Warning to others: You will find this incredibly boring!
I guess that as with so many things in life, it boils down to nostalgia. I was born and brought up in Milnerton, a suburb of Cape Town, which in the picture above is about an inch north of the hairpin bend at the top, at the end of the long straight. As a youngster I used to cycle to Killarney to watch pretty much most of the club and national races.
South Africa used to have a national Formula One championship series, held from 1962 until 1975, and Killarney hosted two or three rounds each year. The F1 cars made a huge impact on me as a teenager, especially when compared to the family Ford Prefect!
The SA F1 series was dominated by John Love with a Cooper T55-Climax from 1964 (which was when I started going to Killarney, at the ripe old age of 11) until 1967. Love acquired Brabham's BT20-Repco after the 1967 SAGP (which Love almost won), and in 1968 the stakes were upped when big-spending sponsors came onto the scene, with the cars being bedecked in sponsor liveries, including cigarette brands such as Gunston, Lucky Strike and Lexington. In those days, if you had enough money, you could buy contemporary F1 cars and in 1968 Team Gunston bought Love a Lotus 49.
The period 1969 to 1975 saw local drivers competing in the national championship with cars such as the Lotus 49B/C, Brabham BT33, McLaren M7A, March 707 and 721, Surtees TS9, Lotus 72D/Es, Tyrrell 005 and 007, and McLaren M23, such as Charlton's, pictured below:-
In the early 1970s fields were bolstered by including Formula 5000 and F2 cars, running in separate classes, and we were often treated to guest drives by the likes of Jochen Mass, Brian Redman, Mike Hailwood and Peter Gethin.
From 1976, due to the spiralling costs of running F1 cars, the series switched to using Formula Atlantic chassis. The Formula Atlantic series ran for 10 years, until 1986, during which time the leading contenders were the likes of Ian Scheckter (Jody's brother), Tony Martin and Graham Duxbury (winners of the 1984 Daytona 24 Hour along with Sarel Van Der Merwe) and Wayne Taylor (a successful IMSA and WSPC driver who won the LMP1 class for Cadillac at Le Mans in 1998 and has also had a couple of wins at both Daytona and Sebring, as well as winning the IMSA series in 1994 and 1996).
Probably the most memorable of races was the Cape 3-Hour, a round of the end of season Springbok Series for "big banger" sports cars, held from 1966 to 1973 and which attracted most of the top 'works' sports protoype racing teams to the Kyalami 9-Hour, at least. The 'works' teams rarely came to Killarney but many of the top privateers competed in the full series.
I still have vivid memories of the race in 1967, with the Lola T70MkIIIs of Paul Hawkins and Mike de Udy, the Ford GT40s of David Prophet and Ed Nelson, the Lola T70 of Doug Serrurier (sponsored by Wall's ice-cream, with "stop me and buy one" painted across the back of the spoiler!), the Ferrari 330P3/P4 of David Piper and the Porsche 906 of Tony Dean. It was an epic battle between Hawkins and de Udy from start to finish.
Then there were the saloon car races, with the giant-killer Lotus Cortinas taking on the Ford Galaxies driven by Bobby Olthoff, Frank Gardner and Roy Pierpoint, avoiding the cold of the British winters by spending time in South Africa...
About 2 years ago, I picked up a book from the bargain table at either Borders or Barnes & Noble. It has about 50 tracks, with detailed layouts, any changes over time, pictures, elevation changes, and winners of the major races run there. A great find.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of it here at my desk. When I get home tonight, I will grab it and post the details.
Seems I'm the same age as Russell! Guess that means I'm about to reminisce!
So... move on if boredom scares you!
Without a doubt, Mosport Park is the track that epitomizes motor racing to me. Having grown up in Toronto, Canada, I had a world class circuit (back then!) within about an hour's drive of my house. Unfortunately, I was far too young to drive, so I had to take bus tours which meant that a day at the track was really half a day at the track and half a day getting there and back! Thankfully, that only lasted for a few years before I had wheels of my own.
Mosport is a 2.5 mile road course set in wooded and very rolling hills northeast of Toronto.
My first trip there was for the Canadian GP in 1967, at the age of 13. It took weeks to convince my parents that I was capable of travelling there on my own, but I finally managed it. I wouldn't, quite honestly, even consider such a thing in today's world.
I was hooked on racing from that day on. Any chance I got to head out for an event, I was there! The sounds, the smells, the sheer speed of the cars, all combined to turn me into a motorsport fanatic.
Sports car pic, taken from turn 3 looking back toward the very wild turn two:
The elevation changes and fast, blind corners are what give Mosport its personality. To walk the track for one lap is an incredibly tiring experience because of the hills. Pictures don't portray it well but every part of the course is a challenge to the driver - as I would find out in later years.
It its hayday, Mosport hosted GPs (alternating with St. Jovite every other year), Can-Am races, WSC events, IMSA, Trans-Am, IndyCars, and even one NASCAR race! Today, the big races there are Trans-Am and American LeMans.
The Can-Am cars were impressive at Mosport. The lap record would fall first to them, and then later to the F1s when they returned. The Can-Ams would take it back the next time, and so on. Lap times of just over one minute tell you that the 2.5 mile course was anything but slow!
By the late 70s, Mosport had been left behind by the progress of the very cars it was built to entertain. It was just too fast and too dangerous. Formula One went to Montreal when the FIA understandably declared Mosport as being too out-of-date for the F1 rocketships. When I bought my F4 in 1980, I quickly realized why! Even at speeds some 25-30% slower than F1s, one quickly learned that the track didn't ask for respect, it demanded it!
