By Miles Downard
The year is 1973. The event is the centerpiece of the South African Springbok Trophy Series, the Nine Hours of Kyalami. A Porsche 908/3 at the hands of Reinhold Joest and Herbert Müller covers 1,475 km to win the last 9-hour race ever held at the iconic circuit.
Since 1974 there have been various other forms of endurance racing at the venue, being either 1000-kilometre or 6-hour events. These included 1000-kilometre rounds in the World Sports Car Championship in 1983 and 1984 with non-championship 500-kilometre races being held between 1986 and 1988. These races were followed by a three-year spell of rounds in the Sports Racing World Cup between 1998 and 2000, with each race lasting 2.5 hours.
However 2019 will see the return of a full nine-hour race which will put this much-loved circuit firmly back on the international calendar. Toby Venter, who owns and recently completely rebuilt the famous Kyalami circuit in Midrand, recently announced this exciting news for local motor sport enthusiasts while at a 24-hour GT3 race at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.
The race, which will take place from the 1st until the 3rd of November next year, will form part of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge, which will be expanded to five races, with the Kyalami 9-hour being the season finale. The other events are the Bathurst 12 hours in Australia, the Suzuka 10 hours in Japan and the Laguna Seca 8 hours, so this means that in 2019 this championship will visit five continents and brings front line motor racing back to Kyalami.
Explaining how the return to South Africa occurred, Stephane Ratel, of SRO Motorsports, which organises the Intercontinental GT Challenge, said at the Spa announcement: “I was with an old friend from South Africa and told him I would love to go to the new Kyalami and he said I should call Toby Venter, the owner of the track, which is what I did. I went to meet with Toby and saw the superb new circuit. I said it would be sad to have such a tool and no major international event and the deal was done!”
“We are delighted that the completely rebuilt Kyalami facility has been so well received by people in the top echelons of global motor racing and I am very pleased that the first major international race will see a return of the 9-hour endurance race that was such a favourite with fans and drivers in the past,” commented Toby Venter. “The overseas teams will also have the benefit of being able to stay on after the race to enjoy the wonderful holiday opportunities offered by our beautiful country.”