On the southern tip of South Africa lies one of Formula One’s historic racing circuits; East London. Actually located slightly to the East of the cape, East London has held three grands prix in the sport’s history, and although the track was deemed too small for Formula One, two of motorsport’s greatest drivers shared the three wins. Graham Hill won the 1962 South African Grand Prix while future team mate Jim Clark to the ’63 and ’65 events. But now the circuit is facing the threat of being ripped up to make way for a university.
Situated only a few metres from the ocean, the circuit has some of South Africa’s fastest racing corners and the track has received a lot of popularity since its opening in 1934. South Africa as a nation has always enjoyed a love-affair with motor sport and the region has a lot of circuits dotted around the landscape. But East London, or Prince George Circuit, has always been the more revered among them, and it is possibly because of this that the Automobile Association of South Africa want to preserve the circuit.
It was the scene of classic Grand Prix racing long before Formula One became an official championship in 1950. It later hosted legends such as Jim Clark and Graham Hill in the 1960s when the F1 grid was also shared by South African stars including John Love, Doug Serrurier and Paddy Driver. AASA’s Rob Handfield-Jones.
Buffalo City Development Agency want to redevelop the area and build a modern university to serve the needs of the population. But in doing so, part of South Africa’s motorsporting heritage will be destroyed. Handfield-Jones has called upon South African’s to lend their support and sign an online petition urging the Buffalo City Development Agency to reconsider its plans.
In particular, anyone who has ever participated in or watched motorsport in this country should feel duty-bound to add their voice. We must guard against priceless pieces of motoring history being erased at the stroke of a pen. AASA’s Rob Handfield-Jones.
The East London Grand Prix circuit is still operational today and hosts regular rounds of the SA championships. Rather than being destroyed, it needs to be preserved – or even better, declared a National Monument. Michele Lupini.
It is always sad when a circuit faces closure and possible destruction, but hopefully the AASA will be able to convince the powers-that-be that although it’s just a strip of tarmac, the part the circuit has played in shaping the local area and motor sport fans around the world truly is worthy of preservation and should not be bulldozed without serious consideration.