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Legends of the 9 Hour The Pre 1974 International Sports Racing Prototypes

Perspective – The Pre 1974 International Sports Racing Prototypes

David Piper and Mike Knight formed the International Sports Racing Prototypes Racing Club in 1980. They were in many respects the pioneers of Historic Racing in respect of the great Sports and GT cars of the sixties and early seventies. In this period these sports cars were in many ways faster and more spectacular than Formula One!

These cars were spurned through the World Championship for Sports and GT cars and the phenomenal (no restrictions) North American Can-Am Series. Many of these great icon cars raced in the South African Springbok series at the time. This all came to an abrupt end with the first oil crisis of 1973 when manufactures withdrew their support for the big gas guzzlers and focused on smaller capacity cars. In South Africa our National Championship for Sports and GT came to an end in 1968. Post 1968 the prime stimulus for Sports and GT came from the 9 Hour and the import of period cars for the Springbok series. The year 1973 was also significant for motorsport in South Africa when the government banned motorsport for some six months. The 9 Hour became six hours and then by 1975 the Sports and GT cars were no longer part of endurance or any National series. It was not until 1988 that an attempt was made to re-introduce sports racing cars onto our racing calendar – Tiga’s with Mazda rotary engines then Sports 2000 (initiated by Chris Costas) and finally in 1999 what is now known as Shelby. There was in effect no Sports and GT Racing categories in South Africa from 1975 to 1984.
In 1988 David and Mike bought their ISP Cars to South Africa for a three race series. Cape Town, East London and Durban. This event stimulated Historic Sports Racing (Pre 1974) In South Africa with the result when the International ISP Cars returned in 1998 at Kyalami we had (mainly through David and Ray Cohen, Gary Dunkerly, and the du Toit family, a support group of Ford GT40, Cobra’s, McLaren’s, Chevron B19 and B8, plus Lola T70’s) Zwartkops (half the size, twice the fun) also initiated a National Historic calendar with the above stable of cars and which provided some great racing. In 1992 the big M6 Can-Am McLaren driven by Willie Hepburn and Gary Dunkerly in the blue B19 raced in an Historic event which was and still is one of the greatest races ever seen at Zwartkops. The new Zwartkops promoted a full International – “David Piper” day as it was called in early 2002. The day had one of the biggest crowds at Zwartkops with a 5km queue to get in. This was the start of what is today known as “Passion for Speed” and some fourteen years later we have the ISP event as core to the program. In the years that have followed we have seen in South Africa cars like Brabham, Lola, Chevron, McLaren, Ford P4 (F1 Cosworth), Porsche 906, 917, Ferrari P312, LM, GTO – Incredible cars many of which are now far too valuable to race and reside in private collections.
Zwartkops took over the naming rights of the ISP from David Piper Racing in 2004. This was necessary as by that time the Historic Racing Car Register of South Africa had excluded all Sports and GT cars from their series. This left Sports and GT Cars (and single seaters) high and dry. The real threat to the ISP cars was that the owners of these cars found themselves with only two events per year and were looking to sell their cars.
The Legends of the 9 Hour™ racing club was then incorporated to cater for this series and promote the great Legend production cars of the period. The Legend series initially only had about a dozen eligible cars but through the effort of Zwartkops we have today a register of some 240 cars. The series falls under the auspices of Motorsport SA and the Historic commission. The Legends has cost some nine million Rand over the past 10 years to develop support and administer. In order to protect our investment in the series a trade mark has been registered and a MSA structured contract for the respective categories, 1950 to early seventies. The ISP series in particular is today experiencing the same problems as its International counterparts namely the cost of racing, the value, they are very different cars to drive, rarity and aspects of safety (in their day safety was of secondary importance) plus originality. The primary objective of Legend Series is to protect our heritage through the promotion of a high profile event. This has resulted in some remarkable initiatives as we have stimulated an industry of “type cars”. The icons are racing, with great spectacle and growing interest in South African motorsport. Motor racing is not a cheap sport and the ISP cars are on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to acquisition, running costs etc. However, there is a series and we have events with Porsche 917’s, Chevron’s, Lola’s, Ford GT, South African built specials which is not seen anywhere else outside of one or two selective events in the USA and Europe. This is a tremendous achievement to South African initiative and enterprise. It does have its threats as the integrity of South African creativity has led to International investors now wanting our cars to race in Historic events abroad. This is hard to accept but we still have, compared to what is happening internationally, healthy grids.

Regulations

There will always be those who wish to criticise other people’s initiatives and ISP is no exception. One of the issues is our regulations. In theory there should be no regulations. The cars should all be as raced in period. In reality however, real life is very different for a number of reasons… and these are:
One: Everybody wants to win and cars are setup and race engineered by specialists using technology which did not exist in the “Golden Age”.
Two: We also have to try and adapt to the reality of South Africa. Practicality and affordability is very high on the agenda. To comply with FIA in South Africa would kill off the series. The WPMC went this route a few years ago, and destroyed their historic series. Competitors found the costs exorbitant and simply walked away from Historics. It is for this reason that we would allow same configuration engines (modern) in a historic car. The cost of a FVC/BDG 2 litre engine is some three hundred/ four hundred thousand Rand. The Chevrons B19 of Colin Ellison runs a Honda T/C and the Peter Jenkins B19 a modern Ford Z-Tec. The 1973 Matra raced in South Africa had a Gurney Weslake engine – the V12 was far too expensive to race. The use of mechanical vs electronic fuel injection is even more complex not in respect of cost, availability, maintenance but that a modern mechanical system may look period but is internally electronically controlled. So the regulations are an issue and due to the diversity of car/ combination/ and originality the published ISP regulations can only allow for a few issues. We cannot draw up a separate set of regulations for each car.
Three: We have highly experienced and professional technical consultants who evaluate each car on merit. This is no easy task as we are assessing powerful racing cars which competed in a very different period of motor racing. The leading cars are still as fast as anything we have on our National racing calendar including motorcycles.
Four: One of the biggest problems is what we are representing. The competitors in many instances were never involved in “the period” and base their views on assumption. What is not understood is what really happened. For instance the ISP regulations cover the period for cars which competed in Europe under FIA and USA the SCCA – Can-Am. A five litre Lola in Europe (other than the later Inter Series) competed with six/ seven litre engines in North America.
Tyre, brake and carburation was also substantially different. Whatever the criticisms and views expressed about the International Sports Racing (Pre 1974) cars we must respect what we have and the investment in these cars. Today’s greatest threat to ISP is cost, exports, and that some are only raced rarely, however aside of these issues just where in the world do you see 3 Porsche 917’s, 4 Chevron’s, 3 Lola’s, 4 GT40’s plus icon Le Mans Porsches all in the same race!
We presently have some 22 ISP cars on our register and from competitor to spectator let us enjoy them. There are also some more in the process of restoration and being built. The Pre 1974 International Sports Racing Prototypes play a significant role in South African Historic Racing.
Legends of the 9 Hour™ Legends Newsletter 8-2015
Peter du Toit
Chairman
Legends of the 9 Hour™

 

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