23 Nov The E-Blower. Vol. 32.
The E-Blower. Vol. 32.
The (un)official voice of the WPMC.
Managing Editor: IM Nobody. Chief sub-editor: J Robin Emslie. Art Director: J Colin Brown. Motorcycle (traffic), Director: David Abrahams. International co-respondent: Cedric P Selzer.
Ho, ho, ho, it’s almost year end again and the happy, fat old man is busy loading crates of spare water onto the sleigh as he prepares to join us.
And what a magnificent Christmas present we’ve received. No, it didn’t come from Santa, we brought it on ourselves with the most successful meeting our club has ever promoted. There have already been so many messages of congratulations that one staff member claims to have actually seen Des Easom blushing.
The staff all worked like ants, with even our Executive Manager demonstrating he is more than just a pretty face.
The Tygerburger echoed this positive sentiment when their post-race report led with the following opening paragraph:
“The near capacity crowd that implanted themselves at Killarney for the last round of the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship this past weekend, was treated to possibly the finest display of high speed motor racing on the ragged edge, that South African spectators have ever been privileged to see.”
OK, it wasn’t easy. There was a whole whack of essential work that went on behind the scenes for months, that the media and all the rubber-neckers who attended, weren’t aware of. Fortunately the board room gang had the necessary business acumen to keep pace, as skype interviews were exchanged while computers ground away at peak revs. Outside, grafters like Ernie lost several kilograms, while Leon almost worked his tattoo’s off.
But it’s over, and the time for relaxing and reminiscing is nigh.
Read more about our rallycross revelation further down.
So what else has been happening?
Well, major functions during the recent months included a gathering to mark the 70th anniversary of Killarney’s existence, then there was a Power Series / Ford and Friends double whammy, followed by the second Killarney Motor Show.
Next came the big one — the weekend final round of the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship, a meeting that included a whack of external and commercial involvement. The World Series is controlled by the IMG Group in London, in conjunction with Monster Energy. The Killarney round was backed by Gumtree SA (by arrangement with IMG), while our club was ably assisted by Wingfield Motors, Radio KFM and the AMV Group.
The pressure should wind down a little now that they’re all in the memory bank.
Our participation in charity events.
Most important of these is the Toy Run. It’s easily the largest charity bike event in the country and it’s happening this Sunday (Nov. 26). Incidentally, it’s the first time the Cape leg of this national promotion will finish at our complex, where the organisers are not being charged for the use of the facility.
Bikers will set off from Grand West in the northern suburbs or the Grand Parade in the CBD, and meet at Killarney. There the toys will be deposited in the Toy Run trucks parked in the pit area for eventual distribution to needy youngsters, hospitals, orphanages and places of safety.
Note; you don’t have to be a biker to donate toys or participate at Killarney. Everyone is welcome in the main arena area around the clubhouse, where a variety of entertainment will be on offer during the day.
But the coming Bike Run is not our first effort. Killarney also provided the venue for a similar charity event, the Sunflower Fund Ride 4 Hope, that took place on Sunday, Oct. 22. This one attracted more than 1300 bikers who completed a circular ride to Melkbosstrand on the N7, before returning to the circuit along the coastal route. They then remained for a day of relaxation that raised R74,500 for the Sunflower Fund.
Back to the Future. The final leg of Power Series sponsored by Wingfield Motors is on Dec. 2, followed by the traditional Streetfest on Wednesday., Dec. 27. This one is always a major drawcard.
That will also signify the end of what has been a pretty stressful period for the Killarney workers. And they deserve a (discreet), kiss – or at least a handshake — for the way they coped with it. Well done, all you guys and gals.
This issue of the e-Blower also includes short observations about these recently completed events, together with a few braai-fire tales about the antics of a selection of the exuberant characters who used to infest our complex.
Then there’s news about staff changes and reassignments, before it (sadly), ends with the obituaries.
How have we managed so far?
For our 70th Anniversary, a large group of invited guests saw Cape Town Mayoral Committee member JP Smith, who is a staunch Killarney supporter, unveil a plaque on the edge of what was originally the Tower Hill Bend, a working section of the first two Killarney circuits. Still in use, it now serves as part of the access road around the clubhouse. There were also words from Dr Harry Wade, Denis Joubert and Adrian Pheiffer, three of the club’s founder members who, together with an absent Brian Hoskins who was overseas visiting family, also received awards for their long service.
The Power Series / Ford & Friends showdown was notable for a large regional crowd, a selection of really exciting crash and burn incidents and some questionable behaviour by a few who were old enough to know better.
