A turn by turn guide.
by Pierre Martins
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Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit
Allandale Road (R561), Kyalami, Midrand, 1685
Denis Klopper, Track Manager, Tel: +27 11 4662800
Kyalamiracing.co.za - official website.
kma.org.za - Kyalami Marshalls Association.
Undulated with a good mix of fast and 'slow' corners, Kyalami is perhaps one of the most technical of all the circuits in South Africa. If you do a count there are 9 left hand corners and 5 right-handers. The track is 4.261km long and runs anti-clockwise, a left-hand track, so to speak. Even though it's seen a fair share of fatalities over the years, Kyalami is still regarded a safe track by local standards, with ample run-off areas and kitty litter to stop you.
Picking the right lines and smooth driving are crucial if you wanna go quick at Kyalami. Some people say it's a 'stop & go' track because you come from high speed sweepers into relatively tight corners. My general advice is to put that mentality out of your mind. The easiest way to make up time at Kyalami is getting off the brakes a fraction earlier in most turns. The track is wide enough to carry relatively high corner speeds everywhere.
As a rule of thumb, any lap time below 2'10" at Kyalami can be considered relatively fast. Fast as in faster than 99.9 percent of excellent road drivers would be capable of first time out. Anything under two minutes is seriously quick, no matter what class you're talking about. Lap times below 1'50" can only be explained with ample use of vulgar lingo.
And then compare that to F1 testing at Kyalami in February 2000 when Villeneuve, Zonta, R Schumacher and Button were all in the 1'23"s...
Kyalami was originally built in 1961 as a 4.104km track. The track was widened and resurfaced in 1968, the length being marginally extended. The circuit has been used for Grand Prix and Formula One races and has hosted the South African Grand Prix many times.
When some of the F1 teams boycotted the track in 1985, the circuit was heavily revised and rebuilt, using only part of the previous track. Crowthorne, Barbeque and Jukskei sweep were either eliminated or heavily modified. Formula one abandoned the rebuilt circuit in 1993 after just two races and a bankruptcy on the part of the promoter.
The track has also played host to five rounds of the World Superbike series from 1998 – 2002 and again in 2009 when the track was altered again by removing the much hated “Bus Stop” chicane and replacing it with a fast right hand kink as the penultimate corner, turn 13.
Kyalami also hosted the South African round of the A1-GP series for the first time in 2009.
About this Track Guide:
I've done more laps at this track than I care to remember. Been around Kyalami in all sorts of vehicles, from track days in ordinary road cars to a variety of Porsches including a 900hp GT2 track car, a lightweight 500hp 944 Turbo, as well as a couple of 250 Superkart races. On bikes I've done plenty Superbike schools and raced regionals at Kyalami on 600 and 750cc fours, as well as Battle Of The Twins and Supermono races for a few years.
Other than that I've had seat time as a passenger coaching various drivers. This track has been good to me over the years. Touch wood, I have never ever had a crash or even spun at Kyalami. Had a few close calls, but never anything remotely serious. Most memorable laps for me were a few 1'56"s (slow by today's standards) on a ZX6R when I still raced bikes in the late nineties, a few low 1'50"s in a GT2 Porsche in the beginning of '07 and some 1'51"s first time out in a 250 Superkart I built from scratch in '06.
Although the track itself is a good challenge from a driver / competitor's perspective, I've never really enjoyed a Kyalami weekend as much as I enjoy some other tracks in SA. Traffic to and from the track is a bitch to begin with and the staff, marshals and facilities aint spectator friendly. Not by a long shot.
Anyway, the notes below are based on my own experience and intended for tin top and single seater cars. Make your own adaptations for front, rear, or four wheel drive cars. These notes are not really intended for bikes, but some principles are the same. Use what you can.
I obviously can't tell how your ratios will work out on this track, so I can't recommend gear changes and such, but I'll take the odd guess. Kyalami is generally not hard on tyres, but grip is average. Soft or medium are the compounds of choice. The track's not hard on brakes either, but in normal road cars you can expect the brakes to go off after about six laps of hard driving. Don't be surprised when the pedal suddenly drops to the floor at the bottom of the Mine Shaft, but don’t ask how I found that out, he-he-he…
Anyway, how you implement my notes is up to you. Use what you like and disregard what doesn't work for you…
Turn 1 & 2:
Fast right / left combo. Think of these turns as “curves”, not corners.
Turn 1 will probably be a 4th gear corner in your car. You should not have to brake for T1, you don’t even lift off the throttle. In a 250 kart you keep it pinned all the way through T1 & 2. Slower cars can do the same. On a bike you can generally go full taps through T1 and feather the throttle for T2.
On your run-up to T1 make sure you move all the way over to the left. You can even use some of the pit lane entry. There are two bumps there, use them as your signal to start pitching into T1. As you apex T1, stay against the right hand curb to line yourself up for T2. You shouldn’t have to brake for turn 2 either, just change down one gear (probably 3rd).
Turn in late for T2 and feed the power on. Try to straighten out as you apex and stick it. You need good drive out of T2 for the climb up to Nashua. It is important to turn in late into T2. If you turn in too early you will run wide on the exit and lose terminal speed if you’re forced to lift. The track is very wide on the exit. If you find you have unused track space on the exit it means you can probably increase your entry speed into T2 next time round.
