Dubai based South African, Jordan Grogor had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming as he powered out of the Magny Cours pit lane – the former French Grand Prix venue – at the wheel of a Benetton B196 Formula 1 car used by Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi during the 1996 Formula 1 World Championship season.
Jordan Grogor: “I was like a kid in a candy store driving a James Hunt Formula 1 car”
But it was not a dream as he was on duty for GPXtreme, who specialise in classic Formula 1 experiences with an array of iconic classic Formula 1 cars available for enthusiasts to drive including: a 1974 Williams FW03 campaigned by Arturo Merzario, James Hunt’s 1974 Hesketh, a 1976 Surtees TS18 in Durex livery, a 1992 Benetton B192 driven by Michael Schumacher, a 2001 Jordan EJ11, a Prost AP01 and AP02, Eddie Irvine’s Jaguar R2 to name a few.
A couple of modern Formula 1 cars – a Williams FW33 and a Marussia MR02 – are also part of the GPXtreme fleet, as well as a trio of 2015 Dallara F3 cars, some fancy Le Mans Prototypes (LMP2) along with a selection of current and historic GT3 cars.
So how did a highly rated race driver from Dubai end up at Magny-Cours for a weekend of testing these magnificent machines? All in perfect running order, ready to race and ‘begging’ to be unleashed to do what they were meant to do – go very fast.
Grogor explained, “It is fair to say I am probably one of the luckiest guys around, I get to race with the best teams, I live in Dubai and I am living my dream.”
“In March I got a call from GPXtreme who told me to pack my bags as I was going with them to Magny-Cours for the weekend.”
“Why? I asked. And they said: you always had the dream of driving historic Formula 1 cars. Well you are going to realise your dream,” recalled Grogor.
“I think every young boy dreams to climb into a Formula 1 cockpit, put down his visor, revving that engine and rumbling down the pitlane onto an open race track. For me this became reality,” mused Grogor who hails from a family of racers, including his father who was a respected race driver in South Africa in the eighties.
When Grogor arrived at Magny Cours, GPXtreme had their impressive array of historic and current race cars for their patrons to drive during the course of the three days. All the cars immaculately prepared, in pristine condition and race ready.
“On that weekend I drove some iconic F1 cars including the ex-Jean Alesi/ Gerhard Berger driven Benetton-Renault V10 and a Prost-Peugeot V10 which Oliver Panis drove from the nineties. Also the ISO Marlboro Williams FW03 which was driven by Arturo Merzario and James Hunt’s Hesketh 308 which were campaigned in the mid-seventies,” recalled Grogor.
“I went through a range of emotions as I drove these masterpieces of F1 history. But honestly the first thing that went through my mind was: don’t stall when driving out the pits,” he said with a smile and added with relief,” I did not stall!”
“Stepping into the Hesketh that James Hunt drove to victory at Zandvoort in 1974 was very special, surreal and extremely emotional for me. Sometimes I had to pinch myself and ask if this was really happening,” admitted Grogor.
“Those cars were amazing pieces of engineering for their time and today they still standout thanks to careful care and nurturing by the GPXtreme crew. For me as a driver the precision required using the brakes, the accelerator and the steering, coupled to my awe of being in the presence of such greatness, made it a lot of elements to manage and stay in control.”
“This is where GPXtreme rose to the occasion and put my mind to rest. The guys put out fifteen cars ranging from classic Formula 1 cars to modern day GP3 cars, a selection of Le Mans Prototypes (LMP2) and a several Formula Renault single seaters ‘thrown’ into the mix.”
“They provide a platform for enthusiasts to sample truly great racing cars in a calm and controlled environment which generates confidence in those of us doing the experiences on the day.”
“They deliver fully running historic Formula 1 cars, not show cars or replicas. These are the real deal. So during the course of the three days I was in and out of cars, and not just any old cars… Every single car was not only available to sample but also running in top order for anyone wanting to push the limits.”
“It’s an enthusiast’s dream. You are set free in a candy store of Formula 1 cars and they are at your disposable on a grand prix track to drive at race speeds. Honestly that weekend was one of the main highlights of my entire racing career. I was the kid in the candy store, set loose and making the most of my good fortune!”
Soon after the Magny Cours adventure, GPXtreme confirmed Grogor to race the Renault Sport Championship, using the state-of-the-art Renault RS01 with teammate Renault F1 development driver Carmen Jorda.
The pair competed in the first round of the series at Aragon in Spain, where Grogor finished sixth. The team will contest the remaining five rounds of the Renault Sport organised series during the course of the year at hallowed venues such as Spa-Francorchamps, Imola and Paul Ricard.
But that’s not all, as Grogor has his race suit and helmet packed for the prestigious the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, on the weekend of 13 to 15 May.
“After Aragon, GPXtreme informed me that I was entered for Monaco where I will drive the ISO Marlboro Williams FW03 which was driven by Arturo Merzario, which I drove and thoroughly enjoyed at Magny Cours.”
Grogor will have a 20 minutes free practice session through the fabled streets of Monte Carlo on Friday, followed by 20 minutes of qualifying on Saturday, followed by a 45 minutes race on Sunday with more than forty cars expected to line-up on the grid.
“Not only am I racing in Monaco. Wow!” exclaimed Grogor. “I am racing a Formula 1 car, which is triple wow! Like I said right at the beginning I am one of the luckiest guys I know, set loose in a candy store.”
Report and images supplied: