Stephane Ratel says it’s a “dream come true” to resurrect the Kyalami 9 Hours, an event that completes the SRO Motorsport Group founder and CEO’s five-race, five-continent target for the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
SRO confirmed the addition of the South African race during its annual press conference last weekend at Spa, which will close out the expanded 2019 season for the globe-trotting GT3 series.
The event, scheduled for Nov. 2-3, will mark the first international endurance race in Africa in nearly 20 years and continue the legacy that began at the former Formula One circuit in the 1960s.
Ratel explained a mutual friend of Toby Venter, the owner of Porsche South Africa who purchased the track in 2014, ultimately led to his dream becoming a reality after initially floating the concept more than two years ago.
“The circuit is superb, it’s [been] beautifully redone,” Ratel said. “It’s sad to have such a tool and not to have an international event.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s been this race which has had all the major cars winning it and it was the traditional [endurance race in Africa].”
While initially tabbed for an early March date, Ratel managed to move the California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to Spring 2019 to accommodate the new event on the IGTC calendar.
“We discussed to try to put the California 8 Hours in spring, which made the date in November [possible]. It’s the traditional date,” Ratel said.
“The 9 hours was always the first weekend of November.”
Ratel said they’ve already had a “very good” response from manufacturers, which are expected to utilize established GT3 teams for the event.
Only a handful of GT3-spec cars are currently competing on the African continent, largely in the Mopar South African Endurance Series.
“It’s an untapped market,” Ratel said. “You have nothing there, you have no Formula 1, no WEC, nothing.
“It’s an important market for premium cars, sports cars, and Africa is important so I think it will be a success.
“I won’t give any names but a manufacturer came and said they had a [GT3] order from South Africa from people who heard about the 9 Hours.”
Ratel said the grid will likely include local cars, competing in a national class, alongside global-spec GT3 and GT4 machinery, in a similar format seen in the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour of at Laguna Seca.
“We want to insert local cars,” he said. “It won’t be exclusively GT3. You have a racing scene and Toby himself has a Bentley [Continental] GT3.
“You have an Aston, a couple of Lambos, Ferraris. It won’t be the same spec but we will definitely have a national class.”
Van der Linde: Kyalami to be “Great Spectacle”
Kelvin van der Linde believes the race will be a highlight of the season, with the South African looking forward to racing on home soil.
The Audi factory driver, along with Jordan Pepper, who recently replaced Guy Smith in Bentley Team M-Sport’s lineup, are expected to be among the local stars taking part in the event.
“I’ve been involved a lot at the track itself doing a lot of shooting with Audi in South Africa,” van der Linde told Sportscr365. “I’m very impressed with the new track.
“Obviously it’s not 100 percent new now, it’s been around for two or three years, but it will be great for a GT3 car around there.
“It’s going to be a good spectacle, the South African fans love motorsport. Especially with two drivers being in the race, I think it will be a highlight.”
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report