Endurance Racing returns to SA
ITS A LOCAL THING: A mix of sports cars and saloons on an endurance grid is a uniquely South African tradition.
Author: STUART JOHNSTON
A European championship-winning diesel BMW 330d will lead a surprise overseas element for the African 6-Hour, a race that could revive endurance racing in South Africa.
The very quick sedan, a European-prepared championship-winning machine, has been imported for the race by veteran driver Nick Parrot.
Drivers have yet to be finalised for the car, but a second BMW 330d will be crewed by endurance stalwarts Robbie Smith and Mike O’ Sullivan, with Parrot either sharing the third drive in this car or driving the overseas-built car.
ALL DISCIPLINES WELCOME
Entries from all manner of racing disciplines have been pouring in for the event, entitled the African 6 Hour Endurance Race, to be held at the Phakisa Raceway in Welkom on February 23 2013.
To date some 45 cars have been entered, ranging from a Pilbeam LMP pukka Mans prototype to a Panoz GTLM, nine Porsche 911-based racers, a number of Shelby Can Ams, and a gaggle of saloon cars.
The race will evoke the spirit of South Africa’s strong tradition in endurance racing, but with a modern field of cars competing over the six hours in various classes.
“Many people have had the erroneous idea that this is a historic racing car endurance event,” says organiser Roger Pearce of Classic Car Events, the promoters of the race. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. We are re-kindling the tradition in South Africa for genuine endurance racing, based along the lines of the World Endurance Championship, and we will be running our race to FIA-WEC rules, as regards driver teams, re-fueling and the like.”
In fact the race has already attracted overseas interest, with a German driving team of Frank Norhing and Michael Tischer entered to drive a Porsche 911 RSR.
Whilst Pearce is keen to point out that this race is not a historic racing car event for cars of by-gone eras, it is open to all classes of sports, GT and saloon cars competing in MSA-sanctioned events across the country.
For this reason the likes of the beautifully turned-out Nardini Sports racers will compete with Shelby Can Ams, some powerful BMW 330 saloons, a number of Volkswagens, Lotus 7s, and the very potent Backdraft sports cars which are Cobra-based track machines that could well be in contention for the overall prize.
Thus there is a mix of modern and classic in the entry list, which does include some cars from the classic car racing scene, such as Ford Escorts and VW Sciroccos.
The special BMW 330d racer, imported by Nick Parrot, was a winner a round of the Britcar 24-Hour Championships.
A NATIONAL EVENT
One of the ideas behind holding the race at Phakisa was to attract a national entry, rather a Gauteng-based one, “says Pearce.
This strategy is already working well. One of the entries received is the giant-killing Golf from East London run by the Stephen family of racers. “Old man” Neil Stephen, a former works driver for the Opel team here in the 1990s, is driving along with his sons Geoff and Jonathan in a car that started out as a student-commuter car for Geoff Stephen back in 2007.
The Stephen Golf has already scooped top saloon wins in endurance races around the country in the past three years and regularly mixes it with sports racers.
There are also entries from the Cape including Fred Phillips from Cape Town, who has entered the exciting Panoz GTLM car. Phillips is the publisher of the acclaimed magazine Classic and Performance Car Africa, and has competed all over Europe in historic endurance events.
CLASSIC VERSUS MODERN
It will be interesting to see how the more modern GT racers compare to the likes of the Ford GT40 entered by the Scribante family from Port Elizabeth. Whilst this an historic-shaped racer, it runs modern race underpinnings and is very quick by modern standards, as are the two Backdraft cars entered by Durban manufacturer Tony Martin, who, not co-incidentally, won the 1984 Daytona 24-Hour endurance race.
“There is also a strong possibility that Peter Bailey will be entering his LM2 car that he has been preparing for Le Mans,” says Roger Pearce. “I’m also hoping to attract some of the Ferrari 360 drivers who race here in sprint races.
“We can take a total of 60 cars according to the regulations, and I’m confident we’ll get close to that cut-off point by the time entries close on December 31, 2012,” said Pearce.
“We are also determined to re-vitalise interest amongst the Free State people, and we will be embarking on a big campaign to achieve this,” he said.
For more information, contact Roger Pearce on 082 8970771, or by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org