Review: New Kyalami hosts first motorsport event.
Three days of motorsport action at the newly refurbished Kyalami circuit drew a record 400+ entries from the country’s top racing categories.
It was the first time the circuit had been used for a competitive racing event since undergoing major FIA Grade 2 specification upgrades some eighteen months ago. The changes included the lengthening of the straight to 900 metres, a wider first corner and a little modification to the bowl after Mineshaft. Adding to the circuit’s better overtaking spots, the entire circuit was re-tarred, new kerbs put in place, safety barriers and catch fencing all escalated costs to Toby Venter’s initial purchase price of over 200 million Rand.
Spectators came to see how the removal of the hospitality bomas had improved viewing and those who got there early set up gazeebos for the day at prime areas like Sunset and The Crocodiles. With Toby Venter keen to bring back a family atmosphere to South African racing, visitors were encouraged to bring their own stocked cooler boxes and skottel braais but if you didn’t feel like doing that, food and beverage stalls (mostly up at the top pits) were a convenient contingency plan.
We’re not sure at this stage how many spectators came through the gates and it’s hard to judge numbers given Kyalami’s sprawling layout but we’re not sure it attracted quite the target number. With live streaming from ILEB on Facebook and Radio Kyalami a first of its kind for South African Motorsport, perhaps many opted for the digital alternative.
Kyalami does need one or two grandstands for those who arrive and without the necessary outdoor equipment for a comfortable afternoon. While those who came prepared were rewarded with terrific views, others would prefer a designated space that’s shaded. Turn 1 would be a good option.
The pitlane building is a colossal modern structure that really lives up to the highest international standards for hospitality, media and race control. New bathrooms, kitchens and conference facilities are flexible in design and the new viewing decks proved a popular place to hang out. For me it’s the most impressive feature of new Kyalami; it’s big, airy, organised and well equipped. The potential is limitless.
Too bad Saturday was reserved for a lot of practice and not all formulas raced. As a paying visitor, not seeing a GTC race would have irritated me somewhat. Not that GTC proved worth supporting; a succession of retirements whittled a small field down and gaps grew to a predictable outcome. Global Touring Cars (race report here) is running out of time to get it right… what we billed as the highlight of the event, failed to come close to meeting expectations. As the only series not available to streaming services due to a conflict with Supersport, the promotion around GTC is pathetic.
Better racing was in the Engen Volkswagen Polo Cup and G & H Extreme Supercars with even the old V8s supercars, which really are on their last legs, putting on more of a show. The Volkswagen South Africa Media Challenge in conjunction with the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists, CellC and Dunlop could become a regular series if the first race is anything to go by. Sean Nurse from Autodealer pipped Mark Jones from The Citizen on the last corner to take victory while in the celebrity challenge Jack Parow took the Polo 1.2 TSI DSG to first place.
*Picture credit David Ledbitter
Toby Venter driving his 911 GTR holds the new lap record around Kyalami with a time of 1m46.610 – 0.001 faster than Greg Gildenhuys on the KreepyKraauly Kawasaki Z10xR.
SA Car Fan will keep you up to date on the next event at Kyalami.