Racing drivers need fuel just as much as their vehicles do. No sooner had a section of the disused road from Milnerton to Malmesbury been extended in the early 1950s from a primitive drag strip to an even more primitive circuit by building a loop of road through the bush alongside the original highway, than there were calls from competitors and spectators alike for a food and cooldrink outlet on race days.

In a statement that will resonate with the catering crew at today’s Killarney International Raceway, the first caterer, a Mrs Koster, quit in March 1955 because she had made a loss of one pound 13 shillings and sixpence (about R36) at the February regional event.

A few years later the Metropolitan Motorcycle and Car Club bought an old bus from City Tramways for £30 (R650), converted it to a kitchen/tuck shop and parked it at the pit entrance, under the command of Mrs Maxie Hare and a group of volunteer wives and girlfriends.

The foundations of the present Clubhouse were laid in March 1964; then, as now, money was tight and the project proceeded as and when funds allowed. It’s a reflection of the times that the pub was open for business before the kitchen, toilets or indeed, the walls themselves were completed.

When they were, however, a very important component was the tuck shop on the side nearest the pits, supplying basic takeaway food to hungry pit crews who didn’t have time (they still don’t) to sit down and eat it there.

The tuck shop is still there to this day, although the food is a little more varied and there is now a deck with shade-cloth and benches for more relaxed but still informal dining. The old pub in the south corner of the downstairs hall is now a store-room, but there is a bigger bar in the opposite corner of the room and, of course, two luxurious bars, a sit-down restaurant and a balcony with benches, umbrellas and an unparalleled view of the ultra-fast Car Care Clinic upstairs.

The Trackside Pub and Grill offers a surprisingly sophisticated menu that changes two or three times a year, as well as live music on race day evenings – but it’s not the only place at Killarney where you can sit down and enjoy a gourmet burger, a wrap or a grill while watching the action on the track.

The New Pits Lounge, upstairs at the north end of the new pits building, enjoys the best possible view of the start-finish straight. Its small but well-appointed kitchen offers a menu almost as sophisticated as that at Trackside, served up by young, vibrant staff in a less traditional ambience than at the Clubhouse.

The New Pits Lounge is also open on Sundays when needed for cycling and car club events, and is a popular venue for corporate functions such as end-of-year parties and product launches.

Finally, the Karting Cafe in the pits at the kart circuit has grown from a tuckshop into a well-appointed snackery. With the average age of Karting competitors hovering around 12 years old, the menu is simple and kid-friendly – but the burgers, ‘slap chips’ and traditional ‘brekkie buns’ are just what the team manager ordered for parents and pit crew as well.

These four very different outlets, as well as the exclusive Tower Lounge on the top floor of the control tower and the Members’ Boma on main-circuit race days, and additional mobile bars on larger events, are run by a catering manager with just seven full-time staff and a part-time staff of up to sometimes 30 on main-circuit race days.

Up until the recent lockdown the Karting Cafe was open during practice periods on weekday afternoons as well and the Trackside Pub and Grill from Tuesday to Saturday from midday until late evening for drinks and dining. As the drinking patterns of the Killarney family have changed, however (raucous after-parties and heavy drinking before rolling home in the small hours are frowned on these days) so Killarney’s catering crew have had to adapt to the changing times.

The shut-down by enforced by government in its efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 has provided a breathing space, an opportunity to rethink, revise and revamp how best to feed our Killarney family. Look out for some interesting changes when we re-open – although we’re not sure yet when that will be!