Sarel and the Superstars at 10 December Killarney Nine-Hour

South Africans are about to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch global racing superstars of Formula One, Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona racing fight it out on Cape Town’s Killarney raceway, which will host to a special event on 10 December 2022 – The Cape International Nine-Hour endurance race.

This event has become a regular on the South African motorsport calendar. But this year the organisers have upped the game, securing the participation of several global motorsport superstars, with six Le Mans 24-Hour, three Daytona 24-Hour, three petit Le Mans, a 24-Hour Nürburgring and Kyalami Nine-Hour and two Sebring 12-Hour victories among many others between them.

All will be driving, appropriately, Team Africa Le Mans Ginettas, co-entered with the Western Province Motor Club which runs the Killarney facility.

And it’s an important moment to celebrate for Killarney.

Emanuele Pirro won Le Mans five times with Audi. But his distinguished motorsport career does not stop there. He drove for Benetton and Dallara in Formula One, and was the test-driver for McLaren during their all-conquering dominance with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. He is a two-time ALMS sports-car champion, and a winner at Goodwood and Macau among many honours.

Emanuele, who serves as a FIA steward, will be joined in the first of the Ginetta GT3s by his sons Cris , a senior engineer for Alfa F1, and Goofy, who like his brother is a graduate of the prestigious Cranfield engineering school and currently works in the Italian F3 championship. The Pirro family will be racing together, both Cris and Goofy having driven in single-seater formula in their ‘spare’ time.

Emanuele raced with Team Africa Le Mans at the Misano 24-hour in 2017, where the all-volunteer team finished third in class. ‘This is a special team,’ he says, ‘and this is a special event for the Pirro family, the first time we have raced together. It is both a great pleasure and privilege for us to come and race in Killarney. What sets this African team apart is that it is a team of friends. I can’t wait to be there.’

The second Ginetta will see Anthony Reid, himself a podium finisher at Le Mans, team up with SA saloon-car star Hennie Groenewald and Reid’s protégé Murray Shepherd in the second of the GT3 Ginettas. Reid, who made his name in the junior formula in the UK competing against the likes of Damon Hill and was once offered a Jordan F1 drive, was one of the highest paid saloon car drivers world-wide in the 1990s and 2000s driving for Ford, MG and Nissan during the series heyday.

And the third Ginetta will have Jan Lammers drive with WPMC President Greg Mills and its Chairman Tim Reddell along with the SA legend Sarel van der Merwe in the Ginetta GT4. In a career which took in 41 Grands Prix, Lammers has competed in a remarkable 24 Le Mans 24-Hour races, his results including ten top-ten finishes along with a famous victory in 1988 for Jaguar when he drove 13 hours, including the last four with the car stuck in fourth gear.

This was Jaguar’s first outright victory in the event since 1957.

Jaguar’s main competition that year came from Porsche, whose works’ team featured one Sarel Daniel van der Merwe. Lammers was twice world sportscar champion. Jan’s last Le Mans appearance was in 2019 sharing a Bentley Continental with Mills. Now chairman of the Dutch F1 consortium, he says: ‘Racing at Killarney is an emotional experience more than it is just another event. This team and the track represent the very essence of the sport – competition with collaboration, professionalism with friendship, rivalry with integrity. Long may it continue and prosper.’ 

The Cape International Nine-Hour is the finale to the SA Endurance Series. Xolile Letlaka, the chairman of the series, says: ‘We are delighted to be hosted by Killarney once more, a circuit oozing history and enthusiasm. And it’s particularly memorable to be in the company of such stars like Emanuele and Jan, which illustrates where we want to take the Endurance Series in the future, in building the appeal of motorsport across the entire community of South Africans.’

The Nine-Hour includes a 40-car entry, with half of them international-spec GT cars.