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Historic East London Circuit Faces Demolition

Historic East London Circuit Faces Demolition

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.

Oliver White

3 comments

  • Thanks for this Ollie. I had no idea East London still existed. I thought it had gone years ago. It is a shame when a circuit is destroyed but it is not a circuit I have any strong feelings about as I never saw a race there and it is not exactly one of the great circuits.

  • it is not a circuit I have any strong feelings about

    Me neither, to be honest. But it means a helluva lot to South Africans. Imagine Silverstone were to be ripped up because they hadn’t held a Formula One race for a while – and let’s be honest here, that could very well happen – how would you feel then?

    I don’t think East London is South Africa’s crown jewel in terms of racing circuits, but it has played a significant part in the nation’s motorsporting heritage, just as Silverstone has with Brits.

    And yeah, the track really is still in use. Still going strong (well, I say that, but clearly that’s a lie) and still exciting the locals and the tourists.

    It’s a bit like Taupo really; insignificant, but important. Or Brands Hatch for that matter. Or Imola, the way that place is going anyway…

  • […] Historic East London Circuit Faces Demolition – “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 motorsport heritage will be destroyed. Handfield-Jones has called upon South Africans to lend their support and sign an online petition urging the Buffalo City Development Agency to reconsider its plans.” […]

  • […] Historic East London Circuit Faces Demolition – “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 motorsport heritage will be destroyed. Handfield-Jones has called upon South Africans to lend their support and sign an online petition urging the Buffalo City Development Agency to reconsider its plans.” […]

  • Hi there chaps.

    It is a pity that ill informed opinions are openly spread all over the world. Before anyone blames the Buffalo City Development Agency that they are going to “Demolish” the track, one certainly needs to see the drawings of the intended developments. I have been privy to the drawings of the proposed development and can CATEGORICALY state that under no circumstances the track will is in any danger. The developments are on the North bank Next to the track!!

    Currently there are no facilities close to the track. Think of the possibilities of all the accommodation and facilities close to the track, and what it could mean to potential future races. These kind of symbioses can complement each other.

    Only when the public were asked for comments, they now jump and shout as if BCDA is the villain, and totally distorted information is flung around.

    Further more. When last were there any major race took there! Certainly no development what so ever took place during the past decade. The proposed development is for the Engineering faculties of the University and can only bring technology closer to the racing fraternity. For how long are everybody crying for development of our city? Everybody is moaning about residences in the suburbs. Now at last there are solutions for everybody.

    So to all you fanatic motor enthusiasts. please do not sign any petition before you have seen the real deal. To Mr. Rob Hatfield-Jones, please make sure of your facts before sending everybody in a spin for nothing.

    Concerned, from East London

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