It’s sad day. Cape Town’s famous drag racer Willie Nel has called it quits.

By Joel Silva


Known for his wheelies off the line with his famous Can-Am, Willie announced today to Speed and Sound that he would be retiring from all forms of competitive drag racing. “I might have one run – in Namibia – in a few weeks’ time but nothing is set in stone regarding that event. For now, though, I’m hanging up the helmet for good.”

Willie’s history with the Can-AM (maroon in colour) began in 1991 at Killarney. “I’ve actually been drag racing since 1984.” said Willie. “In 1992, I set the record for first B-Modified (the Can-Am) to run a 10.2-seconds @ 225km/h, until Sybie Coetzee went quicker the following year.”

Willie has raced on every drag strip around the country: Rainbow, Wesbank, Tarlton, Margate, PE and Namibia – you name it. Willie is also fondly remembered for representing Cape Town in the famous North vs South Finals back in the 2000s, but his greatest achievement was leading the charge in the 8-cylinder class with his nitrous-fed Can-Am, the best time being a 9.80-seconds @ 228km/h. At one stage, he was even sponsored by Speed and Sound!

“If I had stayed in Johannesburg, I probably would have carried on drag racing. It’s in my blood, but unfortunately, things can never quite materialise.”

“The Can-Am was the quickest 8-cylinder in Cape Town for quite some time. But recently, Shaheen Barmania’s twin turbocharged Lumina (Suspect) has upped the ante and is now number 1.” says Willie.

It has been a long journey for Willie and his supportive wife Louise who boast a cupboard packed with trophies. The legendary (and now purple) Can-Am is selling for 800k, and with it goes the full history, all the paperwork and a lot of memories. Click below to see the sale:

We wish the couple all the best. Thanks for those wheelies!

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