"BACK TO THE FUTURE!"
Mansell (UK) 1st, Fittipaldi (Brazil) 2nd, Patrese (Italy) 3rd It has arrived and done so with spectacular style - the inaugural Altech Grand Prix Masters South Africa delivered what many have today described as the ultimate debut event in motor sport!
Following two days of sublime Free Practice and Qualifying session performances, today's 30-lap Grand Prix proved beyond any doubt that the Masters have lost nothing when it comes to enthralling race fans. The Kyalami race venue was declared a "sell- out" after yesterday's mesmerising qualifying session and as the searing heat baked down on the 70,000 sell-out crowd today, the grand finale exceeded everyone's wildest expectations as the tantalizing line-up of star-studded drivers delivered a jaw-dropping race and one not seen for many a year in motor racing.
With 600 horsepower and minimal driver electronic aids on offer, race fans were treated to a mind-blowing display of race car control with the Masters power-sliding their way through the unforgiving high speeds bends of Kyalami. The equal nature of the race cars allowed the drivers to race competitively, fiercely and extremely closely throughout the 30-lap battle with Britain's Nigel Mansell finishing 1st just under half a second ahead of second placed Master Emerson Fittipaldi and Riccardo Patrese bringing his car home in third. Out of the fourteen cars that started the race, twelve crossed the finishing line.
Nigel Mansell (1st): "What a race! I started on pole and that was the critical factor today given how hard I was pushed by Emerson. He just didn't give up and nor did I expect him to. I tried to break-away from him but he just kept his nose behind my car and on a couple of occasions made moves on the inside of corners! He really is a legend and someone I admire immensely. Today, however, he was a pain in the ass! I could have pushed a little more but wanted to preserve my tyres. In such extreme conditions of heat combined with the aggression of driving, the tyres were well cooked and controlling the car to the first place win was one hell of a challenge. One slip, one mistake or one spell of misfortune would have meant Emerson taking the win! He had better traction than me coming out of corners but I had to maintain my own pace and keep the thoroughbred race machine on the track. I simply could not have driven any harder out there today! The sacrifices, dedication and patience invested by everyone involved in GP Masters has been nothing short of exemplary and I take my hat off to Scott Poulter (CEO, GP Masters), Delta Motorsport who have given us these wonderful race cars and Altech for their faith and support. It still hasn't sunk in yet to be honest. What we have all achieved here this weekend is beyond what anyone could have predicted or imagined! If there are any doubters left out there I am sure they will be few and far between."
Emerson Fittipaldi (2nd): "An amazing race and one which was a joy to drive! I remember a few years ago when Nigel came over to Indycars and the late great Senna told me to watch out for Nigel's car control. Today I witnessed that first-hand again and at times, I really thought he had crossed the limit but time and time again he managed to keep the car on the track -- and get faster! He will make a mistake, I kept thinking and I tried to pass him on several occasions but there simply wasn't enough braking zone. Nigel kept his foot glued to the throttle for 30-laps and I had little choice but to accept 2nd place today. Not one of us put a foot wrong out and on lap 23, we posted exactly the same time -- 1m.37.069secs! In fact, the only thing I did wrong today was not finishing in 1st place! A truly banzai race in every sense and we are already excited at the prospect of what 2006 holds for this stunning new series."
Riccardo Patrese (3rd): "The car control on display out there today was amazing -- just like the old days. Drivers were on the limit, cars were on the ragged edge and my smile throughout could not have been bigger! Yan (Lammers) and Andrea (De Cesaris) were pushing me throughout the race and gave me a really hard time. The front two, however, were getting away all the time and in the end I accepted 3rd place but had to make sure I didn't lose it. I was fortunate enough to have clean air in front of me but at no point was there time to relax. In fact, I thought the whole concept of the GP Masters was about entertainment but this is not the case. These guys are clearly deadly serious on the track and racing amongst these gods was like time standing still -- I really do mean that. My mirrors were full of race cars throughout the 30-laps and at no point was there time to relax. This is a hardcore group of racers who have reminded the world of their hardcore heritage. I want more and I want it now!"
Full race classification available on www.gpmasters.com