Motor Sports in South Africa

Motorsports Federations

Track racing is a quite popular pursuit for those on a holiday in sunny South Africa, and although the sport is not as developed as it is in many other parts of the world, it’s an activity locals enjoy quite rigorously too - not surprising though, considering the wonderful climate and the general outdoor nature of South Africans. Rallies, off-road races and 4x4 challenges are a few motor sports in South Africa that have a strong following. 

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The Federation Internationale de I’Automobile (FIA), responsible for all forms of automobile sport, and the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), responsible for all categories of motorcycling, are the two governing bodies that control motorsports across the world. Both the FIA and the FIM only recognize one National Federation in each country. 

The National Federation is responsible for the control and administration of the motorsport in its own country and all events are to be held in accordance with the FIA and FIM sporting codes. In South Africa, the FIA and FIM acknowledge Motorsport South Africa (MSA) as the country’s National Federation.

MSA has authority over both car and motorcycle sporting events, while most other countries have separate governing bodies for the two disciplines. Track racing can be done in various ways, often illegally, but under Motorsport South Africa racers or aspiring racers have the opportunity of engaging with the practice in a safe, legal and entertaining way!

Venues for Motorsports

A ‘circuit’ is the more common term for a racetrack among participants. There are different venues and circuits that cater for the adrenaline rush that comes from motorsports - ranging from street tracks, permanent tracks, drag strips and kart tracks. It all depends on which specific motor sporting event peaks your interest that will determine which venue will be best suited to accommodate it. 

Kyalami near Johannesburg and Killarney near Cape Town are just a couple of the major and more permanent track racing venues in the country. These two race tracks are considered permanent tracks along with Blue Circle Runway in a town in the North West called Litchenburg, Red Star Raceway in Delmas, Mpumalanga and Aldo Scribante Circuit in Port Elizabeth just to name a few.

A street circuit is one of the numerous motorsport racetracks, only it is composed by temporarily closing-off the public roads of a city, town or a village for the races. The street race participants use fences, paddocks and other similar provisions which temporarily close off the roads and are then removed once the race is over. Usually because the street tracks are constructed from roads that are built to accommodate normal speeds, race drivers find the circuits bumpy and they offer very little tyre grip. 

There are many small street tracks throughout the country that are often assembled at random to cater for specific races but there are also pseudo-permanent street tracks that are used on a similar basis like the well-known Durban street circuit in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Durban street circuit which is 3.31km in distance, it’s only 300m from Durban North Beach. Its design is comprised of long fast straights along Masabalala Yengwa Avenue (formerly NMR Ave), Suncoast Boulevard, a sharp U-shaped bend on Snell Parade and three challenging chicanes that are part of the track. Race on street circuits is understood as “legal street racing” and the local government tends to support this recreational motorsport to promote tourism.

Alternatively, drag racing is also an established recreational sport in South Africa, with a number of dragstrips around the country like the Tarlton International Raceway just outside Krugersdorp. Motorsport South Africa is in charge of drag races and all drivers are required to hold a valid Motorsport South Africa license if they intend on participating in the entertaining activities. 

Kart circuits are race tracks designed for a specific type of motorsport like kart racing or other alternate shorter forms of racing. Kart racing is often associated with being a beginner or amateur type of motorsport. In fact, many of the internationally renowned Formula One motorsport champions such as Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton started their careers by kart racing.

South Africa has several circuits that cater to kart racing such as Killarney Kart Circuit in Cape Town or the Celso Scribante Kart Track in Port Elizabeth and the various other circuits across the country!