MOTORSPORT

SA's finest drifters converge in Durban for RedBull Car Park Drift.

Laying burnt rubber on tar has become an integral part of our South African car culture.

TopGear Reporter
April 13, 2022
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You don't have to look very far - our burgeoning spinning fraternity speaks for itself and has been recognised internationally by like-minded folk. In 2021, RedBull set its sights on Mzansi as the host of its RedBull Car Park Drift event, and after a successful run, the second annual leg of the event took place this past weekend.

Durban, Suncoast Casino played host to the drifting event where the best drifters in the country converged once again for a shot at representing SA at the RedBull Car Park Drift World finals in Saudi Arabia. The setup is self-explanatory – a drifting obstacle course in an empty car park. To sift through the talent comprising of 20 plus contestants is an eight obstacle drift course, the obstacles become more challenging with each elimination round. 

This year's course had an added twist to it which made things particularly interesting for both participants and spectators – rain. Drifting on a wet surface adds a layer of difficulty to the sport, even for the finest in the game. 

Tools of the trade ranged from six cylinders to V8s, transplanted into anything they can be fitted into. The donor bodies ranged from Nissan Skylines to Toyota Supras and BMWs. Not every vehicle makes use of its factory engine, but instead, the best engine for the drifter's configuration is fitted. V8 powered cars bought a special atmosphere to the event when howling out of the pit area and onto the main arena. The RedBull Car Park Drift is a treat for motoring enthusiasts, and such things only come around once a year.

The 2021 winner and defending champion Jim McFarlane was among this year's contestants in his Nissan 350Z Interestingly, I was initiated into the world of drifting by McFarlane himself in a 350Z some years ago. Joining the judging panel for the second year running was Rally champion and Guinness World Record holder for the longest drift, Abdo Feghali. Aside from his judging duties, Feghali fired up the crowd with a showcase of his skills in a BMW M2 between drift stages. Speaking of judges, a chat with one of these knowledgeable experts revealed a lot about the sport and what contestants are critiqued on. There's a clear distinction between drifting and spinning, and contestants forfeit points for doing the latter. In dry conditions, judges use tyre smoke to assess how much effort is being put into the drift. Since this year's event was under rainy weather, everyone received the same scoring in this criteria. 

After two days of drifting and many elimination rounds later, only three of Mzansi's most proficient lateral drivers remained, all with their sights firmly set on the opportunity to compete at the World Finals in Saudi Arabia. Jim McFarlane was among them in his Nissan 350Z, alongside Jason Webb in a V8 convertible Ford Mustang, and Mathys Naude in his BMW E36. Webb would ultimately clinch the title of drift champion by the end of day two, followed by McFarlane and Naude, taking second and third respectively. It was a very tight race between Webb and 2021 champion Jim McFarlane. Webb will be consolidating his victory later this year when he squares off against the best in the world at the RedBull Car Park Drift finals. 

All the best champ!

Words: Gugu Masuku

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