Formula 1 in Africa. Motorsport | UA2DAY

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The last Formula 1 race of 2022 was held in November at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but 59 years ago the South African Grand Prix ended not only the Formula 1 season, but also the sporting calendar in general, which took place on December 28, 1963.

It was at a time when interest in sports in the country was at its peak. This is the story of both that race and the separate domestic Formula 1 championship that supported it.

Championship of used cars

Given the net cost of developing and manufacturing an F1 car—officially capped at $140 million, but in reality much more—it’s inconceivable that private individuals will be able to simply buy one and race it for fun in 2023.

But since the early days of auto racing, there has been a thriving market for new and used cars. And only at the end of the 1970s this stopped being true for Formula 1.

A few decades earlier, the sale of cars to wealthy enthusiasts was an essential source of funding for designers such as Cooper, Brabham and Lotus. All three used the money from those sales to reinvest and build the cars that made them successful.

Indeed, these manufacturers sold so many units that an entire multi-race competition could be run using modern Formula 1 cars, but this was separate from the official F1 World Championship.

And nowhere was this more successful than in South Africa in the 1960s, in the form of the South African Formula One Championship.

Warm winters

Rhodesian rider John Love (shown here in 1961) became the dominant hero of the SAGP championship

The SAF1 Championship was held from 1960 and then ceased in the mid-1970s.

But in 1963 – a year later the first World Championship Grand Prix of South Africa – it was at its peak.

Races such as the Rendau, Cape and Natal Grands Prix, as well as events in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Mozambique, attracted more than 40 drivers at a time.

SA F1 Championship Winners

  • 1960: Sid van der Vyver
  • 1961: Sid van der Vyver
  • 1962: Ernest Peters
  • 1963: Neville Lederle
  • 1964: John Love
  • 1965: John Love
  • 1966: John Love
  • 1967: John Love
  • 1968: John Love
  • 1969: John Love
  • 1970: Dave Charlton
  • 1971: Dave Charlton
  • 1972: Dave Charlton
  • 1973: Dave Charlton
  • 1974: Dave Charlton
  • 1975: Dave Charlton

Amongst the Cooper T43 and Lotus 18, several locally produced cars also participated, although they often drew inspiration from the same designs.

Visually, there was little to distinguish it from the authentic Cooper driven by Doug Serruier’s LDS team.

Participants will include not only local drivers, but sometimes the elite. Jim Clark, Graham Hill and John Surtees won races in the SAF1 series as the warm summer climate in South Africa meant that races – and prize money – were on offer all year round when winter arrived in Europe.

The first two SAF1 titles were won by Sid van der Wyver, but he never got the chance to compete in the full F1 World Championship due to a crash a week before the 1962 South African Grand Prix.

But many other competitors have indeed made the leap to becoming full-fledged F1 World Championship drivers.

Indeed, they made up almost half the grid for the 1963 South African Grand Prix – 10 of the 23 entries in that race were South African Championship representatives.

The full list included Serrouet, 1962 SAF1 champion Ernie Peters, John Love, Trevor Blokdyk, Brauch Niemann, Peter de Klerk, David Prophet, Sam Tingle, Paddy Driver and Neville Lederle, although Lederle, who was the 1963 South African champion at the time , broke his leg in the race before the grand prix and was unable to take his place.

Love went on to take the Lederle title in 1964, and won it five more times back-to-back – a feat he would later match with Dave Charlton, who won his final title in 1975, the last year the SA Championship went to Standards F1.

Footnotes F1

de Beaufort’s F2 Porsche was one of the most distinctive backmarkers of the early 1960s

Returning to Formula 1 in 1963, the wider pool of regular Grand Prix participants was significantly reduced. In addition to the elite teams – Lotus, Ferrari, BRM, Cooper and Brabham – only Rob Walker from the smaller squads was also eliminated.

The cost-related absence of the likes of Siffert, Scirocco, ATS and Centro Sud left a lot of empty space on the grid that needed to be filled.

Adding to the lack of appeal was the fact that the world title had been wrapped up by Lotus’s Clark four races earlier – the earliest result in any title race since the championship’s inception in 1950 – and had to miss Christmas with the family.

Practice began on December 26.

In the wider political environment, South Africa had been expelled from FIFA two years earlier due to apartheid policies. The country was soon absent from the Olympics, which took place just eight months later.

And so the pits were filled with local teams with names destined to become footnotes in the history of Formula 1: Scuderia Lupini; Selby Auto Spares; The Lawson Organization.

Entries were so rare that when the Lola cars from Reg Parnell’s team failed to arrive, privateer Karel Godin Be Beaufort – an eccentric Dutch nobleman who drove his Porsche F2 car around the world in various high-end races – was allowed to enter.

Although this was a much less complicated era of Formula 1, there were some clear differences between the standards of the major teams and the local drivers. Motor Sport magazine noted:“Some of the local people’s work was very amateurish; for example, every time Peters wanted to increase or decrease the pressure in his tires, he changed the wheels, which meant that it was impossible to check the tire wear.’

Meanwhile, De Beaufort was doing even worse. Since he didn’t have a mechanic, he had to change his Porsche’s engine himself after a valve bent in practice. To make sure the job was a success, he drove a bright orange car onto the local roads, where he was immediately ticketed by the local policeman.

Salon cars are “more interesting”

Tony Maggs’ hot brakes ironically led to Cooper not agreeing to re-sign him

All of these factors gave the event even more of a late-season feel than usual. And once it was started, it played just like that.

Clarke was on pole by just 0.1 of a second – a small margin in those days – and there was a sense of excitement on race day, with almost gale-force winds sweeping the track.

But Clarke just walked away from the start, without any objections.

He eventually won by more than a minute, with runner-up Dan Gurney the only one he didn’t pass on a lap. It was not dramatic.

The magazine also concluded that the previous sedan race was “much more interesting”.

Indeed, it was the only South African who competed in the regular World Cup – Tony Maggs – who had the most eventful race.

As the laps wore on, a mechanical failure in his Cooper meant the space at his feet grew increasingly hot. By the halfway mark it became unbearable and he had to pit, “giving way to Bonier while the fluid drenched those delicate parts of the anatomy,” as Motor Sport noted.

Another stoppage for the same reason meant Maggs would only finish seventh. It was very unfortunate; Cooper thought about letting Maggs go anyway, and that sealed his fate. He was dropped for the following season in favor of 1961 world champion Phil Hill.

Instead, he secured a place at Centro Sud, but retired from the sport in early 1964 after witnessing an accident at an F2 race in Pietermaritzburg that killed an eight-year-old spectator.

He couldn’t bear the idea of ​​getting back into the cockpit after what he had seen and left motorsport to focus on his business interests. South Africa will eventually have a Formula 1 race winner, but it won’t be him.

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