The ghosts of motor racers past no doubt looked down benevolently at the crowd of motoring hacks behaving like boys. (That includes the female motoring hacks, by the way). The occasion was the launch of the Jaguar F-Type Coupe this week. The venue for this particular part of the activities: the Roy Hesketh circuit. Those familiar with Roy Hesketh will know that, in the current era, it verges uncomfortably close on the back gardens of suburbia. I sincerely hope the suburbia in question enjoyed this week’s sumptuous symphony of crackling V8s, snarling V6s and squealing tyres. The Jaguar F-Type is that kind of a car.
Older motor racers, fans and nostalgics will know the Pietermaritzburg track well. In its heyday, the 1960s and 1970s, it counted among its visitors many world champion drivers and riders. Sports cars, long-distance racers, bikes and even Formula 1 machines competed there. In 2014, the bumpy, narrow track close by suburbia may seem just a little politically incorrect to some. For others, that simply adds to the charm. And Mike Fogg hopes to leverage that charm.
Fogg, one of those most intimately involved with the legendary circuit has big plans to revive its fortunes. Hg made his name there as a young man. It’s where, mad about bikes since boyhood after having seen a film of the Isle of Man TT, he earned the green and gold. With that other legend Kork Ballington, Fogg was to campaign abroad before an injury cut short his career.
Now he is back as an older and hopefully wiser man. But no less enthusiastic a man. Fogg speaks with an almost evangelical fervour about his plans for Roy Hesketh. That’s no surprise for one who has been involved in running racetracks – including Kyalami.
Now MD of the company that owns the land and the circuit, Fogg says that the Hesketh Motor Estate will be one of three in the world. Petrolheads, classic cars and a new way of selling cars are all part of Fogg’s vision. His Motor Lifestyle Estate will be a petrolhead’s paradise, he says, and will herald a new way of selling cars.
“What we are focusing on is a motor industry support entity becoming the Hesketh Drive Centre,” he says. Its scope will encompass driving features such as a skid pan and various levels of driving and launching facilities. It will host events such as this week’s.
But it will be much more than that. Appropriate residences with substantial garaging to match will be built on the estate. A multi-purpose commercial sector will cover everything from supermarket to gym and medical centre. In all, 13 of the sites’s 34 hectares are slated for development. Its location in the KZN midlands is ideal for pottering around in a classic car. Or a golf cart, for that matter: there’s a course right over the way.
A perhaps visionary – some, again, might say unrealistic – aspect is the establishment of exclusive “motor lodges”. The plan is to have these run by manufacturers in a novel spin on the showroom. It worlds removed from what he calls the glass palaces on Gauteng’s William Nicol Drive.
“There’s a new way to do things. You must show the car in the setting that the designer intended.” The best part? They will be open weekends.
Of course it’s a dream. But that is often where the best ideas start.