SA car makes its F1 debut after 55 years


The one and only Assegai F1 car was built in 1961 by engineer and racing driver Tony Kotze, who sadly passed away three weeks ago. It had a mid-mounted twin-cam, 1.5-litre, four-cylinder Alfa Romeo engine and a five-speed gearbox - reputedly from a Volkswagen - that proved to be the car's Achilles heel.

The chassis followed the lines of Colin Chapman's classic Lotus 18, with double-wishbone independent suspension, coil-over shock absorbers and disc brakes all round - but Kotze was apparently very impressed by the 'sharknose' styling of the 1961 Scuderia Ferrari F1 car, hence very Italian front end.

Kotze entered the car for the 1962 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, but failed to qualify, apparently because its gearbox ratios were way too short for the speeds the car was capable of achieving and the engine revved itself into terminal mechanical infarction.

Kotze had planned to build a batch of four cars but after his disastrous outing at Kyalami his sponsors withdrew, leaving the car you see here as the only one of its kind.

After occasional track appearances and various changes of ownership, the Assegai showed up at an auction in England in August 2015, where it was bought by former F1 team member and now classic car collector John Carpenter.

Together with long-time friend, racing driver and historic racing car preparation expert Iain Rowley of Nuffield-based Delta Motorsport, he then began the time-consuming task of restoring the car to exactly the same specification as when it ran at Kyalami in 1962.

The job required as much painstaking research as it did engineering, to get every detail exactly right; that's what it takes to be accepted by the Automobile Club de Monaco as an authentic historic Formula One racing car.

And that's how it has come about that Tony Kotze's Assegai, with his name proudly blazoned on the side of the cockpit and Iain Rowley at the wheel, will line up on the grid of the iconic 3.34km Monte Carlo street circuit, to make its international racing debut - 55 years later - at the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique on Sunday 15 May.

Original source: SA car makes its F1 debut after 55 years