Jackie Pretorius’ passing signals the end of an era
Jackie Pretorius, one of the most colourful characters in the long and distinguished history of South African motor racing, died in Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg this morning. He was 74. He didn’t recover from severe injuries he sustained in a savage assault by intruders at his home in Glen Austin three weeks ago.
Several years ago he and his wife Shirley were viciously attacked by intruders in the same house and his wife subsequently died as a result of her injuries. He leaves a niece, Christine. Funeral arrangements are still to be announced.
Pretorius first came to prominence in 1964 when he drove Doug Serrurier’s LDS Alfa Mk 1 in the national Formula One championship, finishing fifth and sixth in the Republic Day Trophy at Kyalami and the Border 100 in East London. He unsuccessfully tried to qualify the car for the 1965 world championship South African Grand Prix in East London. The following year he finished ninth in the non-championship event in a Lotus Climax.
He competed in the national F1/F5000 championship in a Walls ice cream-backed F5000 Lola Ford, recording one of many memorable wins in a rain-soaked False Bay 100 at Killarney in Cape Town in August 1968, beating the F1 Repco Brabhams of Dave Charlton and Sam Tingle
He graduated to a Brabham Climax BT11, which he drove in the 1968 SA GP under the Team Pretoria banner. He enjoyed his best F1 year in 1971 at the wheel of a Team Gunston Brabham BT26A, in which he competed in the SA GP and at the wheel of which he won rounds of the national F1/F5000 championship at Killarney in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg’s Roy Hesketh circuits.
In 1973 he was invited by Frank Williams to stand in for the injured Nani Galli in a Williams Iso-Marlboro FX3B in the SA GP. He was forced to retire with overheating problems.
He also drove 2-litre and 5-litre sports cars with his great friend Doug Serrurier and together they won the 1967 Pietermaritzburg Three Hour race in a Lola. He also enjoyed success with overseas drivers Barry Smith and Guy Edwards in the Three Hour at Roy Hesketh.
Renowned for his good humour and his ability to enjoy a good party, he worked for 34 years for Wynn Oil, a staunch supporter of motor racing when Pretorius was at the height of his career.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “There are only three sports: motor racing, bullfighting and mountaineering … all the rest are merely games”. Pretorius, like Hemingway, lived his life to the full and would have agreed, although he might have harboured some doubts about the other two sports.