EL Winter festival (1)

The Southern African Endurance Series (SAES) will host rounds five, six and seven of the SA GT National Championship as well as rounds three and four of the SA Endurance Championship over a three-day Winter Motorsport Festival at the historic East London Grand Prix Circuit on 21-23 July. In addition to the fastest cars in South Africa, motorsport fans have a host of family-oriented activities to look forward to, including a flea market, a jumping castle village and a driver meet-and-greet. Five lucky pre-booked eTicket holders will be drawn at random for a hot lap around the East London Grand Prix Circuit in an exotic sports car.

The SAGT National Championship is a competition for FIA-homologated GT3 machinery featuring cars from Audi, Ferrari, Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini, Nissan, Porsche and McLaren. Races take place over one hour with a compulsory pitstop, which can feature a driver change for those teams running more than one driver. With the constant high speeds at the East London Grand Prix circuit, it is almost guaranteed that some teams will need to include fuel in their pitstops, adding to the excitement of the race as team strategies really come into play.

Championship leader Dayne Angel is away for this event which leaves line honours open for anyone like Sun Moodley, Aldo and Silvio Scribante, Michael Stephen, Marius Jackson, Charl Arangies and a host of top South African sports car racers.

The SA Endurance Championship hosts five different classes of cars with an eclectic mix of open sports cars, GT3s and saloons of various engine capacities, and the rumbling Backdraft Roadsters which feature in their own championship-within-a-championship.

The Winter Motorsport Festival kicks off on Thursday with four free practice sessions each for SAE and SAGT teams, ahead of the all-important qualifying which takes place in the late afternoon.

Friday’s action starts with an early warm-up session for both SAES categories ahead of the SAE 4-Hour race which starts at 08h55. After lunch, the first of no less than three one-hour SAGT races over the weekend starts at 14h40.

The Flea Market and Jumping Castle Village will be active from 13h00 on Friday in the infield section of the circuit, where food and refreshments will keep the winter chills at bay. The Flea Market and Jumping Castle Village will also operate on Saturday from 05h00.

As the sun sets over the East London Grand Prix Circuit, the venue will come alive with three hours of Street to Strip drag racing on the main straight that has now been floodlit starting at 18h00. Members of the public will be able to showcase their skills behind the wheel of their cars and vie for bragging rights in the city.

From 18h00, all the SAGT and SAE cars and drivers will be available for two hours for autographs and photos or selfies at the kart circuit.

Another feature of the Winter Festival is a Show and Shine Competition, where proud owners display their beautifully restored – or modified – vehicles.

On Saturday, a full day’s racing will give East London fans non-stop action starting with another SAES first: a pre-dawn start for the second four-hour endurance race, which gets underway in the dark at 06h00, racing into the early morning light, something that mimics the Bathurst 12-hour in Australia.

Racing action comes thick and fast, with a quick warm-up session for the SAGT cars ahead of qualifying for the regional Modified and Historic Saloon Car races which also feature on the action-packed bill.

The second SAGT race of the weekend starts at 11h50, followed in quick succession by two races each for the regional Modified and Historic Saloons.

The third and final SAGT race of the weekend starts after the lunch Hot Laps for lucky draw winners at 15h55, followed by a third race for each of the regional Modified and Historic Saloon cars.

Spectators will be able to follow the SAGT and SAE races on live-stream, as well as download a free electronic race programme which features qualifying results, driver profiles, behind-the-scenes articles, images from the previous round, photography tips for spectators and much more.

Tickets are available at the gate or from the SAES website. Prices are R100 for Friday (R50 after the racing for the Street to Strip drags event) and Saturday tickets cost R100, while a weekend pass costs R150 (including the Friday night festivities). eTickets are 50% cheaper than buying them at the gate. Prospective competitors for the Street to Strip racing can register here.

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