Basil van Rooyen

FMM is saddened to learn of the passing of South African motor sport legend Basil van Rooyen, aged 84, on September 14 in New South Wales, Australia. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of the body’s internal organs.

Smiling Basil, as he was affectionately known, was a former racing driver, race car developer, inventor and engineer. Born in Johannesburg, his career comprised racing a motorcycle before achieving success in cars including a Ford Anglia, Ford Lotus-Cortina, Ford Mustang, Alfa Romeo, Ford Capri Perana, Chevy Can-Am along with Fiats and Ferraris, various sports cars and single-seaters. He also took part in two South African F1 Grands Prix, in 1968 and 1969. Basil was the SA Saloon Car Champion in 1966 and 1967. He raced in the UK and in Australia, where he eventually moved to live.

Apart from participating in racing, Basil was also involved in establishing the well-known tune-up and accessory distributor Superformance. In addition, after witnessing serious F1 accidents caused by throttles jamming wide open, Basil invented a special device to be fitted to the brake hydraulics, cutting power to the ignition when a great excess of brake pressure was applied. Well ahead of his time, before it even occurred to the top world F1 teams, Basil also invented and fabricated a successful automatically spring-activated rear wing drag reduction set-up, which was affixed to the high wing of his F1 car, reducing the angle of attack. He also started development of the CITS (Crankcase Independent Two-Stroke) power unit, presently still being perfected.

But Basil was creative in other fields. Automatic swimming pool cleaners always skipped certain areas during their cleaning cycle, so he invented the Twister, which is added to the suction line. The design was patented and so successful that royalties still come in.

FMM sends its heartfelt condolences to all of Basil’s family, friends and supporters. RIP.