The South African touring car driver only drove two Formula 1 races – with John Love’s privateer Cooper-Climax in the 1968 South African Grand Prix, and behind the wheel of a privateer Team Lawson McLaren M7A at the same race one year later.
In ’69, his McLaren machinery may have been somewhat out-dated, but certainly wasn’t obsolete. At that same race, works driver Denny Hulme drove the same-spec chassis; only Bruce McLaren himself had moved on to the updated M7B.
In practice, van Rooyen certainly didn’t disgrace himself, qualifying a highly respectable ninth, just behind the McLaren supremo himself. But the race was less of a success, van Rooyen retiring after just 12 laps with brake hydraulics problems.
His bravura performance in that race prompted the call-up from Ken Tyrrell, requesting Basil travel to Europe and replace Johnny Servoz-Gavin later that season. However, just a week before he was due to depart, he suffered a huge 160mph accident while tyre-testing his McLaren at Kyalami. The crash split the car in half, leaving van Rooyen facing months of recovery, and unable to fulfil Tyrrell’s offer, the drive going to Francois Cevert.
The deaths, in quick succession, of Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage convinced Basil that his career remained in his native South Africa, where he continued to carve out a long and successful career racing sports and saloon cars through until his racing retirement in 1981.