Born in the townships and now matured into an official South African motorsport, spinning has grown exponentially over the last ten years. The origins of spinning are not perfectly clear, but most sources point to its beginning at the funerals of gangsters. Tyres would be spun in the streets as a sign of respect to gangsters who had passed away. On 30 April, local spinning crew Soshanguve Spin Kingz hosted Spin City: Battle of the Nations at Mahem Raceway in Pretoria West, in collaboration with the City of Tshwane.

The event began at 14:00 and consisted of a number of rounds, each growing in intensity. The spinning and drifting event showcased performers from around South Africa and neighbouring countries Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. The event attracted a crowd of over 7 000 people as the performers undertook daring stunts, starting from the relatively tame drifting to complex manoeuvres involving two or more cars. Participants are generally expected to shred or pop two or more tyres before they end their stumts. According to Lesego Skosana, the organiser of the event and the spokesperson of Soshanguve Spin Kingz, 400 tyres had been ordered for the event. Skosana explained that the event was not a formal competition but instead each performer showcasing the best of their abilities as they represented their spinning crews and their country. Skosana added that no individual, spinning crew or country would walk away with a title, but that it was “up to the crowd” to decide which nation produced the best spinners.

The cars most commonly used for spinning are E30 model BMW 3 Series, otherwise known as gusheshes. These cars were produced from the early 80s to early 90s and the higher end models came factory-fitted with straight six engines. Some spinning cars had been converted to V8 engines and other more powerful engine configurations. When asked what made the E30 BMW so special, “Msiza”, a mechanic for the spinning crew Downtown, said that after over 20 years the cars had retained their power and that they were a symbol of the townships. He added that the raw power of these cars made them a popular choice of getaway vehicle for criminals.

Other vehicles were also spun and drifted, including Citi Golfs, Nissan 1400 bakkies and a quad bike. As the event went on the drifting became more elaborate, with multiple cars entering the racetrack and passengers beginning to climb out of the vehicles as the cars drifted. As night fell the serious spinning began. Drivers performed elaborate stunts that saw them exiting the cars with their passengers and allowing the cars to chase them before jumping back inside. The stunts shocked the audience as drivers drifted within inches of each other’s cars and even climbed out of their windows as their cars continued to spin for as long as their tyres would last.

The event drew a family crowd of all ages and races, who remained long after dark. Skosana said that spinning events brought the community together and helped keep the youth away from drugs and gangsterism.

Spinning may have its roots in gangsterism, but is now a legitimate sport that is a staple of local entertainment. Much like chisanyama and kotas, spinning is a part of true South African township culture.

Photo: Shen Scott

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