Border Modified Saloons can trace its roots back to East London’s earliest involvement in motorsport, when in the early 1930s International races were first staged on the Prince George Circuit.
Local competitors were quick to jump on the band wagon with numerous home grown “specials,” cobbled together in local workshops, making their way onto the grid. Names such as Buller Meyer ( think Meyers Motors) were instrumental in inspiring other enthusiasts to enter the world of local motorsport.
During the war years racing faded away, but in the 1950s it was revived. Many saloons raced on the old Esplanade Circuit which ran along the beachfront and turned in front of the Red Windmill, forming a circuit back to near the old Queens Hotel. Due to the dangers involved in this street circuit a brand new track was built on the West Bank in 1959.
Known as the East London GP Circuit, a name which has stuck to this day, many famous names competed here over the years. Apart from forming part of the Formula One World Championship until the mid 1960s, the circuit hosted National, Regional and Club races for Modified Saloon Cars.
Local hero’s like Roy Luck, Kenny Bezuidenhout, Ivor Raasch and Des Ally, took the fight to National hero’s like Koos Swanepoel and Basil van Rooyen, who ran a pair of Lotus Cortinas in the era when Bobby Olthoff ran a fire breathing 7 litre Ford Galaxy. East London, and indeed the Border area, had no shortage of enthusiasts.
The 1980s saw an explosion of growth in the popularity of Modified saloons, with the class being divided into two, namely Clubmans, and Modifieds. Each class was able to put together a field of at least 20 cars, which was an awesome sight when run together.
Local competitors fettled their Ford Escorts, Anglias, Datsuns, Rovers, Mazdas, Alfas and Golfs. Competition was fierce and racing was hard but fair.
Twenty years later the popular weapon of choice was a Citi Golf or Polo Classic, which was easily modified and converted to be a good track car.Today BMW has proven to be an excellent choice, requiring minimum modifications to render it a competent contender to take on the might of Turbo Charged Polos and Golfs.
The current day Modified Saloon category lives on, although fields are somewhat thinner, there is still a wealth of driving and engineering talent. Due to ever advancing technology, todays’ cars are classed according to their lap times, rather than according to engine size as was the case in earlier times, as turbo chargers and sophisticated engine management systems can see smaller engines being able to punch way above their weight in the performance stakes.
Strides made in suspension, brakes and tyre development over the years can transform a relatively mundane family car into a fearsome weapon on track. The quicker saloon cars are now capable of lap times comparable to some of the old Formula one cars that raced here in the early 60s.
Todays Modified saloons are a far cry from those of yesteryear, and the level of professionalism and safety in car preparation and presentation has moved to a new level, but racing is still fierce and of a very high standard. Its also great to see the age old camaraderie amongst competitors, and the Border area is fairly unique in that one can often see fellow competitor pitching in to help each other effect repairs to their cars, only to fight tooth and nail over the same space of tarmac out on track.