The cracked dry surface of Hakskeen Pan bakes in the sun, just waiting for history to happen.
Distant hills peek over the horizon trying to catch a glimpse of the roaring spectacle on the flat Northern Cape plain, where adrenaline-junkie extremists have converged in their souped-up hot-rods.
Karl Ebel from Table View roars over the desert floor in his 1940 Chevy. The course is starting to break up, but he continuous unabated… 120 km/h… 140… 160…
When he reaches 170 km/h, he sees on his GPS that he’s wheel spinning.
Ebel needs traction and is running out of track, so he short-shifts the gear into fifth and floors the accelerator.
At 190 km/h the car started spinning around.
“Before I knew what was was going on… I couldn’t even dip the clutch quick enough, because the motor had stalled and I was already going backwards before I realised it was spinning. I was just hoping that it wouldn’t dig in. I thread the steering wheel through my hands and tried to ensure it didn’t lock on either side and I just held on!”
Ebel’s Chevy spun 20 times that run.
“It’s a dry lake, so there was plenty of fine dust. Then I saw bits of blue sky through the dust and thought I came to a standstill, but I hadn’t. I was still spinning. It was quite a surreal experience,” he laughs.
This incident happened at last year’s Speedweek event at Hakskeen Pan.
Possibly right about now, while reading this very sentence, Ebel is again attempting to cross the 300 km/h threshold. But this time he has learnt from his mistakes.
“This year we will be using the more slippery body shape of a 1980 Mustang. On paper we ought to reach 300 km/h,” he adds.
The only problem is Ebel will not be racing “on paper”, but rather on dry desert floor.
“The car feels quite planted up until 180, but then your perception of depth becomes exponential. So the faster you go the more radical your depth perception is. The sensitivity of the car is increased and believe me, you are correcting the car the whole time. You have to put delicate inputs into and… You need to feel it…”
The Mustang, or as Ebel calls it, the “Monstang” is powered by a 327 small block Chevy. The motor has quite a list of “go-fast-goodies” in it, but according to Ebel it is “still not a bank breaker”.
He elaborates: “We are running an overdrive manual gearbox and a high diff ratio with tall tyres. We are also running naturally aspirated, so there are no power additions. This combo sees us over 300 and we are looking forward to see what happens!”
So, what motivates someone to push the boundaries of sanity to such a degree?
“I’m a bit of a petrol-head hey,” says Ebel unsurprisingly.
“I do enjoy the rush, but for me it’s more about the art form. It’s about putting together the concept, building it yourself and seeing it run.”
He adds as an afterthought: “It’s quite an adrenaline rush really.”
You don’t say!