The Charles Glass Society is a monthly meeting of sport minded folk
at the premises of the SAB Miller breweries in Newlands, Cape Town.
It is an interview session with our sport greats, normally covering
Rugby, Cricket etc.
However this last Thursday, our great legend of Motor Racing, Sarel
van der Merwe “Super Van” was to be the interviewed, The issue of
who was knowledgable enough to interview him became the question.
So with my many years of Motor Sport experience, and having met
Sarel on numerous occasions, a good friend, Peter Beldekeno put my
name to the committee, and I was approached… On the Tuesday!
Initially, I admit to some reluctance due to lack of preparation
time and meaningful material, however, it was a huge honour and
privilege to take on this important interview for the popular
Charles Glass Society. Particularly as Motor Sport was featuring.
After the delicious dinner, Sarel, Vixen (my Guide Dog) and I sat
up on stage to get things rolling.
Here are some of the better questions I asked Sarel, and his
Q: Wasn’t your first race the Paulanar Hill climb in Mozambique?
A: Yes, I’d gone to help my father as an official and got the
chance for a drive. I was only a young teenager.
Q: You started circuit racing at Kyalarmi in 1967 in a DKW, but in
1969, you won the Natal Production Car Championship. Was that your
first championship and why Natal?
A: I raced in Natal for financial reasons. You got travel and
prize money, and as long as you were winning, you could make a
profit. I suppose I’d become professional!
Q: Your first rally was the Total in 1971. Was it immediate
A: No. I crashed my car 60kms from the start!
Q: You made your name in a Ford Escort BDA and then went to the
Audi S1 and S2 Quatrros. You have told me you much preferred the
Escort. Tell us why and the difference between the 2 Quatrros?
A: I enjoyed the Escort because it was a “point-and-squirt” car
and it was lekker to steer it on the power. Also nothing sounds
nicer than a BDA screaming through the forests and hills. Of the
two Quattros, the better one was the long wheel base. Easier to
drive and wasn’t side-ways all the time. In my opinion, 4 Wheel
drive killed off the spectacular rally viewing.
Q: Creepy Crawly sponsored you in the 80’s in Rallying and then
took you over to America for the IMSA sports cars series in a Momar
Porsche. Tell us about that and your issue with Tony Martin at
your first Daytona win?
A: Half way through the race, we had had a good few laps lead and
Tony had been called several times to pit for fuel, and didn’t
listen, only to run out of fuel on the far side of the track. I
had to run over a mile to the car with a can of petrol! We still
one quite easily!
Q: You have said the fastest thing you ever drove was the Chev
Corvette Lola GT prototype in 1985. Why was it so fast and remind
us about the American corporate politics?
A: With 1243 Brake Horsepower under the bonnet, the Chev was
hugely powerful. Very heavy on fuel but still fast enough to win
races even with the extra pit stop. It was an Eric Broadley (Lola)
built car with Bosch electronics. Just when the Chev was getting
successful, the American Corporate decided to change the
electronics to Pontiac, which made the car very niggly and
unreliable. It’s amazing they ever got to the moon!
Q: Tell us about your first drive in a Le mans car, I think in
1987, for the Fitzpatrick Porsche?
A: Terrific qualifying at over 400kph down the Mulsanne Straight.
unfortunately, the engine blew in the mornings qualifying and the
afternoon was spent setting-up the car, so by the time I got to
qualify, it was dark! I was told to take the kink flat out. I’ve
never been so scared in my life. It was the era of new technology.
The car had a Boost button which soon appeared in Formula 1.
Q: 1990 was your last season in Sports cars in the Kramer Porsche.
What went wrong there and why did you give it up and return to SA?
A: The Kramer Porsche had been completely re-engineered which did
not work out at all well. I should have done a few more seasons
which I kind of regret, but I was getting tired of all the travel
Q: You had Frans Boshof in the jump seat in a Swazi Rally. Serge
rolled and Enzo had turbo issues. Do you remember Prize giving at
the Royal Swazi Spa and your thanks speech? Remind us what went
A: (Big smile) I spent quite a long time profusely thanking
Hyundai for a fabulous win, to the shock of the crowd… I had
been driving a Daewoo!
Q: I remember one day at Killarney when one of the marshals asked
you why aren’t you practising. What was your answer?
A: (Big smile) I asked the marshal. Why, have you changed the
Q: What is your personal car and what is Sarel up to these days?
Are you still involved in racing?
A: I recently bought the new Golf GTI 7. Great car. I’m currently
running a 4X4 competition which takes up most of my time and enjoy
a game of golf now and again.
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Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
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