A shot of F4s exiting the ultra-fast turn four (the "Chute") in top gear and approaching the famous "Moss Corner" (turn 5 - slowest turn on the track):
The climb into turn 5 is amazing! It's tough to walk up it! And you can see absolutely nothing as you climb into the turn! In a Formula 4, that means braking from 135 MPH to 50, over a blind hill, and then needing to slow even more for the second part of the hairpin that drops away from you! Imagine what the F1 drivers must have experienced - they were approaching it at 175 MPH!
My favourite memory as a spectator at turn 5 was the year that Matra unveiled their V12. (And unless you've heard it, you won't know what I'm talking about!) Turn 5 is like a natural amphitheater - the cars exit the turn 4 trees and scream into a large, natural bowl shaped area. With silence over the course before practice, one could hear a pin drop. Then, suddenly, the distant sound of the Matra leaving the pits. We could hear the occasional, high-pitched wail as it negotiated turns 2 and 3, and then the increasing note as it rushed toward turn 4. Then silence. All of a sudden, the most unearthly howl as it blasted under the bridge and through the trees approaching Moss Corner, and downshifted to first gear for the hairpin. More revs than was imaginable! Then, the scream as it accelerated out of the turn and disappeared up the back straight. Again silence. Then, as if recovering from shock, I remember thousands of people standing up and cheering at what may have been one of the all-time audio moments in motor racing!
Mosport has made massive changes in recent years, and has attracted the likes of the American LeMans series.
Obviously, I'm biased because I live nearby, but I honestly think that Mosport is one of the world's finest true road courses - fast, demanding, and unforgiving.
The aerial views are great but don't give much if any idea of how hilly that Mosport circuit really is, as shown in the photos. It's amazing! I wonder if it is perhaps the swoopiest circuit there is, or ever was?
The description of the incredible sound of the Matra V12 certainly rings a bell for me. My first ever exposure to F1 at Brands Hatch introduced me to not only the sound, but the palpable FEEL of the all-conquering Cosworth V8s for the first time. I really could feel the thundrous reverberations hitting me in the chest. But that wailing, howling banshee of a Matra cut through their rumbling like a knife!
Tropi, I doubt that Mosport is the hilliest course ever, but it must be close. A lot like Spa in some ways. The only level ground at Mosport is in turns 9 and 10 before the pit straight - even the pits slope downhill! The drops off turn two and off turn four are phenomenal, and cars get soooo light 'cause you're turning as the road literally falls away, and you're going over 120 MPH at the time even in a F4! - gotta do it to appreciate it - likewise the climb up into five. Even the backstraight is wild - 3 different crest points at places where the track is also gently curving! More than one car has flipped backwards at the final crest on the straight! I honestly don't know how the F1 drivers ever did it!
The Matra was definitely a wild audio experience, for sure!
My favourite quote at Mosport though came from my wife. We were running my somewhat modified 240Z in a time trial event for fun. She hadn't driven Mosport before, but her times were very impressive - she was less than a second off my best, and I was swapping the top time in class with another 240Z. She came into the pits after a session. We talked about how the car was running while I bled the brakes for my next run. Then I asked her what speed she was pulling at the end of the straight. She said "Oh, I was touching 135 coming into 8. Not very fast, really! That's km/h, right?". "No dear... it's a '73.... that's MPH!" (I didn't tell her till later that I was only hitting 135 too!) She did a similar thing later when street racing a Corvette.... but that's another story!
For me it's Brands Hatch in Kent, England. I trecked over there during my school years on many a Sunday to see some fantastic events from club racing to F1. And in the eighties there were those sportscars. Check this mini-film out taken by me at the 1988 1000km WSC race. And don't forget to turn the volume UP!
Brands for me too. Unforgetable when Mansell overtook Piquet that year (?) I got to walk it during filming of the advert for "Short Circuits". I could not believe how narrow it was where Nigel did that move. Got took around in a Audi TT too by one of the School Instructors. Best of all though was getting involved with the GT team and seeing `our` car go down the straight with the club sticker on it. I was well pleased. I`m very envious of you guys who are slightly older than me. I would have loved to have seen some of those races , I love anything between 1950 and the late 70`s.
I`ve got a great N Mansell story if anyone is interested?
Sorry to get off memory lane. Just wanted to provide more info for the original question.
The book I got is called "World Motor Racing Circuits - a spectators guide", by Peter Higham and Bruce Jones, published by Andre Deutsch. I picked it up on the Borders Books bargain table for us$5.99. It has 72 circuits from around the world, with pictures, aerial drawings, drawings with speed / gear / gforce for every corner. Results of major races, and stories for many of the courses.
This is worth looking for if you can find it. There are several on-line sources for track layouts, but this book is comprehensive. Hope it helps.
How about the "old" Kyalami circuit of the 1960's and 1970's? Russell will remember it I'm sure.
I used to watch F-1 GPs there - saw people like Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart win, then Denny Hulme and others. Then every year in November there was an endurance race of 9 hour duration. Ferrari sent factory cars some years, and David Piper came out there with Ferrari P3's and P4's and later a Porsche 917. There were lots of GT40's, Lola T-70's and all kinds of other cool old cars - I wish I had kept all the photos I had from those days.
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