1980 South African Grand Prix
- Saturday, March 1, 1980
- Nashua Grand Prix of South Africa
- F1 World Championship
Kyalami, Saturday March 1st
On arriving in Johannesburg before the race there was a strange feeling that nothing was happening, unlike the previous years when the atmosphere was charged with racing tension. By mutual agreement the Formula One Constructors and the tyre companies had decided against pre-race tyre testing and development sessions. Previously most of the important teams have been out in South Africa for two or even three weeks before the Grand Prix and on the financial side them has previously been a lot of searching and negotiation for a race sponsor and there has been a lot of publicity of the “is it on” or “is it off” variety so that by the time race-week arrived the local newspapers had charged the air with slot of race-fever.
This year there were no problems over race sponsorship, the Nashua Copiers Company, a South African firm making plain-paper copying machines, committed themselves to a five figure sum to support the event. With none of the teams arriving before the beginning of race week and no testing being permitted until the Wednesday them was very little to get worked up about. Unofficial practice was allowed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday and almost everyone was out on the track, but trouble was rife, some teams like Lotus and Fittipaldi having engine trouble, others being undecided how to deal with the long straight versus the slow parts of the circuit. McLaren started off badly when Alain Prost had a head-on crash into the barriers at the Leeukop hairpin when “something came undone” at the front end of the latest C-version of the M29 and it understeered off the track out of control. The new French Formula One driver escaped with minor damage to his legs.