Mon, May 13, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Fast and furious

In the early morning hours a secret club gathers on the streets of Hong Kong to break the law with fast, expensive cars

By Preeti Jha  /  AFP, Hong Kong

Richard was one of the 1,700 people prosecuted in the crackdown.

Back at the winding road where he was caught speeding, he points at the bushes in which police rigged speed cameras. After 120 hours of community service and losing his driving license for a year, the 41-year-old says he rarely races anymore.

“If I really want to drive fast, maybe I will go to China [and use] the racing track. But not on the roads in Hong Kong.”

He added that if arrested again he may face jail and would lose his job as an English tutor.

Police describe racing in the city as an ad-hoc rather than a large-scale or well-organized activity. The racers gathered for breakfast paint a different picture.

Morning or midnight races take place every week in several different parts of the territory, while there are also more spontaneous contests when drivers eye a willing competitor on the street or simply take a chance to rip down highways alone.

Beneath the racing community’s camaraderie lurks an undeniable sense of the status that cars and racing bring.

“There are too many rich people in Hong Kong. All my friends race, all own sports cars. Most of it is to show off,” says Nick, who owns a Porsche and a Ford Focus rs500.

With the cost of cars and modifications — faster wheels and engines or louder exhausts — running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s an expensive as well as a risky way to make a mark.

Amateur racers have long been lobbying for an official racetrack in Hong Kong that they claim will stop people racing illegally on the streets.

Some already cross the border into mainland China to use a circuit where two races over a weekend can cost as much as US$10,000.

Others admit a track will never replace the thrill of racing on public roads. “You cannot match the excitement,” says Nick. “Some people will always race on the streets.”

(All racers’ names have been changed.)

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