Will Formula 1 return to Kyalami? And what’s become of the Bloodhound SSC land speed record bid since it was rescued from administration last year?
@DieterRencken reports from the FIA Conference in South Africa.
Another presentation I’d missed is “Emerging Africa”, and I’m particularly interested in hearing about Project Bloodhound, the 1,000mph Land Speed Record to be attempted in the Greater Kalahari on the flattest place on Earth. Equally, Cross Country is growing in leaps and bounds in developing countries – interest no doubt fuelled by Fernando Alonso’s recent Dakar test – while, of course, Kyalami is hopeful of a grand prix.
I hear the chances of an F1 race on the only inhabited continent without a grand prix are progressing, albeit slowly. Warren Scheckter, nephew of 1979 Ferrari F1 world champion Jody Scheckter and a sport promoter, is said to be involved, with the plan being to rent the circuit and promote the race. However, it all hinges on governmental support, and with crucial national elections coming up next week things are on ice. We’ll see.
Another extremely exciting initiative I follow up on is the FIA Motorsport Games – nations taking each other on across six categories – as announced on Tuesday by Frédéric Bertrand, FIA Circuit Championships Director. He revealed that the inaugural Games will be staged at Rome’s Vallalunga circuit from 3 October-3 November, taking in GT, Touring Cars, Drifting, Formula 4, e-sports and electric karting.
Frédéric reckons a national e-sports or e-karting team could rent equipment in Europe for as little as €1,000, with a touring car package costing €25,000 for the Games, and a GT entry around €80,000. What with electric karting demonstrations during last year’s Youth Olympic Games and now the Motorsport Games, FIA motorsport categories could soon feature at the Olympic Games. None too soon.
During the Conference a universal logo for disabled competitors revealed by the FIA’s Disability and Accessibility Commission: which, for example, eased the way for Billy Monger to compete. The logo, a wheelchair with helmeted driver, will no doubt become more widespread.
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I head for Motorex, the exhibition area where over 30 motorsport and mobility suppliers have laid out their wares and offer seminars to motor clubs. Everything from communications systems through braking and electronics systems to simulators, helmets and overalls are on display. Circuit architect Hermann Tilke has a stand, and tells me he’s heading for Kyalami tomorrow…
Electric karting and e-sports displays in the main arena area – and the activities drive home to me just how popular electric motorsport can become given that a circuit can be erected in any area with power for charging points. With zero noise and no emissions there’s no need for planning permission, while all the gear can be readily packed up and moved to the next venue.
I’m offered a drive in an Art Birel kart that costs around €10k and delivers up to 27bhp for 30 minutes on a single charge, but decline as I’m hardly dressed for the occasion and to change gear in the hotel would take too long. Next time.
Skip lunch to catch up on my day job, what with 30th April and 1st May being particularly significant due to the events of 1994. I check over the interview with Tche we’ve just published, and again recall the emotions on the day I conducted the interview with Ayrton Senna’s kart mechanic. A wonderful man, and so, so obliging.
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Smart Driving test – a platform sanctioned by the FIA’s Mobility department, the test consists of an app-based GPS/inertia system that awards points based on driving behaviour, enabling a global competition to be administered, but, above all, to promote safety and provide data to insurance companies to enable them to offer user-pay policies tailored to individual driving styles.
I score 954 points – about average – with demerits for braking and acceleration not being smoother enough for the system despite my best attempts.
More about the challenge here:
Head to the motorsport activities area where Cross Car – the off-road kart launched during last year’s FIA conference in Manilla – and drifting exhibitions are staged. It is absolutely amazing how many different motorsporting categories exist, and how virtually every need and /or niche is or can be filled.
Off by coach to The Shebeen, an ethnic night club, where are served ‘braaivleis’ (BBQ) to the sounds of township beats. Watching FIA folk dance to ‘The Gumboot’ and Ipi-Tombi type beats is highly entertaining. I chat with FIA steward/World Motorsport Council member Dennis Dean, who recently stood down as president of the FIA Land Speed Record Commission – which will oversee Bloodhound’s runs.
We wander across to Andy Green, current land speed record holder after he smashed through the sound barrier in 1997 and will drive Bloodhound later this year, and we discuss the various STEM activities associated with the project. Imagine 1,000mph on land…
Andy tells me an amusing story about meeting Gene Cernan, subject of Mark Stewart’s excellent docu-movie ‘Last man on the Moon’: When introduced to Cernan as the ‘Fastest Man on Earth’, Gene shot back, “I’m the fastest man on the Moon,” which of course he was by being the driver of Lunar Rover…
Bloodhound recently went into administration, but was saved by British businessman Ian Warhurst, who has committed sufficient funding to see the project through. Andy assures me they will announce run dates soon, possibly as early as end-May.
Back to hotel and the end of ‘my’ conference reportage – although there are regional and Mobility seminars scheduled for Thursday.
On Friday I’ll pop in at the De Wildt Cheetah Sanctuary to visit ‘our’ adopted cheetah Lily, who turned four this week, en route to Kyalami for a catch-up visit.
Then it’s a few days R&R with friends/family ahead of leaving for Barcelona next week. Talk to you from Spain.
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