Then, just when the Western Cape was really beginning to suffer from the lack of rain, we got it in spades at the worst possible time – on the day of the 2017 Killarney Motor Show. Imagine the most devastating drought in decades, with tough water restrictions being enforced – and it rains on the morning of our one-day show.
Despite some heart stopping moments when the skies opened up and the wind howled, it all cleared later and when the gates closed early in the evening it was generally agreed that the Show had been a resounding success.
This was despite a marginally smaller crowd than attended last year, while a few of the irreplaceable vintage and veteran cars opted not to venture out in the inclement conditions. With the exception of one magnificent scale model fighter jet, the model plane flypast, also had to be curtailed.
But those who braved the morning elements were particularly thrilled by the live action they saw. Daredevil, Alphonso Loots and his huge 7-litre Titan Monster Truck drew gasps of amazement as it climbed over a selection of wrecked cars — and flattened them even more.
The stunt riding Le Riche brothers, fresh from their latest working holiday in the United States, came with an act that was even more professional than their effort last year. This was emphasised by the rider wearing a microphone that allowed him to explain what he was doing while on one wheel, or even while actually flying through the air.
With most of the tractors belonging to farmers who work in any conditions, the possibility of rain certainly didn’t affect their vintage display (actually, some of the drivers were pretty vintage themselves). Here it was the huge 10.3-litre, single cylinder, 1933 Bulldog Lanz, that proved to be a centre of attraction.
For the rest, the new cars on display continued to circulate, as prospective customers tested them on a section of the track, while the youngsters certainly enjoyed their rides in the pedal karts, as well as the far more powerful mechanically powered models.
The 2017 FIA World Rallycross final round at a born-again, 70 year old Killarney.
How do we describe this one? Because not only was it the biggest – it was also a very different, first-time attempt. So it justified Des Easom’s comments to the staff during the final week of preparation, that it was the first FIA approved world championship motorsport event to be staged in the Western Cape and they could be proud of what they had achieved.
Yes, it was like a dream come true and we certainly are justifiably delighted about what we accomplished. And of course, about what the future now holds for rallycross at Killarney — and for the WPMC in general.
As I said earlier, it wasn’t easy. Like on those occasions when there was a query, while dealing with our partners, many 1000’s of kms. almost due north and we would say: “But we always do it like that here at Killarney.”
Which would then elicit this sort of reply: “Yes, but we always do it like this everywhere else in the world.”
Nevermind the dust – note how close the cars are to one another!
Nevertheless, when the sun eventually rose on that picture-perfect Saturday morning, there was no doubt that the complex really was born-again.
Killarney has never looked as well-groomed and professionally manicured as it did that weekend.
While the Silver Falcons were magnificent, Ken Block was almost as impressive in the air, but at a lower altitude
Yes, there were long queues of cars and people, as some still had to find their way to the designated parking areas and new grandstands. However they all seemed to understand (eventually), that at an innovative first time event like this, there will always be hiccups of one sort or another.
The staff also had some interesting experiences:
- Like the British IMG organising lady at the media briefing, who seemed particularly perturbed about reports of snakes being seen in spectator areas (I wanted to ask her if they had tickets – but I refrained).
- And Rhonette on the jellybone, taking a fair amount of flak on Sat. but never losing her cool.
- Then our trigger happy Art Director was reprimanded twice, for clicking away in a prohibited area.
- And the cops escorted me out of the VIP toilet because they were using it as an anti-doping inspection site. Fortunately they didn’t find any of those pink pills I’ve been concealing for years.
But those weren’t even pinpricks. The end justified the means and we really have no cause for any regrets.
The magnificent racing was well complimented by the supporting acts. The Aero display by the SAAF’s Silver Falcons was excellent, while Scarra Ntebeni’s deadpan passenger image while Terry Grant was cavorting around on 2 wheels was a master stroke. OK his Western Province rugby jersey was incorrectly numbered – but what the hell.
Staff changes and reassignments.
Senior members will remember Monica 1, who (literally), served us well for more than 32 years. After her retirement, she was replaced by a younger Monica 2, who is as enthusiastic and fitting in very well.
Then, after our financial guru Geoff Woods was forced into an early retirement for medical reasons, we were pleased to have Monica 3 take his place in the counting house.
Only she’s not really Monica 3. She’s actually Monika (spelt with a “k”), Volcko.
Originally from Czechoslovakia, Monika relocated to South Africa in 2006. And with three gorgeous daughters, the little free time she has is spent in their company.
