Paddock Postcard from Bahrain 12 Mar 2006
Who's who in the Sakhir pit lane this weekend...
The third Bahrain Grand Prix featured plenty of famous faces, many of them driving 380 bhp Chevrolet V8 SS Luminas - perhaps better known in their Holden guise in the Australian V8 Supercar Championship - in a Pro-Celebrity race.
Five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave started from pole position with his team mate, the former Formula Ford champion and V8 Supercar series runner Garth Tander.
Next up was Pink Floyds Nick Mason, an avid historic race car collector, with Martin Brundle. Jamiroquai front man Jay Kay, Status Quos Rick Parfitt, Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson, US soul superstar John Legend, British motoring journalist Emma Parker Bowles and Persian-born Laleh Seddigh, (described by organizers as motorsport's answer to Angelina Jolie) raced alongside Lebanese superstar Ragheb Alama, one of the Middle East's top singers and personalities, and local sporting hero athlete Rashid Ramzi. Besides Tander and Brundle, Johnny Herbert, Tiff Needell, Barrie Whizzo Williams, Narain Karthikeyan and Bruno Senna were among the star drivers.
"It was amazing! Redgrave enthused. That was my first time driving solo in a race car and I had no idea what to expect. It was easier to handle than I thought it would be but I managed to spin once so it's also easy to get it wrong as it's so powerful. The car drives so smoothly but if you hit on the power too hard at the wrong time then it can really run away with you - I think I scared some of the marshals a couple of times!
"The whole experience was magical, it's something that I've always wanted to do and it far exceeded my expectations. I can't wait for the race tomorrow and Sunday, I'm just sad that I only have 10 laps left."
Sadly Redgrave and Tander only managed fifth place, as Seddigh and Al Shanfari won the Saturday afternoon event from Jay Kay, Ali Hassan and Parfitt. However, things improved for Redgrave on Sunday morning when he took victory in the second leg.
The weekend was also enlivened by a Thursday night Red Bull party, which FIA president Max Mosley particularly enjoyed, and a display of the Parkour 'free-runners' from Jump Bahrain as part of their three-day marathon around the Kingdom. Three Jump Bahrain performers - Daniel Ilabaca, Chase Armitage and Jerome Ben Aoues - set the Manama capital on its ear on Friday, crossing the ancient Bahrain Fort, the Al Ali and Seef Malls and also the historic former government offices of the Bab al Bahrain. Parkour means crossing urban landscapes in the most spectacular and least conventional ways possible, relying on nothing more than the agility and bravery of the 'free-runners' as they leap from rooftops and flip over obstacles.
Ilabaca and Armitage also vaulted the electronic gates to the Formula One paddock before the former scaled the wall of Bernie Ecclestone's Paddock Building before hanging upside down by his fingertips.
"Stop jumping around boys," Ecclestone told them, before heading energetically towards a convenient banister. "Better not," he decided. "I'll only show them up."
Therell be a further demonstration of Jump Bahrain today, as part of the pre-race build-up.