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When the hammer fell at the auction of the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit on July 24 2014 local motorsport fans breathed a sigh of relief.

Porsche SA boss Toby Venter, entrepreneur and former race driver, made the successful bid for the track, the handover of which took place on April 24 2015.

Major changes are planned and will, Venter said, “be the single largest upgrade in the circuit’s 54-year history”. Here’s what’s in store…

CIRCUIT LAYOUT CHANGE

Venter revealed that he plans to change the layout of the circuit and work with the International Automobile Federation’s safety delegate Charlie Whiting to improve track safety.

Venter said: “What was clearly lacking in the current layout was a longer straight ending in a tight corner. It was clear that the tar surface, in place since the early 1990's, needed to be replaced.

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The final plans include:
1 A complete resurfacing.
2 Lengthening of the existing main straight with Turn 1 reduced in angle “allowing the circuit to run into the eastern corner of the property ensuring a straight of close to 900m”.
3 A new Turn 2 - a tight left-hander with a tight apex, leading to a series of bends joining back into the current circuit at the existing Turn 4.
4 Changes to the circuit at Turn 12 (the Bowl).
5 The upgrade of circuit safety with the objective of once again obtaining a Grade 2 federation licence.

LSM Distributors has contracted engineering consultancy WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa to undertake the R100-million restoration of the 54-year-old Kyalami racetrack, situated in Midrand. Print Send to Friend 0 0 The restoration will assist in re-establishing it as a venue for international motor sporting events. Work has already started, and the track should be re-opened between August and September. Porsche South Africa (PSA) MD Toby Venter acquired the 72 ha Kyalami site on an auction in 2014, for the price tag of R205-million. In an interview with Engineering News last year, he confirmed that Kyalami would remain a racetrack. The Venter family are the major shareholders in LSM Distributors. “The restorations will be focused on enhancing the attractiveness of the track, as well as improving both the driver and spectator value, with a key focus on safety,” says WSP divisional director for development, transportation and infrastructure in Africa Francois van Rensburg.

 

The scope of the project includes the refurbishment of the existing racetrack, which encompasses realignment for three corners of the track, thereby also improving track safety, improving access to the venue and assisting in developing engineering solutions for a friendlier track-day experience. “These track realignments – where, for example, we are also improving the 1.1 km straight on the track – will not only make racing more exciting for the drivers, but will also comply with world-class standards,” notes Van Rensburg. As part of the project, WSP must ensure that track safety around the run-off areas, as well as the implementation of debris fencing for improved spectator safety, receive approval by the governing body for international motorsport – the FIA – which has also shared recommendations for further improvements of the facility, highlighting key aspects around safety. Additionally, to further enhance the racing day experience for both drivers and spectators, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa will increase the spacing of the bleachers and change the pit-lane exit for drivers to leave the area at faster speeds. “We used the latest in three-dimensional design virtualisation technology to develop a game based on the scope of the refurbishments. This gave the client a unique opportunity to test drive the new track on a simulator before construction starts,” says Van Rensburg.

 

WSP was involved in developing the original track at Kyalami and has since also been involved in developing the Zwartkops racetrack, in Tshwane. “We have employed a range of our expertise on this project, including in the niche pavement and asphalt finishing, which is essential for a project of this nature. The racetrack finishing is significantly different from public roads to make it safer for drivers at high speeds,” explains Van Rensburg. Given the fact that Kyalami must remain closed during construction, to reduce the impact of possible loss of earnings, the consultancy also needs to ensure that the project is completed as quickly as possible. “To help us get the best accuracy possible with our designs, we commissioned a complete laser scanning. This included using mobile, terrestrial and aerial scans of the site, resulting in the development of a comprehensive model of Kyalami. The scans and colour photographs were then loaded into a survey processor to filter and render the virtual three-dimensional model needed to get client approval and start the project,” says Van Rensburg. PSA indicates that Venter will not seek to secure a Formula 1 race at Kyalami, as the current upgrade will not suffice to host such an event. However, this is not to say that the infrastructure at Kyalami may not be improved further to enable this.

 

FROM THE KINK TO THE MINESHAFT The revamped circuit will see a revival of Kyalami’s historic turn names. After the start line the circuit will drop into a new turn 1, once again a full speed corner. Appropriately, turn 1 will be named The Kink. The circuit will continue to drop and then climb over the new circuit subway into the new turn 2. Turn 2 will be named Crowthorne, with its new spectator area, from which nearly half the circuit will be visible. After leaving Crowthorne the circuit will drop down with a series of two right- and left-handed curves named Jukskei Sweep. The circuit will then join the current layout with a new turn 5, named Barbeque. The back straight, running past the refurbished secondary pit complex, forms part of the original circuit layout. As a result, a number of turn names will return, with Sunset to be followed by Clubhouse, the Esses and Leeukop.

 

The circuit will then drop steeply downhill into a fast left-hand sweep. This fast section will be called Mineshaft – a name that it unofficially gained in the past due to its steep nature. The new turn 13 will follow after an extended straight rising up onto a platform, its wide entry providing overtaking opportunity. This new corner, which should prove popular with race fans, will be called The Crocodiles. The corner rejoins the circuit with a slight left-hand sweep into the second-t- last corner, which will retain its current configuration. This fast corner, which requires bravery to negotiate at speed, will be called Cheetah. Turn 15 will be retained in its current form, but will now be called Ingwe, which is the Zulu word for Leopard. The lap finishes with an uphill section to the start-finish line.

 

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