Upton, 60, suffered an apparent heart attack while racing his beloved Porsche in a Cars Unlimited Fine Cars race at Killarney on Saturday.
“Driving his Porsche 944, he was negotiating Hoal’s Hoek (Turn 1), in the early stages of the event when he appeared to collapse behind the wheel,” said Western Province Motor Club spokesman Adrian Pheiffer.
“The Porsche gradually slowed and went off the track on the outside. It then continued in a tight circle, crossed the circuit again and came to a gentle stop against the safety wall, virtually undamaged.
“Paramedics and a doctor were on the scene in less than two minutes and attempts to resuscitate him were begun immediately. He was then rushed to hospital,” Pheiffer said.
Upton died half-an-hour after arriving at hospital.
“Upton, who had been racing for about seven years, was well-known and well-liked at the circuit. He was adept with a brush or pen and he regularly helped club members with designs on their cars, motorcycle tanks and their crash helmets. Away from the track he was an accomplished musician and during an earlier stage, also a manufacturer of ladies’ jewellery,” Pheiffer said. “He will be missed.”
Upton was also a prominent figure in the Porsche Club and was sales manager at upmarket car dealer Cars Unlimited until 2010.
Upton’s Facebook page was inundated with expressions of shock by many friends.
“Shocking news Bert! You are the colour and life that breathed into the Porsche Club… you will never be forgotten and we will drink a toast to you at Killarney my friend. See you on the track in heaven,” said Deon Bosman
Jocelyn Human: “Hi Bert, I am sad to hear you took such a unexpected exit to life… but then you always did do the unexpected with all the talents you possessed. You can’t read this, but I like to think you are watching. You are a well-loved part in every one of our lives. It has been a great ride, thank you for it.”
Close friend Peter van der Spuy published a picture of Upton holding a helmet he painted for Van der Spuy. “My race helmet beautifully painted by Bert Upton, what an incredible artist, and friend. RIP Bert, missing you mate. It hurts, can’t stop thinking of you.”
In an interview, Van der Spuy said Upton not only painted his helmet but also his custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which went on to win the prize of best custom motorcycle in South Africa.
“He was a very good friend. He was the real deal. The work that he did was the real thing. He was a true hippie, in the best sense of the word. He loved his farm and he would spend time sitting at a fire listening to Frank Zappa and chatting.”
A short time before Upton died, Van der Spuy met him at the Killarney club house. “I told him that I had just come from another friend’s funeral and that three friends of mine had died the past week and that it was enough now.
“He was an unbelievable character.”
Original source: 'Hippie' Bert dies during Cape race