John Surtees

Passion for Speed: pre yesterday

A leaden sky greeted us on Friday. ‘Pack the umbrella,’ I said to myself. But NO, you know how a man’s mind works: "sometimes" it does, other times it doesn’t. So ... the brolly stayed home. I got soaked three times next to the track: my clothes, sneakers, Nikon gear ... What happened on Saturday? Not a drop. Clouds rolled in; clouds rolled out, presenting an imminent situation that never happened. And the brolly you would ask? I carried the damn thing around the whole day. Luckily the Friday weather was no deterrent for the masses that arrived on Saturday, for the 13th Passion for Speed, motorsport event.

22-23 July 1983, Hammersmith Odeon, packed to the brim with overjoyed Dire Straits fans, for the Alchemy (Live) performance ...

I can still remember it vividly: the postman came through our front-gate to deliver a package. I’ve been standing in front of that stoep window ever since I’ve ordered—the Alchemy Live VHS Cassette. (The double LP was not enough; I had to complete the image in my mind.) And before he could knock on the glass front door, I was already out to accept whatever he had to deliver with eager hands. Alchemy Live was one of the finest albums ever produced. That was 1984. (History is such a sweet thing.)

Side three, track two, Tunnel of Love has an intro from "The Carousel Waltz"[1], that played over and over in my head during Saturday’s Passion for Speed/Historic racing event. Not that there is something wrong with my circuitry upstairs; it was just a perfect Waltz, a great masterpiece adapted by Mark Knopfler, running over and over in my head as the relics and modern day machinery raced by. Separate the historic/modern sound from these machines and all you hear is a carousel of cars, entertaining the black—that is Alchemy.

There was a full line-up scheduled for the day: Alfa Trofeo/Marque Cars; Lotus Challenge; Single Seaters (1950’s/1960’s); Pre 1977 Historic Saloons; Isle of Man Motorcycles (SA TT); Pre 1974 Trans-Am; Pre 1966 "Little Giants" Production & Sports Cars; Pre 1974 International Sport Racing Prototypes; Ferrari Challenge; Pre 1966 Legends of the 9 Hour Production Cars; Extreme Supercars; Pre 1966 Le Mans Sports & GT.

This was my first Passion for Speed event; surely I will return for the next one. Not that I have not seen some of these old timers (talking about the cars) in action, most of which have featured in the past in other historic motor racing events. These relics are part of who we are, part of our colourful history; it connects us with a past we never actually knew (so old are some of these cars), well, for me that is. It was like discovering dinosaur bones while listening to Dire Straits ... amazing (with that specific merry-go-round sound in my head, I snapped away).

On the flip side of this retirement village was the Extreme Supercars: Deon du Plessis, racing a KTM X-Bow RR; Craig "SNL 18" Jarvis in a pink/silver striped Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 997; Nicky "Sheriff" Dicks, sporting a true law enforcer Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 997; next to him in the race garage were the purple rinse big foot boys: Sun Moodley and Andrew Culbert, both racing Porsche 911 GT3 997 Cups. The C3 posse was also present: Willem, Jacques and Andre, with Jacques sporting his old/new thinner looking Martini Porsche, and Andre still racing his ’74 Porsche 911 RSR Yellow Submarine. Jimmy- and Gianni Giannoccaro made their presence felt with their souped up Bimmers (?). Others to join the brawl were Andrie Bester in a Porsche 964; Chris Wisart racing a Dodge Viper; Mark du Toit in an Audi A4; Loris Chiappa, Ferrari F430 etc. Thirty-three Extreme Supercars spanned the Zwartkops Raceway starting grid—THUNDEROUS!

Legends of the 9 Hour Production Cars were also a showstopper: 1965 Smokey Yunick Chevelle, 1957 Plymouth Fury, 1957 Chev Bel-Air, Ford Mustang GT350, 1960 Chev Studebaker Lark, 1961 Ford Anglia, 1963 Mercury Comet, and 1963 Ford Galaxy etc. Beautiful names that you don’t hear in everyday talk anymore. And if you see these legends in real life, you silently develop a strange sort of animosity towards your own car (which was most probably manufactured out of recycled material—CHEERS!). Conjuring up the days of Brylcreem, great fashion, beautiful women and idyllic suburbs ... Names like these make the hair stand up straight on your forearms; and if you shades weren’t flipped off your forehead covering your eyes, the rest could definitely see how it wells up. There is something about these pre ‘66 museum pieces that both young and old enjoyed—thoroughly.
As these relics slowly creep into the pre-race-paddock (for their second race meeting), they carry with them this aura of respect and belonging over their solid metal tops, dragging in behind them the enthusiastic masses.
Sarel van der Merwe (aka Supervan) stepped in first with his bright red number 177, 1963 Ford Galaxy (left hand drive). Supervan was having a "Camel" of a time; while a few die-hard fans wanted a picture of our local hero.
‘I’ve got it, I’ve got it,’ said a jubilant man after taking a picture (showing the image to a nearby friend). ‘HE is definitely more famous than that Formula One guy (snapping his fingers a few times to get the brain working), what’s his name, uhm?’ ‘Jody Scheckter,’ said a man standing north from me.
The flashbulbs popped, Sarel smiled, and the whole of Zwartkops were happy. Drag deep, blow out, and relax: this is going to be a long and memorable day. And whatever the 1957 Plymouth Fury pilot, Hennie G(roenewald) said to Supervan, is anybody’s guess. They both packed out teeth stretching from east to west, while the man of the hour slid hurriedly back into his Ford Galaxy, to dish out a few more punches, till next year.

While "The Carousel Waltz" seeps out of my mind momentarily to make room for the old cars (I will again spin that LP in the near future), sending me back to a place where I want to be, in a time of young innocence; to a time of Gunston, Winfield, Lucky Strike, Samson Tobacco and Jägermeister. As writer and novelist Bernard DeVoto once said "You can no more keep a Martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss there. The proper union of gin and vermouth is ... one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived."

And on that note I say goodbye to the 13th Passion for Speed weekend. But, please, don’t despair; next year this time we will look back on our lives again; appreciating the thunderous sound cloud of pre yesterday. —Godspeed!

Words & Photos: Adriaan & Martine Venter (The 13th Passion for Speed, International Historic Race Day, Extreme Supercars, Zwartkops Raceway, South African Motorsport, 2014/02/01, 120 images) Main Image: John Surtees (?). This photo was taken circa 1965. Unfortunately, I’m not the copyright owner of this beautiful relic. Found it however in an old family album. All credit goes to the anonymous photographer. If anybody knows who the photographer might be, please notify me—click here. [1] by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Passion for Speed, Extreme Supercars, images: 63/120

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