It All Starts With A Moment

Most people’s dreams slowly fade as they grow up, but for those willing to work hard enough, dreams can come true in spectacular fashion.

Let’s go back to the year 1969. That’s when 8-year-old André Bezuidenhout’s father took him to watch the Kyalami 9 Hour race in South Africa.

1969 was also the year that David Piper and Dickie Atwood took the win in their Porsche 917 – running under the Team Perfect Circle banner – and completing 1,337km (831mi) over the race’s nine hours.

Winding back the clock a little further, David came to South Africa in 1962, bringing with him a Ferrari GTO to enter in the fifth annual Kyalami endurance race. He didn’t have a trailer to transport the car, so drove it all the way from Cape Town to Johannesburg, which is a 1,400km trip. David’s racing slicks never arrived for the race, so he used road tyres provided by locals Gigi Lupini and Basil Read.

The cherry on the cake was that after all these obstacles, David – and his South African co-driver, Bruce Johnston – won the Kyalami 9 Hour on his very first attempt. In the years that followed, he took the victory four more times in various Ferraris, and of course in 1969, in the Porsche 917.

You can see why David attended the 2019 Kyalami 9 Hour as an honoured guest.

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The race, the Porsche 917, and all the grandeur of the entire 1969 spectacle left a lasting impression on André’s mind and in his soul, resulting in a lifelong passion for motorsport and the Porsche brand.

It also kickstarted a dream for André to one day compete in this epic race.

Over the years, André has become a skilled amateur race driver, hitting the circuit in some awesome cars. But over the past few years he’s branched out, taking machines like his 1989 Dallara F1 and Gould GR55 to victory at the Knysna Hillclimb event.

André also owns a stunning Porsche 911T/R called Frisco, which he’s built specifically to ship across the world and take on some epic tours. Porsche themselves celebrated this car in the video above.

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Dreams To Reality

So let’s get to that dream I mentioned at the start. In December 2018, The Intercontinental GT Challenge announced that it would run the final round of its 2019 championship in South Africa, reviving the 37-year-dormant Kyalami 9 Hour race, which last took place in 1982.

This was the light bulb moment for André; he knew that with enough effort and the right people by his side, he could actually make his dream of competing in this epic race come true.

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Without delay, André began looking for a GT3-spec car to compete in the AM (Amateur) class. After some searching and getting in touch with Jonny Westbrook and Julian Simpson of Simpson Motorsport, he found exactly what he wanted – a British GT championship-winning 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 R, that had previously been brought up to 2014 specification.

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Making Changes

André asked Jonny Westbrook to be team manager, as he and and his team have a lot of experience with endurance racing, but of course there were still plenty of challenges along the way.

With the GT3 R being a 2010 model upgraded to later spec, and no similar car running in a current series, at first the team had trouble calculating their car’s Balance of Performance (BoP). Luckily though, a 997 GT3 R had run in the 2019 Suzuka 10 Hour, so a BoP was able to be worked out from that. The team also had to change the driver’s seat, make some safety upgrades, upgrade the brakes to more endurance-friendly items, swap the clutch, plus a myriad of other small changes and improvements.

This also included upgrading lighting so the car could race in darkness, which turned out to be one of the bigger challenges. Porsche never homologated endurance lights for the 997, so the team had to get special permission from the event organizers for this modification.

Everything came together beautifully in the end and André could put forward an entry for the race.

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Being an endurance race, the next thing André needed was some teammates, so he got in touch with good friends and fellow competitors, Franco and Silvio Scribante, who immediately signed on for the epic adventure.

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Franco is usually Andrés biggest rival at the Knysna Hillclimb, where he races a Chevron B26 running a Hayabusa V8 engine. He also owns and races a completely insane Nissan R35 GT-R, which went viral all over the world earlier this year – for quite obvious reasons – as well as a custom-built 1,000hp+ capable Porsche 977 GT3 R, that used to be a road-going 997 911 Turbo S, believe it or not.

Franco’s local team manager and pit crew also offered up their expert skills for the Kyalami challenge.

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With a car and team sorted, another vital part was a team name. André already had a master plan for this, even before anything else came to fruition. David Piper’s Porsche 917 and the ‘Team Perfect Circle’ livery had stuck with him for 50 years, and he really wanted to run the same livery on his car.

He communicated this with David, whom he’d met some years before, and was given permission to run the iconic livery, along with the 917’s race number, #9. This was becoming a dream come true for André. He even managed to get Coca-Cola to be a sponsor, just like they had been for David’s Porsche in 1969.

The services of photographer and digital artist Tom Wheatley was then enlisted to create these two next-level hero images for the team. Because the original race-winning 917 is no longer around, the images were recreated from period photos and a 1/43 scale model of the car. How impressive is that?!

With the event drawing closer, the team flew over to Silverstone, where they had their first shakedown session with the car. This gave them the confidence that in selecting this GT3 R, they’d chosen the right tool for the job.

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Right Here, Right Now

Eventually November arrived and it was finally time for Andre to realize his dream. The pressure was real; there was no more time to play around.

Everyone was super-excited for the weekend ahead and energy levels were at an all-time high.

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As we all know, racing is unpredictable, and despite so much preparation, the team were chasing technical gremlins from the very first practice session. A faulty ABS system caused endless issues with the car, which really hindered its performance potential. The guys worked through this issue and eventually pushed on to race day.

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Three and a half hours and 85 laps into the nine-hour stint, tragedy struck again. The Porsche suffered a broken third gear and unfortunately had to retire from the race.

This was a pretty sad ending to a great story, but despite this, André, Franco and Silvio, as well as their whole crew, were overwhelmed by the response they had received from friends, fellow racers and racing fans.

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They definitely impressed, as after the event the race organisers invited them to compete in official Intercontinental GT Challenge rounds, which take place at Bathurst, Silverstone, Spa and Suzuka. This invitation can only be a testament of the team’s professionalism and determination, as I’m pretty sure they’re not just handed out to anyone.

A decision on whether or not to take up the offer has yet to be made, as it’s obviously not just as simple as saying ‘let’s go’. It would involve lots of logistics, planning and of course funds, but I’m sure if the opportunity presents itself, the team would compete in as many of the offered rounds as possible.

One thing’s for sure, no matter the outcome, André has definitely made his childhood dream come true, and by the looks of things, this story isn’t over yet.

Stefan Kotzé
info@stefankotze.com
Instagram: stefankotzephoto
www.stefankotze.com



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