“Robot Racing is working,” says Alderman JP Smith, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security, “but more remains to be done.”

Alderman Smith was speaking to the media at Wednesday evening’s regular street-racing event at Killarney International Raceway.

“The more than 200 competitors participating here tonight are proof of that,” he said, “But there is still illegal street racing on the roads of Cape Town, and we need to look at what needs to be done to make Robot Racing more attractive, to get those people off the streets and into a safer, more controlled environment.”

Robot Racing began as a joint initiative between Killarney International Raceway and the City of Cape Town in March 2016; during 2018 more than 5500 people took part, an average of 117 competitors at  each of the 46 Wednesday evening Robot Racing events – only five nights were lost to bad weather.

Alderman Smith went on to address three issues surrounding Robot Racing at Killarney International Raceway that have been highlighted recently on social media: Ticket prices, the demand for a longer strip and the Traffic Services’ Ghost Squad lying in wait outside the circuit “to prey on the competitors” as they leave.

“The City contributed a grant when Robot Racing started in 2016, but has not contributed since then,” he said. “Almost three years of successful weekly events can be regarded as ‘proof of concept’, but Killarney has been carrying the costs for most of that time, and the events have been running at a loss. It’s time for Killarney International Raceway to apply to the City for renewed funding to subsidise ticket prices.”

“Conventional drag racing is held over 400 metres, but there is strong demand among Cape Town’s street-racing community for an 800 metre strip where more powerful cars can compete in top-speed runs. Killarney International Raceway and the City are exploring the feasibility of creating a longer strip at the present facility or alternatively, finding alternative venues where Killarney could host tops speed runs.

“Finally, we come to the issue of the Ghost Squad,” he said. “When I speak to senior Traffic Services officials, they say the officers are there to investigate obviously unroadworthy vehicles and to stop reckless and negligent driving.”

He revealed that he had met with Traffic Services that day and had been given a firm commitment that Ghost Squad officers would in future act only on moving violations.

“There must always be control over competitors who continue their racing on the streets as they leave the venue,” he concluded, “in order to assure the safety of other road users.”

Alderman Smith then donned a crash helmet and joined local motoring journalist Ernest Page in a Ford Fiesta ST for a race against a regular competitor (which they won, by the way) to experience first-hand the thrills of street racing at night.

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