Return of the 9-hour: Kyalami to host international sports car race
Spa-Francorchamps - South Africa’s most famous circuit will soon be back on the international racing calendar after it was announced that Kyalami will host a round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2019.
The event adds Africa as the fifth continent in this international series for GT sports cars. In a revival of endurance racing at the Midrand track, the nine-hour race will take place on 3 November 2019, joining other rounds of the championship including the Spa 24 Hours in Belgium, the Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia, the Suzuka 10 Hours in Japan, and the California 8 Hours at Laguna Seca in the USA.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge is an endurance racing series contested by production-based GT sports cars such as the Audi R8 LMS, Bentley Continental GT3, McLaren 650S GT3, BMW M6 GT3, Mercedes-AMG GT3, and Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Speaking at the Spa-Francorchamps IGTC round in Belgium this past weekend, IGTC boss Stephane Ratel described the addition of Kyalami to the other prestigious GT3 races on the calendar as "a dream come true".
He said that like the Laguna Seca event, the Kyalami race would not be exclusively open to GT3 cars and would incorporate machinery from local racing classes.
The event will revive the prestigious Kyalami 9 Hour that took place in the 1960s to 1980s and was contested by legendary cars such as the Ferrari 250 GT0 and various Porsches such as the 550 Spider, 908, 917, 956 and the 962. Former Kyalami 9 Hour winners include Jacky Ickx, Jochen Mass, Reinhold Joest, Brian Redman, David Piper, John Love, and Clay Regazzoni.
Apart from international endurance races, Kyalami has played host to 21 Formula One races (the last taking place in 1993) and numerous World Superbike rounds.
This will mark Kyalami’s first international race since it was bought and restored by Toby Venter, the South African importer of Porsches, Bentleys and more recently Lamborghinis too, who said it was his intention to try to build the sportscar endurance event back to its former glory. Prior to Venter buying it on auction in 2014, the famous circuit had fallen into disrepair and it was feared that it would be lost to motorsport and turned into a property development.
Venter, who is also an avid racer, has spent hundreds of millions of rand on the track’s purchase and restoration to a five-star facility, including lengthening and resurfacing the track, and upgrading the pit and hospitality areas. Since its reopening in 2016 Kyalami has played host to local motor racing, local and international car launches, as well as car and motorcycle shows.
The next round of the 2018 four-round IGTC series will be the Suzuka 10 Hours on 26 August, with the season finale at Laguna Seca on 28 October.