I spent Sunday in the sun on the grandstand at the inaugural Grand Prix Masters race which was held at Kyalami.
What a show it was! Upon arrival, the exotic cars were already screaming around the track, laying down some rubber in anticipation of more excitement to come.
Shortly after that we decided to go on our pit walk, which was something new and interesting – a chance to see these speed machines up close, and perhaps even get an autograph or two from any drivers who may be lingering in the pits. We spent a good half hour to forty minutes taking photos and watching the goings on, firstly at the Grand Prix Masters’ cars and then the F1x2 two-seater racing cars.
I eventually managed to drag my mother away from the pit lane and we headed back to the main grandstand to see the masters come out for their morning warm-up session. Watching these guys flying down that start/finish straight was awesome, and as it happens we were sitting right in the middle of a gear changing zone, so we got to hear these guys chunking their gearbox around, some a little smoother than others.
Shortly after the seniors finished their lap quota, the two-seater F1s came out to play. Boy do these cars scream! They are by far louder than the engines the masters were using. We watched closely as excited and nervous passengers got strapped into the back seat and soon they too were careening around the track, hanging on for dear life in places I’m sure. Kyalami has corners that can pull up to two and a half Gs in those cars. And of course some of the passengers were sticking their heads as far out as possible on straights, waving to the crowd if possible.
After this, there were photo opportunities and other antics during lunch. More photos to come soon.
Following lunch, it was time for the highlight – the first Grand Prix Masters challenge, with Nigel Mansell on pole position, and Emerson Fittipaldi alongside.
They started with two laps behind the safety car and a rolling start in classic style, with the pack tightly bunched. The noise as they passed was incredible. Mansell manged to hold position in first, but every other lap they screamed by with Fittipaldi tickling Mansell’s gearbox. Derek Warwick consistently hunted down Andrea De Cesaris with some hair raising driving and left-right darts down the main straight. Thirty laps flew by in no time and by some luck Mansell was able to keep Fittipaldi behind.
All in all, it was a spectacular race. The drivers entertained all with their extreme competitiveness and their obvious sportsmanship. There was no runaway victory and most of the pack kept a similar pace. These old-timers still have some mettle and I’m looking forward to the next GP Masters race. Alain Prost missed out sorely by not appearing.
After the podium ceremony there was still a lot more racing to come with another F1x2-seater race and a few other formulas after that. Eventually the noise died down, the crowd faded and we decided to leave, our clothes filled with the odor of petrol, perspiration and sunscreen, our ears buzzing to the roar of Grand Prix engines and our teeth smiling at the entertainment enjoyed.