Whitney Straight’s 1934 Maserati 8CM won the inaugural South African Grand Prix and will return to its hunting grounds later in 2018. Picture: SA HISTORIC GRAND PRIX FESTIVAL
Whitney Straight’s 1934 Maserati 8CM won the inaugural South African Grand Prix and will return to its hunting grounds later in 2018. Picture: SA HISTORIC GRAND PRIX FESTIVAL

Many people remember the days when SA hosted a round of the Formula 1 championship, but motor racing actually started way back in the 1930s and now a group of enthusiasts are planning to bring this nostalgic era of motorsport back with a special event later in 2018.

The roar of Grand Prix cars will return when the South African Historic Grand Prix Festival celebrates these legendary machines in November and December 2018.

Actual race cars

The inaugural celebration, organised by UK company Speedstream Events, will reunite more than 15 actual cars that raced in the South African Grand Prix between 1934 and 1939. Prime among them will be the Maserati 8CM driven to victory in 1934 by American Whitney Straight.

Powered by a 3.0l straight eight supercharged engine, the 8CM epitomised the greatest technology that Grand Prix racing could offer in 1934. Just 18 cars were ever built, this particular car featuring modifications to the bodywork including its distinctive radiator shroud. The twin overhead cam single seater developed some 240 horsepower (179kW) and was capable of blasting around the East London circuit at speeds of more than 240km/h.

Other entries already confirmed for the event include the ERA that won the 1937 South African Grand Prix (SAGP) and the Riley Ulster Imp, which finished second in the same event.

The original SAGP cars will be supplemented by a number of period cars taking the tally of participating 1930s cars to more than 20, organisers say. These cars raced during the period but did not compete in any of the East London SAGP events.

Scenic routes

Much of the original Prince George Race Track in East London still exists. The cars will retrace the historic 17km circuit, before racing on the current track on November 25. The road-going cars will then tour down to the Western Cape from November 26-30 on some of SA’s most scenic routes.

The event will culminate in a two-day Grand Prix garden party at Val de Vie Estate, located between Franschhoek and Paarl, where there will be the opportunity to interact with these spectacular cars. Supported by local clubs, December 1 and 2 promise to be a classic car haven for enthusiasts at the estate and the Grand Prix cars will also be paraded on a short road circuit within the estate.

Organisers say that seldom will a collection of such historic cars be assembled and the opportunity to get up close and personal is even rarer in SA today. To add a touch of the modern, a number of current sports and exotic vehicles will also be present.

Ticket pre-registration is available on the event’s Facebook page at SA Historic Grand Prix Festival. For details, log on to www.sahistoricgp.com.

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