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Goodwood Showgrounds was the oval track capital of South Africa. Adrian Pheiffer created the Cape Helldrivers to save Killarney after the weather had turned the Cape Grands Prix into a huge financial loss, but few would have bet on the fact that this would be the start of one of the most successful motorsport series in South Africa.

Promoting CHD was Abie Drotschie and when time allowed he was quite handy behind the wheel too. The only mistake they made was not to buy the Showgrounds when the opportunity beckoned, and development eventually saw the demise of the greatest oval in South Africa.

The focus changed and G(Gunter) & A(AB) Motorsport became the next household name connected with the Drotschie name. Gunter himself proving very capable behind the wheel but breaking into mainstream South African motorsport became a very limited and expensive opportunity. Talent alone is simply not enough to reach the top of the motorsport triangle.

At least the penny dropped and the realisation that F1 was not the only international category that represented a successful career for talented drivers. The Van der Linde brothers probably the best known on for four wheels and on two, the Binder brothers.
Other than Sarel van der Merwe, Graham Duxbury and Tony Martin winning the Daytona 24 Hour in their Kreepy Krauly March in 1984 the USA remained uncharted waters till Thomas Scheckter became a name in Indy Cars.

Having grown up in the oval community however defined the future goals for one Luke Drotschie and thanks to Dad regularly sourcing motorsport components for South African application the opportunity to enter the world of Midgets slowly became a reality.
Without wishing to make this sound like an insult comparing South Arican Midget Racing to that of the USA is simply not possible. I for one always thought the USA had a cheek to call their individual champions – World Champions. But, given the fact that their championships are open to anyone who wishes to compete there and in sheer numbers they represent more competitors than the rest of the world combined, at a level of competition that rivals any truly international formula.

Try to visualise a 250m to 800m (1/2 Mile) clay oval track with concrete perimeter walls lining the entire circuit, add 24 “all balls and little brains” youngsters armed with 2.7 liter methanol fuelled normally aspirated engines, 400bhp 400kg 1:1 power to weight ratio, off centre hotrods for 40 laps and mayhem has to follow.

On average ±60 drivers contest each round of the Xtreme Midget Outlaw Class with season finale in January , known as the “Indy 500” or “Chilli Bowl”, attracting 374 entries that include many NASCAR and Indy Car drivers.

Sure they practice at each meeting – atotal of five hot laps which is followed by two qualifying laps! With as many as 376 competitors there simply is no time for more. Get it wrong and you become history before starting the first heat. Bang it into gear on the push start and it is absolutely flatout pulling 9300rpm until you stop. Should you be so fortunate your team may have private practice sessions in which they develop cars and drivers.

A lap is just 9.5 seconds around the 250m oval, but keep in mind that there are 23 others wanting to reach that chequered flag ahead of you after 40 insanely quick laps at 9300rpm. With each circuit evolving as the night progresses there is little time to make adjustments on these rocket ships and it boils down to experience and raw talent on the track to finish at the front.

When your Team Manager states that you must please avoid trying to impress the team as it inadvertently ends up in a spectacular crash and they want him to get maximum seat time to learn how to read the races and surfaces and get the best out of the car. Fastest lap overall in the final heat for Luke Drotschie on debut certainly had management smiling!

Gunter quite happy and relieved to not always be present as he has run out of fingers to chew. Very spectacular for outsiders as spectators, nerve wrecking for parents as onlookers and totally exhilarating for young drivers. Remaining calm possibly the biggest challenge for everyone involved as lifting those front wheels simply needs a stab on the throttle.

Keith Kunz Motorsport (KKM) and Toyota Racing developments (TRD) have seven Midgets under their banner covering the current world champion down to Luke as Rookie. They have groomed big names such as Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell who have since become NASCAR superstars. Kyle Larson doing some 130 races in a single season – no pressure!

Watch the four episodes of Dirt on Youtube for a brief introduction to the world of USA Midgets. The pinnacle is of course the World of Outlaws, but lets take it one step at a time as this is something else!

The Drotschie family gave everything to see Goodwood Showgrounds and Cape Helldrivers succeed, now the fastest Kwagga from Cape Town requires all the support he can get to take that oval heritage to the top in the USA!
Loop Oop Luke!

Published by: Patrick Vermaak

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