Thousands of spectators at the 19th annual Passion for Speed by G-Energy on Saturday 8 February at Killarney International Raceway were treated to a day of superb racing, dramatic finishes and incomparable automotive history, some of it by cars that, had they been human, would have been classed as pensioners.

The true aristocrats among them were the Historic Grand Prix Cars, original Formula 1 racers from the golden era before the advent of the all-conquering three-litre Cosworth Ford DFV V8. They ranged from Christian Dumoulin’s iconic 1954 Maserati 250F to the 1964 Brabham BT11 of John Romano, powered by a shrieking 1500cc Coventry Climax V8.

For all that these irreplaceable cars are valued in the tens of millions of Rand, the HGPCA races were no demonstration parades. They were absolutely serious, with close dices throughout the field.

Much to the spectators’ delight, the closest battle in both races was for the lead, between Will Nuthall’s 1960 Cooper T53 and Andrew Beaumont in a 1961 Lotus 18. Beaumont had a big moment on lap two of Race 1 and dropped back to fourth behind Nuthall, Rod Jolley (1958 Cooper T45/51) and Chris Drake (1964 Cooper T71/73), but made a stirring comeback to post the fastest lap of the race (1min10.706sec) and close to within 2.7 seconds of Nuthall at the flag.

He made no such mistake in Race 2, passing Nuthall for the lead on lap three and holding off a determined charge by the Cooper driver (including an heroic 1min20.776sec final lap) to win by half a second, with Drake third and Steve Hart, in a Maserati-engined Cooper 51, fourth.

For most of the spectators, however, the main attraction was the thundering V8 Legends of the 9 Hours and Sports & GT Cars. In an eight-lap prologue to the headline 45-minute SA TT endurance race Swedish visitor Kennet Persson (Ford GT40) romped to a nine-second win over Jonathan du Toit from Gauteng (Shelby Daytona Coupe) with Janne Kling third in another Swedish GT40.

Persson went on to dominate the main event, completing 31 laps in 45 minutes. He ran second to the Lola T212 of Bernt Andersson and Michael Kernick in the early stages, dropped to as low as fourth in the middle part of the race as Colin Ellison from Gauteng (Chevron B19) held a tenuous lead, before charging to the front on lap 25 and walking away to win by almost a lap from Ellison and Herman von Putten (Corvette Stingray).

Von Putten misjudged his fuel consumption and ran out of petrol on the final lap, but he was two laps ahead of fourth-placed Christer Pernvell’s Porsche 911 and the ‘Vette managed to coast across the line in third!

The Legends of the 9 Hour ran together with the Regional BeJo Trustees Fine Cars, producing an impressive field of 29 cars and two hugely entertaining races. Peter Lindenberg took both races in his Shelby Mustang, winning Race 1 from Colin Ellison’s Ford Thunderbolt by just 1.098sec, with Jonathan du Toit from Gauteng third in a Chev Nova and local hero Erik Mouton fourth in his Chev De Ville.

Ellison didn’t come out for Race 2, handing the win to Lindenberg on a platter, with du Toit second and his brother Mark third in a Ford Fairlane, followed home by Trevor Tuck in an indecently quick two-litre Alfa Giulia and the irrepressible Von Putten.

Nobody had an answer for Rudolf de Vos and his hugely powerful Chev Can Am in the Millstock Cars and Classic Pre 80 Invitation races. He roared off to win Race 1 by 13 seconds from Eric van der Merwe’s Lynx Porsche 944T, Trevor Momberg’s Suburban Spares Capri and Robin Forbes in a Corvette Stingray.

Race 2 was very much closer, however. Van der Merwe knocked a second off his lap times and closed to within 1.563sec of the Can Am at the flag, ahead of Jaco Lambert (Volkswagen Jetta), Mouton’s De Ville and Momberg in the Capri.

