Former world champion Jody Scheckter has revealed Formula 1 was inches away from securing the return of the South African Grand Prix for the current 2023 season.
During the summer of 2022, rumours intensified of a potential return of Kyalami to the F1 calendar, but after the deal fell apart in the 11th hour due to fee charges.
“I was an inside part of it,” Scheckter exclusively told Total Motorsport.com. ”My nephew worked on it for six years.
“It was that close. The guy from Kyalami went from 500,000 to 2 million, and he wanted to take the whole thing over.
“F1 came over to sign. He had got government backing, some of the wealthiest people in South Africa behind it. Everything was in place, and the guy from Kyalami got greedy.
“Just as soon as F1 left, he changed the whole thing completely. The government realised there was a fight [going on] and withdrew, and that was the end.
“Maybe it’ll happen back here again. I don’t know.”
Scheckter’s nephew left high and dry
The big loser from Kyalami’s failure to get on the calendar was Scheckter’s nephew Warren Scheckter, who had been working tirelessly for six years to get the backing required for the race.
But when the race fell through, he was left with nothing and will now have to restart the cycle of getting sponsors back on board for 2024.
“My nephew had been working on it for six years, nearly full time,” explained Scheckter.
“Because going [through the] government and getting [their support] and for them all to agree to put some budget in and then to secure the money. It takes a massive amount [of effort].
“All of a sudden, it was over, and he was left with nothing.”
Kyalami and Cape Town remain the favourites to host
Although Kyalami’s return date is still uncertain, it remains the favourite to host the South African GP if it were to return.
But in recent years, street circuits have become the flavour of the month, putting Cape Town into contention.
The city of Durban also hosted races in the past, welcoming the short-lived A1 Grand Prix series to town in the 2000s.
“I think Kyalami is probably the one because they looked at the circuit,” said Scheckter. “They knew what had to be done, and it was possible.
“Cape Town would be a better place. But it’s all to do with money.”
Desire for a race still high
Despite not having a race for over 30 years, interest in F1 remains high in South Africa due to the country’s rich racing history, which goes back to the pre-war days.
The likes of Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have all raced on South African soil.
“So many [people] want a Grand Prix there, and South Africa’s history in motor racing is massive,” added Scheckter.
“My uncle raced in 1937 at the circuit in my hometown. The auto unions were there, and Moss drove in 63 when I was looking over the fence.
“So lots of motor racing history in South Africa, up to a certain period.”