HGPCA on Tour in South Africa

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South Africa’s racing tradition is as strong as it gets anywhere in the world.  During the ‘60s the best drivers from across the planet would descend to the southern hemisphere, avoiding the European winter months, to test themselves in unique conditions.  Go forward 60 years and you wouldn’t be out of place thinking you had travelled back in time, to those nostalgic days of racing.

With a starting grid containing Jim Clark’s Lotus 21, Ernest Pieterse’s Heron Alfa, Syd Van De Vyver’s Lotus 24, Clive Puzey’s Lotus 18/21-P2, Trever Blokdyk’s Cooper T-56, and John Love’s Cooper T79 (the car which so nearly won the 1967 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami), all presented in their original livery, it was a throwback to the best of the best in Grand Prix racing returning to African soil.

It was a throwback to the best of South African Racing of the ‘60s Photo Wes Tanner

With a desire to follow in the footsteps of those greats, the members of the Historic Grand Prix Car Associations (HGPCA) from all across Europe embarked for South Africa in January.  Mike Perk sent this report…

First stop was the famous Zwartkops circuit near Pretoria.  Muggy heat and evening rainstorms with hailstones the size of golf balls had not been advertised by the travel agents, but created wonderful memories that stirred all the senses in those that had made the journey.

The racing was equally dramatic, with Charlie Martin and Rudi Friedrichs (both in Cooper T53s) battling out an exhilarating 1-2 respectively in the first race, followed in close pursuit by Mark Shaw (Lotus 21: three-time formula one winning car at the Rand, Natal, and South African Grand Prix) and Michael Gans (Cooper T79).  The afternoon’s race saw Friedrichs retire, allowing Martin to a clean sweep of wins at Zwartkops.

The HGPCA lined up and ready for action at Killarney Raceway

But the highlight of the weekend had to be Clive Puzey reunited with his Lotus 18/21-P2 (now owned and driven by Erik Staes).  Donning his racing overalls at aged 83, Clive did three laps of the historic circuit to appreciative applause from the crowd.

A week later Cape Town was calling.  Killarney Raceway is at sea level, so tyre pressures were changed and fuel adjusted.  After Martin and Friedrichs led the way in Pretoria, Mark Shaw and Michael Gans would steal the show in Cape Town.  Michael just pipping Mark to the top of the podium in both races.

Photo Michele Buhofer

Organising a trip like this isn’t a simple undertaking and just like traveling in the ‘60s there were plenty of hiccups along the way.  Back in early November the cars missed their designated ship, due to a customs hold up.  Finding a new ship that would arrive on time took some great work by the trip sponsor, JCL Logistics, and some re-routing to Port Elizabeth.  It was only two months later that the drivers were thankful for that first missed ship.  As they sat at their hotel bar balcony after the final race at Killarney with Table Mountain in the background, they could see their original ship out on the Atlantic waiting to get into port.  A strike in Durban was causing big delays to container shipping.  If they had caught that first ship, the racing would not have taken place. The African gods had certainly been with them, as had the wonderful teams at Zwartkops and Killarney, who lived the spirit of “Ubuntu”. this beautiful African word meaning “I am because we are” left everyone from the HGPCA truly feeling part of the African family.

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