The mid-year period is a favourite of mine, not because of the cold weather, but because it is the time of the year when two of my favourite events are staged – the Classic Motorcycle Club’s 1000 Bike Show in Germiston, and the Pretoria Old Motor Club’s Cars in the Park motor show at the Zwartkops Raceway near Pretoria. This time around I spiced it up by going to watch a round of the Cross-Country National Championship in the vicinity of Bronkhorstspruit too.
Mixed emotions surfaced from attending the three events. Firstly, there was no support from the motorcycle distributors at the 1000 Bike Show, along with less oldies on display, while the 39th edition of Cars in the Park proved a winner in all aspects. The number of spectators watching the off-road race was very healthy, but the fact that there were no senior executives or PR/marketing people at the race, and only a few frontline journalists was a big disappointment to me.
The motorcycle industry in South Africa is in the doldrums yet none of the major distributors put on a brave face and aggressively displayed their range of new products at an annual event which started from small beginnings at the Carlton Centre in 1985 and has grown into a red letter event for many Gauteng motorcyclists.
The latest event was again well-organised and attracted about 7 500 paying visitors over the two days. The event was also supported by a host of motorcycle-related or food and beverage stalls. The fact that hiring floor space for commercial use is relatively inexpensive made it an easy decision for the major motorcycle distributors to be there – or so I thought!
What was particularly disappointing for me, as the owner of a pristine 1963 Triumph Bonneville, was the fact that the new, national Triumph distributor did not even bother to take part. In the past the iconic Triumph brand had always been proudly represented by dealers in a big display area, with both old classics along with the latest models on show. Adding to my woes was the fact that there was not even a proper Triumph display area, let alone a Triumph banner to be seen!
However, there was a host of interesting motorcycles – and even a rare microcar to admire – in the large marquee as well as more in the public parking area.
The POMC’s Car in the Park extravaganza was a wonderful success. Paid attendance was over 7 000 people, while cars and bikes on show were a record at between 2 500 and 3 000. There was a record 140 stalls selling a wide range of products, and generally all stallholders were very happy with their takings. Some even wanted to book for next year.
The good news going forward is that the parking area outside the circuit – near the main gate – will be doubled for next year’s show as the current parking space was under pressure on CITP Sunday.
I went to this event in my bright yellow Millennium 7 (a locally made, high quality Lotus 7 clone) and it was great to see another 20-odd Lotus or Lotus-type cars gathered in The Lotus Register display area. It was the same all around the track – hundreds of like-minded people proudly showing off their cars and a few motorbikes.
Now to the cross-country racing. Having been a motorsport enthusiast all my life I must admit I haven’t been to watch too many rallies or off-road races in recent years. The first thing I had forgotten in the interim was the dust – choking dust everywhere as the cars roared past. However, the sad part was the lack of major support from the competing companies such as Toyota, Ford, and Nissan in terms of senior execs and the PR and marketing team members. In my time we would have been out in force, all wearing corporate clothing, waving flags, and entertaining journalist and sponsors. What wonderful, memorable times!
We had been there as guests of Richard Leeke’s ATS Motorsport team to support his son, Richard III, racing a Ford-styled bakkie with a Mustang engine. He had a very good day and was expected to be in the top three in his class.
However, when the results were published, he had been given a five-minute penalty for “deviating from the route by 50 metres”. This had probably happened when he was racing in clouds of dust trying to overtake another competitor who refused to let him pass. The point I am making is how petty to have a limit of only 50 metres when racing cross-country on tracks through the veld. All that money spent and all that effort to be penalised for what is actually a marginal error in a motorsport contest that is not a race circuit or defined road, as is the case with a motor rally.
In my day, where my son, Robin, was a multiple champion co-driver, off-road racing was much simpler, without GPS tracking and small, finite limits for deviating from a route through the veld.
The near future will see me extending my motor sport knowledge as I spectate on Rally Wales, a world championship event that will mark the 75th anniversary of the famous RAC Rally in the UK. I will also attend the Bicester Heritage open day which will be held at a former RAF aerodrome that is now a car restoration centre of excellence.