The Breedon Everard Raceway is Zimbabwe's most famous racing circuit, set in a natural depression on the edge of the city of Bulawayo. Fast and with wide run-off areas, it became a popular stop for competitors on the Springbok Series, frequented by European cars and drivers, helping to establish its international reputation.
The 3 Hours of Bulawayo drew some notable names in its heyday but, inevitably, Zimbabwe's political situation meant international attention was fairly short lived.
Happily, the circuit continues to operate successfully at national level under the auspices of the Bulawayo Motoring Club.
The circuit opened in December 1969 as a replacement for the Kumalo airfield track. Known by many as the Falls Road Circuit, the track measured 2.535 miles long and featured sweeping turns amid the sandy hills and pleasant surroundings that made up this part of the world.
The new track took its name in honour of British railway engineer Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Breedon Everard, who had been the general manager of Rhodesian Railways from 1958-63 and was also briefly acting President of the country on several occasions after the proclamation of the Republic of Rhodesia.
The first event held was the 3 Hours of Bulawayo, which was the penultimate round of that year's Springbok Series. Some 18,000 spectators crowded in to be entertained by an impressive grid of sportscars, with star attractions including the iconic Lola-Chevys of John Love and Mike de Udy, the Ford GT40 of Malcolm Guthrie and the Mirage Ford of Mike Hailwood. The entry was rounded out by a healthy line-up of local and South African driving enthusiasts.
At the green flag, De Udy motored into a comfortable lead but mechanical niggles required frequent visits to the pits, it was local here John Love who assumed a lead he was never to lose. After crossing the finish line, he came to a halt and beckoned towards Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, who surprised onlookers by hopping into the passenger seat to be taken around the circuit on the celebration lap.
The race also featured the first serious accident of track's history, when the Mini Cooper of Tony Figuerado rolled at what was then known as the SAA flyover, thankfully without significant injury.
The circuit was now well established, with a good calendar of racing events and the 3 Hours as the season highlight. The Springbok Series returned in the following years, with victories for John Love and Brian Redman in 1970 and Mike Hailwood and Paddy Driver in 1971. The track was briefly off the calendar in 1972, but was set to host the third round of the series the following year, until the entire Springbok Series was cancelled due to the fuel crisis, never to return.
Motor sport took a nose dive throughout the region as a result, while the complicated political situation as Rhodesia became Zimbabwe meant that Bulawayo faded from international view. The decision was taken to shorten the circuit to 2.161 miles in the mid-1970s by cutting out one the loops, reducing it to just eight corners. Arguably this actually improved the circuit's flow by creating a new back straight - and it definitely made the lap speed averages higher. The old section of road still remains today, now decaying in the undergrowth.
The 3 Hours could have faced a similar fate to the Springbok Series had it not been for a brainwave by Brian Louth, chairman of the Bulawayo Motoring Club. He revived the race but with a key difference - whereas before it had run from 2pm to 5pm, the new version began at 6pm and ran to 9pm, making it the only race in Africa to run into darkness.
This unique twist revived regional attention and proved a massive success. Alongside the racing came a festival of other events, including a fashion show with models strutting their stuff along catwalks with music blaring loud enough to drown out some of the quieter cars...
Thanks to Louth and his team of workers the Three-Hour became Zimbabwe's premier motorsport event, a position it held for many years. Today, the race is still going strong, now with the added bonus of an additional one hour race for motorcycles. Besides the 3 Hours, a full calendar of national events is organised across the year by the Bulawayo Motoring Club.
- Breedon Everard Raceway, Shakespear Ave, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
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