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#419 1985 South African Grand Prix

2022-07-24 01:00

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#1985, Fulvio Conti,

#419 1985 South African Grand Prix

The fact that the Renault and Ligier teams both make the gesture of missing the 1985 edition of the South African Grand Prix is hardly noticed as 21 c

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The fact that the Renault and Ligier teams both make the gesture of missing the 1985 edition of the South African Grand Prix is hardly noticed as 21 cars turn up to contest the penultimate round of the 1985 World Championship series, one of the few major international sporting events left for the South African public to enjoy in the current political climate which has left the country largely ostracised within the international community. We freely admit that Motor Sport is not a political magazine, but we nonetheless note, with a certain degree of wry amusement, that Renault certainly have displayed no such misgivings in recent years and would suggest that the fact that the Regie’s hopeless uncompetitiveness gave it a convenient crutch on which to lean whilst adopting this cynical posturing. It would, perhaps, have carried more credibility if Renault had boycotted the race at a time when they were running competitively, not merely when bidden to jump by the politicians in Paris. It is also ironic that FISA’s President expressed the view that politics and sport should not be permitted to overlap to the latter’s detriment, yet it was the French Government’s intervention which effectively cut across that particular philosophy. Having addressed ourselves to that aside, it should be recorded that the 1985 South African Grand Prix is an absolutely classic race, fought out beneath sunlit skies and, happily, transmitted to British enthusiasts by the good old Beeb which refuses to be cowed into a position of subservience by its European contemporaries who stoically boycott coverage of the event in quite significant numbers. In that respect, we have to say bad luck to many thousands of European viewers who are deprived of the sight of Nigel Mansell’s Williams-Honda FW10B running for most of the race distance at the head of the field, eventually seeing off his rivals to win his second Grand Prix victory in as many weeks. Truly, it was a memorable occasion.

 

Regulars in the Formula business regard Kyalami as one of the most challenging and entertaining circuits of all. Situated 5.700 ft above sea level in the rolling veldt near Johannesburg, the track blends a dauntingly fast main straight with a sequence of breathtakingly quick corners which tax cars’ handling and drivers’ nerve to an impressive degree. This year, the battle for pole position is fought out with some ferocity by the two Williams-Honda FW10Bs and Nelson Piquet’s Brabham-BMW, the Brazilian anxious to make it a hat-trick of pole positions at the South African circuit. Three years ago, when the Brabham team produced its first BMW-engined turbocar at Kyalami, Nelson Piquet was just brushing the 200 mph barrier in the headlong rush over the crest by the pits down into Crowthorne corner. This year, if you can’t top 200 mph, you are just not in the hunt. Piquet’s Brabham BT54 trips the beam during qualifying at 210.965 mph, but it is Mansell who steels himself to grab pole position during Friday’s hour-long timed session with a fine 1'02"366 sec best with Piquet alongside him on 1'02"490 and Keke Rosberg on the inside of row two on 1'02"504, the generous-minded Finn remarking jocularly, it seems as though McLaren may have signed the wrong Williams driver next season, in a rare compliment to his English team-mate’s sheer tenacity. Bearing in mind the fact that his Lotus 97T is almost 10 mph slower than Piquet’s Brabham in a straight line, the fact that Ayrton Senna manages to qualify fourth a mere half-second away from Mansell is a reflection of his unquestionable ability. But Kyalami is all about sheer, unadulterated horsepower and, in this high-speed battle, BMW and Honda are making the running with Renault coming in a pretty breathless third. Supporting their respective team-mates very competently are both Marc Surer and Elio de Angelis, qualifying Brabham and Lotus fifth and sixth respectively. 

 

Seventh place on the grid falls to Teo Fabi’s Toleman-Hart TG185, the Witney-built car handling superbly through the fast Kyalami corners and rather putting to shame the two Porsche-engined McLarens of Niki Lauda (returning to the cockpit following his Belgian Grand Prix practice shunt) and new World Champion Alain Prost. The McLaren team is experimenting with revised turbos and compressors of different sizes, but are still encountering altitude-related problems· in this area, including failures caused by overspeeding. Prost has several turbo problems during the two days of qualifying, eventually lining up behind Lauda for only the second time in their two-year partnership. Further back down the grid the Ferrari 156/85s of Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson are going through a simply appalling time, both drivers complaining about dire lack of grip, acute understeer into the corners and oversteer out. Their inability to get out onto the start / finish straight quickly is only in part responsible for the fact they can only stagger, up to a modest 195 mph before Crowthorne, a staggering 15 mph slower than Piquet’s Brabham-BMW. Both drivers complain of a peculiar surging as the engines build up towards maximum revs, and when the two Maranello cars line up 15th and 16th behind not only both Alfa Romeos but also Piercarlo Ghinzani’s Toleman TG185 there are some uneasy faces in the pit lane wondering how this little fiasco is going to be explained away in the team manager’s daily phone call to the Commendatore. At the tail of the field Philippe Streiff is competing at the wheel of the second Tyrrell 014, loaned for the occasion by the absent Ligier equipe, although the Frenchman who  qualified so impressively in fifth place at Brands Hatch is not as quick as regular Tyrrell team member Martin Brundle on this occasion.

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Alan Jones has another outing in the Carl Haas Beatrice Lola-Hart, but the Australian has been feeling unwell with a fever for much of the week leading up to the race and eventually withdraws from the meeting on doctor’s orders the evening before the race, thereby ensuring that he will compete in his 100th World Championship Grand Prix in front of his home crowd in Australia a fortnight later.

 

RACE

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