On the business front, she completed her Advanced National Diploma in Financial Accounting in South Africa, and afterwards became an ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). She is currently finishing her MBA while studying and educating herself, every day.
While she admits her pre-Killarney motorsport experience was confined to seeing fast cars and bikes on TV, she claims watching them in real life is far more exciting. The highlight so far has been a hot lap in the passenger seat in one of the big Masters V8’s.
She is even thinking about moving across, into the driver’s seat one day.
Meanwhile our Clubhouse Manager Yvette Wolverson, has had her portfolio expanded to include new boundaries. She will now be assisting Paul Simon and Marizca Radyn with more event planning and co-ordinating. She also retains control of the New Pit Lounge, the Karting Café and the Tuckshop.
This means she is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the Clubhouse and will not be based there. However, Paul Kelly (who’s not from the Isle of Man), will remain in his original office.
Cowboys of the Cape Flats.
On the reminiscing trail, we’re abandoning the old, “trip down memory lane” cliché, for a short burst at peak revs along our own “historic highway.” Now, while the chief traffic cop on this route was the long serving Denis Joubert, there were others better known for disregarding speed limits and usually adhering to their own versions of the Rules of the Road.
Beginning way back, did you know that the corner without a name, at the Malmesbury end of Killarney’s first two circuits in the 1950’s, was renowned as being the tightest hairpin bend in Africa. While its remains are clearly demarcated behind where the Cop Shoppe used to be, stories about its victims are largely forgotten.
Like the one about the exuberant Frank Blewett, who was one of the earliest sufferers. Now Frank was a really hard driver and a regular race winner in his Ford Zephyr 6. Trouble was, those Mk. 1 Zephyrs had a dreadfully restricted turning circle and although Frank always started on the outside edge going in, he invariably finished with 2, or more often even 3 or 4 wheels in the dirt on the way out. Great spectator attraction though – with these incidents often referred to by the commentators as:
“ —— and Blewett blew it – again!”
Then there was Dave van Wyk, who could probably be associated with Australia’s Paul Hawkins as the two most outrageous, totally incorrigible characters to have ever sewn wild oats at Killarney — or almost any other place for that matter.
A brakeless Dave van Wyk prepares to bail out.
Ironically, Dave was involved in an incident in Blewett’s nemesis corner that was also totally devoid of humour. Entering the hairpin during an early race meeting he jumped out after a wheel came off and left his MG TC totally brakeless. What was even more dangerous was that the car next in line, almost went over him. It didn’t though, and as a result he was lucky to get away with multiple fractures to his right arm. These could never be properly aligned and he was left with a curved inswinger for the rest of his life.
On a lighter note, there was the time after we’d had to retire from a Double 12 Rally that he found a horse wandering in the street in Oudtshoorn, during the wee small hours of the night. Always fond of animals, he brought it into our room on the first floor of the historic old hotel we’d booked into. Can’t remember the establishment’s name, but it might have been the Queens.
Dave insisted his new friend was quite happy to join us (he’d led it in and up the wide Victorian staircase, by the bridle it was wearing). Also that there was nothing improper about the invitation as he’d personally filled in the register in the unattended foyer, where he’d listed our guest as “A Horse.”
But the episode that shocked many and was apparently discussed at great length in overseas motorsport circles afterwards, occurred during the prizegiving for the first Kyalami Grand Prix in 1962.
I can’t remember where the function was held, but it was an extremely schmaltzy affair. The silverware on the long, overloaded trophy table gleamed as much as the jewellery that adorned the very important elderly lady in a fashionable long frock, who was there for the handing out of the awards (with assistance from the formally attired MC).
Now a while before that, the Lotus F1 team — because of my association with Cedric Selzer – had set up in our garage near the Supreme Court in Keerom Street. And that was where Dave met the drivers, a young Jim Clark and Trevor Taylor — and where they got some idea of his way-out behaviour.
But back to the GP. It was won by the brilliant Clark who, being a true Scot, arrived that evening, wearing a colourful Clan Clark tartan kilt. As the preliminary awards were handed out and drinks were consumed Dave, who was filled with admiration for Jim, kept whispering remarks about that kilt.
So when the winner was eventually the last to be called up (amid cheers and spontaneous applause), to receive easily the largest trophy, Dave suddenly dived under our table. He then proceeded to leopard crawl (in the manner he had been taught during his compulsory military service), chest down, across the deserted dance floor to where the very important lady was handing Jim his award.
There was a deathly hush in the crowded presentation area as Van Wyk, with the front of his shirt and trousers covered in dust — tapped Jim on his shoulder – and politely asked the future double F1 world champion, if he could have the first dance.
