South Africans have indulged their love affair with speed at Kyalami since the early 1960s, when the Johannesburg racetrack opened. It was laid out with generous curves and sweeping corners, making it one of the fastest tracks on the planet. However, political sanctions in 1985 bought an end to grand prix racing at the circuit. In the early 1990s, some of the valuable surrounding land was developed into housing and business estates, restricting the track and turning it into a twisting, narrow circuit that required a whole new level of driving skill, but was unsuited to Formula One.
However, Kyalami’s rich heritage remained and, over the past 15 years its operators have successfully created an all-purpose motorsport venue that offers something for everyone – apt, if one considers that kyalami means “my home” in Zulu.
The retention of some of the generous original curves, combined with the newer, bitingly tight corners, make the 4.2km track a world-class ride. Kyalami today features 11 corners and the infamous “mine shaft”, and is used for superbike and A1 racing.
Kyalami hosted the World Superbike Series four times between 1998 and 2002, and again in 2009. In 2008 the Gauteng government signed a deal to bring the A1 Grand Prix to Kyalami in 2009, taking over from the Durban street circuit. The A1 GP, a unique event that pits nations rather than teams against one another, was broadcast around the world.
Kyalami’s popular Kart Circuit is inside the track and is used for both four-stroke “leisure karting” and the highly professional two-stroke league karting. Both classes enjoy a wide following. It’s possible to rent a Super Kart on an hourly basis and get out and race yourself. “Corporate karting” has gained popularity in recent years as a fun team-building activity. On the main track, Fantastic Racing rents out single-seater race cars for brave amateurs.
In addition to local racing events, the Kyalami Driving School offers driver training and education and vehicle testing. Carmakers such as Audi and BMW use the track for defensive driving courses to teach their customers to deal with aquaplaning, skidding, blowouts and the like. The track also hosts exhibitions and corporate events. It is home to a car club and hosts “super car” days, which serve to make Kyalami a vibrant community centre for blood-pumping speed.
Theatre on the Track, in the adjacent Kyalami Business Park, is a privately owned venue that hosts events and provides conferencing facilities. Its banquet seating facility makes it popular for dinner and entertainment events, such as fundraisers and functions, and the catering services are mouth-wateringly superb.
The broader suburb of Kyalami is sometimes referred to as Johannesburg’s “mink and manure district”, famed for its large rural plots and equine heritage. For those who prefer one-horse power, horses can be ridden on many of the surrounding plots. The nearby Kyalami Country Club also caters to those who enjoy time on the golf course to slow things down even more. The Leeuwkop Golf Course is also in the area, while Beaulieu Nature Reserve adds to Kyalami’s bucolic charm.
Head north from Johannesburg on the N1 highway and take the Allandale Road off-ramp (exit 108) west. The road ends at Kyalami racetrack.
Open for public race days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
See the website for upcoming events and details.