Motorsport SA has recognised the achievements of Bedfordview-born Ferrari chief designer Rory Byrne with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Motorsport SA has recognised the achievements of Bedfordview-born Ferrari chief designer Rory Byrne with a Lifetime Achievement Award.


MSA managing director Beulah Schoeman and chairman Roger Pearce made the official presentation during the Alex Blignaut Memorial Dinner at the weekend.


The award honours Byrne for continuing South Africa's proud tradition of excellence at the highest levels of the sport. He is the third and most successful South African F1 designer to produce winning cars in international motor sport's top category: Derrick White's Cooper-Maseratis notched up race wins in the mid-'60s - including the 1967 SA Grand Prix - and Gordon Murray produced championship winners for Brabham and McLaren. Byrne's designs for Benetton and Ferrari have taken a total of six drivers' and six constructors' championships.


Byrne and legendary grand prix commentator Murray Walker were the guest speakers at the dinner, which was held to raise money for the Motor Sport Legends Benevolent Fund. The Fund has as its main objective the provision of poverty relief and emergency financial aid within the motor sport community, particularly to members of this community who are of an advanced age. The dinner is named after the late Alex Blignaut, the man who kept South Africa in the forefront of countries staging grand prix and sports car events through the '60s and '70s.


Former SA national drivers' champion Graham Duxbury, who acted as master of ceremonies, also paid tribute to local drivers and race organisers who have made their mark in the top echelon.


"Despite the fact that it is over 10 years since we last staged a grand prix in South Africa, this country remains 12th on the list of all countries in terms of the number of F1 grands prix staged, with 23 events to its credit. In the history of GP racing, 21 South Africans have taken part in world championship grands prix. Sadly the last was Jody Scheckter, who won the world championship in 1979 and retired at the end of the 1980 season," he said.


"In addition to our F1 championship , a series of high profile sports car races, the Springbok Series, became an institution, with a host of big name drivers travelling to South Africa," he added.


It was the past contributors to this proud tradition who were being recognised by the Motor Sport Legends Benevolent Fund. And, despite the hard times local motor sport has gone through in recent years, the tradition of excellence was being upheld and perpetuated by the likes of Rory Byrne.


Return of the "Nine-Hour"


Kyalami is to revive the famous Nine-Hour, the international endurance event for which the Midrand track was once famous. Circuit CEO Dave MacGregor announced at the Alex Blignaut Memorial Dinner that a race is to be held on December 4.


Top international sports prototype teams such as Bentley and Audi have been invited to participate, and entries from leading GT contenders, including the outfits running Porsches and Ferraris, are a strong possibility. In the finest Nine-Hour tradition, there will also be classes for South African entries: Wesbank Challenge V8s and Vodacom sports prototypes will be encouraged to make up the numbers.