Every year, petrol heads from all over South Africa gravitate towards Hakskeenpan—a desert pan in the north-western corner of the country. Kalahari Desert Speedweek has become a pilgrimage of sorts for many, with a simple formula: bring a vehicle, camp out, ride the pan and record a speed.
I’ve yet to attend Speedweek—but Cape Town locals Los Muertos Motorcycles are regular faces on the pan. I caught up with LMMC’s Steve Pitt to get a feel for what I’ve been missing.
You guys make the trek each year—what’s the attraction?
We go because it’s one of the most awesome events for true petrol heads the country has to offer. Besides Hakskeenpan being a beautiful and bizarre landscape that everyone living in SA should see; riding or driving your chosen vehicle on it at high speed is the closest you’ll come to starring in Mad Max.
From a commercial point of view, it’s a great branding excercise for us and the perfect opportunity to shoot footage of our bikes and cars. The light there is insane (as you can see from some of the shots) and typical desert sunsets make everything seem surreal.
So it’s a good vibe then…
Most people who you meet there are the kind who want to make any motor go faster, and have inevitably spent an entire year working on, or building from scratch, whatever vehicle they intend to take to the pan for the event.
Some of the biggest thrills are not necessarily experienced on the speed run, but enjoyed on the 600 square kilometre periphery—riding in tandem with the throttle wide open, or doing donuts on the cracked clay surface and kicking up as much dust as possible—with close friends, colleagues and strangers alike. There’s something about waking up, and the first thing you do, after coffee (met brandewyn) and a smoke, is jump on a bike and cruise off as far as the eye can see.
How big was your crew this year?
Our crew was fifteen strong, made up of close friends and some chinas from Cape Town who were up last year. We all camped together, making it the most festive year so far.
And your vehicles?
We took our two stars—being the ’83 Honda XL500 ‘Swart Gevaar’ and ’81 Yamaha SR500—and three LMMC-branded cars. We didn’t run the bikes, but all three cars ran. The red ’88 Porsche 911 did 205km/h, the Martini-coloured ’83 Porsche 911 did 212km/h and the ’68 Pontiac GTO hit 208km/h.
Not very impressive, I know, but the track was particularly dodgy this year due to deep sand at points thanks to the wind.
Sounds sketchy; any mishaps on your last visit?
No serious mishaps in our crew—except someone (no names) flipped a YZ250!
One of our crew, however, was unfortunate enough to accept a ride with three other blokes in a very fast Opel Record with a V8 in it. They managed to run into a two-million-year-old shale shelf at over 200km/h. No one got killed but they all went to hospital.
Run us through a day at Speedweek…
A typical day starts with a desert hangover. Then we start a small fire, put coffee pot on and have a couple of smokes—and maybe a quick ride. After that it’s off to breakfast at the main tent, and then watching runs across at the speed run. We ride and drive all day with a lunch break in between.
Then it’s down to our favourite spot, behind and beyond the start line, with a large cooler box on the bakkie for sundowners and sunset photo ops. After sunset it’s back to camp for some serious kuier-ing and campfires.
Dinner’s at the main tent, with the local band doing shocking covers of typical 60s and 70s rock acts.
I don’t remember ever once actually going to sleep—just a bunch of lads playing Mad Max in the desert.