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Golden-era racing with a fresh twist

Published Feb 1, 2011

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Dozens of rare and beautiful historic racing cars, some lovingly restored beauties and others fanatically detailed replicas, will be roaring around Killarney on Saturday and Sunday when the Western Province Motor Club holds its annual International Historic Meeting.

Memories are made of special events and Killarney race track near Table View is covered in them.

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Edgar Hoal, pictured at the top of this story in his rare Freddie Dixon Riley back in the day, had high hopes when he designed the Killarney circuit for the Western Province Motor Club all those years ago.

And as he supervised the building of the track while in the employ of the Cape Town City Council, he must have relished the imminent opportunity to compete against local and foreign racers.

In his day, Hoal was blessed to have raced against some prominent drivers, many of whom drove cars that will take a bow again this weekend as the club celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The appearance of three rare northern-hemisphere McLaren V8 sports cars at the Killarney international historic meeting this weekend should more than compensate for a Ferrari entry as thin on the ground as fresh water in Beaufort West.

Dutch driver Michiel Campagne will lead the charge in his 1970 McLaren M8F Chev, which could turn out to be the quickest car on the circuit.

Developing in a short period from being the youngest driver to win a Formula One Grand Prix (achieved in a Cooper), to the head of a leading manufacturer of international competition cars, New Zealander Bruce McLaren achieved early success.

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Starting with his purchase of Roger Penske’s Oldsmobile powered Zerex Special, for competition in popular American sports car events, he continued to modify the car until it eventually emerged as the M1 McLaren.

The McLaren sports car line reached its peak with the M8 where, with F1 limited to a three litre capacity, the big-block, eight-litre V8’s that eventually produced more than 750kW/ton were acknowledged as the fastest racing cars in the world.

Despite opposition from Ferrari, Chaparral and Lola (with the T70), they continued to dominate the lucrative CanAm Series until the arrival of the awesome twin-turbo Porsche 917 in the mid-1970’s.

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Other McLaren entries include a M1B to be driven by Chris Wilson and an M1C for Donald Duncan.

Although this meeting caters for the golden age of motor racing in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, before the Opec-inspired oil crisis brought the sport to its knees, the organisers have not deemed it necessary to adhere strictly to this time-span.

Instead, they have increased the scope of the promotion by venturing back into the 1950’s and also by allowing various exciting later models into selected events.

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One of these will be Dutch driver Harm van Putten’s awesome 1991 American Imsa Alfa 75 turbo that will be seen in the TransAm category.

Prominent South African entries in other events include the versatile Sarel van der Merwe in a huge seven-litre Ford Galaxie. Always able to get off the line quickly, Van der Merwe’s ability will come into play when the brakes begin to fade later in the race and he is then tasked with keeping the rapidly closing field behind him.

This, of course, always offers great spectator value.

Chris Davison has entered an Opel Superboss and former powerboat champion Peter Lindenberg will be out in the square-rigged Ford Sierra XR8 that achieved fame - as well as a measure of notoriety - as Willie Hepburn’s “Animal”.

The meeting will also benefit from the number of magnificent replicas that have been cloned in recent times. So much so, that while cars with a genuine chassis plate and confirmed history may command a better price on the open market, the difference in track performance is often indiscernible and depends more on driver ability than any other factor.

Here the eternal Lotus 7 has emerged with a greater variety of powerplants than Colin Chapman had hot breakfasts. The two-litre Lola T212 is also well represented, while the sleek Ford GT40 - with the advantage of having V8 engines refined to more than the original factory specification available off- the-shelf in the US - comes across as a prime example.

One car that will be reborn in the Cape this weekend, resplendent in its original Team Selford purple livery, is the recently restored Ford Capri Perana V8, formerly campaigned by sometime South African sports car champion Peter Gough - with the same driver at the wheel.

Gough’s main opposition in the pre-1977 Classic Touring Car events is likely to come from the aggressive Martin Richards in his incredible Datsun B210, a projectile rated by many experts as the quickest legally competitive Datsun in Africa.

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