Second last isn’t usually the place you want to end up, but in this instance, I was happy enough. While at the wheel of a Porsche Panamera Turbo, I drove the second-last lap ever around Kyalami.
Appropriately, completing the last lap was Toby Venter, the CEO of Porsche SA and the man responsible for saving this iconic South African racetrack. By now you probably know it was his R205-million bid that secured the title deed when this very valuable piece of Gauteng real estate was put up for auction. To mark the beginning of the refurbishment, Porsche SA had invited some members of the media along for one last drive around the track before the diggers arrived to start cracking apart the hallowed asphalt.
That asphalt – that’s a piece of the old Jukskei corner I’m holding – will of course be replaced with a fresh swathe of tar as the entire complex gets a much-needed upgrade. Along with a new surface and a slightly tweaked layout, Venter will also commission a substantial update of the facilities. Turn to our infographic on page 21 for more details on what he has planned.
Along with the news of a Kyalami upgrade comes the inevitable question: “Does that mean we’ll be hosting a Formula One race again?” The short-to-medium term answer is no. The track is being upgraded to FIA Grade 2 status, which means it can host all FIA races except an F1 grand prix. To host one of Bernie’s races would require further upgrades to the facilities and some modifications to the track’s run-off areas.
Having already forked out another R100 million on the upgrades, Venter is understandably reluctant to open his wallet again. That, he said on the day, would require government funding. Some F1 fans may be a tad disappointed but I think they would join all motorsport fans in expressing our thanks to Toby Venter for making sure the spiritual home of South African motorsport will not become another Tuscan-inspired housing estate…