Travelling 1200km to spend a week in the middle of nowhere may not be everyone’s cup of fuel. In a world where most events are conveniently close to home or an airport the Kalahari desert may seem a remote destination. The truth is that sometimes distance and remoteness add to the appeal of an event. The Kalahari Desert Speedweek is therefore not just an event but also an adventure; an annual petrolhead pilgrimage.
Situated 250km north of Upington is Hakskeenpan (heel pan). This vast, lifeless expanse of flat, sunbaked earth is attracting international attention for being the place where the next onslaught on the world landspeed record will take place.
Now in its third year of existence, Speedweek caters for a spectrum of enthusiasts. Obviously the 300km/h plus missiles like the Lamborghinis and Hayabusas are the star performers at such an event and are an amazing sight to see when they fly past on what is basically a dirt road. However our interest lies at the other other end of this spectrum. Speedweek has a growing number of retro-racers in attendance. Ford GT40s rub shoulders with 1930s styled hotrods, some fine ratrods and classic speedsters like a streamlined Porsche 356. This year saw an increase in the number of older motorcycles entered, which can partially be attributed to the Retro Write Up Challenge. Triumph, BSA, AJS, Norton, Moto Guzzi, Honda, Suzuki, BMW and even DKW were represented. We will discuss the motorcycles and their performance figures in more detail in a separate article. Many of the vehicles possibly seem inappropriate for such an event but their participation adds to the uniqueness of this event.
Marnitz drove up with his freshly built, untested BSA as a passenger in his van. Our mate Randall and I rode up on the Harleys. It was a great ride on surprisingly good roads with good company. Riding through the barren Kalahari at sunset after a day in the saddle was awesome. We truly live in a diverse country; people, wildlife and landscape.
Every single item that is required for this event has to be tranported to this desolate place. The organisers do a great job of making the event as civilised as possible. Accommodation ranges from basic self catering campsites, which is what our budget allowed, to neat rows of equipped tents with meals included. Ablution facilities were more than adequate and well serviced. A well stocked pub in the main tent with live music was an alternative venue for those who did not want to have a drink with good mates under the overwhelming canopy of stars. We opted for the stars. After all, what could be better than enjoying this unique landscape with its utter silence regularly broken by the throbbing sound of a passing V8. Heaven I tell you.
Speedweek is not a rules and regulations minefield, as so many motorsport events have become. Safety is still a priority but not to the point where it detracts from the fun and affordability of participation. It really is a “run what you brung” event and we really hope it remains unpolluted by red tape.
It may not be the salt flats of Bonneville but if you are looking for an event with adventure our Kalahari Desert Speedweek should be on your list of events to attend. We most certainly will be back.