It’s funny how things have a way of working out perfectly on the spur of the moment. Recently we covered the Team Perfect Circle’s preparation for the forthcoming Kyalami 9 Hour on 23 November 2019. Part of the lead up to the event included flying the Porsche 917 out to Johannesburg that David Piper and Richard Attwood drove to victory in the 1969 Kyalami 9 Hour. This iconic race car was to take up residence at the entrance of The Capital hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, where the team will be staying during race week.
And that, it seemed at the time, was it, as the 917 looked very stately and regal positioned right at the entrance to the hotel. The first few nights, the 917 was all alone, and then I had a lightbulb moment when I remembered that I had recently been contacted by the owner of the 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster that had won the inaugural South African 9 Hour back in 1958. The owner was so excited to hear that the 9 Hour was set to return to Kyalami, that he wrote to me via our website, and we began to exchange emails. At that point the penny hadn’t dropped, but then just this week I had the idea to suggest that the inaugural 9 Hour winner from 1958 should join the 917 on display at the hotel in Sandton.
The 356 owner had spent many years restoring the 356 Speedster and so it was looking superb. He was naturally thrilled at the opportunity of having his car displayed alongside the race-winning 917 from 1969, and so the challenge was on to present this idea to the Team Perfect Circle guys. Well, in short, it was no challenge at all as they all jumped at the idea and the team swung into action and one night later the 917 was no longer alone, being joined proudly by its ancestor, itself a race winner.
It is amazing to think that only a decade separates these two cars (1958-1969), and during that time the top performing Porsche race engine went from a 1.6-litre unit developing 135 bhp to a 4.5-litre engine that developed 560 bhp. During those eleven years, Porsche raised its game from being a class winner to one of the most dominant racing cars in the world. The 917 was responsible for setting Porsche on the road to becoming the most successful race car manufacturer ever, and it all started with a humble 356 in the early 1950s.
PORSCHE ROAD & RACE has been proudly associated with the 356 Speedster in question for quite some time, as I was able to interview one of the drivers who secured victory in this car in the inaugural 9 Hour on 15 November 1958. Ian Fraser-Jones, together with Tony Ferguson, piloted this very same car across the finishing line first at the event which was originally held on the Grand Central circuit, just a few miles from where Kyalami is located today. I was lucky enough to interview Ian Fraser-Jones, or ‘Frones’ as he was to his friends, several times while I still lived in Johannesburg and a few years later I was able to reunite Frones with the winning Speedster. This story can be read in full here:
Porsche racing in Southern Africa – Part I
Porsche racing in Southern Africa – Part II
And so, it is with a great deal of pride that we have been able to bring this 356 Speedster back into the limelight, and not only that, but also on the occasion of such a relevant and high profile event as the 2019 Kyalami 9 Hours. Join with us as we salute two iconic race winners!
With the SRO 2019 Kyalami 9 Hour just two weeks away, PRR will be bringing you an update during race week and a full report after the event. Stay tuned, and enjoy the read!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Team Perfect Circle/Tony Alves