Have-a-go hero: Pier­carlo Ghin­zani

FOR­MER F1 DRIVER RE­CALLS HIS KYALAMI 500KM SPORTSCAR WIN

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - MATT KEW

Pier­carlo Ghin­zani com­peted in For­mula 1 for eight sea­sons, but is per­haps best re­mem­bered for two things that oc­curred in 1984.

He spent a month in hos­pi­tal af­ter a po­ten­tially fa­tal 170mph crash at Kyalami. Dur­ing the warm-up for the South African Grand Prix, run­ning fully-laden fuel tanks for the first time that sea­son, a rear-sus­pen­sion fail­ure spat his Osella-alfa Romeo into a slide and it hit the bar­ri­ers and bank­ing be­fore burst­ing into flames. But with sev­eral driv­ers poised to take his seat within just 24 hours of the crash, he re­turned to the cock­pit for the next race at Zolder.

Even more im­pres­sively, he fought back to se­cure his sole F1 points fin­ish in Dal­las just seven races later. Ghin­zani fin­ished in fifth place, in a phys­i­cally gru­elling race in which the as­phalt broke apart in the heat. Also in 1984, he ran sev­enth in the in­fa­mous rain-hit Monaco race be­fore a tur­bocharger fail­ure dropped him off the radar, and out of a chance of points.

Ghin­zani, the Euro­pean For­mula 3 cham­pion in 1977 who also had F1 stints at Tole­man, Ligier and Zak­speed, dis­played some flashes of ex­cel­lence that gave him a shot at driv­ing for one of mo­tor­sport’s most fa­mous teams, but pol­i­tics put paid to a fron­trun­ning ca­reer with Fer­rari.

“I went to Fer­rari and said, ‘Look, I’m here, if you want to give me work’,” he re­calls. “But Enzo told me, ‘I’m sorry but at this time my door is closed to Ital­ian driv­ers’, be­cause Fer­rari still had a big prob­lem with [Lorenzo] Ban­dini, who died in Monaco in 1967.”

Be­fore rac­ing in F1, Ghin­zani had en­joyed suc­cess with Lan­cia in the World Sportscar Cham­pi­onship, and he re­turned to closed-cock­pit com­pe­ti­tion with Joest in 1986, driv­ing a Porsche 956. With a fron­trun­ning car and team he had a chance to re­turn to the top, and did just that, win­ning, fit­tingly, the 500km of Kyalami, driv­ing solo and beat­ing the sis­ter car of Bob Wollek and Sarel van der Merwe.

“I re­mem­ber the first three laps in free prac­tice,” he says. “I looked at the cor­ner [Jukskei Sweep], looked at the bar­rier and thought, ‘Gosh, I’m back here, I’m lucky.’ It was a good phys­i­o­log­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I could see my true per­for­mance in a com­pet­i­tive car.”

Ghin­zani (above) won both 250km heats at Kyalami in 1986 with Joest Rac­ing Porsche 956 (top)

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