The year has started out incredibly busy and I have not had much time to do a new post for my blog so thought it about time seeing as last weekend was the historic Race Meeting at Killarney.
The whole day provided some great racing and there were some truly spectacular vehicles there.
Some of my favorite vehicles are the old race bikes and there was a superb collection there of old Isle of Man bikes from the Paddy Driver AJS to a 250 4 cylinder Honda from about 1968. Among the others were a Lola T70, Chevron B19, Ford Galaxy and more.
As usual my favorite form of racing is the single seaters and there were 2 categories on the day. The first was called Wings and Slicks and was aimed at attracting the Formula Atlantic cars. Unfortunately to make up the numbers it was necessary to invite the Western Province Formula Libre cars to race with them. It did make for good racing and well done to Reg Anderson for winning one heat in his Swift Formula GT1 car.
The second was for Historic F1 cars as well as Historic Formula Fords. In fact it was probably for almost any Historic Single Seater of any description. The racing again was superb with tight groups of cars providing several good races in the field.
The best car of the day to me was a Lotus 61. The car as regular readers will know was the first race car I owned. I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend of mine, Alan Grant, who bought the car and then rebuilt it. I do not know how long it took him but the end result is a truly beautifully rebuilt car as close to the original specifications as possible. Some things that were done in the Sixties are no longer allowed on safety grounds but these necessary changes did not detract from the car at all.
The car is painted orange which is the colour my first car was so it really appealed to me. The question of course asked of me was if it was my old car or not. I can adamantly state that it was not. I know this because I put my car through the catch fences at Sunset bend at Kyalami and damaged the frame on the LH side in the cockpit area and this car showed no sign of any repairs having been done.
I have been asked to go and look at a car John Amm has bought to see if that is my old chassis. I will do that in the next few weeks.
The first race for Formula Libre is at the beginning of March so I have collected the Ray 89F from Killarney and am now deciding what work I need to do on it. That will be my race car project for the next few weeks.
Until next time
I come from a family who were not supporters of Motorsport at all and yet despite this I know – but do not remember – that I was taken to Gunners Circle in the early 1950’s to a race meeting. I know this because my father used to take 16mm movies of most family events and there was some footage of me with race cars circulating in the background. I suspect we went because my Uncle John who lived in Cape Town was a car enthusiast.
The next incident I recall was in junior school drawing pictures of racing cars which by my recollection looked like old front engine Ferrari’s and Vanwall’s. I guess I was in about grade 3 at the time. There was a travelling library bus which used to visit Northcliff Primary school once every week and I used to always look for stories and autobiographies of the race drivers of the time and so read about Mike Hawthorn and Manuel Fangio amongst others. I also read autobiographies of several of the WW2 fighter pilots.
All through my junior school years I followed as much about motor racing as possible – it was not as easy then as it was not really a big international sport as it is now. I do remember building a plastic model of the Lotus 25 driven by Jim Clark and Lotus and Jim Clark were my favorite team and driver for many years. I was a big Lotus fan up until they discontinued participation in F1.
The second time I remember going to a race meeting was at Killarney. My mother, brother and I were staying at my Gran’s house in Kenilworth and I used to get really bored there so one Saturday morning I decided to go to the races and dragged my brother out. We walked to the bus stop, caught a bus into Cape Town and them a bus to Milnerton which was as close as we could get to Killarney by bus. There must have been a bit of a panic in Kenilworth as when we got off the bus in Milnerton my cousin Michael was waiting for us with a car and he took us to Killarney and then back to Kenilworth later.
The next time I went to a race meeting was the Kyalami Autumn Trophy in 1964 and the 9 hour endurance race also in 1964.
At the same time I was learning to drive on the back roads of honeydew and together with a school friend Walton Imrie I built a Go Kart and managed to get some old dilapidated motorcycles running to bash around in the veld. The motorcycles were never kept at my house but always stayed at Walton’s house. I must have been 16 by then as I used to go there on my first motorcycle.
Every year from 1964 to 1968 I went and camped at Kyalami for the 9 hour endurance race. This was always great fun as there were a group of us from school who did it together. We had to take turns in persuading one of our parents to take us there Friday afternoon and collect us on Sunday morning. Several of my school friends failed Grade 11 and stayed back for a year so when I went to camp at the 9 hour in 1968 they did not join me. I went despite being only a few weeks away from writing my Matric exams. I suppose that shows one of 2 things – how mad I was about motorsport or how disinterested I was about school – or maybe both.
