Rekindling endurance racing in SA

Bobby Cheetham

MORE international motorsport stars are heading South Africa’s way. This time it’s at the African Six Hour Endurance Race on February 23 at the Phakisa track in Welkom. A European championship-winning diesel-engined BMW 330d will spearhead a surprise overseas element for the African Six Hour, which is set to revive contemporary endurance racing in this country.

The very quick saloon 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.

Entries from all manner of racing disciplines have been pouring in for the event.

To date some 45 cars have been entered, ranging from a Pilbeam LMP pucker Le 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 an 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 rekindling the tradition in South Africa for pucker 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, refuelling 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.

While Pearce is keen to point out that this race is not an 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 potent BMW 330 saloons, a number of VWs, Lotus 7’s, 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, such as Ford Escorts and VW Sciroccos. The special BMW 330d racer, imported by Parrot, was a winner in a round of the Britcar 24-Hour Championships.

One of the entries received is the giant-killing Golf from East London run by the Stephen family of racers. It will also be interesting to see how the more modern GT racers compare to the Ford GT40 entered by the Scribante family from Port Elizabeth.

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