In the 1980’s South African F1 powerboat racing was all the rage and took an even bigger jump in popularity when Peter Lindenberg was leading the UIM F1 World Championships in 1989, winning the British Powerboat Grand Prix along the way. Unfortunately, he was banned from two races for being a South African in what was still the apartheid era, so he finished the season in second place. When not racing overseas though he would dominate the local scene taking the National title on fifteen occasions.
During the 1990’s the country boasted the biggest domestic class of F1 boats in the world. Drivers including Guido Cappellini, Fabrizio Bocca, Pelle Brolin, Thomas Ericsson, and Carlos Maidana were invited to compete with local teams at International Grand Prix held in Durban, the Vaal River about 60km south of Johannesburg, and at Sun City.
Alas, following Lindenberg’s retirement from Formula One racing eighteen months after he was involved in a near fatal racing accident in Saldanha Bay in September 2002 which left him in a coma for a week, the sport slipped into obscurity and remained a shadow of its former self in the years that followed.
Equipment gathered dust and the sport nationally saw little to no action for fifteen years. Then in 2020 a couple of racers got together to gauge interest and discuss the potential for restarting a local series.
With old hands onboard and new blood coming through the ranks, there is now genuine excitement once again as the sport is thrust back into the spotlight.
Events have now been scheduled at national level in every major province with the F1 main attraction being supported by junior races, where youngsters looking one day to make the jump to the F1 class will compete.
Now, a demonstration event with five boats in action will take place on Saturday, 12 February at the Theewater Sports Club, located just outside Villiersdorp, one of the most popular water sports venues east of Cape Town.
Team Dixon Batteries, who previously had won three F1 championships, will be fielding two boats for Ronan Dixon and Keagan Frankiewics, while other entrants include Bruce Repsold, Nico Wessels, Michael Wessels and Team RDS driven by Laszlo Berko.