The good ol’ days of racing at Kyalami

A general view of the Kyalami race track on July 23, 2014 a day before it will go up for auction in Johannesburg, South Africa. The circuit hosted its last international competition in May 2010 with the sixth race of the World Superbike Championship. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
A general view of the Kyalami race track on July 23, 2014 a day before it will go up for auction in Johannesburg, South Africa. The circuit hosted its last international competition in May 2010 with the sixth race of the World Superbike Championship. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on July 27, 2014. 

Back in the good old days, people overseas related to four things regarding South Africa: the Springboks, heart pioneer Chris Barnard, golfer Gary Player – and Kyalami.

An auction in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, yesterday saw the historic Kyalami race track sold to Porsche SA for a whopping R205 million.

Lead auctioneer Joff van Reenen took no longer than two minutes to wrap up the sale of the property to a telephonic bidder. Porsche SA CEO Toby Venter was in Cape Town when the sale was made.

Lance Chalwin-Milton, joint managing director at High Street Auctions, said because the buyers were in the motoring industry, the race track would remain as is, with “possible development around the track”.

This sale is the highest auctioned price paid for a single property in South Africa – the previous highest being R120 million, said Van Reenen.

Piece of history

The Kyalami circuit was built in 1961, on a piece of land chosen by the late rally driver Francis Tucker, “because nobody would ever think of building anything there”.

It was completed the same year and its first major race, the Rand Grand Prix, was won by Jim Clark in a Lotus Climax.

FILE PICTURE: The Kyalami Racetrack in Johannesburg. Photo by Gallo Images/Sowetan/Tshepo Kekana
FILE PICTURE: The Kyalami Racetrack in Johannesburg. Photo by Gallo Images/Sowetan/Tshepo Kekana

Over the years, the circuit was widened, becoming a regular host of the F1 Grand Prix world championship.

It was revered as one of the fastest circuits in the world, with F1 cars reaching higher speeds than on tracks like Monza, Spa and Silverstone.

In 1988 it was cut in half and redesigned to its current shape.

Its last F1 took place in 1993, won by Alain Prost in a Williams Renault, leading home Ayrton Senna (McLaren) and Michael Schumacher (Benetton).

In between, the venue also hosted international sports car and truck races, superbike events and manifold rounds of SA championships for single seaters and saloon cars.

Its last major international event was the final round of the 2010 World Superbike championship.

By Andre de Kock and Pheladi Sethusa 

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