74 – 1982 South African GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here). Click here to buy the lead image. From the editor Damien Smith The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget… Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month. It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache… Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided. Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been… Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for! Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport. So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously. 1982 South African GP January 23, Kyalami The ill-starred drivers’ strike tends to dominate when thoughts turn to South Africa 1982. But after the politics, bus trips and ‘lock-ins’, the drivers delivered a classic Grand Prix as the turbo era began to get into its stride. The Renaults, Ferraris and Brabham-BMWs showed dominant pace, and no one could live with Alain Prost and René Arnoux come Sunday, but poor reliability and tyre dramas gave the Cosworth hordes hope and brought the race alive. These days, Prost is too easily labelled as the intelligent driver who won by stealth. His sheer speed, particularly at this early stage of his F1 career, can be overlooked. Perhaps that was because he made it look so easy. When he lost a dominant lead with a puncture, the Frenchman used his power advantage to charge back to the front from eighth. As Jenks put it: “It had not been spectacular to watch for Prost is not a spectacular driver, but fast he undoubtedly is, his driving well suited to the very efficient Renault.” His team-mate Arnoux also suffered Michelin problems, picking up a chronic tyre vibration that forced him to slow. It allowed Carlos Reutemann’s normally aspirated Williams to finish second, outlasting the ailing turbos. What a difference from the final race of ’81 in Las Vegas, when a watery performance cost him the title. On this occasion, the ‘real’ Carlos turned up. But soon he would be gone, quitting Williams and F1 to return home for a life in politics, enigmatic to the last. DS

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