A racing driver turns courier to meet a newspaper deadline
The story of Erroll Kobus and the East London – Port Elizabeth dash
The heady days of the 1960s Grand prix races in East London had been a source of great pride to the city. Famous names like Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Jack Brabham has returned to the city time and again to wow the locals and the tens of thousands of fans that had flocked to the city in chartered trains, special flights and their own cars. By 1966 however, things were beginning to wind-down.
The loss of FIA status in 1966 and the switch of the official South African Grand Prix to Johannesburg’s Kyalami was a bitter blow for the local organisers and the East London populace.
But racing culture had become deeply ingrained in the city and the local racers including Erroll Kobus, who raced his own Mercedes Benz cars in the production class, were deeply respected for their commitment to the sport. Kobus however, was to achieve his most notable moment of fame from an unlikely event.
The Tukutese family made world headlines in 1966 when the Nogesi Tukutese gave birth to quintuplets – the first woman in South Africa medical history to do so. The pictures of this momentous event were held by the Daily Dispatch and needed to be transmitted to the media world at large but the closest facility that could do this was in Port Elizabeth – some 300km away.
The solution decided the Eastern Province Herald was to have the pictures physically delivered in a high-speed road trip. The man for the job was racing driver Erroll Kobus. Kobus was the owner of a Berea garage that sold BMWs but was renowned for the large Black 220 SE Merc that he raced successfully on the GP track in the Saloon Car class. For the overnight road trip the Merc was to prove the ideal choice.
Departing from the Daily Dispatch offices at 10 pm that night, the pictures were delivered to Market Square in Port Elizabeth by 12.30 am and Kobus was home by 3.10 am. He opened his garage at the normal time that morning.
The above is the 4th extract from the book on East London Grand Prix history provisionally titled Off the Circuit: A South African Town Makes Grand Prix History currently being written by Glenn Hollands and scheduled to be released in time for the historic GP Festival in November.
Photo supplied by John Pringle