Golf | 26 Apr 2018 | By Michael Vlismas

Racing legend Ian Scheckter focuses on his swing speed

At the age of 70, Ian Scheckter has decided that maybe it’s time to slow down from a life in the fast lane of Formula 1 motor racing. So he’s trying to play more golf.

“The funny thing is though that my one doctor says I need to stop racing because it’s bad for my neck and that I should rather play golf, while my other doctor says golf is bad for my neck. But I enjoy the golf. I have a friend I play with as often as we can,” says Scheckter.

The more genteel game of golf seems a stunning contrast for a man who at the age of four first fell in love with speed, and who but for that brief period as young boys when he and brother Jody had their go-carts confiscated by their father, “Because we had a bit of a bad school year academically”, is still as addicted as ever to the roar of an engine and the twists and turns of a racetrack.

This week Scheckter, who raced in 20 Formula 1 Grand Prix in a decorated motor racing career, was still climbing into his race suit and driving race-spec Ferraris as part of a memorable Vodacom Red Track Day at Kyalami.

He was there in the pit lane as celebrities Sasha Martinengo and Thapelo Mokoena, as well as Sharks winger Makazole Mapimpi, Stormers hooker Bongi Mbonambi, Lions winger Courtnall Skosan and Vodacom Bulls flanker Jannes Kirsten joined 10 Vodacom Red customers who won the opportunity to take part in an exclusive experience that included racing the Ferraris around the Kyalami circuit, competing to score the lowest time for a pit-stop tyre change, and setting the fastest time on the Ferrari simulator.

And he took as much pride as ever when his son Jaki set the first simulator time of the day, and which was not beaten.

In a sense, Scheckter’s thoughts on the current state of Formula 1 mirror a similar debate in professional golf, namely how to grow the fan base of the sport and the challenges faced.

“I love motorsport. I don’t miss a GP or a Superbike or MotoGP or an IndyCar race. I read every article and I study it. But I think F1 has room for improvement. I think somebody needs to take control and move forward. They cannot leave it up to the teams to keep bickering out of self-interest. They need to put the sport first.”

The perennial debate about limiting technology’s influence in golf is one shared by F1, and Scheckter has strong opinions on the matter.

“The cars need to become racing cars again. I know I’m from an old generation so sound is going to be more important to me. But every F1 fan wants to get goosebumps when the car starts and goes by, and the sound we have now is lousy. Frankly, we can go to the lake on the weekend to listen to outboard motors. We don’t need to go to a Grand Prix for that,” said Scheckter.

“There are also too many penalties now. Formula 1 shouldn’t be about only penalties. The cars can’t race each other anymore. They’re one-lap wonders, and the racing is too predictable. As they start on the grid – unless they get a lucky start – that’s how they finish the race.”

No doubt he’d probably be a fan of some of the TV elements around professional golf as he admits to enjoying this enhancement that new F1 owners Liberty Media have brought to the sport.

“I like the new TV presentation. That makes it a lot more interesting with the behind-the-scenes interviews and so on. Even my wife watches more of it now because of that.”

But it’s still hard to comprehend how a man who has spent his life hurtling around racetracks at phenomenal speeds is adjusting to the slow walk chasing after a golf ball.

“You know what, I like the drive most of all in golf. That perfect drive.”

And that makes perfect sense.