Home Featured The African single-seater history that has been added to in 2023

The African single-seater history that has been added to in 2023

by Ida Wood

Photo: B-MAX Racing

Kelvin van der Linde made history in January as the first African in a world championship single-seater race since 1980. Now Raoul Hyman has become a continental contemporary in open-wheel racing’s top tier

One of the most underrepresented areas of the world in single-seater racing is Africa. Only 22 races in the Formula 1 world championship’s 74-year history have been held on the continent, with all but one in South Africa, while the Marrakesh E-Prix appeared on the Formula E calendar for five seasons before the Cape Town E-Prix was introduced this year.

A1GP went to South Africa four times in total, with six races being held on the Durban street circuit and two at ex-F1 venue Kyalami. F1 would like to return to that track, but as a FIA Grade II-rated venue it is currently not actually be able to host the series. Neither can the Marrakesh semi-street circuit, which is also Grade II and therefore one of FE’s highest-rated tracks.

There are no other circuits in Africa licensed to host FIA competitions bar the new Cape Town street circuit that Kelvin van der Linde [pictured below] agonisingly missed out on racing on his three-event FE stint with the Abt Cupra team after it had to withdraw from the race due to safety concerns with its suspension that became apparent during practice.

South Africa’s entry-level F1600 championship is able to race at Aldo Scribante, ex-F1 track East London, Killarney, Red Star Raceway and Zwartkops. The country also has the Dezzi and Midvaal raceways, the Phakisa speedway, the Star Raceway oval and several short-track ovals. Morocco’s main permanent venue is Nouaceur.

Although none of these host single-seater racing, Angola has the Luanda roval and the Huila and Namibe street circuits, Senegal has the Dakar-Baobabs track, the heart of Mozambican motorsport is their Maputo track, Nigeria’s imaginatively named Motorsport Raceway was active prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Namibians love their Tony Rust Race Track, the former Rhodesian Grand Prix venue in Bulawayo is still open for action, as is fellow Zimbabwean circuit Donnybrook Raceway but now usually for motocross.

Photo: Simon Galloway

Finally there’s Zambia’s Lawrence Allen Circuit Chingola. It holds races, and it’s a big track, but its level of maintenance and safety standards place it firmly in the 1970s.

It’s not just a lack of international series visiting these venues, but a lack of talents from these countries then competing elsewhere even though there has been at times a thriving local scene.

Peter de Klerk drove his own ‘Alfa Special’ car in the 1963 & ’65 South African grands prix and five non-championship F1 races, and Ray Reed managed to get in one non-championship F1 start in his Cooper-based Realpha/RE he built in Rhodesia. His compatriot John Love founded Team Gunston, which was famous for changing the direction of sponsorship in motorsport but did not races overseas. However Love himself did, and he won the predecessor to the British Touring Car Championship in 1962.

The ‘Alfa Special’ was run by South African team Otelle Nucci, which also entered several other locally built cars that would often be dubbed ‘LDS’ chassis. This was at a time when South Africa had its own F1 championship (which would also feature Formula 5000 and Formula 2 cars), and when the Rhodesian scene featured names that were known across the racing world.

The competitivity of the local scene was proven by the accomplishments of the drivers who did venture abroad to race for other teams, and two of the most famous are 1979 F1 world champion Jody Scheckter and sportscar star Wayne Taylor.

Scheckter was the last African to race in F1 when his career ended in 1980, with his home country then becoming increasingly isolated by the international community until its racist apartheid state was ended in the 1990s.

His son Tomas Scheckter raced in IndyCar, taking two wins over a 10-year career that ended in 2011, and also raced in A1GP, the self-titled “World Cup of motorsport”, for Team South Africa.

Photo: AFRIX

The operation was run by Spanish team BCN Competition in its first season and by French outfit DAMS for the next three. There were four South Africans who raced for the team, and Adrian Zaugg was the most successful with three wins.

