Phase 1 of the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit’s revamp comprised the track upgrade, including its lengthening, realignment and resurfacing, as well as the replacement and assembly of the tyre wall barriers, for which Kyalami management used stainless steel band and buckle manufacturer Banding & Identification Solutions Africa’s (Bisa) strapping kit.
These barriers absorb the kinetic energy of a vehicle that has veered off the track, limiting the driver’s injuries and reduc- ing damage to the vehicle. Kyalami general maintenance coordinator Marius Swart explains that to modernise the track and improve safety, track management investigated various types of tyre wall assemblies before deciding on the current strapping method.
“We needed to improve safety while ensuring that the upgrades enabled us to obtain a grade-two licence from motorsport governing body the FIA (or Federation Internationale de l’Automobile),” he says, adding that the licence will enable Kyalami to host many types of international track racing.
He recalls that the team had considered pneumatic crash-barriers, as well as using nylon or 201 stainless steel strapping for the tyre wall barriers before deciding on Bisa’s 304 grade strapping solution. In terms of safety, cost and availability, Bisa offered the most viable solution, Swart adds.
Swart says the tyre wall replacement project started in July last year and, by the start of the track’s resurfacing in October, Kyalami staff had removed 138 000 tyres that were sent to a rubber-recycling plant. The 16-person team completed the project last month.
He notes that the old tyres could not be reused, as the original barriers used nuts and bolts to secure the tyres to steel rods, which were bolted to the concrete base of the safety barriers. The tyres had deteriorated, as they had been exposed to the elements, while the rods had rusted, as they had little to no corrosion resistance.
The Kyalami management sourced 48 000 new tyres with the assistance of waste tyre collectors Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa, better known as Redisa. Swart says management used an advanced telemetry programme to determine where the most dangerous areas of the new track would be.
The programme took into account the length and angle of the corner, the width of the runoff area, and the maximum speed of the vehicle to determine the placing, length, height and width of the barriers. Swart explains that “most of the high-impact zones have barriers that have a width and height of five tyres, starting from the end of the runoff area up to the concrete base of the safety barrier”. The barriers will also be covered with mesh to reduce exposure to the elements.
Bisa sales representative Bertie Ferreira says the company provided 2 548 coiled rolls of 304 belting and 32 300 buckles for this project. The majority of the rolls were 30 m in length, 16 mm wide and 0.5 mm thick. However, owing to the scope of the project, the company ran out of the 16 mm stock and had to supply about 300 rolls of 19 mm belting to complete the project.
Bisa also provided 14 Band It Bantam strapping tools – easy-to-use, lightweight tensioning devices designed specifically for strapping applications – to secure the strapping. Swart says the bands were strapped around the tyres at 90° angles, facilitating the tyres’ compression, while ensuring that they remained tightly secured.
Ferreira comments that, aside from the affordability and availability of Bisa’s products, there are numerous benefits to this novel approach to tyre wall assembly. “Stainless steel has a high corrosion resistance, which means that the belting could last for up to 20 years if it isn’t damaged in a collision. We chose the 304 grade instead of the 201 because, for this application, it was just as effective as the 201, but less expensive. Further, the smooth edges ensured that the belting did not damage the tyres or injure any of the staff.”
He also points out that this solution is less labour intensive and less time-consuming than the original assembly method.
Swart notes that Kyalami intends to keep a few Bantam tools and belting on site for quick repair once the track is fully operational. Ferreira expects that the track management will continue its partnership with Bisa and Band It because of superior product quality and product longevity.
Kyalami’s extensive upgrade follows its 2014 acquisition by Porsche South Africa CEO Toby Venter. The Kyalami pit building will undergo a complete refurbishment, and will house motorsport pits, as well as conferencing and exhibition facilities.
The track will host the South African Bike Festival from May 27 to 29, as well as the 2016 South African Festival of Motoring, from August 31 to September 4.