Killarney Raceway: 76 years old and now recognised as an iconic part of Cape Town’s story

Aerial photo of Killarney Raceway. Picture: Supplied.JPG

Aerial photo of Killarney Raceway. Picture: Supplied.JPG

Published Jun 22, 2023


Cape Town - One of Cape Town’s most iconic entertainment spots the Killarney International Raceway has been recognised for its history and contribution to the city’s rich culture by the Cape Town Heritage Foundation.

The foundation awarded the international raceway a Blue Plaque on Tuesday, June 20, marking the famed raceway’s 76th anniversary since it’s inception in 1947.

The Divisional Council of the Cape Province opened a new road from Cape Town to the Northern Cape.

Speaking on its history, Killarney International Raceway spokesperson Dave Abrahams said after the old road to Malmesbury fell into disuse and was closed, the Metropolitan Motorcycle and Car Club popularly known as the ‘Mets’ approached authorities with the idea to rent out the strip of tar as a venue for racing.

“The first motorsport event on the old Potsdam Road, a few hundred metres north of the Killarney Hotel, was a Speed Trial on March 1, 1947. The winner was Mr JL Craig in a 1250cc MG TC roadster, with a best time of 22.6 seconds over the standing quarter mile,” Abrahams said.

“By 1951, a loop of the tarred road had been laid in the open land alongside the old highway to create a basic, roughly triangular racetrack. This was extended to the west in 1952 and to the south in 1955 for a lap length of 1.65 kilometres, but when an ambitious plan was hatched in 1959 to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix, a completely new, 3.267-kilometre track was constructed for the inaugural Cape Grand Prix on December 17, 1960,” he said.

While part of the original road to Malmesbury still exists as the service road from the main entrance to the subway, a section of the 1951 circuit was preserved inside a fenced-off area at the back of Sarel’s Sweep, named after motorsport legend Sarel Supervan van der Merwe.

“Today the track is wider, smoother and safer than it was in 1960, but the layout remains the same. The Mets merged with other clubs in 1965 to form the Western Province Motor Club, and since then the Club has added a one-kilometre karting circuit, an 800-metre drag strip, a tar oval, and one kilometre ‘Short Circuit’,” Abrahams said.

The motocross track was then converted into an Adventure Motorcycle, and the 4x4 event area training facilities include the only skidpan in the Western Cape.

In 2017, an FIA-approved Rallycross circuit was created to host the first-ever round of the World Rallycross Championship in Africa, and in 2022, a purpose-built spinning pitch was opened at the venue.

In October this year, the raceway will again host the World Rallycross, the Raceway revealed on Tuesday.

“The Club has also built a multi-story Clubhouse, an admin and control tower, two blocks of pits, several workshops and garages where racing vehicles are stored, prepared and repaired, bomas for corporate and private hire, and grandstands for thousands of spectators.”

“The entire facility has been developed over the years without government funding, under the guidance of Denis Joubert, who was chairman of the Club from 1970 to 2006.

“It is to the Killarney family and to that long-ago committee who created what is now Cape Town’s most used sports venue that this Blue Plaque is dedicated,” Abrahams said.

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