Zwartkops – Passion for Speed – weekend provided great racing

The past weekend’s Passion for Speed classic races for cars and motorcycles proved another major success for Zwartkops Raceway’s enthusiastic owner, Peter du Toit, the driving force behind the development of international participation in this popular event which kicks off the local motor sport season at the beginning of each year.

Not only was the racing exciting but a wonderful atmosphere enhanced the whole experience for competitors and spectators alike. The total entry for the two day extravaganza of 350 cars and motorcycles, which must be a record in SA, once again demonstrates the popularity of this annual event where the accent is on classic cars and motorcycles. There were again several entrants from overseas, many of whom brought their own cars and motorcycles.

Castrol, which has been an integral part of motor sport in South Arica for more than 70 years, was once again a major sponsor of the car events and overall sponsor of Sunday’s Day of the Champions for motorcycles.

This year the race days were both held in sunny weather with Sunday in fact being so hot that the recently laid top layer of tar on the circuit started melting. This caused the motorcycle racing to be stopped after some crashes and then the programme was restructured so the more powerful machines raced when it was cooler.

The programmes of races on both days were packed, with 23 events on the Saturday and 29 on the Sunday. The latter proved too ambitious though and some events had to be shortened or cancelled to try and catch up when crashes and the melting tar resulted in delays that had the programme running more than an hour late.

Mark du Toit, son of track owner Peter, completely dominated the main event, on the Saturday, the Castrol Edge/ South African Tourist Trophy. He was not only quickest in qualifying in the 1965 Trans Africa Racing Lola T70 Spider, but also won both races – the first an eight-lap prologue and the second a 45-minute race in which Du Toit completed 37 laps.

Two other South African drivers, Ross Lazarus and Peter Lindenberg, took second and third places in the 45-minute event in a Ford GT40 and Ford Daytona Coupe respectively. Both these cars were also of 1965 vintage. This race attracted a field of 31 cars, but only 20 were still running at the finish, with the final finisher being the 1963 Trans Africa Racing Dart sports car shared by former SA cricket captain Clive Rice and motoring journalist Andre de Kock.

The other feature event for cars on Saturday was the two-race Castrol Edge event for Pre-1974 Sports Racing Prototypes. Once again it was a seasoned local driver that took the overall laurels, with Colin Clay’s 1971 Lola T70 edging out the imposing black McLaren M8F Can-Am of Michiel Campagne, of the Netherlands, by 15sec. Gerry van Zyl was third in a 1971 Chevron B19.

As mentioned previously, the Castrol-sponsored Day of the Champions on Sunday saw an overcrowded programme and, unfortunately, in certain categories the actual fields were smaller than the entry list so in future it will probably be better to combine some of the classic categories and make the programme shorter.

Nevertheless the turnout of competitors and spectators was one of the best seen at these motorcycles-only meetings and this was encouraging, as was the wide variety of motorcycles, old and new. The same goes for the riders, some of whom were reliving their youth on motorcycles that obviously brought the memories of past races flooding back. Smiles and friendly banter were everywhere!

The main event for motorcycles was the second round of the Castrol South African Grand Prix, with two eight-lap races. (The first round of the TT had taken place in Port Elizabeth a week previously). The dominant star in the Castrol TT races at Zwartkops was Sean Emmett, of the United Kingdom, who rode a 1984 ex-works Suzuki RG500 Grand Prix motorcycle for the Suzuki Classic Team.

Emmett is vastly experienced, having ridden in his first world championship Grand Prix in 1993. His career included some rides in the Suzuki factory team. He also competed in the World Superbike Championship and was very successful in the British Superbike Championship before taking up his current career of racing in classic events.

The Briton was not only quickest in qualifying on this four-cylinder two stroke, but also won both 8-lap races comfortably.

One each occasion he was chased home by South African Les van Breda, who rode his ex-factory Suzuki TR750 in the first race and a Suzuki Katana in the second. Leon van den Berg was third on each occasion on a 1985 Suzuki GSXR.

“Castrol was delighted at the excellent turnout of both competitors and spectators at the two days of racing at Zwartkops, but also the wonderful atmosphere that prevails at these events which hark back to the glory days of racing not only in South Africa, but also in the world,” commented the Public Relations and Sponsorship Manager of Castrol SA, Nandi Canning.

“The presence of representatives of the FIM, the controlling body of world motorcycle sport, at the event shows its growing importance on the world calendar of classic racing, which is heartening for South African motorcycle racing enthusiasts.”

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