The first South African Grand Prix, took place in 1934, hosted at the Prince George Circuit located in East London, in the Eastern Cape Province. World class drivers such as Dick Seaman, Bernd Rosemeyer and Luigi Villoresi were among the competitors, with Luigi Villoresi winning the South African Grand Prix in 1939.
The start of World War II saw the end of the racing for a time. With South Africa receiving Formula One status in 1962, going on to become a popular event. During to the infamous Apartheid-era in South Africa’s history, the Formula One South African Grand Prix was canceled on many occasions. The very first South African Grand Prix, as part of the Formula One calendar, took place on 29 December 1962. East London, once again, hosted the event and the South African Grand Prix returned to the Prince George Circuit in 1963 and in 1965.
The decision to move the Formula One South African Grand Prix, was made in 1967, and for as long as South Africa remained on the Formula One racing calendar, the Kyalami Circuit in the Gauteng Province (previously known as the Transvaal Province) remained its host. During the years 1962 and 1993, there were 23 Formula One Grand Prix races held at Kyalami Circuit. The Kyalami Circuit takes place over 78 laps, and the total racing distance is 320.112 kilometers.
The fasted lap time was achieved by John Watson in 1977, with a lap time of 1’17.630. This was also a race of great tragedy. A 19 year old student, named Jansen Van Vuuren, together with another mashall, were killed whilst rushing to the aid of Renzo Zorzi, whose Shadow had caught alight, and whilst crossing the track Van Vuuren was struck by Tom Pryce. The impact was so severe it killed both men instantly. Pryces’ injuries were from the fire extinguisher, and Van Vuuren was destroyed by the extreme force of impact. Another tragic loss of life was that of Peter Revson, who died in 1974 during his practice run. The last South African Grand Prix that was held at the Kyalami Circuit was in 1993.
Born in New York city, on 27 February 1939, Peter Jeffrey Revson, would grow up to be an extremely talented racing driver who was a familiar and successful presence at the Indianapolis 500 and in Formula One. Revson was no newcomer to money. His father, Martin, was a shareholder in Peter’s uncle, Charles Revson’s, multi billion dollar cosmetic company, Revlon. He attended the most exclusive schools and was heir to his father’s fortune that was estimated at over $1 billion.
Peter was seen as somewhat of a “Free Spirit” that did not need to work, and could have spent his life with freedom and ease. Yet his life revolved around speed and he had the most beautiful women at his side. One such a woman included Marjorie Wallace, 1973 Miss World.
He began his racing career in 1971, driving for McLaren, while he was attending Cornell University. Revson would be come the very first American driver to take home the Can-Am Championship. He also posted the fasted qualifying time, and finished second, in the same season, at the Indianapolis 500. From 1969 to 1973 Revson raced in the Indy 500 every year. Peter Revson was moved to the McLaren Formula One team in 1972, where he remained for two years. During his time with McLaren, He won the British Grand Prix and in 1973, he won the Canadian Grand Prix. In 1974, Revson moved over to Shadow.
At the South African Grand Prix in 1974, which was held in Johannesburg, Revson had a fatal accident in his practice run. His Shadow Ford DN3 suffered a suspension failure. Peter Revson was the second Revson killed in the industry. His brother, Douglas Revson lost his life in 1967, in Denmark. Peter and Douglas were laid to rest together, in the Ferncliff Cemetery, that is located in Hartsdale (New York). Tragically, the driver that replaced Revson, Tom Pryce, was also killed in the same Grand Prix, three years later.
In 1996, Peter Jeffrey Revson, took his place in the Motorsport Hall of Fame of America, where his name stands proudly, in the sports car category.