From January 1968 to November 1973, I was lucky enough to attend many events at Kyalami: club races, Grand Prix and the 9-hour endurance race.
In the early days I was a paying spectator. Later on, I often had a marshal’s pass, usually as a radio operator providing communications for the track marshals. I also managed to do a few other jobs:
On one occasion at a club event our radio post was short of a marshal, and I was able to step in as a rather amateur flag marshal – the flag post just on the right of the track at the entry to Sunset.
Another time, I went with my scout troup, whose turn it was to man the scoring system. This was a manual display – scouts hanging numbers on hooks – and there was a radio link from the control tower to one scout at each post wearing headphones (a “pirate” operation on medium wave, if I remember correctly). Grand Prix Legends drivers probably use “my” scoring tower as the apex marker of Leeukop… although my recollection is that it was a lot further along the track, almost halfway to Kink.
I was also given the opportunity to operate the “Control” radio position, in the Springbok Tower. The radio control position was alongside the track commentators, which made it quite entertaining. On that occasion, I remember a car fully ablaze at Sunset, and having to direct an escalation of the fire emergency team.
At the 1973 Grand Prix, there was concern that in the event of a major incident, it might be possible that Control would lose track of who had done how many laps (this was all manual in those days). I was positioned at the entry to Leeukop (a slow and relatively safe point on the circuit) with a tape recorder, shouting car numbers into the microphone as they passed me. In fact, a major incident – well documented elsewhere – occurred during the early part of this race, and at the end of the confusion, Jackie Stewart was in front. But had he overtaken under yellow flags, or had he perhaps managed to drop a lap, and reentered the race in front of the leaders? My tape recording was used to check that he had won his lead fairly… so in a small way, I helped Jackie to his 1973 world championship!
Over the course of those six years, my father and I were able to photograph many of these events – and this website contains that collection of pictures. They are presented “warts and all”. Many of them are dreadful quality… but some are absolute gems.
My school friend Dave Hughes was with me for the 1973 SAGP and Nine Hour. He continued to spectate at Kyalami after my family left South Africa, and I have been able to include some of his photos he took in 1973-1976.
All images on this site are copyright Russell Whitworth, and/or as individually credited. Please ask if you wish to borrow any images. I always give permission – but I insist on being asked first!
© Russell Whitworth 2003-2016