My Mother’s middle name is and my grandmothers maiden was Serriet and despite being told they were related to Doug Serrurier who built the LDS race cars in the early 1960’s I have never met him and to the best of my knowledge nobody in my immediate family knows him at all. At times I was tempted to go to him and introduce myself and find out if the relationship was in fact correct but somehow just never plucked up the courage to do it.
Have a great Christmas and New Year and I will be back next year with more stories.
Until next time
Linda Doyle says:
December 13, 2013 at 11:57 pm (Edit)
Hi, I am really enjoying your blog. I grew up next to the racing tracks, as my dad was Matt Keyser, and would love to read more about the era. As a child you make up a different sense of things…. And I do remember hearing your name dropped in conversations.
This comment was really nice to receive and unfortunately Linda I did not even know Matt had a daughter. Hope all the times you heard my name dropped it was only good things. I will try to write more about that era.
I was going to write more about my life this week but decided instead to write about the Formula Libre race at Killarney instead. Probably more interesting anyway.
I was fortunate enough to again have the use of Reg Anderson’s Ray 89F. Since I last raced it the car has stood at Killarney and had no work done on it at all so I went to fetch it about a week before the race to give it a bit of a check over and to do some repairs and maintenance.
One of the weakest points on these cars is the top front wishbone outer rod end. When we raced in Nationals with these cars we replaced the rod end regularly and I had no idea of how long the ones in the car had been used for so I imported some new ones and this was my top priority to get done before I raced the car again.
The list of repairs I did was as follows:
New top rod ends left and right
Modify the steering rack to give more steering lock
Remove the diffuser fitted under the gearbox and correct the installation of the rear pull rods so that the rear springs had some clearance to the CV joints
Replace the broken LH CV joint boot
Set the wheel alignment
Try to improve the seating position.
We had been very busy at work and I was trying to get all this done between customer jobs which had to be given priority but eventually by Friday morning the day before the race all was done. Hennie Trollip was kind enough to assist by using his bakkie and trailer and we took the car back to the circuit on Friday afternoon and left it there ready for qualifying on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning Tandy and I left Gordons Bay early and got to Killarney about an hour before Qualifying. The car ran fine and seemed to handle a bit better but the seating position was still very uncomfortable. I had managed to get the back support correct but had not had time to do anything about the leg support at all so was sliding forward in the cockpit and my legs were banging from side to side against the chassis tubes. It was good enough for the day and I decided to just put up with it.
Formula Libre had a reasonable field for the end of year race and put on a pretty good show. Well done Reg and Sean for winning heats one and two respectively and well done to all those who entered and took part. Let’s hope for more support next year. I was pleasantly surprised to find I won 2 trophies on the day as it was not expected.
The poor seat support resulted in me having very bruised knees on Sunday morning and so it took a couple of days to get over that but all is well again. The hammering taken in the car seems much worse than it seemed 20 years ago – Cannot think why !!
Reg has promised me the car for next year so I need to get the engine rebuilt as it is a bit of a donkey and find a proper seat to put in so that I can drive properly. Hopefully I will have time before the next race to get this done.
Until next time
I have been very slack with keeping up posts on my blog. There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly I have been very busy at work and Tandy and I have been away in Italy for a short holiday. Secondly I have had a bit of a mental block as to what to write about. I have decided to write a bit about myself so that people who read the blog will know a bit more about me.
I was born what seems an awfully long time ago in Durban. I was too young to remember living in Durban and the first house I remember living in was in Craighall Park in Johannesburg. In 1957 the family moved to Honeydew and that is where I grew up. Junior school was an 8 kilometer drive from where we lived and I spent 7 years at Northcliff Primary School and then went on to Roosevelt High School for the balance of my school career.
I was fortunate in that living on a small holding there were no tar roads and very little traffic so by the time I was 14 I was driving my mother’s car all over the place – don’t let her know that as she still thinks I was a good boy who could do no wrong.
I learnt to ride a friend’s motorbike when I was 14 – it was an old Yamaha 250. That was a great learning experience and I managed to fall off a few times fortunately with no serious damage to me or the bike.
