Quintin van Jaarsveld
KZN Drag Racing has apologised to fuming fans and drivers who branded Sunday’s inaugural South African Drag Fest at South Coast Raceway a “disappointment”.
An overcrowded pit area, as a result of drivers who’d entered Saturday’s event (cancelled earlier in the week due to weather) and their pit crew arriving and needing to be accommodated – two incidents – which saw one car going off the end of the stopping area and another hitting a barrier – and oil spoils – including a massive one that brought the event to a premature closure – made for a disappointing day for all involved.
Furious fans and drivers took to social media to voice their displeasure. “A money-making scheme”. “Terrible”. “Worst drag event ever”. These are some of the ways seething spectators and drivers described the event, with many also criticising the “lack of proper facilities and services”.
A handful of those who attended accepted the organisers’ apology, however, others lambasted the event and demanded a refund.
KZN Drag Racing admitted the event was “less than successful” and said they take full responsibility. A statement by KZN Drag Racing issued on social media on Monday, read: “KZN Drag Racing would like to offer its sincerest apologies to spectators and drivers for the SA Drag Fest event that took place at Dezzi Raceway on the 26th March.
“Dezzi Raceway is in no way responsible for any of the issue’s that happened at the event. KZN Drag Racing have had many great events at Dezzi Raceway and would like to thank Des and his team for trying everything in their power to assist us with the challenges we were faced with at SA Drag Fest.
“KZN Drag Racing have run successful events at Dezzi Raceway over the past three years and understand that yesterday’s event was nothing short of a failure for spectators and drivers. We were faced with many challenges over the day that were within the organisers’ control and many that were beyond the organisers’ control.
“Unfortunately the combination of this put our team under huge pressure and resulted in the failure of the event. KZN Drag Racing as the host accepts responsibility for yesterday and will try everything in its power to bring you events of a much higher standard in the future.
“We have already gone back to the drawing board to address the many issues and concerns that were raised by our spectators and drivers. We are currently looking at a feasible and realistic way of rectifying yesterday’s event and will update everyone in the next few days.
“Once again we would to thank Dezzi Raceway for allowing us the opportunity to use the amazing venue for drag racing and we would like apologise again to all our fans and drivers that were let down.”
Harry Naidoo, Motorsport South Africa’s drag racing representative for KwaZulu-Natal, offered a personal heartfelt apology and addressed the day’s events in detail.
“I wanted to take a day or two to reflect on the weekend at SA Drag Fest. Having been an event organiser for many years, I thought by now I knew all the variables that comes with hosting an event…I guess I was wrong.
“Everything that could go wrong at an event went wrong. As event organisers, we have to take full responsibility for the occurrences even if it meant you cannot control certain factors.
“After postponing Saturday’s event due to rain, we found ourselves on Sunday morning with 24 Saturday racers entering the Sunday event, with reasoning being that they never received any email stating Saturday drivers will be refunded in full and may not enter Sunday’s event. This additional 24 race cars brought additional 30 pit crew vehicles which not only caused chaos in the pits but delayed scrutineering by an additional hour. Total driver entry was 131 entrants.
“Upon scrutineering at 9:45 am, we found a minimum of four vehicles removing seats, adding full slicks etc. which changed their respective class and this delayed us by 20 minutes trying to rectify that.
“With the constant rain over Friday and Saturday, it was near impossible to prep the track. The track eventually dried around 8:30am and we decided to leave track bite at the start line for all drivers to use.
“When racing did start we had two incidents, with one vehicle going off the end of the stopping area and another hitting a barrier, snapping the cable for the timing. These two incidents alone delayed us a further hour.
“We then had two small oil spill issues which we immediately clean up within 15 minutes and we resumed racing. Drivers taking three or four burnouts and constant start line delays killed us in the time department. The fact that we had used new time keepers due to our regular time keepers being ill, we had further time delays as they struggled to get used to the procedures at the race track.
“By now we were past 1:30am where we had a vehicle undergo full detonation and spill major oil and sludge over 450m on the racing line. No oil kits or experts were going to clean that spill by the day’s end. It was then that MSA officials and us decided to close the track due to safety constraints and call it a day.
“This obviously left patrons and drivers furious and we understand fully their grievances. It was a difficult decision but we had to put safety first and deal with the consequences thereafter.
