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Kalahari Desert Speedweek

Photographer: Nic Bothma

 

In its second year the 2013 Kalahari Desert Speedweek between 14 to 23 September brought together an eclectic mix of speed crazed petrol-heads from various corners of South Africa's diverse country. Modelled after the Bonneville Speedweek on the salt flats of Salt Lake City in the US the Kalahari Desert Speedweek has a distinctly African flavour.

 

The course runs along 7 kilometres of specially prepared clay track for high speed top end runs. Timing is at the 5 kilometre mark with a 2 kilometre run off. Technically it is a much more challenging event than Tar Speedweek and requires much more driving and engineering skills for top honours in each class. The course comprised of a biodegradable dust reducing chemical compound used to bind the clay, but it was still very slippery. Spin outs occured with the highest speed spin out recorded by the Audi R8 at a speed of 260km/h.

 

The Speedweek is not just for exotic sports cars. Its aimed at the man in the street who has a desire to see how fast he or she can go. Be it in an old Ford truck or a Lamborghini drivers get to test their nerve and steel in pushing themselves and their vehicles to top speeds across the desert.

 

There is a festival atmosphere in the tented camp where the competitors and spectators are accommodated. “The event is like the petrol-heads Woodstock” says Speedweek organiser Jan Els. Indigeneous bushmen in traditional loin cloths walk past Calvin Klein clad executives climbing off private jets to race their Italian sports cars whilst farmers spectate and drink beer in the sun. Competitors come from all walks of life bringing everything from their humble commuters, modified racers, rat-rods, motorcycles, American muscle cars, and even 50 cc mini pit bikes to race across the desert.

 

In the evenings the various vehicles and colourful characters head out into the middle of the 'pan' and enjoy drinks whilst admiring the various forms of the different vehicles in the crisp afternoon light. Some of the more motley members take to spinning and drifting their vehicles after a glass or two of wine much to the laughter and delight of fellow competitors and spectators.

 

The fastest car of the week was a Lamborghini Aventador clocking 303 km/h followed by a modified Nissan 370Z twin turbo at 272 km/h and an Audi R8 at 271 km/h. The fastest bike was a Suzuki Hayabusa GSX1300R clocking 310 km/h.

 

Apart from being the venue for the Kalahari Speedweek, Hakskeenpan, in the Northern Cape of South Africa close to the Namibian border, is also where the British Bloodhound rocket powered car will attempt to set the new world land speed record of 1610km/h in 2015.