I’ve been thinking about volunteering in South Africa for a long time. Looking back on my Grand Prix Road Trip blog I see posts dating back to 2014 where I had this place on my wish list. And as recently as 2018 when SRO announced it will revive a 9 hour endurance race I proclaimed “Kyalami or Bust!”
Well, Kyalami 9 hour popped up on the Intercontinental GT Challenge schedule and it was time to make it happen.
I started out my research using the obvious channels facebook and google. Reached out via the official web site of Kyalami Marshals but didn’t hear back. Used the Flag Marshals of the World facebook group and also didn’t hear anything for a while. So my hopes were kind of grim and chances slim. Until of course I got a message while on a TGV train traveling between Paris and Stuttgart on my Euro Trip 2019. My future dear friend Victor responded “Come on over!” and Come on over I did. I cannot thank Victor enough for his amazingly warm hospitality! It wasn’t easy, we did hit a few bottlenecks in the process but in the end I got a chance to participate and for that I’m grateful!
What bottlenecks? As an American marshal trying to volunteer overseas the question of Club affiliation and FIA ASN red tape always rear their ugly head into the process. Luckily some amazing people from RSI and ACCUS came through. And I am really grateful to them even though it was frustrating for something that should be routine (as it is in other countries). Similarly, since Motorsport South Africa does things by the book and insurance is a major issue my participation hung up on $30 USD insurance policy that was this mystery placing in jeopardy my $600 flight I had already booked. The emphasis of insurance is not just getting a Boo Boo on track and having to use Race Medical Center, but more importantly repatriation to the US in case of death if I were to be killed on track… Yowza!
Had I known it was only $30 bux I would have quickly PayPal’ed the money. But I and probably everyone else thought it would cost much more… and again for something so trivial that is usually covered by individual marshal’s clubs… like say British marshals get coverage for their overseas volunteering. Luckily after some back and forth the representative from the Kyalami Circuit suggested they would cover this fee… and for that I thank them!
Anyway, bad experiences aside everything else went absolutely perfectly and again a massive thanks to Victor for his help. Picking me up from the airport. Letting me crash at his home. And chauffeuring me around. I’m lucky he let me bribe him with food though in the end he and his wife spoiled me silly with home cooked meals and I really cannot thank them enough. Lekker! Braai…
Enough talk, here’s some pre-event pix from my very first visit to the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit:
As is usually the case, the day before the practice starts (or build out day) is the best day to visit a track as a volunteer because you can have access to a bunch of places you won’t for the rest of the weekend. This was especially true for the Kyalami 9 hour because apparently non-pit marshals were prohibited from visiting the pit lane and paddock for the race weekend. Which sucks, but rules are rules… and unfortunately this local rule isn’t so enthusiast friendly. One of the major benefits of working SRO events is how open they are to enthusiasts letting people explore the paddock and pits, but it’s up to the locals to have the final say.
So Victor and I got our fanboy pix out of the way on Day 0. Love the Intercontinental GT Challenge variety mixing world class GT3 teams from Europe, Asia and locals from South Africa as well. As usual manufacturers like Audi, Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Honda, Lamborghini, Mercedes-AMG, Nissan Nismo and Porsche were well represented.
The whole weekend flew by in a flash. But the memories I cherish the most are those foodie experiences Victor shared with me, like his home cooked South African BBQ they call Braai… Yumm! Lekker!
More pix to come from Race Day!