- Passing in T1 & T2:
The race is not won in the first corner. Duh. On lap 1 the safest bet is to get the inside line for turn 2 and avoid the ten pin bowling fest that sometimes happens there.
T2 is the crucial corner. Make your pass there. To make it stick on a flying lap it's best not to pick the inside line into T1. Chances are your opponent will get back at you in T2, or get better drive and re-take you into Nashua.
Catch a tow down the main straight and place yourself to the left of your opponent as you exit T1 for the inside line into T2.
Turn 3 & 4 – Nashua:
Medium fast left hander. This is actually a double left hander with a ‘table top’ at the second apex where you join the old track.
I've found the fastest way through this corner is not braking and powering through the corner. It’s all about setting the car up and balancing the car to carry high entry and mid corner speed. The key word here is 'momentum'. The trick is to let your entry speed carry you.
You have to look through this corner to get it right. Do not over-brake on entry. Just a confidence brake, or no brakes at all when you get it right. Roll off the throttle and heel & toe (probably down to 3rd). You can carry more entry speed than you think. Use the racing line and turn in smooth with the extra speed you carry. Keep a smooth consistent line and balance the car on the throttle.
Note the skid marks on the track surface coming out of Nashua - Evidence of plenty mistakes. Do not get throttle happy at the apex. The car will be loose when you go over the table top and you will spin, and if you spin here you are likely to hit the inside wall. You don't want that. Wait for the suspension to settle before you stick it. Use the curb on the exit, but be careful of the astro turf there. If the car snaps sideways you might end up hitting the inside wall. You don’t want that to happen, do you?
- Passing in Nashua:
Most drivers tend to over-brake into Nashua and there is an inside line, but don't pass here if it means changing your line and losing drive on the exit. If you follow the advice above and get it right, you can use your terminal speed to make a pass on the old straight that follows, or into Sunset.
Turn 5 – Sunset:
Fast right hand sweeper.
It’s not called ‘Sunset’ for nothing. The sun gets in your eyes as you exit in the late afternoon, especially during winter months.
Think of this corner in two parts. Part One is turning in and balancing the car as soon as you can. Part Two is feeding the power on and using the whole track and the curb on the exit.
Again, don’t over-brake on entry. Very little braking is required, think of it as 'confidence' braking. Don’t turn in too early, but don’t turn in too late either. It is imperative to find the right marker for your entry into Sunset.
You can start feeding the power before you apex. The track is mega wide on the exit. Look through the corner. Once you see the exit, hoof it and allow the car to drift wide. Use the whole track and the curb if you need to.
- Passing in Sunset:
Perfect for the classic catching a tow down the straight and making your move in the braking zone. However, be careful not to turn in too early if you have the inside line. If you turn too early you will most likely sacrifice terminal speed on the exit, giving your opponent the opportunity to come back at you into Sunset.
Turn 6 – Clubhouse:
Medium fast left hander.
This is where the track starts playing tricks on your mind. Because you come from such high speed into such a ‘tight’ corner, you gonna want to over-brake, trust me.
The track is wider than you think. Try to get off the brakes earlier on the entry into Clubhouse. Turn in a fraction later and open up the arc of your line at the apex. There’s a rectangular patch of tar at the apex. Use that as your signal to open up your line. Hoof it. The outside curb is pretty wide on the exit. Use it, but be careful that you don’t drop a wheel onto the astro turf on track-out.
- Passing in Clubhouse:
Pull a move up the inside as you enter Clubhouse. Plenty racers have probably made more passes in this corner than any other corner at Kyalami. But take heed - Clubhouse is perfect for late braking moves, but it's easy to over-brake and lose the advantage you had. Yes, brake later, but make sure you get off the brakes a fraction earlier.
Turn 7 & 8 – The Esses:
Medium to fast left / right combo with an off-camber bit in-between.
Use turn 7 to set yourself up for turn 8. The objective is to turn in tight and point the car as soon as you can. Keep it tight on entry for the first left hander. If you don’t, you will run out of space before you apex the right hander that follows.
After you turned in for the first ess, point the car straight for the apex of the second ess before you gas it. The track is off-camber there and you will spin if you get on the gas whilst turning. If you get it right you should be hard on the throttle when you apex the second ess. Let the car run wide and use all the track & curb on the exit of the second ess.
- Passing in the Esses:
The entry into the first ess is too tight for a clean pass and you will probably lose terminal speed on the exit of the esses. Rather try getting up the inside as soon as you exit the second ess but be careful. Remember, the track snakes going up to Wesbank making it easy to make a car wide.
Turn 9 & 10 – Wesbank:
Slow left hand hairpin type corner, off camber on exit. If you study the track map carefully you’ll see it’s actually a double left-hander that opens up on the exit.
The track zigzags up to Wesbank. Don’t follow the track, just go straight. Place the car in the middle of the track for the entry into Wesbank. If you used a straight line you should come onto the table top more or less in the centre of the track on the entry into Wesbank. This will block the inside and outside lines.