When I was 15 – almost 16 – I was allowed to buy a 50cc motorbike of my own but was not allowed to ride it until my 16th birthday and until I had been to get a learners license. I spent the next year and a half riding that bike to school and back and anywhere else I needed to get to and managed to spectate at almost every race meeting at Kyalami during that time. I used to spend a lot of my time trying to make the bike go faster and managed to blow it up a few times. Fortunately spares were cheap. I do not think a 50cc bike can be made to go very fast anyway and certainly not one built with the technology available in the 1960’s.
At 17 I finished Matric and went into the Navy in Simonstown for my National Service of 1 year and was 18 when I completed that year. I had a great year in the Navy and was fortunate to be stationed on a Frigate for 6 months which I enjoyed immensely.
On returning to Johannesburg in December 1969 the first thing I did was go to get a learner’s license for a car and unlimited motorcycle. A week later I got a test booking and passed the test for a car driver’s license and so was given the old DKW 850cc 3 cylinder 2 stroke which my father bought in 1958.
I bought a 100cc Yamaha and rode that for about a year and half and then it got stolen so I bought a Triumph Bonneville which I rode all over the country – the longest trip being to Kei River Mouth. It used to shed parts all over the place because it vibrated such a lot but it always got me home. After a few years I bought a 750cc Honda K1 and owned that until I went racing in the UK in 1980.
After driving the old DKW for a few years I sold it and bought an old Alfa Giulietta Sprint which needed some fixing and got that to go quite nicely and then sold it to buy a Sunbeam Tiger. That was a great car but had no brakes worth mentioning.
About 1975 I was earning enough money to consider buying a race car. I weighed up all the options including a formula vee and a modified escort but fortunately common sense prevailed and I stuck to my first choice and bought a formula ford. I have written previously about racing experiences so will not write more about it now.
I think next time I will write about my school career and how much motorsport has influenced my life.
Until next time
We all got back safely from Port Elizabeth after a very eventful race weekend. My weekend started badly when I got to Cape Town airport on Friday morning to discover I had incorrectly booked a flight for Saturday morning. Fortunately I was able to change the flight and got to Port Elizabeth at about 2:30 on Friday afternoon.
While at the airport Nick called as his car had stopped. There was not much I could do but suggested to him that it may be the ignition coil based on the symptoms he was describing. When I arrived at the track the car was running again and several people had helped him with the main suggestion being it was related to the crank angle sensor. I was not sure about this but the car was running so assumed all was well.
I did a few laps late on Friday just to get the feel of how the car was and we packed away for the night and went to the B&B and relaxed for the evening.
Saturday morning came and Nick went out for the first sprint race and after a few laps the car stopped again. It obviously was not the crank sensor. Some quick checks indicated it was the coil and we swopped it for the coil from Arno Church’s broken car and all went well after that.
Unfortunately there were a lot of car failures in the 2 sprint races for the Sports and GT cars. Arno had broken a conrod on Friday so his motor had a new vent hole. He did not have a spare motor so was out for the weekend. In the sprint races the failures include Ray Farnham (Clutch), Hennie Trollip (Flywheel Bolts), John Amm (Apex seal on Mazda Rotary) and Steve Humble (bent valve on warm up lap).
I was only taking part in the 90 minute endurance race and we checked the car after the sprint races to make sure all was well. The race started with Johan Engelbrecht in his Porsche leading but chased hard by Francis Caruthers in his Juno. Louis de Jager and Clinton Thorne were 3rd and 4th and having a good race until the rear seal of Clinton’s car started leaking on the clutch and this put him out of the race.
I took over after 90 minutes and at the same time Eric Salomon took over from Louis. The 3 cars ahead of us were a lot faster than Nick’s Lotus 7 with its little 1600cc Toyota motor so I just tried to match his times a closely as possible and not go too fast so that we could do well in the Index competition. I saw Eric standing at the pit wall as I went past so knew they had had a breakdown – 3rd overall now. A few laps later the Juno was parked at the side of the track so we were now in 2nd place. Hennie Trollip was holding out a lap board for me so that I could try to monitor my times and at the end we finished 2nd overall. A bit of good fortune but I have written about preparation before and the first thing to achieve is safety and then reliability – it worked for us last Saturday. We stayed at the track for the Braai and prize giving and were really pleased when it turned out we had come 1st on index as well as 2nd overall.
It was a good weekend.
Matt Nash sent me an e-mail asking if I could write a story about the race of my life. This is not easy as there are so many to choose from – in fact the next race is probably the race of my life as there is a lot of anticipation as to how well it will go. Everything else is just history.
