Gennaro Bonafede is one of South African racing’s brightest talents. His debut season in his Ferodo Golf GTI in Bridgestone Production Cars Class T set tongues wagging. He finished second overall after some competitive and excellent driving. 2011 will definitely see Gennaro challenging for Class T honours.
What is striking about Gennaro is how approachable he is. Interviewing him was an absolute joy and his attitude should be an example to all young drivers and sportsmen.
Studying and racing competitively must have been quite challenging? How did and are you coping?
At first it was definitely a huge struggle in 1st year and especially studying Engineering at the University of Pretoria itâ€™s certainly not a degree that leaves me with a lot of spare time. In 1st year and 2nd year it became a serious battle, but now that Iâ€™m in 3rd year I have learnt ways of using the time I have to study when its time to study, and race when its time to race! Although I do find my mind thinking of racing a lot! haha
What was it like growing up with your dad Vito Rallying, were you at a lot of the events? Is this where the Motorsport bug bit?
Well howâ€™s this – my birthdate was made premature by 2 days so that my dad could be at my birth instead of a rally, so I guess you could say it had bitten me before I was even born! I used to love going to the rallies when I was younger, causing havoc in the Service Park! At the age of 5 my dad got me into a go-kart and from then on itâ€™s been deep in my veins!
What is it like racing against the likes of Graeme Nathan and Gary Formato?
Both these drivers are some of the most experienced drivers in the country, Gary has been overseas many times and done great things there and Graeme has won many championships and certainly he is a formidable competitor! I have learnt a lot about race craft from these drivers as well as many others. It was great to have raced door to door with them the whole year and on into this year!
What are your aims for the 2011 season?
Obviously having come 2nd last year in my first season in the Bridgestone Production Cars series in my Ferodo VW Golf GTI I need to go one better in 2011! I need to now really dig down and take the fight to the rest of the pack! Thereâ€™s no time like the present.
What are your racing ambitions and what is for you the next step in your racing career?
Well I think for me the next step is to move into Class A, which I am hoping to do soon while I am still young and have lots to learn! Then after that, once I have my Engineering Degree I want to move overseas and work and race over there, looking at the Porsche Supercup or something of that level (Budget permitting) but that is the plan! I hope to have a long career in motorsport.
What was it like racing in Germany in the ADAC Polo Cup?
That was an experience I will never forget, driving at Hockenheim with 60 000 fans in the stands! The car was easier to drive than the local VW Polo but only having one practice session made it a lot harder to really learn to the drive car and learn the track! If I went there again I feel like I could challenge the Top 3 for sure!
Who are and were your racing inspirations?
Obviously having started in karting, Leeroy Poulter was highly influential in my karting career as he helped make my driving style smooth and direct which I feel has set me up very well going forward into circuit racing. Iain Pepper took me under his wing in the Engen VW Cup series and he helped me adapt to the change of driving styles from karting to the VW Polo. My biggest inspiration and someone who is working with me now is Derick Irving. His ability to be so smooth and mentally strong is something to be admired and having won 17 SA Championships, I mean who else can say they have won more??
Have you ever considered following your dad into Rallying?
Of course! From the day I got too big for karting I have been looking at getting into Rally. The main issue is the money needed to start in rallying, at the moment we just don’t see the return on having to spend money to get into an A5 car. VW do have a big rally interest, so let’s see where that goes and hopefully for my sake I will create and acquire that opportunity! Many of the track stars have succeeded and excelled in rallying.