Do not follow the radius of the track in Wesbank Corner. The exit is off camber and you won’t be able to get on the gas early. Go in deep. Turn in late and point the car straight for the exit as quick as you can. You want to apex on the left curb where the track starts falling away. If you get it right you should apex two-thirds through the corner in a straight line and flat out on the gas as you apex. You can make up mucho time here with good terminal speed and a steep downhill that beckons - Hello Mine Shaft. Heehaw!!
- Passing in Wesbank:
Most drivers will take a lunge up the inside on the entry into Wesbank. Be careful with your braking on the inside line, the track can be slippery there. If you follow the line described above you won't have to worry about that. Unless an opportunity presents itself in Wesbank, it's best to concentrate on your line, getting better terminal speed and making a pass down the mine shaft or into the bowl.
Turn 11 – The Mineshaft Sweep:
Helluva fast left hand sweeper.
How big are your balls? The trick with this sweeper is not the sweeper itself, but where you wanna be in the braking zone for the bowl. Turn in early and you will be wide coming out. Turn in late and you will be tight on the exit.
The objective is to straighten out on the exit as soon as you can for braking into the bowl. There are two bumps as you apex close to the left curb. Use them as your signal to wake up and decide where you wanna be on entry into the bowl.
- Passing in the Sweep:
Picking the inside line at the entry into the sweep is dangerous if the guy in front doesn't know you're there. Make sure he sees you and that you can get next to him before you commit. Alternatively, make your move as you exit the sweep, into the bowl.
Turn 12 – The Bowl:
Medium fast right hander.
This is another corner where the track plays tricks on your mind. This corner is much, much wider than you think, especially on the exit.
Don’t be overly concerned about getting over all the way to the left of the track on entry into the bowl. The emphasis is on entry speed. Let that carry you into the bowl. In other words, don’t over-brake and sacrifice too much corner speed in exchange for a perfect line through the bowl. Rather carry higher speed and use the width of the track on the exit.
- Passing in The Bowl:
Most drivers tend to over-brake into the bowl. To make a pass in the bowl you have to set it up before you enter the sweep in the mine shaft, but try not to telegraph your intentions. Be careful with your braking on the inside line, the track can be slippery there.
Turn 13 – The Kink:
Fast right-hander. This is where the old “Bus Stop” chicane used to be. Unfortunately I don’t have any good pics of this corner yet, but I’ll try to get some and post them as soon as possible.
Most drivers love this new corner. It brings a new dimension to the track and keeps with the flowing nature of Kyalami. What used to be a very slow chicane is now a fast, flowing corner. Slower cars can take this corner flat-out in 4th gear, faster cars may have to lift off slightly before turn-in, but the faster you go, the less room for error you have. Duh…
The approach is a no-brainer, you just stay over to the left of the track and turn in smoothly. Don’t yank the car into the kink. In low-slung cars like single seaters it’s not easy to judge the apex. The inside curb is raised considerably at the apex, use it as a reference point, but do not clip the raised curb. It will most probably throw you off line.
The exit is easy on track out. Use the curb on the left, but beware of dropping a wheel onto the astro turf next to the curb. Also keep an eye out for slow moving vehicles at the pit lane entry. bring the car over to the right as soon as you can.
- Passing in the Kink:
Taking a lunge up the inside on the right-hand side is not as easy as it was in the days of the chicane. If you wanna try this, make sure you’re committed early enough with enough room between the car next to you and the raised curb at the apex.
It might be a better idea to stay close through the kink and line yourself up for a pass in the final corner.
Turn 14 – Pit Corner:
Slow left hander. The final corner.
Very similar to the final corners at Zwartkops & Phakisa, but slower, probably 2nd gear in most cars. Since they took the chicane away you arrive at this corner much faster, so it’s imperative to keep in mind that you need to brake sooner.
The classic racing line works best, but be ready to catch your ass if it steps out. Lots of drivers get throttle happy here and spin. There are no run off's on either side of the track here, so if you make a balls-up you're likely to incur serious damage. Now is a good time to set yourself up for T1 & T2 and think about doing better on the next lap, but don't forget to look what your pit board says...
- Passing in the Final Corner:
The problem here is the run-up to this corner is quite short and a lunge up the inside is predictable and easy to block. If you wanna make a move here you need to start working on it before the kink already and pick the inside line before your opponent does. Easier said than done. It’s hard not to telegraph your intentions here. Perhaps the most important thing about making a pass in this corner is to avoid going in too tight and having to brake harder, losing drive on the exit and being out-dragged to the line.
The straight bits between turns:
Don't go brain dead on the straights. Use the straights to check your gauges to make sure the car is happy. Look after the machine, it's your mode of transport. Check your mirrors to see where your opponents are and anticipate their next moves, just like you do in everyday traffic.
Remember, the perfect line through a corner starts with setting the car up for the corner before you even get to the corner. If you screw up the entry you've screwed up the rest of the corner and the next one perhaps.Think ahead and concentrate on being smooth.
Like I said earlier, my notes are not gospel, but they have helped some drivers in the past. Use what is relevant to your driving and please be kind enough to let me know what you found useful in particular.
Good luck and cheers,