No one approached by Ziwaphi was able to tell about the origins of the car spinning sport in South Africa, however, one of the people approached linked its origins to gangsters around Soweto.

“Whenever they bury one of their own, they would steal or hijack vehicles and spin them at the graveyards sending clouds of dust up into the sky before setting the vehicles alight. It started more of a ritual to pay tribute to their fallen comrades,” said the source.

If this explanation is to be accepted, then what started as a gangsters’ ritual has grown to be a very popular motor sport particularly among the youth in the black townships.

The popularity of the sport prompted motorsport fanatic, Nyiko Makukule to persuade his colleagues at the public broadcaster’s radio stations in Mpumalanga Province, Ligwalagwala to sponsor this year’s car spinning episode of what they’ve dubbed “Up In Smoke”.

In the past, car spinning was prohibited in the country, in fact it still is, in public roads, but it has  recently been legalised under very stringent safety requirements.

“Our listeners love the sport. It’s probably the only motor sport for many black people. For example if you were to ask them about Lewis Hamilton, they would not be able to tell you who he is, but ask them about “Turbo”, Shanestone”, they already know who you’re talking about,” says Makukule.

Indeed the West Side’s Spin City arena at Rocky’s Drift between Nelspruit and White River is one of the few places that are licenced to host the sport, and it clearly meets all safety requirements.

A variety of radio personalities including DJ Shabba who hosts the station’s Afternoon Drive Show, Khaya Matchegue, who presents the Sisonke Midday Cruise and Ligwalagwala station manager, Rio Mabunda were in attendance.

The preferred vehicle for the sport is the BMW 325i, officially known as the E30 325i.

“The anatomy of the E30 includes a durable engine which is capable of taking the punishment of consistent revving without sustaining any damage, there are also those who say that its clutch plate is as resistant, then there is also the maneuverability of the vehicle and its ability to turn at unimaginable angles and above all – the unique sound of the BMW automobiles, irrespective of what exhaust pipes have been fitted in the car,” says Nyiko Makukule, the brains behind the project.

Makukule is the station’s Web Master but has a passion for motorsport.

In the township, the 325i is called the Gusheshe, others call it the vehicle of thugs or gangsters, as they prefer it as a getaway vehicle when accosted by the police, its manoeuvrability  makes it suitable for shaking off the police.

The participants at this year’s Up In Smoke event, however, were anything but thugs. They are respectable family men who were just enjoying the whistles, ululations and screams from an estimated 5000 crowd that attended the event while they spun their “gusheshes”.

The smell of burning rubber was the order of the day as “contestant” after “contestant” showed off their stunts while clouds of thick smoke covered the entire arena.

The rule is that the vehicle only leaves the arena when it has burst at least one of its tyres. This rule, however, is only applicable for those vehicles that have been fitted with the tyres for the occasion, whereas those who use their own tyres leave the arena before any serious damage is done.

“There are mechanics on standby in case anything happens to the vehicle. There are also people who fit the tyres to the vehicles so that the vehicle can return to entertain the crowds, after each burst” said  Makukule.

The stuntman who stole the hearts of the crowds was undoubtedly Shanestone from the East Rand Showstoppers. He spun his vehicle - got off the while it was still spinning - jump on to the roof and open the bonnet of the vehicle while the vehicle continues spinning on its own, of course there was always an assistant driver whom I believe helps keep the vehicle on course. I have, however, in the past seen other spinners performing similar stunts without any assistant.

There were also lighter moments when one “contestant” got into the arena driving what looked like an old yellow Anglia car. He also pulled off a few stunts before the vehicle stalled and had to be pushed out of the arena, leaving the entire arena in giggles.

The sport is undoubtedly absorbing, however, one has to couple it with other forms of entertainment as it can be tedious to watch one thing over and over again, and I did not have any, which is why I left early and got into my beemer and guess what?

As I was driving back to Nelspruit the traffic light turned red and there was this Merc driver who pulled of just next to my vehicle.

His intentions were very clear that he wanted to test the performance of his vehicle against mine.

I responded by revving my vehicle several times until it emitted that Gusheshe sound.

It was loud enough to scare him off and he did not pull off when the traffic light turned green until I did.

Thanks to the Gusheshe sound, I did not have to break the law by engaging in a drag race on a public road.

Now I understand why they say that one has to have the first hand experience of spinning the vehicle at a designated place so that when he gets on the public road he would not have the compulsion to pull off stunts that may endanger other road users’ lives.

Arrive Alive these holidays.

Spinna le Gusheshe!

ZIWAPHI • VOL 4 NO 29 • 17 DECEMBER 2010 - 14 JANUARY 2011