Finnish F1 legend Mika Häkkinen grants SA racing champion Gugu Zulu the Gentleman’s Wager for turning SA businessman into a skilled racing driver
Double Formula1 world champion, Mika Häkkinen has granted the Gentleman’s Wager posed to him by South African works rally driver, Gugu Zulu.
In association with superior luxury whisky brand Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Zulu wagered Häkkinen for the keys to an immaculate classic 1958 Mercedes Benz 300SL Roadster. If Zulu could successfully train businessman and racing novice Vusi Thembekwayo to set a Kyalami lap time that came within a mere five seconds of Häkkinen’s, Häkkinen would have no choice but to hand Zulu the keys of this extremely rare vehicle.
Upon the culmination of Thembekwayo’s gruelling training, with three high-octane timed sessions at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, the Finnish racing legend was so impressed with Thembekwayo’s progression as a racing driver that he has granted Zulu’s wager, despite the fact that Thembekwayo missed the targeted 5 second time by a nail-biting 5.5 seconds.
“I’ve conceded Gugu Zulu’s wager in the true spirit of a Gentleman’s Wager,” said Häkkinen. “I am really impressed, Gugu did an incredible job of training Thembekwayo to really push himself – in the true Johnnie Walker spirit of always striving for progress – to achieve a result beyond all expectations.”
Johnnie Walker South Africa’s Whisky Portfolio Manager, Zumi Njongwe, agreed: “The #walkerwager campaign ultimately celebrates personal progression, achievement and the attainment of true rarity and success through hard work and commitment. Both Thembekway and Zulu impressed us with their effort and tenacity to achieve something remarkable, and for that reason we are very proud to have facilitated this wager.”
A great experience
Zulu and Thembekwayo both described the experience as a life-changing one.
“I know it was a little crazy to wager Häkkinen, but I relish an audacious challenge. Thembekwayo was an incredibly motivated trainee and I have to thank Johnnie Walker for facilitating this experience,” said Zulu.
Thembekwayo in turn said he thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. “I have learnt so much about racing – and challenging myself. It was an honour to take part in this wager and to work with Gugu Zulu and Mika Häkkinen. I’ve done some amazing things in my life and learning to race, ranks right up there with the best of them,” said Thembekwayo, who is the youngest ever JSE director and a famed international motivational speaker.
After Häkkinen accepted the wager in March 2015, Thembekwayo’s training programme kicked off, said Zulu, the 2000 Isondo Sports Champion.
Thembekwayo’s training started with him doing laps of the Kyalami Go-kart circuit, learning vehicle control at the Gerotek skidpan, followed by him jogging the Kyalami track with Zulu to gain intimate knowledge of the racing lines required. Next they moved on to a normal car to master track techniques at low speeds. From there on he took the wheel of the actual race car, the fire-breathing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Brabus.
Thembekwayo was also required to complete a course of anaerobic training to strengthen his neck and body, as well as a set of reaction tests with a team of sports scientists at the High Performance Centre at the University of Pretoria.
Lastly, Zulu took Thembekwayo to Rand Airport in Germiston, where Thembekwayo was taken for a flip in a Pitts Special aerobatic plane, to safely experience extreme G Forces while flying above the actual racetrack. Training ended off with even more intensive track sessions followed by the race itself with Mika Häkkinen.
The details of the race will be revealed in a short film launching on 21 May 2015 via Johnnie Walker’s social media platforms and on Mzansi Magic (DSTV channel 161).