16 February 2014
Ferrari takes F1 back to South Africa
Marc Gene entertained F1 fans in Johannesburg as Ferrari completed its first demonstration run of 2014.
Despite bids to bring the sport back to a street circuit in Cape Town, F1 returned to South Africa nearly 800 miles away in Johannesburg, as Ferrari put on a demonstration run around Soccer City.
Excitement and spectacle were the order of the day as the Scuderia returned to South Africa for its first street show of 2014. Featuring a 2009-spec F60 with test driver Marc Gene at the wheel, the Soweto suburb played host to the launch of Shell V-Power Nitro+ fuel onto the South African market. A 1.48km 'track' allowed Gene to put on a show either side of lunch, completing several laps and thrilling the crowd with drag starts and breathtaking slides, all accompanied by the sound of the car's eight-cylinder engine, running at over 17,000 rpm.
In the break between F1 runs, a parade of road-going Ferraris - organised by South African importer Viglietti - was led by a 458 Italia, again driven by Gene, while the day was rounded off with a series of pit-stops carried out by the F1 Clienti crew, who put on a show of the tasks that are normally carried out in the pit-lane.
“That was a great day,” Gene told the Ferrari website, “It's always fun to bring an F1 car up close to the people, which is something that never happens at a grand prix. I am pleased to have been able to do this for the South African people, especially the youngest ones, to show them the excitement of these types of car that haven't been seen in this country for a while.”
Thousands of spectators turned out for the event, starved of F1 action in South Africa since 1993, when Alain Prost claimed victory in the last grand prix at Kyalami. Since then, there have been rumours of a replacement, notably on the streets of Cape Town, without the country actually returning to the calendar.
Bernie Ecclestone has made no secret of his desire to return F1 to South Africa, and was thought to have been particularly enamoured by Cape Town's bid. As long ago as 2011, the Cape Town Grand Prix Bid Company - which itself was founded by local man Igshaan Amlay in 2007 following a twelve-year research and development project - presented a 5.3km circuit which skirted recognisable landmarks such as Table Mountain, Cape Town Stadium, Table Bay Harbour and the V&A Waterfront. However, concerns about the cost of hosting an F1 event, added the obvious investment in infrastructure, caused the plans to be put on hold.
Even though Ecclestone claimed to have been offered an alternative to run on the streets of Durban, South Africa remains without a grand prix, leaving its people to have their appetite sated by demonstrations such as that put on by Ferrari at the weekend.
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