Kyalami 9 hour: Five things we want to see next year

Now that the dust has settled around Kyalami’s return to international motor racing, Biznews correspondent Nick Hodgson reflects on a wonderful event with some suggestions to the organisers for next year. And yes there will be a next year as Kyalami has reportedly sealed a long term arrangement that could see the 9 Hour on the calendar for 10 years. Great news for local motorsport fans indeed. – Miles Downard

By Nick Hodgson

As someone who went to the Kyalami 9 Hour I can honestly say it was a resounding success and for any South African motorsport fan, a welcome drink of water after the relative desert we’ve been living in for all these years. Having international motorsport return to Kyalami in such a big way was I’m sure also a dream come true for so many, however this is just the beginning as a ten year deal has been signed. So with the return of an event of this magnitude there are bound to be a few hiccups and omissions, so while we all start scouring the internet for next year’s tickets, here are 5 things we’d like to see next year and here’s hoping the organisers pay attention.

  1. Merchandise

A puzzling and obvious one to me, especially as this was an international motorsport event. Typically, at something like F1 for example, you’d see both new and old fans alike fighting to get their hands on the latest merchandise of their favourite teams or at least event branded memorabilia. Yet nowhere on the grounds were any merchandise stalls to be found. Surely a missed financial opportunity, as caught up in the frenzy of it all I’m absolutely positive fans would be clamouring to get their hands on the latest swag. I’d also imagine there’s an additional free marketing benefit to be had, as the next braai you arrive at in your Kyalami 9 Hour t-shirt would undoubtedly bring questions from friends and family.

  1. Food Trucks

There’s nothing better than a gourmet burger and chips served from a properly kitted food truck, and face it, being a motorsport fan is hard work, so we’re going to work ourselves up an appetite. I must admit that the food that was provided was of a high quality. It’s just a pity it was so sparse and often in such an inconvenient place. Particularly by the main grandstand, fans had to retire to an area overflowing with seating and shade, yet devoid of any TV’s or speakers. Add to that only 2 food trucks to provide the sustenance to the masses and again I can’t help feeling it was a missed opportunity. Give the fans the ability to relax and take in the racing, while having their meal and they’re more likely to spend more, particularly at the bar.

  1. Track Radio

One of the biggest complications in following endurance racing is knowing just exactly what on earth is going on at any given moment. Trackside commentary for most fans is therefore one of the most welcome additions to any endurance race. Now while I’ll freely admit there were speakers and TV’s dotted around the track, I found they weren’t plentiful enough for the majority to follow along. Having them placed closer to the shade would be a bonus too, however a trackside radio service would be such a cheap and convenient way to get around most of this. I also fully recognise that you could follow along with the YouTube stream, but the fact is very few people have that kind of data plan to lean on.

  1. Booze Variety

I absolutely hate alcohol sponsorships at events. Sure it helps pay for the event and I’m sure without it we may not have the event, but why is it always a brand I don’t like and the only one available? Are the sponsors so paranoid their product is inferior to the competition that they feel like they must crowd the rest out? Why not allow the others in, but run an excellent promotion on yours to tempt new customers in? When attending, most of us have worked hard to afford to come to an event of this magnitude, so having to purchase refreshments that aren’t our choice irks somewhat.

  1. Grand Stand Cover

Coming in last on this list simply because the gravity and magnitude of the financial commitment required from Kyalami is fully understood. However, having the main grand stand completely uncovered provides the event with the wrong image, especially when so much action goes on within the pit lane of an endurance race.  Standing out there in the baking sun is something that most of us are just not willing to do, so unsurprisingly it’s one of the least populated areas of the track, yet also one of the most filmed. I didn’t realise just quite how many people came until I took a tour round the whole track to see all corners lined with gazebos, skottels and motorsport fans from all walks of life. That kind of commitment is truly fantastic to see and a clear indication to me that the passion for motorsport is alive and well in South Africa. If we could just advertise that fact better to the rest of the world I think it would really send the right message to other prospective event organisers, especially as I think the Kyalami 9 Hour was such a wonderful time and truly one of the best days out I’ve had all year.