Double Apex’s newest contributor, Claudio Piazza Musso enjoyed the Kyalami 9 Hour endurance marvel that took place last weekend. The multiple circuit-racing champion, now racing driver coach and mentor watched with pride as a former student of his Race Driver SA training academy claimed a podium position.
The unexpected spectacle of international endurance racing in our country captured the imagination of the South African Motorsport Republic. The Kyalami 9 Hour has put South African circuit racing back on the map and has awakened motorsport enthusiasts and motorsport racers from a 37 year hiatus. In simple words, the event was next-level amazing, grand, professional, exciting, nail-biting and world class.
Click here to read why Claudio thinks Lewis Hamilton is one of the best F1 drivers of all time.
World-class on our door-step
For those living under a rock, stuck in the 1960s, ’70s or ’80s, or who just love being negative about anything and everything, you have missed out on two amazing world-class events which took place in the same month right on our door step. FIA World Rallycross and the final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge in the form of the Kyalami 9 Hour, were simply epic in all aspects.
As a motorsport addict, enthusiast and lover, I thought I had landed in a fantasy world and found myself smiling a lot with joy, awe and happiness like a kid at Christmas. The best part of all this, I was not alone in my happy state of enjoyment, but joined by our SA motorsport family and enthusiasts.
Loving every minute
Where do I begin? FIA World Rallycross is simply insane with its open policy that rubbing is racing and every second of the event is action-packed. High-powered cars, driven by racers who take driving to a level we only dream about, with motorsport celebrities in your face. If that was not enough to blow your mind, in the same month we had the Intercontinental GT race at Kyalami, bringing back the historical Kyalami 9 Hour endurance marvel after a 37-year hiatus.
We are now blessed with having SA participation, in drivers and teams, at the very pinnacle of motorsport disciplines. The Dakar Rally has numerous local companies building and racing with SA drivers and crews. Then we have FIA World Rallycross and now GT racing on our doorstep with many South Africans being directly a part of the show.
Having been exposed to these disciplines, I can truly say I have a newfound respect for GT racing and more importantly, endurance GT racing. One would think it is the speeds these cars perform at, or the mind-blowing lap times they achieve, or the fact that they are road cars adapted to racing duty, or the longevity capabilities they have, or the fancy specs of the equipment they use, or the sheer beauty of the cars, or the sounds and smells they emit, or the grandeur of the event, or the number of legendary drivers in the series, or the number of SA drivers participating, the list goes on.
All these things are truly next level, yet there were two aspects, maybe three that took my enthusiasm to the next level. As I write I get excited just thinking that it is perhaps four or five aspects that contributed to my new respect for endurance GT racing.
The first being the electric atmosphere you feel just being at Kyalami for such a historic event. It is simply unexplainable and heightened when you bump into fellow SA motorsport enthusiasts and share the same excitement and enthusiasm for the magic this event was able to emit.
The second is most definitely the team aspect this series is based on. We know that motorsport is a team effort, but adding two more drivers to the equation and combining their qualifying efforts to produce a total time for your pole lap, is very exciting. Set-up of the car now comes from three drivers and has to please all three and account for their individual driving styles.
Add pit stops and race strategy to the mix, you have an all-round team effort to make this series truly fascinating, exciting, unpredictable and interesting. It also opens the door for SA drivers to make the transition from local- to international motorsport. The financial burden is reduced when costs are shared by three drivers, or simply paying for one of the three seats in a team.
In certain circumstances, talented pilots get a free drive when a wealthy driver pays all expenses and wants a top driver to assist in setting up the car and driver training. This is a case for David Perel who started by paying for a seat, then progressing to a free drive due to his talents and then to the ultimate position of being paid as a driver coach.
David Perel explains: “The biggest difference between endurance racing compared and single driver formulas is the lack of mileage that the fastest driver has in the car before the race. Sharing a car takes a long time to wrap your head around, especially if you’re responsible for the setup. As the Pro in the car you’re expected to be on the ball within four laps, provide precise feedback on setup and then not drive again until qualifying, where you’re expected to do the lap of your life. No matter whether you’re in an AM car or a Pro car, the slowest driver usually gets the most mileage because that’s where the most lap time can be found as a team. That’s the definition of teamwork in endurance racing, sacrificing your seat time for the betterment of the team.”
The third is the participation of 15 SA drivers in the race and the separate national category that catered for the teams that entered a South African outfit with three SA drivers. This is a clear indication that it is an achievable dream for South Africans to participate and succeed in the international arena of motorsport.
Fourth, was the overwhelming approval the drivers gave the circuit. All drivers loved it and some even put it in their top three tracks worldwide. Credit goes to Toby Venter for putting his money where his mouth is and delivering a world-class facility.
Fifth, is more of an unusual one, as it is not about the GT race, but rather the opportunity it created for SA motorsport. Someone had a great idea, I don’t know who, but hats off to them for their foresight and implementation. Many people have a general negative overview of motorsport in SA, which truly irks me, as I have a positive outlook at where motorsport is in SA. Often people comment on the small fields in various categories, which have evolved over time.
The main reason being, each category, and class has been split and stands alone so they get overall honours and TV coverage. Back in the day when fields were large, you always had combined categories with various classes. The endurance marvel that was the 9 Hour brought back some nostalgia with a local field of over 50 cars. What a spectacle for local motorsport. So, motorsport is alive and well, but on TV, we only enjoyed the battle for overall honours, as it is impossible for TV cameras to pick up duels further back for various classes. Unfortunately one cannot have the best of both worlds.
In closing, my new-found respect and enthusiasm for GT endurance racing leaves me with eager anticipation for next year’s Kyalami 9 Hour, and furthermore, excited to see more SA participation. Finally, SA has a feasible and affordable platform to get more drivers and teams to participate on a world stage. David Perel, Jordan Pepper, the VD Linde brothers are already full-time drivers on the international stage in this great series and with many others getting a taste of it, I am quite sure, we will have more South Africans stepping up and becoming international stars.