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Fireball Run

Broadcast date : 18th June 2006

What’s the matter with these sports car guys? Don’t they have a home to go to? Saturday night, they’re up to no good at Wesbank Raceway.

First thing on Sunday and they’re standing around shivering at Kyalami on the other side of town! It’s the Fidentia Fireball Run, mama, and they won’t be home for a week!

Fiddling with their cars and burning up rubber. Even that nice lad Gugu Zulu got sucked in by the madness. You know, the presenter from Car Torque? The rally driver?

The Fidentia Fireball plan was brilliant in its simplicity. Rent track time at the best race circuits in South Africa and invite the top speed merchants to drive from Jo’burg to Cape Town via Durban and the Garden Route.

Peter Morgan added an international flavour to the inaugural Fidentia Fireball, which drew two dozen superfast cars and drivers.

The bright lights of Durban drew the Fireball contenders like moths to a flame. But there wasn’t too much time to party, as Day Two saw a challenging gymkhana and a special stage at Toyota’s Test facility near Eston, forty minutes outside the harbour city.

The test track was a different African experience, located high up in the hills of Zululand.
The entry list included a Ford GT40 replica, a few elderly Porsche Carreras, a BMW M5 and some Subarus, and guest drivers like circuit star Tshcops Sipuka who was enjoying the unique the Fidentia challenge.

Unlike Tshops’s 350Z, exotics like Noble M400s and Nissan Skyline GTRs have no classes to race in formal circuit racing in South Africa and it’s great to see them driven in anger.
The Fireball Run consisted of open road sections which obviously weren’t timed and timed stages which would produce an overall winner and various class winners. The accent is on a fun-filled scenic tour of the country punctuated by moments of extreme concentration.

The high-speed oval at the Toyota Test Track presented a daunting challenge to the drivers, especially those in very fast cars, like Stuart Kidgell in the Ultima who was odds on favourite to win the event and veteran Brian White in a black Porsche RSR.
A leisurely drive through the Transkei brought the Fireball caravan to East London, and the oldest motor racing circuit in the country. Many of the competitors had never driven the famous track which hosted the first South African Grand Prix in 1937, so some slow familiarization laps were allocated.

Howard Blake in his 1972 Porsche Carrera RS replica took it easy in deference to his car’s age. Others, like Martin "Clutch" Ciolkosz in the NxGen Subaru, favoured the in-at-the-deep-end approach.
Another interesting aspect of the fireball was that it pitted South Africa’s top two black drivers, Gugu Zulu and Tschops Sipuka, against each other for the first time in head-to-head competition.

Geoff Mortimer in the Skyline was super quick, running third overall at the age of 69! A former SA saloon car and rally champ, Geoff was running ahead of a gaggle of supercars driven by guys young enough to be his grandsons.
Even quicker was Andre Bezuidenhout in his Porsche GT2 RS Evo, while Brian White in the mean black Porsche was in fourth place.

Gugu and Tschops in the identical RG Motorsport supercharged Nissans were swopping stage times for fifth and sixth positions, while others were having good times and bad

Things would get even more challenging for Botha as the week went on.

Although Gugu hadn’t raced on tar for a few years, he was having a ball.
They call Port Elizabeth the friendly city, and its people and famous dolphins certainly live up to that.

Not having a grand time of things was GT40 driver Marius Botha whose luck went from bad to worse. En route to PE disaster struck when a fuel line was damaged and the resultant fire all but destroyed his pride and joy. Injecting real fire into the Fireball was not what the organizers had in mind and it looked like the end of the road for the classic Ford.
The mix of unseen tarmac rally stages and racetracks recalls days of classic races in the past, where races were actually held on public roads. And bringing the show to the people is an important trump card for an event like the Fidentia Fireball.

The beautiful scenery in George brought the first real street stage into play on the tour and the spectators turned out in their thousands to see their favourite supercars. And against all odds, Marius Botha, who hails from this part of the world, had managed to repair his GT40 – well, sort of. Still good enough to enjoy a celebratory blast down George’s main drag, and ponder on what might have been.

The Mother City was the final stop off on the tour, with the Killarney circuit providing one of the biggest challenges of all to the drivers.

The only major accident occurred here when Andrew Stevens shunted his Porsche 944 Turbo, unfortunately after a week of excellent driving. Fortunately Steven was not seriously hurt in the incident.

On a happier note, the overall winner was Stuart Kidgell in the twin-turbo Ultima Alfa, while the sponsors thought that motorsport was the real winner.

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