Superleague Formula, another top-level single-seater series of the 2000s, never had any African drivers despite being sponsored by Angolan petroleum firm Sonangol, while the short-lived GP Masters series for former F1 stars (and using cars based on old Champ Car chassis) was launched with a race at Kyalami in 2005 but did not attract Scheckter to race.

Through the 2010s there were multiple attempts to bring A1GP’s cars out of retirement for a new African series called AFRIX GP, with Kyalami touted multiple times as the starting point. Although the cars did test there, nothing came of the idea.

Japan’s Super Formula only became a top-tier single-seater series in 1999, having previously run to F2 and then Formula 3000 rules, which meant Raoul Hyman made history (to a degree) this Saturday when he made his debut with B-MAX Racing.

Fellow South African Rad Dougall came sixth in the 1980 Suzuka Golden Trophy race, and entered the 1981 Japanese F2 season opener but an accident in warm-up meant he didn’t race.

Hyman won’t actually be putting the South African flag on the top-level grid in Japan either, as he is racing using a British licence. He has opted to do that a few times in his racing career, having been based in that country, but has raced all around the world.

In 2014 he finished third in BRDC British Formula 4 behind current Mercedes F1 star George Russell and Mercedes-AMG GT junior Arjun Maini, then raced in FIA European Formula 3 before joining Campos Racing in 2017. He claimed a win after four races in an otherwise difficult season in GP3, and claimed a pole and a podium in a Euroformula cameo with the team.

The next year he benefited from title rival and team-mate Jake Hughes’ absence from two rounds to win the inaugural Formula Regional Asian title with Hitech GP, then started 2019 by coming fourth in the Toyota Racing Series.

F1 world championship drivers drivers born in Africa
Name Born Race licence Years in F1 Wins Points
Mike Beuttler Egypt British 1971-’73 1x 7th 0
Lorenzo Bandini Libya Italian 1961-’67 1 58
Pierre-Henri Raphanel Algeria French 1988-’89 1x Ret 0

Sauber signed him to its newly created junior team following that, and he spent the rest of the year racing in the GP3-succeeding FIA F3 Championship for the Sauber-branded Charouz Racing System team.

Hyman was then out of the racing for two years, which took a mental toll, but he showed he was still sharp in a car when he returned to competition last year in FRegional Americas. A tally of 11 wins out of 18 races meant he comfortably became champion, earning a scholarship from Honda to put towards racing in SF.

After pre-season testing, Hyman’s first official SF session was this Saturday’s qualifying at Fuji Speedway as free practice was called off. He qualified 21st out of the 22 drivers, was 16th fastest in warm-up, then finished a lapped 16th in the race. On Sunday he qualified at the back of the grid, and finished 18th in the second race of the season.

Zimbabwe’s Axcil Jefferies completed four Indy Nxt races across 2013 and ’14, with his best finish being a fourth, and he also contested the 2014 GP2 season opener at Bahrain but suffered a big crash in his first race and did not do further GP2 events.

That year was his last in single-seaters, and he later became a Lamborghini Super Trofeo regular before moving up the GT ranks. He started this year in the Asian Le Mans Series, and is racing for different teams in IMSA and the World Endurance Championship. Formula Scout caught up with him in 2022 when he was racing in International GT Open, and he was optimistic that the South African scene right now would not only provide single-seater opportunities to local racers but also those in neighbouring countries like his own.

Angola’s Ricardo Teixeira did two GP2 Asia rounds before a GP2 career that spanned 44 races and three seasons. A 13th place at Bahrain in 2012 was his best result.

Portuguese-born Angolan Duarte Ferreira graduated from F3 Sudamericana to Indy Nxt in 2011 and impressed with Bryan Herta Autsport, picking up a podium and a fastest lap en route to eighth in the standings and had gone into the final race in contention to finish as high as fifth in the points in a grid that did have a lot of quality drivers.

Axcil Jefferies

Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Media Service

Jaki Scheckter, nephew of Jody and son of six-time South African F1 champion Ian, came 19th in Indy Nxt in 1996.

