KYALAMI SAVED, REVAMP IN PROGRESS: An aerial shows planned changes, including new corner names, of the upgraded Kyalami race track. Expect the circuit to open its gates either August or September 2015. Image: Porsche
When the hammer fell at the auction of the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit on July 24 2014 local motorsport fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Porsche SA boss Toby Venter, entrepreneur and former race driver, made the successful bid for the track, the handover of which took place on April 24 2015.
Major changes are planned and will, Venter said, “be the single largest upgrade in the circuit’s 54-year history”. Here’s what’s in store…
CIRCUIT LAYOUT CHANGE
Venter revealed that he plans to change the layout of the circuit and work with the International Automobile Federation’s safety delegate Charlie Whiting to improve track safety.
Venter said: “What was clearly lacking in the current layout was a longer straight ending in a tight corner. It was clear that the tar surface, in place since the early 1990's, needed to be replaced.
IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 Kyalami track changes
VIDEO: Virtual lap around the 2015 Kyalami track
“Expert teams set about working on plans for the best solutions to this challenge drawing on international expertise to achieve the best-possible solutions. Safety also had to be considered and to this end Whiting visited Kyalami recently.
"After a track inspection and valuable advice the circuit and safety changes were given federation blessing of the FIA. The final plans began to take shape.”
The final plans include:
1 A complete resurfacing.
2 Lengthening of the existing main straight with Turn 1 reduced in angle “allowing the circuit to run into the eastern corner of the property ensuring a straight of close to 900m”.
3 A new Turn 2 - a tight left-hander with a tight apex, leading to a series of bends joining back into the current circuit at the existing Turn 4.
4 Changes to the circuit at Turn 12 (the Bowl).
5 The upgrade of circuit safety with the objective of once again obtaining a Grade 2 federation licence.
RETURN OF ORIGINAL CORNER NAMES
The revised circuit will see the return of the track’s original turn names. Venter explained: “After the start line the circuit drops into a new Turn 1, once again a full-speed corner. Appropriately, Turn 1 will be named The Kink.
“The circuit will then continue to drop and then climb (over the new circuit subway and past the high-speed tower) into the new Turn 2.
“Turn 2 will be named Crowthorne with its new spectator area (from which nearly half the circuit will be visible) providing a great view of the new section. After leaving Crowthorne the circuit will drop down with a series of two right and left curves named Jukskei Sweep.
BARBEQUE, SUNSET, LEEUKOP…
“The circuit will then joins the current layout with new Turn 5 now named Barbeque. In very close proximity to its original namesake. The back straight, running past the refurbished secondary pits complex, is part of the original circuit layout. As a result turn names will return with Sunset followed by Clubhouse, the Esses and Leeukop.
“The circuit then drops steeply into a fast left-hand sweep. This very fast section will be called Mineshaft (unofficially gained in the past due to its steep nature). The new Turn 13 will follow after an extended straight rising up on to a platform, its wide entry providing a great overtaking opportunity.
“This new corner (which should prove popular for race fans) will be called The Crocodiles. The corner rejoins the circuit with a slight left-hand sweep into the second-to-last corner which will retain its current configuration.
“This very fast corner, which requires great bravery to negotiate at speed, will be called Cheetah. Turn 15 will be retained in its current form but will now be called Ingwe (Zulu for Leopard) another African cat with cunning and stealth.”
A lap of the iconic track finishes with an uphill section to the start/finish line.
NEW UNDERPASS, PITS COMPLEX
A new double-lane underpass is in development which will allow access to the centre of the circuit from the existing main entry. The underpass, to be built under the new extended straight between The Kink and the new Clubhouse corner, will include a new pedestrian walkway and service road.
The old pits complex will be restored to its original condition and serve as a secondary pits complex. Venter explained: “The pits-lane entry will also be brought in line with federation specifications. This facility will act as a support area to accommodate local categories racing at international events.”
The car park above the main pits and alongside the kart facility will also be resurfaced. Many of the small buildings behind the old complex will be removed and replaced by a car park.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE?
Venter will refurbish existing spectator areas to allow race fans to spectate from previously prohibited areas as well as new exciting areas on the circuit.
Construction has commenced with the circuit officially closing on May 12 with hopes of re-opening in August or September 2015.
Click on the gif below to watch the video