Motoring

Kyalami 9-Hour: this high-octane supercar carnival is back after 37 years

For the first time since 1982, this high-speed parade of amped-up Porches, Ferraris, Audis and Mercs returns as the fifth and final leg of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge

17 November 2019 - 00:00 By
The Kyalami 9-Hour returns to intrigue and intoxicate a new generation of motorsport fans.
The Kyalami 9-Hour returns to intrigue and intoxicate a new generation of motorsport fans.
Image: Supplied

Back in the day, the Kyalami 9-Hour was a big deal. Before Facebook, before Twitter - hell, even before the Internet - this international sports-car race would rumble into town at the end of every year (usually November) to put on a bold, Technicoloured show of automotive endurance.

Shipped in from exotic locales around the world, sports cars from esteemed marques would gather in the pit lane: magical beasts emblazoned with names such as Porsche and Ferrari and Ford and McLaren.

Some were exotic one-of-a-kind prototypes; others were nothing more than modified streetcars any well-to-do member of society could sign a cheque for.

Unlike Formula 1, the grid of the Kyalami 9-Hour was filled with weaponry to which most people could relate. And even if you didn't, hey, at least you could lose yourself in the trackside revelry.

Ask any "toppie" about the off-track exploits and you'll discover that this race was also about hanging out with your chinas, a "tjop" in one hand and a "dop" in the other. People would arrive days in advance to set up camp and secure an optimal vantage point.

With beer and braai-smoke interjected by the non-stop wail of different multi-cylinder engines, the Kyalami 9-Hour was a high-octane carnival that ushered in the beginning of the silly season. It became the thing of legend. A pilgrimage. And then, after 1982, it was gone - a victim of the times.

But now it's finally back! Taking the form of the fifth and final leg of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge, the Kyalami 9-Hour returns after a 37-year absence to intrigue and intoxicate a new generation of motorsport fans.

Sheldon van der Linde, 20, will be one of the youngest drivers on the grid at the 2019 Kyalami 9-Hour.
Sheldon van der Linde, 20, will be one of the youngest drivers on the grid at the 2019 Kyalami 9-Hour.
Image: Getty Images

Without a doubt the biggest single event to take place around the newly constructed Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit since it reopened to the public in 2016, this 540-minute race of attrition will field no less than 30 flame-spitting GT3 racecars when the lights go out on Saturday, November 23 at 1pm.

So what can you expect? The technology might have moved on since the '80s but that crucial ingredient - recognition - remains in spades.

Basically amped-up versions of the supercars you'll find stuck to the walls of your children's bedrooms, icons like the Audi R8, Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT and Ferrari 488 are just some of the combatants you can expect to see in this battle.

The age of the drivers has also changed: the mustached heavies of old making way for hungry 20-year-olds, like SA's Sheldon van der Linde. While most of the teams are professional international outfits, there will also be three squads of homegrown privateers: well-moneyed gentleman racers (or playboys, as some would argue) all keen to get a taste of that winner's champagne.

It promises to be one heck of a spectacle. And starting at R150 a ticket, a pretty affordable one too.

The Kyalami 9-Hour is on from November 21 - 23 at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Midrand, Johannesburg. For tickets, go to howler.co.za


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