Celebrate this Heritage day, Saturday 24 September 2022, the experience of a train, planes, classic cars and bikes of the Heidelberg Great Train Race.
The race is actually a fun celebration and ‘a salute’ to a race in 1930 between Train le Bleu and a Bentley, from Monte Carlo to Calais. The Bentley won by a country mile. This event takes place annually at the Heidelberg Station and the Heidelberg Airfield, in Gauteng, South Africa.
In 1930, Bentley racing driver Woolf Barnato wagered a bet that he could easily beat the famous Le Train Bleu to Calais at the wheel of his own Speed Six Bentley. At 5:45pm on 13 March 1930 as the train left Cannes, Barnato and his companion set off. The duo arrived in Calais so far ahead of the train that Barnato sought to put the challenge to bed by making it all the way to London before the express train pulled into Calais. They crossed the English Channel on a packet steamer, completed another 100km or so and, to loud applause, Barnato parked outside the Conservative Club in St James Street at exactly 3:20pm – four minutes before Le Train Bleu arrived at Calais Station.
At exactly eight o’clock, a cavalcade of clattering vintage cars and motorcycles (dating from 1903 to 1939) will make their way onto the Heidelberg Station platform, as the Rovos Rail double-header steam train’s ear-splitting whistle announces its arrival, to the sight of buzzing bi-planes overhead, whose brave pilots get a birds’ eye view of the convergence of the ancient machines on the ground.
The Heidelberg Airfield will transform into a showcase of the internal combustion engine’s passage through the ages, with a live display of aircraft old and new, working industrial engines from the turn of the last century and some of the most rare, valuable, and beautiful vintage and classic cars and motorcycles in the world, in a feast and festival of sight and sound.
For those who wish to experience the event from the train, you can book a suite on the most luxurious steam train in the world and travel with Rovos Rail to see The Heidelberg Great Train Race. The two-night journey departs Pretoria on Friday 23 September. Expect a red-carpet reception at Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria, a site tour, accommodation, all meals and beverages on board and at the airfield.
Organisers have also arranged a chance to win a dream flight in a vintage Tiger Moth. Vendors, from far and wide, will provide sustenance to visitors and goodies for sale.
So, if you enjoy classic cars, motorbikes and aircraft as well as travelling by steam locomotive, then don’t miss this historical event.
You can get tickets at the gate or from Computicket.
Book a Rovos Rail train experience for the event here.