Now Clark was a sensible young man and he had heard some of the stories about the guy confronting him. So when the band struck up, he allowed David to link arms with him and they proceeded to (sort of), waltz around the floor for about a lap and a half, before pulling in at the Lotus pit table. Dave then thanked his partner and with an amiable grin on his face, he rejoined us.
The one person who took it really badly and actually had to be physically restrained, was Colin Chapman. While his team were trying to calm the Lotus boss, he kept repeating loudly (many insist he was actually shouting), that disgraceful behaviour of that sort, would never be tolerated in England.
Then there was Walter Frewen, a really grand old man and a huge help during the building of those early Killarney circuits. He used to arrive at weekend work parties with his truck and a length of heavy duty chain that would be wound around a Port Jackson bush that was then pulled out of the ground, roots and all. The process was then repeated again and again, until the early twilight hours. Tiresome, but extremely effective.
Walter owned a thriving panelbeating business in Mechau Street, adjacent to the Fireman’s Arms. And when the pub opened for business in the morning, he would be there for his first beer. Although there were more later in the day, he never overdid it. However the situation later escalated to such an extent, that Walter eventually had an extension of the panel-shop’s telephonic landline set up in a corner of the pub, for his business use.
Spectators can be seen scrambling for safety while pursued by an out of control Walter who was in the process of mounting an oil drum, in one of the first Frewen Specials, during a Parow hill-climb in the early 1950’s.
Then, his succession of racing “specials” – as befits a man of his calling – were visually magnificent. However he failed to win any event of note as they were all based on a standard Plymouth or Dodge, flexible box chassis’, that supported side valve 6 cylinder motors, coupled to a 3 speed transmission.
Yet he was surprisingly innovative in other ways. As far as we are aware, he was the first to build a trailer long enough to take two cars, one behind the other. Then, following Enzo Ferrari’s choice of red for his racers, Walter had some conservative folk shaking their heads when he was the first to use pink as his team’s distinctive colour.
After his eventual retirement, Walter attended a SA air force surplus sale in the old Transvaal where he bought five engineless WW2 Ventura bombers. These were transported back to his smallholding on the West Coast where he intended using them as the basis for a unique restaurant.
Somehow, it never happened.
Now, despite the feats of more recent superstars like Greg Dreyer, Danie Maritz and Dave McFadden, I still believe Dan Joubert was probably Killarney’s greatest bike racer.
But what a monster character. A true “boereseun,” who enjoyed his brandewyn-en–coke (although the coke was never essential), he used to arrive at the track in the old farm truck, with his Norton propped loosely against a straw bale in the load box.
The debonair Duke, in his unique tailor made leathers, is seen here with his Gilera 4, during his Killarney visit.
I am reminded of the time multiple world champion Geoff Duke clad in his (first ever), tailor made, racing leathers, arrived at Killarney for a race meeting on his sensational new Gilera 4. Seeing that, I knew Dan wouldn’t be able to resist having a very serious go at him.
Riding the wheels off his double knocker Norton, Dan came from behind and surprised Duke when he leaned under him and shot past on the inside, as they negotiated Tower Hill Bend (which is now the access road around the clubhouse and the spot where the commemorative plaque has been erected).
Of course he was travelling much too fast and he went off on the outside when the corner tightened as they came out. Incredibly, he quickly regained the track and then pulled off exactly the same manoeuvre a couple of laps later.
Duke was furious and vowed never to race against “that fool” again.
He never did.
Dan later went on to compete on the famous Isle of Man where he had a disastrous start after forgetting to open the fuel tap. Getting going again, it was soon the Dan of old. He recovered from well behind and went on to finish a brilliant second. This feat included a new 350 time that that remained a fixture in the record books for very many years.
When I asked him, probably almost a decade later, why he had never gone back, considering how well he had fared in his first attempt, his answer was that the 60.7 km long circuit was so dangerous it had scared the s*** out of him.
When local super stunt driver Deon de Waal did his famous ramp jump over 12 cars, while towing a caravan (reputedly with Jack Holloway’s mother-in-law inside), during the Steel Rodeo, one nosey critic approached him afterwards and complained that he had actually landed on top of cars from six to 11, and had not cleared the claimed 12.
It was then explained to the gent, firstly that Jack’s M-in-L was not inside the van and secondly, that coming down on the cars from a great height, was planned, as that cushioned the impact of the landing. The complainant then left, still shaking his head and muttering to himself.
Yes, there were other characters as well, but maybe next time.
