• South African Grand Prix

Brabham rolls back the years at Kyalami

ESPNF1 Staff
March 7, 1970
Jack Brabham looks for a way past Jackie Stewart early in the race © Sutton Images

Jack Brabham, a month shy of his 44th birthday, rolled back the years with victory at the season-opening South African Grand Prix, setting a lap record for Kyalami in his own Brabham-Ford. Much of the attention, however, was on another 40-something, as Graham Hill returned to action five months after his massive accident at Watkins Glen.

Hill's career appeared over when he sustained appalling injuries to his legs at the US Grand Prix, but from the outset his goal was to make it back for the new season and despite being in considerable pain and with limited mobility, he managed it. Suffice to say he would never have passed the more stringent medical tests of more recent years.

Hill travelled to South Africa unsure if he would actually race - he was not in the official Lotus team and was given the previous year's model to drive - but his mind was made up when he equalled the lap record during practice. Jackie Stewart and Chris Amon posted identical times, but Stewart took pole as his came first.

Stewart started well but was caught and passed by Brabham early on, leaving him to battle with Denny Hulme for second as a stream of others retired behind them. All three drivers were in new cars, and Stewart's March was seriously hampered by being 128lbs overweight. Brabham only had one flutter when Jochen Rindt bumped into his rear tyre - there was no lasting damage but Rindt retired soon after with a blown engine.

Hill, meanwhile, finished a creditable sixth and immediately announced he would compete all season. "I'm ready for another bashing," he said. "My hand and neck muscles want hardening up … I was in pain but I paced myself." The extent of his injuries became evident when he had to be lifted out of the cockpit at the finish.

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