Much the same happened in the modern-day Sports & GT race, run together with the Pre-74 Sports Prototypes and Pre-66/68 Le Mans categories, where Craig Jarvis and the Maui Motorhomes Ginetta G57 were in a class of their own. The Maui G57 holds the ultimate lap record at every circuit where it has competed and is generally acknowledged to be the fastest racing car in South Africa.

Jarvis won Race 1 by an emphatic 36 seconds from Steve Humble in a Pilbeam, with Durban’s Greg Parton third in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Race 2 turned out to be a whole lot more exciting, however, as Dawie Joubert went more than four seconds a lap quicker than in the morning, finishing nine seconds adrift of the 6.2-litre Chev-powered Ginetta in his 2.5-litre Lotus Exige, with Franco Scribante third, just three seconds further back, in his Porsche 997.

The 1960/70/80’s Single Seater races belonged to the two Richards, Smeeton (Ford Walner) and Wilson (Brabham BT6) who finished first and second in both outings after two splendid dices. They were followed home on both occasions by Matt Nash (Van Diemen RF81) and Marcus Pye’s Merlyn Mk20.

The biggest grins of the day belonged to the three guests who went out in the Titan Historic Racing Brabham F5000 two-seater (known in South African parlance as a ‘double cab’!) with owner Lord Gregory Thornton at the wheel. This 1970s monster has a 6.2-litre V8 engine that produces an estimated 600 horsepower and it’s performance is simply astonishing.

Despite problems selecting third gear, it was lapping at about 1min15sec – with a passenger! Each of the three – Candi Berg, Ciara van Niekerk and Cherelle Warwick, climbed out with a huge grin on her face.

As usual, the motorcycle categories delivered the closest racing of the day. Pole-sitter Dylan Croudace led the first two laps of the opening RST Trac Mac Clubmans race on his Ducati Panigale, until was blitzed by Willem Binedell’s Dog Box ZX-10R on lap three – at which point it was ‘Game On!’ as Croudace chased the Kawasaki rider all the way to the line, taking the flag just 0.806sec in arrears, with veteran Wayne Arendse a further 10 seconds back on the JJ Smith Trust ZX-10R.

Zobair Adams (QP Racing GSX-R750) and Michael du Toit (Suzuki GSX-R1000) headed Class B while Clinton Ruhmund was the quickest of the three amateur Breakfast Run entries, in 18th overall with a best lap of 1min 27.196.

Arendse got his head back in the game for Race 2, taking almost two seconds of his lap times, and led from lights to flag. He finished six seconds clear of Croudace, with Paul Rulu (Engine Guru ZX-10R) third and Binedell fourth, just 0.755sec clear of fifth placed Justin Michau (Honda CBR600RR).

Adams put in a superb ride to head Class B in sixth overall, while Nathier Taliep, on a Suzuki GSX-R750, led the Breakfast Runners in 14th overall with a best lap of 1min23.830sec. Respect.

The closest finishes of the day, however, came in the first RST Trac Mac Powersport race, where Gauteng import Dominic Penny (Ray Signs SV650) and Trevor Westman on the Monza Group Ninja 650 swapped the lead on almost every lap – but it was Penny who was ahead by less than a quarter of a second when it counted, with Keenan Sharp (Kawasaki ER649) and Edward Rolstone (Kawasaki ER 6N) fourth and fifth  respectively, 0.071 seconds apart.

Six seconds later, Powersport 300 Class leaders Kewyn Snyman (Mag Workshop RC390) and Slade van Niekerk (Prestige/GT Graphics R3) banged elbows and fairings on the way to the line, with Snyman getting the nod from the timekeepers in a photo finish; the official result showed Snyman ahead by just seven thousandths of a second!

Westman and Penny went at it again in Race 2, swapping the lead three times in four laps before Penny overcooked it in Fastron Corner and crashed out, handing the race to the local hero. Westman cruised home 23 seconds clear of Rolstone, with Franco Flach (who had DNF’ed in Race 1 when his Kawasaki 650 shed its chain) third, 0.225sec ahead of Snyman and Van Niekerk, who finished fourth and fifth overall.