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1983 South African Grand Prix

Southern Sun Hotels Grand Prix of South Africa

Saturday, October 15, 1983
Hot, dry and sunny
Fastest Lap:
Piquet, 1m09.948
South Africa
1983 season:

From the Motor Sport Archive

A Clean Sweep by Brabham
Kyalami, Johannesburg, October 15th

Under normal conditions the South African GP takes place at the beginning of the season and when the 1983 season was originally planned it was thus, but the agreed change in the Formula One rules that outlawed sliding side skirts and under-car aerodynamics for 1983 meant that there was a dire shortage of time before the South African race was due. Consequently an agreement was made with the South African organisers to reschedule their race to the end of the season, thus giving the teams an extra month to modify and test their existing cars, or to build new ones. As a result, the race at Kyalami held on Saturday, October 15th in very hot weather conditions, as the South African summer was fast approaching, saw the South African GP close the 1983 Grand Prix season, the original list of seventeen races being reduced to fourteen with the cancellation of the Swiss GP, the New York GP and the Las Vegas GP.

This reshuffle of the calendar meant that the season ended on a high note in more ways than one, for apart from the Kyalami circuit, north of Johannesburg being 6,000 feet or so above seal level, it is also a very fast circuit and a good test of car and driver. The previous two seasons ended on the lowest possible note, and in fact, fizzled out undramatically in the car park of a Las Vegas Hotel, on which a "Mickey-Mouse" circuit had been laid out with concrete blocks. The Kyalami circuit is laid out on an open hillside, not as spectacular as the Osterreichring, but a fine circuit nonetheless, with an ultra fast downhill straight, followed by one of the best corners in Formula One racing as the cars plunge downhill on a falling away right-hand bend followed by an uphill left-hander that calls for a car to be well-mannered and well-balanced to make the most of the right-to-left flick at about 160 mph. The circuit then winds along the hillside in a series of bends that end in a rush up to a fast climbing right-hand hairpin that leads onto the top straight, with a fast right-hander before the pits and the brow of the hill by the start / finish line and the subsequent plunge down the ultra-fast straight. With a lap record of over 216 kph (134 mph) it is not a circuit for the faint-hearted or a car with a weak engine. The keynote of setting-up a car for the circuit is to strike a usable compromise between maximum speed, achieved by "feathering" all the aerodynamic aids, and "down-force", to aid cornering on the fast bends. On some circuits you can afford to lose some maximum speed by increasing the aerofoil angles, and benefit on lap times by superior cornering speeds aided by aerodynamic "down-force", but at Kyalami the balance between the two is very critical because you are at maximum speed for a long time so that you cannot afford to sacrifice too much on maximum speed. Even so, McLaren, Brabham and Renault were all using their large Ferrari-style "tea-tray" rear aerofoils as first seen at Brands Hatch recently, while Ferrari and ATS have been using them all season.