The historic Kyalami circuit has been saved from almost certain bulldozing thanks to an eleventh-hour buyout by Porsche.
The hosting venue of the now-defunct South African Grand Prix looked set to be turned into a residential or commercial development site following the bankruptcy of its holding firm, Farm Bothasfontein, earlier this year.
But Porsche has saved the day, with the German carmaker putting in a winning $20 million bid at auction to beat off a number of rival candidates, guaranteeing that the circuit will remain.
The Kyalami circuit hosted 21 Formula 1 Grands Prix between 1967 and 1993. Between 1967-1985, the race ran on a high-speed layout until it was forced off the calendar after 1985 during the height of anti-apartheid sentiments.
As motorsport worldwide turned its back on the country, the Grand Prix circuit fell into disarray and half of the land was sold to property developers who were eager to capitalise on the demand for residential growth in the area.
The funds were used to redevelop the circuit, incorporating the sections of the old track that hadn’t been sold off. The new layout was impressive in terms of facilities and design, and with the dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990s, the South African Grand Prix was back on the calendar in 1992.
The event only lasted two years as the circuit’s new owner was arrested on fraud charges, while both races showed the new circuit layout to be an emasculated version of the old circuit. The venue has played host to local touring car events, as well as the now-defunct A1GP and Grand Prix Masters series’.
Porsche South Africa has not yet indicated what plans its holds for Kyalami, or whether it would undertake the significant upgrades needed to be able to revive its affairs with top-level motorsport. The circuit is now surrounded by residential developments, and there is continued pressure to keep noise pollution to a minimum.
While the venue is never again likely to be graced by the Formula 1 circus, at least its legacy has, for now, been saved.
Image via Williams/LAT