The 9 Hour has returned to South Africa, it’s a Saturday. Race Day.
In Jozi at the Kyalami international circuit and before the weekend over
I'd be burnt and soaked.
Legends have raced here
all the greats in fact, and not just endurance racers - I also refer
Formula One champs in their open wheeled steeds, names such as Jacky
Ickx, Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher, too many to mention in fact
so I won’t even try.
Kyalami is a 4,522km long circuit, 12m wide
and made up of 16 turns, each one storied. The entire length resurfaced
in impeccable asphalt, runs anti-clockwise and rolls over 43m of
elevation. It’s our land’s premiere racing circuit and I’m stood
trackside on a corner baking in the sun, but also beaming with a smile I
can’t shake as super powered metal spit, growl and bark as they rush
by, making the ground reverberate to the nth.
It’s so good to have this most pedigreed, most prestigious event back on the calendar.
This is not a race report
now you’ve read the results, you know who won, you know the mainstream
stories surrounding the race. But I want to talk about the spectacle
from the perspective of a spectator and a man with a camera, standing
next to the circuit, watching the cars battle for nine arduous hours.
nine hours it played out with the intensity of Christopher Nolan’s
Dunkirk, the continuous ticking like that of a time bomb could be felt
as Porsches, AMGs, BMWs and GTRs (and more) swapped positions at the
pointy end of the field.
In the media room filled with larger
television screens and exhausted news writers, weary cameramen and
photogs slinging massive telephoto lenses over their shoulders like
Mjolnir as they refuel their bodies and offload their memory cards and
venture once more onto the track, into the pits and along the acres of
‘lawn’ for vantage points that best capture these metal four-wheeled
shards making war.
My cue, as I join them on foot often, by
shuttle less so - but doing my best to capture the event. By 5pm my neck
was as pink as my media bib, and at 5.50pm not only had darkness fallen
but I was drenched, my transparent poncho protecting my camera and I,
whilst also performing a lightshow by refracting and bouncing the
circuit’s many light sources. I was a glistening disco ball by the time I
returned to the sanctuary of the media room to warm up on coffee and
swap memory cards for the last time.
The closer you got to the
track tarmac, the louder the ticking became, and the later it got the
fiercer it became. That is, until the soaked circuit became a hostile
environment sending cars off the track in slippery fashion until the
Porsche 911 safety car was summoned to slow down the field.
hours later, with the ticking unabated, and just minutes left on the
clock, the safety car retreated to let the field race till the end. And
race they did, until the embers all but died at 10pm when the collective
shoulders of the world’s motoring media could finally slump in relief.
took the title and the race, despite a collision between two of the
front runners. But the real winners were the spectators – trackside and
those watching the televised and screened event all over the world.
I emerged on the other side visibly shook but absolutely hell bent on
returning. And that’s about all I have to say other than, please enjoy