Short blips: Don’t forget our club’s General Meeting (the final one of the year), at the clubhouse, at 20.00 on Thurs. Nov. 30.
Then, a recent TV sports item on SATV-2, clearly indicated how little those sporting “experts” know about motorsport. During their report about a recent marathon race in Gauteng, they showed the winner running hard as he neared the finish line, with the announcer claiming the guy was moving into pole position.
Johan Bonthuys (83).
Johan was a great guy. He grew up as a wine farmer in the Stellenbosch district, before eventually retiring to spend the balance of his life in Kleinmond.
We became close friends during a period in the 1950’s, when we were both racing modified Peugeot 203’s.
The story about our association that I think is worth repeating, occurred after control of the Peugeot franchise in Cape Town was handed to a guy who, while enthusiastic about motorsport, actually knew little about its workings.
So when he heard of a saloon car national meeting in East London, he immediately entered two 403’s, a model that had recently been launched in South Africa — and asked us to handle them.
Although we realised they were far from ideal for circuit racing, it was our first “works” offer, and we seized the opportunity.
Both cars were bright yellow and being street legal we drove them to the Buffalo homeland a couple of days before the meeting. Once there we let our hair down and enjoyed ourselves.
In those days East London was still in a NTL (no traffic lights), time warp. During rush hour, cops took up positions at major intersections. They stood on small circular wooden platforms no more than about 10 or 15 cms high. These had a centrally mounted, vertical metal tube with double “Stop” & “Go” signs mounted at right angles at the top. The guy in charge would then turn the bar through 90 degrees each time, to regulate the traffic flow.
Now I was late for practice and in a hurry to get to the track when I came across one of these regulators. The sign read “Go,” so I went. I had to hang left after that, which I did. Trouble was I cut the swing marginally too fine and clipped the platform — which promptly collapsed.
Although nowhere near the same scale, It could probably be compared to a Titan monster truck crushing a VW Beetle.
I heard the loud yell from the uniformed gent and saw him in the mirror, gesticulating while sitting on his backside on the asphalt surface. But I didn’t stop.
Now imagine this cop fuming about his misfortune, when he looks up and sees what appears to be the same bright yellow 403 approaching him again. Jumping in front of it, he screamed to the driver that he was under arrest. He refused to accept that it had a different number on the door (no sponsors in those days), and it wasn’t the same guy behind the wheel. Although a simple case of mistaken identity, it ended with the unfortunate Johan being unceremoniously escorted to the police station.
However, one of the other competitors saw what had happened and he rushed down to the track to give us the lowdown. Whereupon Dave van Wyk (him again), jumped into the offending car with me and we hightailed it off to the cop shop.
Here we were fortunate, because Dave could be as smooth as a multigrade, when necessary. In later years, I used to claim he would have been able to convince people Evel Knievel really did jump the Snake River Canyon.
So when we got there it wasn’t too long before my companion switched the talk to motor racing stories. These soon had everyone in a jovial, relaxed frame of mind. My profuse apology was accepted – by the policeman and by Johan — and the two 403’s were inspected before we were eventually allowed to drive off – slowly.
Sadly there was no happy ending. Because when it came to the racing next day, our cars were hopelessly outclassed.
I’ll miss him.
Colin van Zyl (86).
Colin van Zyl (86), long-time manager of the controlling body of South African national motorsport and the country’s representative on numerous South African delegations to the international body FIA, passed away on Tuesday 26th September 2017 after a long battle with cancer.
Colin’s early participation in motorsport came in the sixties when he joined the Grand Prix Organising Committee in East London and became involved in bringing the first modern-era Formula 1 events back to South Africa. Colin, who had been an enthusiastic competitor, racing in regional events, then left his ‘day job’ as manager of one the Kruger National Park rest camps, moved to Cape Town to join the Royal Automobile Club’s Motorsport Division under Louis Duffett (an old Bishops boy), when the RAC closed took a senior position in the Automobile Association’s motorsport division.
For a long period became the face of official motorsport alongside other innovative pioneers who initiated the triple SA National Championships for single-seaters (based on Formula 1 specifications), sports and saloon cars and an array of motorcycle nationals which flourished through till the early eighties. He retired to the Garden Route in 1996..
Colin is survived by his wife Joy and her son Clifford, and his two sons Deon and Mark.
Bruce Stuck (55)
A long serving WPMC fire chief marshal who earned his regional MSA colours for marshalling for close to 30 years, before immigrating to New Zealand. He passed away shortly after being diagnosed with multiple strains of cancer. He leaves his wife Mandy and two sons Michael and Darren.