Kyalami circuit - home of racing in Africa
Kyalami circuit, located in Midrand, Gauteng province in South Africa, is best known as the only African circuit to be a part of the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Early days of Kyalami
The track, which opened in November 1961 with the local championship nine-hour endurance race, played host to various series, but the most popular of these was the South African Formula 1 Grand Prix. It was a major racing event, particularly during the era of Jody Scheckter, the only South African driver to be part of this popular racing competition. The first F1 race at Kyalami was held in 1967; the track quickly became popular among drivers and teams, especially as a venue scheduled for the start of the season.
Track changes, downfall and tragedy
The original track at the Kyalami circuit was used until 1987 and was superfast. It was 4.1 km long and had only nine curves. After some significant reconstruction, the track was shortened to 3.89 km and had eight curves. Soon, in 1992 more reconstruction work was undertaken as part of commercial development. Those were the last changes to be made on this track and now it has 13 curves and a length of 4.26 km, but is a lot more narrow than before and also a lot more twisted.
After the race in 1985, the South African Grand Prix was eliminated from Formula 1, due to apartheid policies. International racing only made a comeback in 1990 with an invitation race in the DTM series. Later that year, the Williams F1 team tested at the new track and the following winter teams like Benetton, Brabham and Tyrrell all flew south for winter tests.
Apart from its F1 races, Kyalami is best remembered for the bizarre fatal incident during the 1977 South African Grand Prix when driver Tom Pryce and marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren lost their lives.
Video: Tom Pryce crash at South African 1977 Grand Prix
Ray of hope and reconstruction
The South African Grand Prix was reinstalled in the Formula 1 calendar in 1992, but after just two races was abandoned due to bakruptcy of the promoter. The Formula 1 bosses also decided to move away from South Africa, thus resulting in Kyalami almost disappearing into oblivion. After that move, Kyalami had little option but to host series and competitions which weren’t popular globally. During the late 1990s and in 2000s, Kyalami hosted a few Superbike World Championship races, the A1 Grand Prix and the Superstars series.
Finally, in 2014 it was announced that Kyalami, which in the local Sisutru language translates to ’My Home’, was put on auction and sold to Porsche South Africa for a sum of around 20 million dollars. In May 2015, another reconstruction of the track and pit buildings was initaited. After this round of reconstruction, the circuit will be set to meet the FIA Grade 2 standards.
Finally, record lap time holder at Kyalami circuit is Nigel Mansell with a result 1:17.578s. Niki Lauda is most successful driver with three wins, while Ferrari and Williams are the best teams, both with four victories in South African GP held at Kyalami.