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This weekend at the Zwartkops Raceway, west of Pretoria, the 13th Legends international race meeting will be held. This annual international festival of “old-timers” has become the most-watched motor-racing event in the country.
This year there are close to 400 car entries and over 170 motorcycle entries for the three-day festival, as well as over 20 car entries from overseas. The motorcycle event, which centres predominantly on the Sunday, will have Isle of Man star Mick Grant out here once again, and Norton, the revived famous British motorcycle make, will be using the event to internationally launch a brand new model catering unashamedly to the nostalgia of the 1950s.
“I think one of the reasons for the increasing popularity in classic racing is that the fields represent such diversity,” says Zwartkops circuit owner Peter du Toit, the prime mover behind the revival of classic racing in this country. “The cars out on track look so different from one another. They were conceived and built before the advent of computer-aided design, so they really are the product of one or two people’s imagination.”
Indeed, in the sports-car race alone, there are machines ranging from V8-engined Ford GT40s – three of them are genuine racers imported for the event – to multi-cylindered Porsches to small high-revving Chevron B19s, four of which are competing. The original Chevron B19 owned by the famous Scribante racing family is the original Gunston-liveried car driven here by Brian Redman and John Hine in the early 1970s in the Springbok Series.
Du Toit has also concentrated this year on bringing out smaller-engined sports cars, like early Lotus and Elva models – cars that have great appeal for the hard-core enthusiast.
“We are expecting a crowd of 10 000, as advanced ticket sales are going well. This makes us the biggest motorsport event in the country, and it has been that way for some time. But most people buy a ticket on the day. Yet there are already enthusiasts demarcating areas for their spectating around the circuit, and the race is still some days away!
“This meeting also has a macroeconomic benefit for the Pretoria community. In Pretoria West many small engineering and car-specialist firms are already piggybacking off the event. It truly has become a three-day festival,” says Du Toit.
Classic racing here has, ironically, also begun attracting youngsters who cut their teeth in circuit racing in an older car. They then discover that they really enjoy motorsport, and many of them go on to greater things in the modern formulae.
“This is part of a worldwide phenomenon, this new appreciation of classic motor racing,” says Du Toit. One week after the Zwartkops event, the Legends “circus” will travel down to the Killarney race track in Cape Town, where the first festival was held in 1988.