History

History

The Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit is situated in Midrand in the province of Gauteng ideally positioned between the 2 major cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. The name "Kyalami" (liberally translated) means "My Home" in Zulu, one of South Africa's official languages.

The original circuit was constructed in 1961 and soon established itself as the premier motorsport facility in Southern Africa. The pleasant summer climate made Kyalami a favorite destination for European competitors unable to complete on home soil as a result of extreme winter conditions. The 9 Hour Endurance race meeting held in November of each year attracted many famous race teams to the southern tip of Africa. In 1967, Kyalami became part of the Formula 1 World Championship firmly placing it on the international motorsport calendar.

The Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit hosted its opening event on the 4th November 1961, the circuit length being 4,104 km. A Porsche 550 Spyder driven by John Love and Dawie Gous taking an historic victory at the 9 Hour race held that day. The circuit ran in a clockwise direction and is best remembered for its long main straight. Corners such as Crowthorne, Barbeque, Jukskei, Sunset, Clubhouse, The Esses and Leeukop soon became household names among both local and international motorsport fans. With the long straight and fast back section the circuit proved very quick with Crowthorne (first corner after the long straight) becoming a great overtaking corner and a spectator favorite. South African race fans flocked to the circuit with crowds approaching 100 000 at major events, a festival atmosphere became a Kyalami trademark.

After establishing itself as a regular Formula 1 venue Kyalami became regarded as one of the ten best Grand Prix Circuits in the world. Kyalami hosted numerous international events on the original layout until 1988. 18 rounds of the F1 World Championship were hosted at the circuit between 1967 and 1985 with the annual 9 Hour and 1000 km endurances races continuing from the circuits inception until 1988. Three official rounds of the World Sportscar Championship were hosted at Kyalami in 1974, 1983 and 1984 and the 500cc Motorcycle World Championship also visited Kyalami from 1983 to 1985.

During this golden era all of the top Grand Prix teams raced at Kyalami. Pedro Rodriquez driving a Cooper Maserati took victory in 1967 with local hero John Love, having led most of the race, finishing in second place. Jim Clark (Lotus) won his final Grand Prix at the circuit in 1968 just prior to his untimely death at Hockenheim. Three times world champion Jackie Stewart took victory in 1969 (Matra) and 1973 (Tyrrell) with world champions Jack Brabham (Brabham), Mario Andretti (Ferrari) and Denny Hulme (McLaren) winning from 1970 to 1972. Carlos Reutemann (Brabham) won the race in 1974 and the South African race fans celebrated in 1975 when hometown hero Jody Scheckter drove his blue Tyrrell to victory. Niki Lauda won for Ferrari in 1976 and 1977 taking a further victory for McLaren in 1984. Ronnie Peterson (Lotus), Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari) and Rene Arnoux (Renault) won from 1978 to 1980. The race won by Carlos Reutemann in 1981, driving a Williams, was not part of the World Championship due to the internal battles within Formula 1. World Champion Alain Prost took another victory for Renault in 1982 and Ricardo Patrese winning again for Brabham in 1983. The final Grand Prix at the original circuit was won by Nigel Mansell in a Williams. Mansell lapped the circuit at a record average speed of 236.898 km/h in qualifying demonstrating that Kyalami had evolved into one of the fastest circuits in the world.

The three 500cc Motorcycle World Championship races held from 1983 to 1985 were won by Freddie Spencer on a Honda in 1983 with Eddie Lawson taking victory in 1984 and 1985 on a Yamaha.

The 9 Hour race held from 1961 was initially dominated by British privateer Ferrari race driver David Piper who took 5 consecutive victories with various co-drivers from 1962 to 1966.  Jacky Ickx won in 1967 and 1968 with co drivers Brian Redman and David Hobbs at the wheel of the iconic Gulf Mirage Ford. Jacky won again in 1970 in a Ferrari with a final win in 1982 when he and Jochen Mass took victory in the famous factory entered Rothmans Porsche 956. David Piper and Richard Attwood took a famous victory in 1969 sharing a Porsche 917. This was only the second international victory for the iconic Porsche model. Clay Regazzoni took consecutive victories in 1971 and 1972 for Ferrari. The following years were dominated by Porsche victories apart from a Matra win in 1974 and a Lancia victory in 1984. The Porsche 956 and 962 models took victory in 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987 and 1988. The factory Rothmans 956 driven by Stefan Bellof and Derek Bell winning in 1982 when the race formed part of the World Championship. The final major race at the original circuit was fittingly won by a Porsche. Bob Wollek took victory in the Joest Porsche 962C on the 26th November 1988. After 26 years of racing Porsche had taken 9 wins to the 8 of Ferrari.

In 1989, for various reasons, the top half of the property was sold and the circuit "flipped over" to create version 2 of Kyalami, now an anticlockwise circuit 3.888km in length. The long straight was now gone and many felt that the mystic of the original circuit was lost. The pit complex was moved to the new main straight (between the old Jukskei and Sunset corners). Thankfully, the back part of the circuit from Sunset to The Esses was retained and is still in place today. With the commercialisation of the sport the original corner names were dropped in favor of sponsors names. This was a worldwide trend and although criticised by many, it ensured the commercial viability of the circuit and its ongoing survival.

With the return of the Grand Prix in 1992 and 1993 a new section of the circuit was added which housed the new (current) pit complex and main straight. This version of the circuit was 4.246 km in length with the main straight 15 meters wide and the rest of the circuit 12 meters in width.

The Williams team dominated both Grand Prix with Nigel Mansell taking victory in 1992 and Alain Prost winning the final SAGP in 1983. With nine World Champions having taken the chequered flag at Kyalami the circuit certainly can be called the home of Champions. The 500cc Motorcycle World Championship also made a return to the revised circuit in 1992. John Kocinski won the race on a Yamaha.

The circuit continued as a premier national motorsport venue but would once again make a return to the international scene. From 1998 to 2002 Kyalami hosted rounds of the popular World Superbike Championship (WSBK).

In 1994 a chicane was added in the second to last corner to reduce pit entry speeds and the speed into the final corner. This often criticised chicane was removed in 2009 when the circuit hosted two further rounds of the WSBK Championship in 2009 and 2010. The circuit also hosted a round of the A1GP series in 2009.

After this period the circuit went into a steady decline with the property eventually auctioned on the 24th July 2014. Mr. Toby Venter a well-known and respected motor business entrepreneur, visionary and successful race driver, purchased the circuit for 205 million Rand.

In May of 2015 an extensive redevelopment plan for the facility was announced including changes to the circuit layout, resurfacing of the circuit, upgrade of all spectator areas and facilities and a major upgrade to the pit building and exhibitions and conferencing center. A new driving dynamic area, skidpan and 1, 1 km handling track is also under construction. Safety upgrades to a FIA Grade 2 level have been installed.

Kyalami will once again regain its position as one of the premier international motoring and motorsport venues, its future secured.



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