Back to the request – I guess that I have to choose from my Formula Ford racing career as the story is for Matt Nash and his passion about Kent Formula Fords. Two races spring to mind. The first was in 1979 Roy Hesketh. I was in my Royale RP21 and had a really fantastic race with Ian Robinson in the Crossle 25F which I later owned and have written about. We started together on the grid I suppose in about 5th and 6th position and proceeded to swop positions for the whole race. There was never any space of any significance between us and I do not even remember who beat who.
The second has to be one of the races at Goldfields where we always had great slipstreaming duels with several cars involved. On the most memorable occasion I remember there were about 6 cars involved for the whole race with a different leader each lap as it was possible to go from 6th to 1st down the long straight due to the tow you could get in a Formula Ford. On this particular occasion I was in a 1989 Ray and managed to get the last lap perfectly correct for the entry to the long straight and arrived at the end of the straight on the inside with Pierre Luigi Ferro behind me. My thought was I had the race wrapped up until there was a huge bang as I was rammed from behind straight off the track and only came in at the back of the leading group. It did not matter as we had all had a great and enormously exciting race.
I have found it difficult to choose these 2 races as there have been many races I have really enjoyed. On one occasion I chased Basil Mann in the rain in Cape Town for most of a race before going off at Damps and losing touch with him to finish 2nd. We had many great races in East London with its exhilarating long straight with flat out (with a prayer) Potters and Rifle corners in the middle of it. The original Kyalami circuit always produced a group of cars racing for the lead due to its long straights and the slipstream effect making it almost impossible to break away from the following cars.
I hope this will do Matt. As you can see – what is the greatest race? I cannot choose as there have been many which I enjoyed enormously and some which although I did not even finish or had accidents or broke down which have been memorable. I think every time I have driven a race car it has been a great race.
Until next time
As I have said before I first bought a Formula Ford in 1976. The car was a Lotus 61M. I first went out to Kyalami on a test day to try out the car. At that time I had never driven a single seater car of any kind so this was a pretty daunting experience. Time came for the Formula Ford session and after letting all the hotshots of the time leave the pits I ventured out onto the circuit.
Everything was different. The seating position, the firmness of the ride (although soft by modern standards), the gearshift in a very unusual position, the tiny space available to sit and drive in (huge by comparison to a modern car) and the sheer thrill of finally driving a real race car.
I managed to get through the gears and then got to the end of the straight and put on the brakes at what I thought was a reasonable distance from Crowthorne corner and almost had to accelerate again to reach the corner the car slowed so quickly compared to any car I had driven previously.
After a few laps I was settling down and feeling I was going respectably quickly when I was overtaken by 2 cars around the Kink so quickly that they still had time to slow down and go into the pit entrance in front of me. My achievements that day were that I did not crash the car and that my very first flying lap in a race car at Kyalami was under 2 minutes.
At that time Formula Ford was (and still is) a National racing category and so I could not compete in Formula Ford races until I had done 3 regional category races to get my National license. Accordingly, I then entered the Castrol Clubman race for the next race day at Kyalami. This was not very pleasant as most of the cars were really big compared to a Formula Ford and I was not even sure if they could see me at all. Fortunately rules have changed and racing is now only allowed with similar types of cars competing in each race.
In order to get my National License I entered the next club race day at Goldfields Raceway in Welkom. The racing there on club days was very relaxed and I was able to take part in the 2 single seater races as well as the all comers handicap at the end of the day. This gave me 2 more races completed so I was then able to get my National license and I was relieved to not have to do the Castrol Clubman race again.
The old Lotus 61 served me well as a car to start out in and I learnt a lot about racing in general while driving that car. During the next 2 years I took part at Kyalami, Goldfields and Aldo Scribante in Port Elizabeth. I managed to blow the motor and built a new one in my bedroom at the commune where I lived and also managed to put the car side wards through the catch fences at Sunset corner at Kyalami as well as destroy the nose and radiator by running wide coming out of the long sweep at Goldfields and hitting an anthill. There were plenty of those around the circuit at Goldfields.
I eventually sold the Lotus to Andy Jarvis and bought the Royale RP21 which I raced until the end of 1979. The Lotus was very robust and served me well as it turned out to be a very simple and strong car. It had to be as I seemed to do my best to destroy it but it just carried on.
It is quite interesting to me now when I look at the Lotus 23 of Eric Salomon’s how the design of the space frame and suspension on the Lotus 23 was carried forward to the Lotus 61.
Until next time