicular chess, the winning team will be the one with the most laps behind their name once the chequered flag unfurls on Sunday afternoon. But, hey, even if you come stone last, we can guarantee that you'll still be wearing a Cheshire Cat grin well into the next week because the thrill of taking part in Africa's only 24-hour endurance race really is second to none. 

Open to racing newbs and semi-pros alike, the 2022 MF Autobody 24 hours of iLamuna is proudly supported by Insurisk insurance, fuelled by Siyanda Petroleum and driven by Tyremart and Davanti, and it's the most affordable way to enjoy that champagne motorsport taste on a beer budget. 

For more information, visit Facebook or Instagram, or watch the race unfold via live streaming on 29 and 30 October at the National Motorsport Mzansi YouTube Channel.

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