19th Passion For Speed – Zwartkops & Killarney, South Africa

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South Africa’s historic racing scene is vibrant, colourful, relaxed and proudly independent of institutional red tape.  The focus and cars are, in the main, very different from those in other theatres of warfare.  They, not to mention the promise of winter sunshine, attract British, European and American competitors year after year. Marcus Pye ‘Brexited’ from the UK early to experience February’s 19th Passion for Speed events.

 An inspired Andrew Beaumont (Lotus 18) staved off Will Nuthall (Cooper T53) to record a superb maiden HGPCA victory at Killarney.  Photo Colin Brown

Peter du Toit’s modern well-equipped Zwartkops complex near Pretoria and the ‘olde world’ charm of Western Province Motor Club’s Killarney International Raceway, almost 1500km south west in Cape Town’s coastal suburbs, are joys that await competitors and enthusiastic racegoers.  The contrasts don’t end there, for Zwartkops – close to Kyalami’s remodelled Formula 1 circuit – is almost 6000 feet above sea level.  This altitude presents challenges in making highly-tuned race engines breathe, as debuting Historic Grand Prix Cars Association members discovered.

Coughing and spluttering notwithstanding, the HGPCA’s 19-car field was the star turn.  Watching a glorious Maserati 250F and Lotus 16 from the 1950s in full pomp, Cooper versus Lotus rivalry among the younger 2.5-litre cars, and a pack of 1500s including famous Alfa Romeo-engined LDS, Heron, Lotus and Cooper chassis from National F1 races, driven by household name drivers of the calibre of Doug Serrurier, Ernie Pieterse, Syd van der Vyver and Trevor Blokdyk, animated guest of honour David Piper and spectators of all ages.

Bailey Cars boss Peter Bailey (917) and Neil Lobb (T70) awaits the off at Zwartkops.  Photo MAWP+SPORT

The battle for supremacy between polesitter Andrew Beaumont (ex-Cliff Allison/Henry Taylor/Lucien Bianchi/Dan Gurney UDT Laystall Lotus-Climax 18 915) and young charger Will Nuthall (saddling Giorgio Marchi’s Cooper-Climax T53) saw Nuthall land a double at Zwartskop.

One week later, with the engines back on full song in the thicker Western Cape air, the pace hotted up at the historic Killarney International circuit, majestically overlooked by Table Mountain.  Cooper drivers locked-out the top four qualifying positions, poleman Nuthall Jr pursued by Drake, Rod Jolley (T45/51) and Justin Maeers (T53).  Beaumont lay fifth when a flailing halfshaft took out his 18’s left rear corner.  Undeterred, Chris Dinnage and the Classic Team Lotus crew repaired the damage and he started the race in determined mood.  Also on the grid was Smith-Hilliard, his 16 fixed by Hi-Tech’s crew with spares flown in from the UK.

Beaumont bounded through to P2, two seconds adrift of Nuthall in the opening race, with Drake and Greg Thornton (having worked through a catalogue of engine dramas in his LDS-Alfa) next home.  The sequel was sensational.  Beaumont seized the lead from Nuthall in the closing stages, then resisted everything his rival threw at him to land his first outright victory after nine years of trying in various CTL-run cars.

There was huge interest in big V8 saloon cars and mighty sports prototypes (mainly T70, GT40, Cobra and 917 clones built locally by Peter Bailey’s enterprise) at Zwartkops.  Hounded initially by superstar Sarel van der Merwe (Pablo Clark Ford Galaxie), Peter Lindenberg topped a corking Pre-‘66 Legends of the 9 Hours race in his Shelby Mustang GT350.  Lindenberg prevailed on aggregate over Jono and Mark du Toit in Chevrolet Nova and Ford Fairlane respectively, and Jeff Kruger (Plymouth Barracuda).

Peter Lindenberg (Shelby Mustang GT350) battled Colin Ellison (Ford Fairlane) to complete an unbeaten Passion for Speed campaign.  Photo Colin Brown

Lindenberg’s success continued at Killarney, where he was made to sweat in race one with Colin Ellison (Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt) and Jono du Toit omnipresent in his mirrors.  Jono and sibling Mark finished 2-3 later, when the Fairlane’s gearbox wilted with British returnee Tim Boles at the wheel.

Larry Wilford won Zwartkops’ Castrol Pre-‘74 International Sports Prototypes opener but elected to start his T70 Mk3B from the pits in the decider.

The Historic Single-Seater Association’s dedication to preserving South African FF1600 and Formula Vee history was evidenced in a double-header in which Formula Junior visitors Richard Wilson (Brabham BT6) and Richard Smeeton (Wainer 63, which broke in race one) set the pace.

For a full report see out March issue

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