At Kyalami on the 3rd of November 1962, a Legendary journey began! During the Fifth 9-Hour Race, the sight and sound of a BP green Ferrari GTO racing to victory, held the capacity crowd spellbound.
David Piper had driven the Ferrari GTO by road all the way from Cape Town. His racing tyres had not arrived in time so he was helped with road Ferrari tyres by Gigi Lupini and Basil Read. He then raced to victory with co-driver BRM test driver, South African Bruce Johnston, and set the benchmark for ten years. He won the 9-Hour five times in his Ferraris and once in 1969 in his Porsche 917.
It was an amazing achievement, which not only stimulated motor sport in South Africa, but brought many of the real icons of motor racing to South Africa – Cars and Stars – Ford GT, Mirage, Lola, Ferrari, Porsche… and the stars: Jackie Ickx, Mike Hailwood, Richard Atwood, Paul Hawkins. We also had our local aces: Peter de Klerk, John Love, Jackie Pretorius, Tony Maggs, Dave Charlton – they were our heroes.
Then in 1970 it all ended. Steve Mc Queen’s production of “Le Mans” created at real speed, resulted in David having a near fatal crash in one of the sequences. He lost the lower half of his right leg which ended his professional motor racing career. But he was not lost to us in South Africa.
“I will return”. David soon discovered that with an artificial limb he could still race competitively and in 1980 together with Mike Knight, a formidable single seater racer from the sixties, formed the International Sports Racing Club for Pre-1970 Sports Cars. This was the beginning of serious historic motor racing worldwide. Previously “old racers” had no value and were “considered useless” – Ford GT40s, Ferraris, Porsche, Lola’s, Lotus, Matra, Alfa, etc.
David Piper and Mike Knight returned to South African in 1988 with 22 of these incredible racers. They raced at Killarney, East London and at a special street race in Durban. In 1998 they raced at the new Kyalami and Killarney, Cape Town. Then since 2002 they have come to South Africa every year, to participate in the Zwartkops and Killarney “David Piper / Passion for Speed” Festivals.
Through the participation of David Piper and Mike Knight and the ingenuity of South African engineers and drivers, historic racing in South Africa has become a whole industry. South Africans now build and export tribute cars around the world, which are competitively raced (in period specifications) on five continents.
This all started with a V12 BP Green Ferrari on 3rd of November 1962 at Kyalami – 57 years ago.
Without David and Liz, whom he married in 1968 and has helped drive his lifelong passion for racing, and in later years Mike Knight, we would never have had such a rich heritage of World Sports and GT racing both past and contemporary that we have today.
‘’Some seeds fall on good soil from which a rich harvest is reaped” – thank you David, Liz and Mike – our heritage is exceedingly rich.
The Zwartkops Team