It was all action at the Kyalami International Raceway near Johannesburg today, as the Minardi F1 two-seater team got underway in earnest with preparations for Monday's Altech South African F1x2 Charity Grand Prix. Having arrived in Johannesburg...
It was all action at the Kyalami International Raceway near Johannesburg today, as the Minardi F1 two-seater team got underway in earnest with preparations for Monday's Altech South African F1x2 Charity Grand Prix. Having arrived in Johannesburg on Tuesday, the 90-strong team of Minardi mechanics, technicians and support staff has spent the last two days readying the eight-strong fleet of two-seaters for its busiest-ever programme.
In the course of the next three days, the team is scheduled to take 76 lucky individuals for what will undoubtedly be the rides of their lives. In addition, the team will stage, for the first time ever, back-to-back 10-lap races on a single day. These will form the centrepiece of Monday's Altech South African F1x2 Charity Grand Prix, which will benefit the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and Unite Against Hunger charities.
In addition to the F1 two-seaters, the exciting programme will also include an international Xtreme sports competition, other racing championships, an air display and a demonstration run by South Africa's 1979 Formula One World Champion, Jody Scheckter, in his title-winning Ferrari T4.
The Minardi F1x2 team spent Friday carrying out practice runs and allowing some of its start-studded line-up of drivers acclimatise themselves to the demands of the challenging Kyalami circuit. Among those on track today were F1 drivers Johnny Herbert, Ralph Firman, Nicolas Kiesa and Marc Gene, and F3000 stars, Patrick Friesacher and Alan van der Merwe. The highlight of the day undoubtedly came when current BMW WilliamsF1 driver, Marc Gene, drove fiancée, Eva Sakay, for three high-speed laps of the twisty 4.260-km track. The former Minardi driver was generous in his praise of the F1 two-seater and delighted that his future wife was able to experience Formula One performance at first hand.
"It is something I have wanted to do for a long time, ever since I first heard about Minardi's F1 two-seater programme," commented Marc after completing his run. "It really is a Formula One car, with great brakes and handling, and good power. To be able to drive my fiancée today was a dream come true, because I wanted her to be able to feel what an F1 car is like. I want to thank the Minardi team and Paul Stoddart for the opportunity -- it was absolutely great. It was also a great pleasure to meet some of my mechanics again from the two years I spent with Minardi. It brought back some good memories."
Passenger rides will begin in earnest tomorrow, with Kiesa, Friesacher and van der Merwe, plus Toni Vilander and Gabriele Lancieri all scheduled to be on track during the day. In addition, current Minardi test driver, Bas Leinders, and former Minardi star, Christian Fittipaldi, will both arrive at Johannesburg International Airport during the next 24 hours, as drivers fly in from all parts of the world, ready to take part in the weekend's activities.