spinning motorsport South Africa
Squealing rubber, raging engines, dizzying revs and smoke, the sport of spinning is bursting out of the underground motorsports world and making a name for itself. It was born in the townships of Soweto, South Africa, as a ritual to honour fallen gangsters during the Apartheid era. Fast forward two decades later and spinning has transformed to become Africa’s biggest motorsport. It is a wild mix of drifting and personal expression, which involves drivers locking their car into a spin and then – amid screeching tyres and clouds of smoke – climbing out of the car to perform moves on the bodywork or even hang upside down from the window with their head just millimetres above the ground. // Sushi seen during Red Bull Shay' iMoto spinning qualifier in Johannesburg, South Africa, on September 10, 2021. // Mpumelelo Macu / Red Bull Content Pool

As South Africa celebrates Heritage Month, the country’s motorsports phenomenon – Spinning – is making international headlines for being a sport like nothing most people have ever seen. Red Bull calls it a battle of “drifting meets dance” and its become the biggest motorsport in Africa.

spinning motorsport South Africa
A Participant performs during the Red Bull Shay’iMoto spinning event in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 19, 2019. // Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Squealing rubber, raging engines, dizzying revs and enough smoke to choke up a freight train, the sport of Spinning is bursting out of the underground motorsports world in SA and making a name for itself across the continent.

The popular motorsport was born in the townships of Soweto as a ritual to honour fallen gangsters during the Apartheid era.

Known as the motorsport of the people, it’s a wild mix of drifting and personal expression, which involves drivers locking their car into a spin and then – amid screeching tyres and clouds of smoke – climbing out of the car to perform moves on the bodywork or even hang upside down from the window with their head just millimetres above the ground.


spinning motorsport South Africa
A Participant performs during the Red Bull Shay’iMoto spinning event in Johannesburg, South Africa on October 19, 2019. // Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

For Spinners, the key goal is to entertain the crowd with their high-octane theatrics, and expensive hi-tech cars aren’t needed to achieve this; however, a classic BMW 325i is still the pinnacle choice car for serious contenders.

spinning motorsport South Africa
Lil Germy performs during Red Bull Shay’ iMoto spinning event in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 19, 2020. // Tyrone Bradley / Red Bull Content Pool

Spinning is the pride and joy of the spinning community and is deeply rooted in South African culture based on what has been happening for more than 30 years.

it’s the only motorsport that covers all races and faces

Sportive Director of Red Bull Shay’ iMoto Vic Pardal says:

“In pure, simplistic classification terms, Spinning is the art of controlling chaos while creating entertainment, just like theatre, while drifting is a motorsport governed by a strict set of rules and formats.

“It’s a culture and a movement, and yet, it’s the only motorsport that covers all races and faces. Traditionally, it was used as a celebration of life at people’s funerals and for certain other celebrations and purposes which were beyond the law. As long as there have been rear-wheel-drive cars in South Africa, people have been spinning. Still, spinning is very different today to what someone’s uncle or grandfather was doing years ago in recreation centre parking lots.”

Spinners have become performers out to entertain crowds and Pardal adds, “It’s pretty much a travelling circus, where we, as the paid performers, travel from town to town and entertain the masses.”

The 2021 Red Bull Shay’ iMoto event was held on September 11 in Johannesburg and saw young Nelspruit local Samkeliso ‘Sam Sam’ Thubane as the latest star to emerge after winning the 2021 title. (Pictured below.)

spinning motorsport South Africa
Sam Sam performs during Red Bull Shay’ iMoto spinning event in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 10, 2021. // Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

The country’s top spinners battled it out in Jozi, with Sam Sam edging out Boksie in a no-holds-barred final battle that had the judges on the edge of their seats.

While spinning isn’t traditionally a competitive motorsport, Sam Sam’s thrilling 2021 victory should help grow the sport even more worldwide alongside the exciting global drifting movement.

Despite the competition, there’s a strong spirit of camaraderie amongst the drivers. Because for them, it is not just a sport, it is a culture that binds them together. And from the young to the more experienced, they have all had a hand in building the status of Spinning in the country and expanding the imprint beyond borders. The next step: get the sport on the world stage.

Source: Red Bull Media House

WATCH VIDEO: Sam Sam spinning at Redbull Shay’ imoto 2021 final