“We have now decided to email all drivers tomorrow and discuss an amicable resolution and have a drivers meeting thereafter to discuss the future of drag events.
“To the patrons, we are in discussion with all involved and we are working on an amicable solution as well. My partner KZN Drag Racing tried to shoulder all the blame on himself but we are to blame as well. We ask all to please refrain from slander or negative to comments to Dezzi Raceway who has done nothing but their very best to accommodate drag racing in KZN.”
He added the negative backlash is a bitter pill to swallow as he can’t help but take it personally.
“Over the past few days I have read a lot of comments from patrons, competitors, peers and colleagues and no matter how impartial and tolerant we have to be, it is hard to keep quiet when they make this event issues personal.
“We are constantly accused of being money hungry promoters just trying to enrich ourselves and we do not care about drag racing and motorsport itself. Knowing the personal sacrifices, financial implications, logistics and documentation, we have to endure each and every event to make competitive drag racing in KZN occur goes far beyond the call of duty.
“People are quick to forget the past successful events. The organisation that ensures no drugs and alcohol is at the event. That it has full onsite security, suitable toilet facilities. That we prep the race track or provide track bite for all drivers. That we ensure the track is super clean before and after each event, that Dezzi Raceway is a race track and not a full time drag strip but we make it work. That we built grand stands, and give competitors an opportunity to race in front of thousands to ensure sponsorship recognition. That all drivers and pit crew have refreshments. That we try to always try to get a minimum of 40% new competitors per event.
“Patrons feeling hard done by I can understand, if I were in their shoes I would be equally upset. What is upsetting is reading the comments of drivers jumping on the slander band wagon. Watching colleagues of publications, other event promoters and veteran drivers liking status’s that ridicule and slander us as promoters but offering no constructive criticism.
“We are not trying to hide or cover up the occurrences of the weekend; like I said we take full responsibility for all occurrences. I guess we as event organisers are forced to have thick skin and not make this a personal matter.
“Knowing how long KZN drag racers have been waiting for a circuit and how easily we can lose it, I take all negative slander personally. When you have passion for motorsport, you defend it with your life as a soldier would at war.
“Drag racing in this country is on a slow decline, whether we want to admit it or not. The impact of not having competitive events has a ripple effect on the industry as a whole. Drag racing is black or white, there is no grey area, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
“Driver entrants, sponsorships and exhibitors make up 50% of the cost of an event. The rest has to be made up from a financial input from the event organiser. If an event is postponed, the weather is not up to scratch and numbers through the gate don’t make up the balance, it is the event organiser that is out of pocket.
“Ask any event organiser that host large format events and they will advise you on the financial implications. If any future event organizers want to take on the responsibility of hosting drag events or any events for that matter, please contact us. Who knows what the future of drag racing in KZN holds, but we thank you all for the support. God bless.”
Spectator Wesley Smith came out in support of Naidoo, saying on social media, “Not many can admit fault so you should be commended on that alone. It’s easy for onlookers to add their 10 cents but they are only putting 10 cents and not hundreds of thousands of rands of their own money into events like you. This entitlement in the racing scene needs to stop.
“There is no facility or event anywhere else in KZN for drag racing….FACT. People should be thanking you, trying to help to make things run smoother for the progression of the sport. A meeting with the drivers would be a great start but only if they can come to the table with valid points and solutions.
“We already know what went wrong but people should ask how things can go right. I have yet to see people stepping up to the plate wanting to be a marshall, an MSA official, a scruiteneer, etc. and these are the people that can make a difference….FACT.
“This is the very reason we don’t have events at Tarlton, the organisers are sick of the b****ing and moaning that they said NO MORE. Then everyone sulks, makes cute little videos that are sad, hash tags are invented, BUT…TOO LATE. The people were to blame for an iconic track falling.
“It’s time that a lot of people pull their heads out their a**es. People need to stop sh***ing where they eat. Act all friendly on social media but slander on other platforms. The sooner people realise that tyre companies, fuel companies, tuning houses, and even the toll plaza make the money off these events the better.
“Don’t beat yourself up for taking a gamble that others wouldn’t. If they would then there would be others putting their money where their mouth is like you. The battle may be lost but the war is far from over. Call a meeting and as a racing community let’s move forward instead of act like nobs and lose the only opportunity that KZN drag racers have.”
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