This weekend’s Kyalami 9 Hour is the first “dip in the water” for modern-day GT racing in South Africa, with several manufacturers hopeful that it will lead to an expansion of GT3 and GT4 sales in the region in the years to come.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli event marks the first international sports car race in South Africa in nearly 20 years, which has generated significant interest from overseas teams as well as several local entrants.
Three South African-entered teams are set to take part, all with locally-based GT3 cars, along with a 2019-spec Porsche 911 GT3 R owned by Saul Hack that’s being run by Lechner Racing this weekend.
According to Porsche 911 GT3 R project manager Sebastian Golz, the German manufacturer has sold an additional latest-gen Porsche to a customer in South Africa as well.
“GT is not that big in South Africa, to be honest,” Golz told Sportscar365. “But it can be the first step in the right direction.
“The Kyalami circuit is great; the facility is great, so I think it will be a big event. I think everything will get a big push so we can expect more [cars] for next year.”
Audi Sport customer racing has already achieved success in the region, with an Audi R8 LMS GT4 claiming the brand’s first victory in South Africa earlier this month in the South African G&H Transport Extreme Supercars racing series.
Head of Audi Sport customer racing Chris Reinke said he’s hopeful that achievement, as well as this weekend’s IGTC race, will lead to local Audi GT3 teams joining the factory-backed cars on the grid in the future.
“It’s the first dip in the water,” Reinke told Sportscar365. “Two weeks ago we won the first GT race with the Audi R8 LMS GT4 down here.
“Some things are happening and maybe it will initiate more [interest]. We’d be happy because so far we have one happy customer down here and we could live with more.
“The excitement of this race could spread throughout South Africa and maybe throughout the complete region.
“Looking through it as Audi, we brought two cars here but they are the only contenders. Obviously we would be happy to have more support and motivated customers who would also enter their machines next year or the year after.”
Multiple previous-generation GT3 cars have shown up in the region in recent years, such as Pablo Clark Racing’s Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 and Team Perfect Circle’s 997-spec Porsche 911 GT3 R, and others that regularly compete in the Mopar South African Endurance Series.
According to Bentley Motorsport director Paul Williams, who grew up in South Africa, the country holds a great potential for growth within the GT3 market.
“The South Africans, more than anyone else I know, love their performance cars,” Williams told Sportscar365.
“If you look around here and the type of cars you see on the street, even in a relatively poor country, you see a lot of people are spending money on their car rather than on other things.
“I think there’s a potential to boost that. More than in other markets, the motorsport message here will reach people.”
While not yet having sold a Mercedes-AMG GT3 into the market, Stefan Wendl, head of customer racing for Mercedes-AMG, said he’s looking forward to “developing something” in the years to come.
“Racing is normally always something which grows with competition and it is good that we have a whole bunch of manufacturers here who are able to represent themselves,” Wendl told Sportscar365.
“I’m looking forward to developing something.
“It’s very good to be here at the first important race on this continent, and we hope that we can develop this together, maybe together with the SRO in the coming years.”
Ratel Upbeat on Kyalami 9 Hour, Market Growth
SRO founder and CEO Stephane Ratel, who made the bold move to revive the Kyalami 9 Hour, has laid out the target of achieving a 40-car grid in the next two years.
Today’s race, the first long-distance enduro to be held at Kyalami in 37 years, will feature a grid of 28 GT3 cars, with the hope of it being bolstered by more local teams in the future.
Ratel also feels the market could be better matched for GT4, due to the platform’s lower entry point in terms of costs.
“I think the first category to be developed in South Africa is GT4, which is easier at the start,” he said. “But I hope some teams will want to buy GT3 cars as well.
“On the [production car] market, which I didn’t know initially, it’s particularly active for the likes of BMW, Mercedes. On the back of it, maybe we can help develop more motorsport in South Africa.”