Dave Charlton, another six-time South African F1 champion, was born in Britain and a naturalised citizen of the nation he would have the most success in, while Rhodesian Sam Tingle and A1GP driver Stephen Simpson were also naturalised.

Although Africa overall is underepresented in international single-seaters, the continent has produced 20% of the women to have raced in the F1 world championship. Desire Wilson was South African Formula Ford champion in 1975, then raced in FF2000 abroad and debuted in Indy Nxt.

Where she made her name was in the British F1 championship. She the podium on her fourth start in 1978, then started the ’79 season with three successive podiums and came seventh in the standings. In 1980 she went one place better despite competing part-timefor Hong Kong-owned team Theodore Racing, and dominated at Brands Hatch for her first win.

She made her world championship debut that year at the same circuit, where she had also worked at to make her way in Britain, and went up against her usual opposition again in the Macau Grand Prix (run with Formula Pacific cars at the time) where she finished sixth. In the World Sportscar Championship she won the Silverstone 6 Hours and Monza 1000KM, but her impressive results did not lead to earning more racing opportunities until three years later when she made it onto the IndyCar grid and finished 10th in her debut race.

To this day, she remains the only woman to have won an F1 race and her career is an inspirational story for many.

Africa’s top tier single-seater racers
Name Country Years Starts Wins Poles Points
Formula 1 world championship
Tony Maggs RSA 1961-’65 25 2x 2nd 1x 4th 26
John Love RHO 1962-’65, ’67-’72 9 1x 2nd 1x 5th 6
Mike Harris RSA 1962 1 1x Ret 1x 15th 0
Bruce Johnstone RSA 1962 1 1x 9th 1x 17th 0
Neville Lederle RSA 1962 1 1x 6th 1x 10th 1
Ernie Pieterse RSA 1962-’63 2 1x 10th 1x 12th 0
Doug Serrurier RSA 1962-’63 2 1x 11th 1x 14th 0
Brausch Niemann RSA 1963 1 1x 14th 1x 15th 0
Peter de Klerk RSA 1963, ’65, ’69-’70 4 1x NX/1x 10th 2x 16th 0
Sam Tingle RHO 1963, ’65, ’67-’69 5 1x 8th 1x 14th 0
Trevor Blokdyk RSA 1963 1 1x 12th 1x 19th 0
Luki Botha RSA 1967 1 1x NC 1x 17th 0
Dave Charlton RSA 1967-’68, 1970-’75 11 1x NC/1x 14th 1x 8th 0
Jackie Pretorius RSA 1968, 1971, ’73 3 1x NC 1x 20th 0
Jody Scheckter RSA 1972-’80 112 10 3 246
Eddie Keizan RSA 1973-’75 3 1x 13th 2x 22nd 0
Paddy Driver RSA 1974 1 1x Ret 1x 26th 0
Ian Scheckter RSA 1974-’77 18 1x 10th 1x 16th 0
Guy Tunmer RSA 1975 1 1x 11th 1x 25th 0
Robert La Caze* MAR 1958 1 1x 14th 1x 23rd 0
Desire Wilson RSA 1983-’84, ’86 11 1x 10th 1x 13th 3
Tomas Scheckter RSA 2002-’11 117 2 8 2,243
Stephen Simpson RSA 2005-06 18 1x 3rd 1x 3rd 19
T Scheckter RSA 2005-06 4 1x 10th 1x 16th 1
Adrian Zaugg RSA 2006-’09 44 3 5 139
Alan van der Merwe RSA 2006-’07, ’09 10 1x 7th 1x 8th 0
Jimmy Auby RSA 2007-08 4 1x 15th 1x 16th 0
Formula E
Kelvin van der Linde RSA 2023 3 1x 16th 1x 19th 0

*La Caze drove a Formula 2 car in his sole F1 appearance, Countries RSA = South Africa, RHO = Rhodesia, MAR = Morocco