Kyalami looks good, but can it bring back F1?

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Going back in history, the original Kyalami that opened in 1961 was fast even by Formula One standards. A long, sweeping circuit, it was highly rated by drivers and riders alike. So it came as no real surprise when it went on to become an international destination after taking over the SA Grand Prix date from East London - in much the same way that Melbourne did from Adelaide in Australia.

Its other major event was the international Nine-Hour Endurance Race, held in November each year. Because this one ran into the night, the tent towns that sprang up around the circuit resembled Johannesburg in its gold-rush heyday.

New 911 Turbo takes on new Kyalami

Unfortunately political sanctions in particular and urban growth to a lesser extent, contributed to its eventual closure in 1985. It was succeeded some years later, by the new Kyalami, a slower and narrower bonsai model that was less than half the size and no more than half as good as the original. Although F1 world championship Grands Prix were run there in 1992 and 1993 the quality of the circuit, allied to poor management, led to it going downhill after that.

So when the inevitable happened and the circuit was put up for auction in July 2014 to cover the ballooning debt, it was eventually sold to racing driver Toby Venter on behalf of Porsche SA, for R205 million. Plans were then immediately put in place for a major multi-million rand rebuild and re-development.

The track itself has changed completely. It has been re-surfaced and is now also longer and wider. There are new asphalt run-off areas and more than 40 000 tyres have been strapped together and strategically positioned along the outer concrete kerbing and verges, as a safety factor approved by the FIA and FIM.

CONFERENCE CENTRE

Off the circuit, the long pit building is being extended, re-roofed and refurbished; it’s bounded by a world-class conference and exhibition centre, with ample parking and ease of access thanks to a double-lane subway under the track.

The dynamic new driving area, which includes a multi-functional platform, skidpan and 1.1km handling track previously unheard of in this country, will provide a unique facility for advanced driver training. A challenging off-road training facility will also soon be on the cards, adding to the variety of activities available at this complex.

The first major events planned for the venue include the SA Bike Festival from 27-29 May and the SA Festival of Motoring from 31 August to 4 September.

However there has been no mention of the possibility of a South African Grand Prix. Word is that while Venter will be promoting a variety of international car and motorcycle events, these do not include F1.

Cape Argus


Original source: Kyalami looks good, but can it bring back F1?

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