Formula 1 racing legend Mika Häkkinen accepts Gentleman’s Wager from SA racing champ

In association with superior luxury whisky brand Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Zulu wagered Häkkinen that if he could accomplish a near impossible feat, Häkkinen would need to hand him the keys to an immaculate classic racing car.

To win the wager, Zulu has to achieve a singular feat: successfully train businessman and international public speaker Vusi Thembekwayo – a racing enthusiast with no experience – in a limited amount of time, to set a lap time at Kyalami Race Track within five seconds of Häkkinen’s best Kyalami track time, in a car of Zulu’s choice.

Thembekwayo will be taking on the challenge at Kyalami Race Course, in front of several safety crew and witnesses, in April. Häkkinen and Thembekwayo will each be racing three sets of timed laps around the track, starting with Häkkinen setting the time that Thembekwayo has to chase.

Zulu wagered Häkkinen at a private meeting at Kyalami in Johannesburg earlier this month. Häkkinen responded, mildly amused, with these words: “Ok, firstly, it will take a lot for a novice to set a good time around Kyalami, and secondly, to then expect him to be within 5 seconds of my best time, well, that I’ve got to see… so, yes, you’re on…” Thembekwayo stepped up to meet Häkkinen before the trio sealed the deal with a gentleman’s handshake.

Häkkinen and Gugu met at a car festival in Durban in 2013, when the retired Finnish racing legend swept into the Moses Mabida Street Race Course in a classic Mercedes-Benz, 300SL Roadster,one of his favourite cars of all time. It was at this event that the car caught Gugu’s eye as one he wished to drive one day.

After completing a display lap Häkkinen parked it in the pits and embarked on a tuk-tuk race with Zulu, who narrowly defeated the double F1® champion. Häkkinen spent the rest of the day with Zulu, cementing their new friendship.

Recently hearing that Häkkinen would be in South Africa, to discuss and spread the responsible drinking message through Johnnie Walker’s global campaign, ‘Join the Pact,’ Zulu posted footage from their 2013 race on Facebook and reminisced about the car. The post caught Johnnie Walker’s eye – setting in motion a series of events that led to the wager involving Thembekwayo.

After Häkkinen accepted the wager, Zulu immediately set in motion a gruelling training programme for Thembekwayo. “My aim is not only to train Vusi on the finer points of driving but to get his mind and body to function as one seamless super-responsive unit. That’s why Vusi is getting augmented driver training to get within five seconds of Mika’s fastest time,” said Zulu, the 2000 Isondo Sports Champion.

“I have achieved many things in my life but I have always found that I am inspired by those who always want to learn and so it has been in my life. I am always curious to learn and achieve new things. So while I aim to win, the journey is more important that the destination,” Thembekwayo says.

“We wish Zulu and Thembekwayo the best of luck with this wager and we hope they have great fun with this once in a lifetime experience. We know that their hard work will pay dividends in the end,” said Johnnie Walker South Africa’s Whisky Portfolio Manager, Zumi Njongwe.

The results of the race will be revealed on 20 May 2015 on DSTV channel, Mzansi Magic.